French Beauty: Lotions and Potions


The ceiling at Printemps Dept. store 

Visitors to Paris are often curious about the number of pharmacies they see throughout the city. The bright green crosses that are lit to indicate an open pharmacy seem to decorate every city block, serving as beacons that promise remedies to the tired, the ill and those with skin in need of improvement. But despite that France has the largest number of filled prescriptions per capita in the entire EU, this is not just a country of hypochondriacs; pharmacies happen to be every parisienne’s first stop for the cosmetic needs necessary to achieve that illustrious French Beauty. 

Caudalie, made in Bordeaux with grapes and grape seeds.

You can find the well-known international brands at the department stores. Printemps boasts that it has the largest beauty department in the capital, and it really is breathtaking to see all those cosmetic stands spread out beneath the turn-of-the-century architecture. Sephora on the Champs Elysées is another impressive site for its sheer scale and the events it hosts throughout the week. But the brands at these stores are easily found in the United States. They also tend to be quite pricey. 


City Pharma, the beauty mecca.

A quick look at the local fashion magazine forums reveals where the locals are going to keep their skin looking its best: City-Pharma, in the 6th Arrondissement. Oddly enough, despite the high-end neighborhood, this is THE place to head for French cosmetics at the best prices the city has to offer. And while many of these brands are available in the United States, you will find the prices and the selection better over here.  

SVR with SPF

When my friend Stella comes to town, she stocks up on products by SVR, particularly the foundation with SPF that her dermatologist insists she wear. My teens find Eau Thermale Avène perfectly adapted to their highly sensitive and extremely hormonal skin types. My friend from Bordeaux is faithful to Caudalíe, a very popular brand that uses grapes as a base for its products. Wine for your skin—how French is that? I love using its Pulpe Vitaminé antiwrinkle cream around my eyes. The family dermatologist recommends Uriage products for severely dry skin, while La Roche-Posay, the sensitive skin specialist, is my brand of choice for sunscreen. Nuxe is famous throughout Europe for its natural products, particularly body oils, but I love the Rêve de Miel lip balm and hand cream. Other very popular French products come from Biotherm, Lierac, René Furterer, Klorane, Vichy and RoC. 

Absolution, as close to 100% organic as it comes.

All of these brands and more can be found at City-Pharma. Because this pharmacy is a popular place with the locals and most women work, I strongly recommend that you avoid coming on Saturdays when parisiennes begin standing in line before the doors open. These products are also available at some of the local Monoprix stores and pharmacies across the city, although the prices will be slightly higher and the selection considerably smaller. 


Darphin’s line of products

Three local brands that are hard to find in pharmacies are Yonka, Clarins and Darphin. These brands have spas a short stroll from City-Pharma, the perfect opportunity to test them for yourself. My friend with acne problems swears by Yonka, making regular trips across town to fill up. Clarins is particularly known for its cutting-edge approach to technology but is most notable for its men’s line of skin care. Absolution is a newer line of completely organic (biologique) cosmetics and skin care made in France. Darphin is my personal favorite. Its Prédermine cream is something of an investment, but it helps reduce wrinkles, leaving my skin incredibly soft and smelling lovely. Even the Frenchman notices when I’ve treated myself to the cream. Everything a girl dreams of in skin care. 


Create your own take-home beauty kit. photo via EJButcherBeauty.blogspot 

26, rue du Four, in the 6th Arrondissement.
01 46 33 20 81.