Over the Christmas holidays of 2011/2012 I spent a week and a half in Paris indulging in far too much fromage, fresh baked croissants and divine French wine. Between trolling the back streets of the Marais and Latin Quarter for vintage fur stoles and taking the metro to the famous St-Ouen flea markets (take metro line 4 to Porte de Clignancourt) in search of bric-a-brac, I also managed to score some impressive beauty buys.
In France, the shop signage that sends ripples of excitement and anticipation through me is not the black interlocking double-C of Chanel, nor the beige-on-chestnut LV monogram of Louis Vuitton, but the simple, ubiquitous, green cross of the pharmacy.
French pharmacies are worlds away from their Australian counterparts. For starters they ALL seem to be staffed by elegant, quintessential French women who have an unmistakable air of knowledge when it comes to the serious business of skincare. I say serious because French women view skincare as much more of a necessity than makeup and their pharmacies reflect this.
French products are not marketed as indulgences, or fun things to cheer oneself up with after a hard week. Skincare products in France are like prescriptions, mandatory items that a woman must have to preserve a certain quality of life, a human right almost.
That said I am indeed Australian and therefore spent approximately 4.5 hours at Sephora on the Champs-Élysées elbow deep in the best cosmetics buffet Europe has to offer.
I’ll stop waffling on now and give you my five must-have products if you ever find yourself in a French pharmacy.
Bioderma Sebium H2O, this is the sister product of Creolin H20 – a staple in any serious makeup artists kit, or so I’m told. I chose the Sebium H20 as this hybrid makeup remove/toner is formulated for oily/combination skin and is used to regulate sebum and purify the epidermis. The Bioderma company from Lyon, France was developed closely with dermatologists and was the first independent laboratory that catered to French dermatologists.
This cleansing water is soap free, non-foaming and no rinsing is required. The solution is very soothing yet refreshing. I like the idea of a quick swipe with a cotton pad on those lazy nights in front of Made in Chelsea.Unlike most skincare products for oily skin, the skin is left moist and supple with no pulling or tightness. The good news? It’s only like 13 Euro. The bad? You can only buy it in France. If anyone has found an online shop where it is available then please do share as I am almost out!
2. ReplenishEmbryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre, this beloved moisturiser is a staple in most French beauty addict’s closets. In 2007, over 10 Million tubes were sold and this milestone was commemorated with a limited edition vintage tube.
Truthfully, the luxe cream was a bit rich for my combination skin during the Australian Summer months but now that it’s turned quite brisk, my complexion and I are really enjoying it. The cream penetrates deeply and does not make the skin feel at all greasy. It provides serious hydration yet makes your skin feel light and soft. Some have compared this prod as a lighter version of the La Mer - oh la la! This is another France only non-export but you can find it online.
3. HydrateCaudalie Grape Water. Yes I am all about aerated facial sprays and cleansing water whatnots. When travelling I always like to pick this one up: very calming and refreshing on the skin and I admit I love the phrase ‘grape water’ as much as anything else.
4. RepairNow for you ladies who are eternal suffers of cracked, dry lips (most of us probably are thanks to our obscene beauty blogger lipstick collections – we all know how drying they can be!) Dermophil Indien is truly the “bees knees” when it comes to fixing a chapped pout.
The tube is large, medicinal-looking and unbreakable. The smell is pleasant and the hydration is incomparable to other lip balms. This is not your pretty, “my lips feel dry and I need some subtle luminescence,” oh no, Dermophil Indien is serious! My only complaint is that it is so hydrating that if you use too much, you can get a white smear on the lips. One pass is enough.
Probably the most well known French beauty product in existence - Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (Multi-usage Dry Oil) I could take a bath in this stuff. Put it on your dry elbows, massage it into your cuticles, slather it on your décolletage and legs. This dry oil is easy to spread and fast absorbing, no greasy film is left as it softens and moisturisers the skin and hair – genius! This one is available from a range of online shops.