I’m a Beauty Editor, and These Are the French Skincare Products I Always Stock up on in Paris

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I don’t believe in gatekeeping. As a beauty editor, I make my living by sharing what I love with literally anyone who will listen. So, it makes sense that I’ve become the defacto recommendation-giver in my friend group. On more than one occasion, I’ve had friends call me from the aisles of Trader Joe’s or Target to ask for my beauty hot takes and essentials. And my most recent deep-dive of late? French pharmacy skincare, of course. Seriously—the products may change, but the hype never gets old.

Now that it’s pre-summer, everyone is asking for travel reccos. While I relish giving restaurant and shopping recs in my favorite cities, my friends are often surprised when I tell them to beeline to the local pharmacies. I got my tretinoin in Mexico City (do as I say, not as I do), and I buy a specific CeraVe oil cleanser every time I’m in London. But nothing can beat French pharmacy skincare. Whenever I’m in Paris, I spend more time in French pharmacies than in French bistros. Thanks to endless perusing and tips from my Parisian friends, I’ve come to know French pharmacy skincare like the back of my hand.

Featured image from our interview with Sanne Vloet.

Iskra Lawrence French pharmacy skincare.

Why are we so obsessed with French beauty?

There’s something so seductive about the idea of French girl beauty. From the minimal skincare routines to the daring red lips and sophisticated coiffs, I’m always on a mission to replicate the effortlessness of the quintessential French girl. My Parisian friends tell me that the key of French girl style is curation. They find what they love, and they stick to it rather than endlessly chasing trends. But it takes a while to cultivate those holy grails. And with so many options to choose from, how do you know what’s right for you?

Everyone is always waxing poetic about the best face mists, serums, ointments, and oils they found in Paris. More than the fancy counters at giant boutiques like Le Bon Marché or Galeries Lafayette, French girls flock to their local pharmacies to buy their favorite beauty products.

French pharmacy skincare products.

The Best French Pharmacy Skincare Products to Stock up On

Stepping into a French pharmacy is like Disneyland for the beauty-obsessed. While some of the most ubiquitous brands have made it stateside, it’s rare to see all their offerings at once. From the popular holy grails to the more obscure picks, I’ve tried more French pharmacy skincare products than I can count.

If you’re planning a trip to France or standing in the aisle of a French pharmacy as you read this, I recommend going into multiple pharmacies and walking the aisles to discover new brands and products. To help you navigate it all, I’m breaking down the best French pharmacy skincare essentials to stock up on.

Our Top Picks

  1. Best Overall Product: Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil – $26 at Anthropologie
  2. Best for Breakouts: Embryolisse 3-In-1 Secret Paste – $24.25 at Beauty Bay
  3. Best for Oily Skin: Embryolisse Exfoliating Milk Powder – $24.25 at Beauty Bay
  4. Best for Dry Skin: Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream – $12 at Avène USA
  5. Best Face Mist: La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water Spray – $139 at Vanity Planet
  6. Best Micellar Water: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water – $12.99 at Target
  7. Best Over-the-Counter Retinol: A313 Retinol Pommade Vitamin A Night Moisturizer – $29.99 at Eisler’s Chemist
Pritika Swarup applying French pharmacy skincare products.

Why I Love It: If I could use one product for the rest of my life, it would be this. The end-all, be-all of French pharmacy skincare, this Nuxe body oil has earned its mainstream success. This dry oil absorbs fast on the body, seeps deep into the skin—and when applied to the hair—delivers both a shine and a sweet smell.

Insider Tip: In Paris, different sizes, scents, and variations of this Nuxe oil all line the pharmacy walls. I can’t pick a favorite so I get the original formula, plus the Shimmer and the Riche oils.

Key Ingredients: Macadamia Seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Rosemary Leaf Extract

Why I Love It: Everybody everywhere is always talking about the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré. But don’t sleep on this multi-purpose paste. It’s described as an anti pimples, anti-shine mask, and purifying cleanser. With a kaolin clay base, it’s a detoxifying holy grail that I like to slather on my face when I feel a breakout coming and use it as both a mask and a cleanser.

