French skincare has a cult following within the online beauty community. Maybe it’s because we’re dying to know what’s behind the mysterious je ne sais quoi of the French woman. It’s palpable when you pass her on the street. Her simplistic beauty hums with an unapologetic confidence. The secret to her look is surprisingly straightforward: prioritizing skincare. Forget contouring or baking, her motto is: the best foundation you can wear is great skin.
The French have some of the most well-recognized brands in the world on their beauty shelves. Guerlain, Givenchy, Dior, and Chanel to name a few. So why are we talking about products you can easily find in your average French pharmacy? The obsession with pharmacy skincare is a no brainer for French women: quality ingredients at a reasonable price.
“The obsession with pharmacy skincare is a no brainer for French women: quality ingredients at a reasonable price.”
French pharmacy skincare doesn’t typically contain harsh or harmful ingredients. High-end brands often pack their products with alcohols and synthetic fragrances. Alcohol helps with product absorption, but it’s not something you really want on your skin. And, while signature scents may do wonders for brand loyalty, they have no place in skincare. The obsession with pharmacy skincare is a no brainer for French women. Quality ingredients at a reasonable price.
After reading many reviews about cult French skincare products, I put some to the test. If I had a medicine cabinet, these products would make up my top ‘shelfie.’
1.) Avène Thermal Spring water
I know what you’re thinking, “Canned water?” I had the same thought. I never understood the hype around canned water sprays and found them so gimmicky – until I tried it. It was the dead of winter and I was having one of those ‘I can’t get moisturizer on my face fast enough’ kind of days. When after rinsing, your face feels tight and uncomfortable. I had just bought the eau thermale and gave my face a good douse.
Then, something incredible happened. It was late afternoon by the time I realized I forgotten to put any moisturizer on my face. Upon looking in the mirror I didn’t recognize my skin! It looked hydrated, plumped and glowing. I was in disbelief and I haven’t been without a can since.
Let’s get one thing straight –Avène’s eau thermale is more than just ‘canned water.’
Avène’s thermal spring water water boasts a unique biological and chemical composition. Doctors and scientists have studied the mystery water since its discovery in 1793 in (you guessed it) s small town called Avène. The formula’s moniker is aqua dolomiae. Aqua for water and dolomaie for the porous dolomite rocks through which the water flows.
Layers of dolomite rock infuse the water with microflora that is only found in this geographical area. Microflora and trace mineral elements combine to form the magic soothing elixir that Avène‘s products are known for. So let’s get one thing straight – Avène’s eau thermale is more than just ‘canned water.’
I like to use it before applying any other skincare, in the morning or evening after removing my makeup. It’s especially refreshing if I’ve overdone it with acids and my skin feels irritated. You can basically use it for anything under the sun. Including:
- During travel
- After cleansing
- After shaving
- After sports/outdoor activities
- After sun exposure
- Wounds/damaged skin
- Post-procedure/skin treatment
- Allergic reactions/redness/itchiness
- Diaper rash
Now, is your (*insert specific skin concern*) going to be cured by this alone? No. I still use targeted products. However, do I love how this product supplements my skincare routine and it’s soothing properties? 100% Yes. There’s a reason why one can is sold every two seconds.
Shop it here.
2. Caudalie Overnight Detox Oil
“Do you know that you are throwing away treasures?” was the sentence that changed Caudalie CEO Mathilde’s life forever. It was harvest season at her family’s vineyard in Bordeaux. Here she met the world’s leading expert in the science of grape seed polyphenols. As luck would have it, Mathilde’s family estate was sitting on top of a hot spring (are we noticing a trend here?) And so, the concept of thermal skincare infused with the science of polyphenols was born.
Polyphenols are powerful molecules that provide antioxidant qualities against free radicals. Free radicals (sun damage, environmental pollution) are on of the major causes of premature skin aging. Caudalie touts plant-based ingredients that are free of parabens and artificial preservatives. This 100% plant-based dry oil evens out skin tone and fine lines through cellular renewal and toxin elimination. Because it’s a dry oil it’s hydrating but not heavy or greasy on the skin.
I like to use as the last step of my skincare routine in the evening. It has a very earthy but natural spa-like scent. It’s very nourishing and the next morning my skin has a noticeable radiance to it. Now that the weather has gotten warmer, I like to mix in a single drop with a bit of thicker foundations. This sheers out the consistency for a perfect summer skin effect.
Shop it here.
3. Bioderma Hydrabio H20
I can hear some of you sigh audibly…”here we go again with the packaged water….”
But hear me out!
Micellar water has been around for decades. It was created out of necessity as a way to replace cleansing with water. Tap water in France is notoriously hard (high in heavy minerals that aren’t great for the skin).
So what is it?
Micellar water is made up of micelles (fatty acid esters) suspended in soft water. These tiny molecules attract dirt and oil. This means they can draw out impurities without drying out the skin. Micellar water is a holy grail skincare product because it’s a multi-use product. Use it as a no-rinse face cleanser, makeup remover, toner, and hydrator all in one.
Bioderma’s micelles mimic natural cell membranes which help maintain your skin’s hydrolipic film. In turn, this improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture over time. Got all that? Now, if you aren’t plagued with dry skin, don’t fret, there’s a micellar water for you! Bioderma also sells Sensibio H20 for sensitive skin and Sébium H20 for oily skin.
My favorite way to use Hydrabio H20 is what I call a lazy girl’s double-cleanse. First I use a balm-to-oil cleanser like Farmacy’s Green Clean to remove makeup. Then I’ll swipe a cotton pad with Hydrabio across my face to remove leftover makeup. Also as a toner, before applying my other skincare and makeup in the morning. I prefer micellar water to makeup wipes, even micellar makeup wipes. Wipes are often heavily fragranced and contain alcohols that can strip the skin.
Now after cleansing, my skin feels nourished and better able to absorb other products.
Shop it here.
4. Avène Cicalflate Restorative Skin Cream
What can I say, Avène makes great products. This cream accelerates skin’s recovery time through a copper-zinc-sulfate complex. It’s a rich, white, nourishing cream that I like to view as a Neosporin on steroids. I use it as a spot treatment on scars, fading blemishes, small wounds you name it.
The “cica” in the line’s name comes from the French word ‘cicatrice’ which means scar. Avène’s “Cicalfate” line is for healing and or post-procedure skin that needs some extra TLC. Heads up acne-prone skin: this contains mineral oil which can clog pores. I would not recommend using it as an all-over face cream. If you suffer from severe dehydration or sensitivity your skin will drink this stuff up.
Shopt it here.
5.) Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet
Another winner from Caudalie. This is the perfect moisturizer during the summer months. It’s consistency is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. It’s unique cream-to-gel formula dissolves instantly giving just the right amount of hydration. It feels super lightweight on the skin – never greasy or heavy – and works great under makeup. I also love the mild but refreshing scent. This is a true treat for your face. The Vinosource line also has moisturizers for combination and dehydrated skin.
Shop it here.
Have you tried any French pharmacy skincare brands? What are your tried and true products? Share in the comments below!