10 French Pharmacy Skincare Must-Haves

vintage image of two women in the 1960s

A French pharmacy is a weird place, in that it’s more an extension of a doctor’s office than a CVS-style one-stop-shop for medicine, lawn chairs, sunscreen, milk, frozen dinners, eyeliner, magazines, and Diet Coke. You can get sunscreen and nothing else on this list. Well, medicine, too.

A typical French pharmacy will have plenty of “beauty” products, but you may be surprised to discover that they’re entirely skincare products.

At only a handful will you find so much as mascara. Lip balm, maybe, not lipstick. And exactly zero products with glitter.

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What that means is that even at a skincare product mecca like City Pharma (pictured above, and it’s as grim as it looks), you’ll be faced with walls filled with products — mostly in rather plain white packaging. Most of them look more or less interchangeable, so it helps to have a little of intel on what’s worth buying and what’s just another boring day cream. Here, my picks.

1. Anthelios 60 Face & Body Melt In Sunscreen MilkIt’s not shiny, and it is doesn’t make my skin break out, which is basically all I ask of my sunscreen (and which is a surprisingly hard combo to find).

2. La Roche-Posay Iso-Urea MD Baume PsoriasisThis is one of the few products that’s made a dent in my dad’s (severe) psoriasis. This can be harder to find here than other La Roche-Posay products, so look around.

3. Avène CicalfateI know a million people who swear by Avène’s Thermal Water, but I just can’t get there.  On the other hand, the Cicalfate is great for super-dry skin that hurts due to dryness, a scrape, etc.

4. Caudalie Vinoperfect SerumI went to a Caudalie spa on a press trip once and it was probably the best skincare experience of my life. I see their Vinoperfect Serum as equitable to Good Genes— in my experience Good Genes is more effective, but the Caudalie feels gentler.

5. Bioderma Sensibio WaterOf all the micellar waters, this is the micellar water.

6. Biafine 93g CreamThis is another product that’s every list like this — but if you’re recovering from a burn or injury and want something a little more powerful than the Cicalfate, this is your deal.

7. Embryolisse Lait Creme ConcentreThis is a nice, heavy moisturizer. Officially it’s for dry skin, but I like to wear it on airplanes (where everyone has dry skin).

8. Klorane Biodegradable Wipes With Cornwater : This brand is better known for its hair care products, but I love these makeup removing wipes — I leave them in my suitcase and am pleasantly surprised when I find them there on a trip, after I leave my makeup remover at home.

9. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse OrThe degree of shimmer — that barely-there shimmer — is perfect. If you’re anti-shimmer, you can get it sans-or.

See all our stories about Paris here — including the best crepes, or international day trips, and luxury hotels if you’re doing that.

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