My Top Five Picks from the French Pharmacy
When told by the airline that your luggage didn’t make it with you to France, one’s normal reaction would be anger and irritation. I was annoyed I’d have a limited wardrobe for the next couple of days but was secretly delighted that I had an excuse to raid the French pharmacie. France’s pharmacies are not only a place to get medicine and consultations for ailments, they are also stocked with an array of quality health and beauty products like lotions, face creams, toothpaste, deodorant and hair-care lines. They’re easy to find all over the country, just locate the neon sign with a green cross hanging over the storefront. The staff at these stores tend to be very knowledgeable in both medicine and cosmetics so don’t be scared to ask for their assistance.
The following is a list of my favorite finds from my recent trip. None of these products contain parabens nor irritated my sensitive skin. They make unique gifts and are also practical in sample sizes for your travel toiletry bag:
A Parisian favorite, I fell in love with this the Nuxe oil because it is multi-functional – which means I save precious space in my medicine cabinet and suitcase. Nuxe’s popular trademark oil is made of natural, botanical ingredients that effectively hydrates skin, nourishes the face, softens cuticles, and tames hair. It is considered a “dry” oil which means it is absorbed easily upon application and works well with most skin types, even oily ones. It does not feel greasy nor is it formulated comedogenic ingredients associated with clogging pores and causing breakouts. I’m also a huge fan of its lightweight scent. A combination of macadamia, hazelnut, almond, and camellia oils produce mellow, sensual notes that evoke memories of summer.
Bioderma Crealine H20 – sometimes labeled “Sensibio H2o” – does a fantastic job of removing makeup, even waterproof eye cosmetics. I first read about this product from renowned makeup artist Lisa Eldridge’s blog who uses it as a staple in her kit. I bought a small travel bottle while in France and used it so much that I ended up ordering a large one when I returned to the United States. The formula is hypoallergenic and fragrance-, alcohol-, and paraben-free. Though this solution delivers big results, it’s extremely gentle and leaves my complexion feeling refreshed. To use: take a cotton pad or ball, softly swab it around your face and watch the dirt and makeup easily come off – no rinsing required. Around the eyes, lay a soaked cotton pad over your lid for a few seconds, lightly dabbing the area. Repeat until the makeup is removed.
What else to pack in your toiletry bag?
Avéne is a French skincare institution that infuses thermal spring water into its products. This water, derived from its namesake town, contains a unique microflora, Aqua Dolomaie, that has been proven to soothe itching and irritation. Though many of Avéne’s products are sold in the United States, I’ve only found the Avéne Gentle Shower Gel sold only in parts of Europe. This delicate cleanser can be used both on the face and body (hello multi-functionality) and leaves skin soft and supple. When traveling, I can leave the shaving foam at home and use this gel’s moisturizing lather for shaving legs. This cleanser has a light, fresh scent and is safe for sensitive skin. If you like Avéne’s line, I recommend sampling their other body lotions and famous, soothing Eau Thermale water spray – many are available in sample sizes.
I admit, this sunscreen has a steep price of about 17€. However, the value is worth every penny. You’ll pay almost double in the United States for the Anthelios brand and won’t have luck finding the oil version. A little of this stuff goes a long way: I used this sunscreen oil for a month-long trip on the sunny coast of southern France and barely got a third of the way through the bottle. It quickly became my all-time favorite sunscreen. I never got sunburned and would wear it even if I didn’t go outside because I loved its subtle scent and how well it nourished my skin. The formula is paraben-free, offers broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, is water resistant, yet is gentle enough for sensitive skin and to use on your face. This oil is easy to spread and is quickly absorbed by skin. La Roche Posay’s Anthelios line has been ranked by many clinical studies as being one of the most effective and safest sunscreen lines on the market and I understand why.
This dry shampoo is handy if your scalp gets oily easily, there’s no time to wash your hair after a midday workout, or when your locks need love between washes. Klorane uses plant-based ingredients – minus any parabens, silicones, sulfates or sodium chloride – that soak up excess oil and sweat to gently revive hair. When using, it’s important to spray at least 10 inches away from your head to avoid a residue. Let the shampoo settle in your roots for a couple minutes, then brush it out to clean and restore hair. Some pharmacies sell a travel size version that is useful for taking on the road, particularly as a pick-me-up after a long flight or train journey.
French Beauty Terms Translated
- cheveux: hair
- corps: body
- douche: shower
- eau: water
- huile: oil
- lèvres: lips
- maquillage: makeup
- nettoyant: cleansing
- peau(x) sèche(s): dry skin
- peau(x) sensible(s):sensitive skin
- soleil: sun
- visage: face
What products do you stock up on at the French pharmacy? Share your recommendations in the reply section below.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of exploring the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she hopes to discover much of Asia for the next few of years. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.
Author’s Note: Before using any of the above products, please read the information and ingredients contained in each each of its packages. Some people with allergies, sensitivities or on prescription medication may not be able to use certain cosmetics. Please consult a medical doctor prior to use.