Insider Tip: The paste is formulated for combination, oily skin, or acne-prone. Proceed with caution if you have highly sensitive skin.

Key Ingredients: Hydrolyzed Cicer Seed Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract

Why I Love It: Embryolisse is the gift that keeps giving when it comes to imaginative products for any skin concern. Think of this gently purifying powder as their answer to Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant. Its base of rice, coconut, and milk powder turns into a foamy skin milk to gently exfoliate and deliver baby-soft skin.

Insider Tip: Think of this as the French girl’s version of a skin milk. Because of its silky, milky texture, it’s a great option to layer beneath other products. Yes, even if you have oily skin.

Key Ingredients: Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Fruit Extract, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Starch

Why I Love It: When my skin is dry, I stock up on every cica-based product I can find. From K-Beauty cica balms to the La Roche Posay Cicaplast Balm (another French beauty must-have), it’s one of my favorite ingredients for irritation and dryness. This daily cream restores and protects. Plus, it leverages a unique postbiotic to boost your microbiome.

Insider Tip: This cream also comes in a spray for you to take on the go.

Key Ingredients: Avène Thermal Spring Water, Copper Sulfate and Zinc Sulfate

Why I Love It: The springs of the French town La Roche-Posay are famous for their healing powers. The water is full of natural minerals—like the powerful antioxidant selenium—that make thousands flock to the healing springs every year for transformative results. While some facial sprays are just scented water, this mist is literally bottled up from the fountain of youth.

Insider Tip: Other French face mists I love: Avène Eau Thermal and Embryolisse’s anti-pollution Eau Active.

Key Ingredients: Antioxidant-Rich Spring Water (Selenium, Copper)

Why I Love It: The cornerstone of a French beauty routine is micellar water. What can’t it do? It’s a cleanser, a makeup remover, and a hydrating toner. This pH-balancing micellar water is a classic for a reason.

Insider Tip: Use it as the first step in a double cleanse for deeply-cleaned skin.

Key Ingredients: Propylene Glycol, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract

Why I Love It: The hype is real: retinol will change your life. Particularly this retinyl palmitate ointment, with a formula that rivals most over-the-counter retinoids. If protecting and producing collagen as you age is your goal, this Vitamin A pomade delivers.

Insider Tip: Because retinol speeds up cell turnover, you’re effectively unclogging your pores with every application—great if reducing acne is your goal. And as always, apply SPF after your retinol!

Key Ingredients: Cera Microcristallina, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, BHT

woman applying french pharmacy skincare

More French Pharmacy Skincare Products to Consider

While I consider the French pharmacy skincare products above the best of the best, if you’re in the mood for a shopping spree, these are more heavy-hitting favorites I love to recommend.

Biafine Emulsion Cream

Of course the French can make ointment sexy. The hottest summer skincare trend is building back your skin barrier. While barrier products abound, everyone talks about Biafine’s magic-like results. Usually only available with a prescription in the U.S., it’s a thick ointment that dermatologists often prescribe their patients for post-procedure healing. Use it on particularly dry skin or any scars for faster wound healing.

Boiron Homéoplasmine

Slugging is all the rage for a reason. It’s flooding your skin with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients to get that coveted glass skin. I slug with this French answer to Vaseline. It’s a thick occlusive that also contains healing ingredients such as calendula to soothe any irritations and wounds. Apply it to your lips before lipstick for the perfect, French girl red pout.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Light Fluid Face Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60

From French pharmacies to TikTok, this sunscreen is everyone’s favorite. The serum-like texture sinks into the skin without leaving a white cast or pilling under makeup. SPF 60 never looked so good.

Caudalie Vinosun Protect Invisible High Protection Spray SPF 50

To no surprise, this is a multi-purpose sunscreen that works for your face and body. I like it best as a body sunscreen thanks to its moisturizing grapeseed oil base. Since it’s a spray, it’s convenient to apply and reapply.

PaperMints CoolCaps

Standing at the counter of a French pharmacy as we speak? Grab a few tubes of these mini mints. They pop in your mouth and release a minty burst of liquid for instant freshness. Think of them as a chicer version of a Listerine strip.

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