Beauty

Decoding the French Pharmacy

When it comes to beauty, it’s a universally acknowledged truth that the French have a certain je ne sais quoi. Here, Parisian native Emma Hoareau shares her pharmaceutical prescription

Emma Hoareau | 01.10.2019

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Us French girls are admired the world over for our perceived nonchalant approach to beauty and within that nonchalance, our hallowed insider knowledge of how to navigate a French pharmacy. You want to know our beauty secrets and, more specifically, you want to know where exactly we buy our products, right?

Over the past 10 years, the French Pharmacy and its superior stock has reached cult status. We herald its simplicity, we hail its efficacy and we value its social currency. Is it the associated ‘medical’ stance? Is it the chemist, rather than the merchandiser doing the shelf-stacking? Is it just that Jeanne Damas probably shops in the little corner pharmacy off the Place de la Concorde, so we want to, too?

THE UNDERSTATED SECRET

In the classic French way, if a product works there’s no need to make a fuss about it. We don’t need to shout about our style; it’s just inherently stylish. In the same way, we don’t need to get everything from Le Bon Marché, we just trust in the French Pharmacy providing us with the reliable classics. Plus, having a few of its insider products peppered through the luxury items on your vanity (French for ‘dresser’) suggests you know what you’re doing when it comes to your skin. You take it seriously, you’re in the know.

FRENCH BEAUTY REMINDS US THAT LESS IS MORE

Let me tell you, as a French girl, I use just as many products as you do. I just make sure my routine is considered for my needs, not based on trends or product hype. I am invested in my skincare because my make-up style is minimal. I was brought up the French way; skin first, make-up an afterthought. I use a little concealer, brow gel and cream blush so my skin is my thing.

HERITAGE IS EVERYTHING

Growing up in Paris immersed me in the classics; I’d see my mother and sisters using French beauty products that I then invested in as soon as I saved up the pocket money to do so. Then there are the hero products that it took me some time and experience to discover. Today, I am a ‘skinfluencer’, an expert who advises my followers on what products to invest in, but even now I keep discovering new favourites. It’s why I still shop in my favourite French pharmacies every time I’m back home.

So, mes amies, I’m going to let you in on the best places and products to have on your French shopping list. Vous êtes les bienvenus.

THE BEST FRENCH PHARMACIES IN PARIS

Citypharma

Citypharma is big and busy, so come armed with patience, a comprehensive list and a handful of helpful phrases. Repeat after me: ‘Je prends tout!’

Address: 26 Rue du Four, 75006 Paris

Marionnaud

Marionnaud is equal parts medicine and make-up merch.

Address: 119 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, 75011 Paris

Pharmacie Monge

Pharmacie Monge is the best discount pharmacy located within the Latin Quarter and has a great range of products you can’t find anywhere else. Those in the know stockpile the Biocyte Hyaluronic Forte Full Spectrum, £55. Plus, it’s open until 11pm most days. Un vin et du shopping, cherie?

Address: 1 Place Monge, 75005 Paris

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THE BEST FRENCH PHARMACY PRODUCTS TO BUY

1/11

Fresh and light, this will extend the life of your blow-dry without drying out your hair. Focus on the roots where grease tends to cling, muss with your fingers or brush out. Glossy hair with texture and body. Et voila!ng, muss with your fingers or brush out. Glossy hair with texture and body. Et voila!

Klorane Dry Shampoo, £9

2/11

Avène did face mists way before they became a skincare staple. I’ve visited Avène, a mountainous village in the South of France, and can attest to the healing powers of the water (which is in every single one of its products). Expect your skin to be immediately soothed and softened.

Avène Eau Thermale Mist, £8.50

3/11 

Sun protection is crucial in keeping skin youthful – that much you already know. This lightweight spray sunscreen can be worn under or over make-up and is totally imperceptible. Plus, it’s small enough to fit in your handbag so you can top up throughout the day.

La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF, £12.38

4/11

Neither a fake tan nor an SPF, this wakes up the melanin in your skin to prepare it for sun and to increase the longevity of your tan post-holiday. Simply mist all over.

Institut Esthederm Bronz Impulse, £43

5/11

A wonderfully simple emollient cream that’s enriched with fatty acids to help ameliorate dryness. It acts as a great primer for make-up, too.

Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentré, £13

6/11

I once heard a rumour that Bourjois is made in the same factory as a luxury make-up mega brand – and this foundation makes me believe it. A classic, it gives that healthy ‘I spent the day in the Tuileries’ glow.

Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation, £9.99

7/11

The OG French pharmacy product, this micellar water removes your make-up and is formulated especially for sensitive skin.

Bioderma Sensibio H20, £10.80

8/11

Want to smell like summer all year round? Of course you do. The scent of this body oil is so delicious and popular it’s been made into a perfume, too. The multi-purpose dry oil uses a mix of camellia, argan and almond oil to deeply nourish any part of the body – from top to toe.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, £18.50

9/11

Originally formulated to treat burns, this water-based emulsion soothes sensitive or sunburnt skin by acting as a literal barrier to protect from germs and other aggressors, while your skin heals itself.

Biafine, £8.99

10/10

This toothpaste is a staple in any French girl’s bathroom as it is effective but doesn’t alter enamel.

Elgydium Toothpaste, £7.87

THE BEST FRENCH PHARMACY PRODUCTS TO BUY

1/11

Fresh and light, this will extend the life of your blow-dry without drying out your hair. Focus on the roots where grease tends to cling, muss with your fingers or brush out. Glossy hair with texture and body. Et voila!ng, muss with your fingers or brush out. Glossy hair with texture and body. Et voila!

Klorane Dry Shampoo, £9

2/11

Avène did face mists way before they became a skincare staple. I’ve visited Avène, a mountainous village in the South of France, and can attest to the healing powers of the water (which is in every single one of its products). Expect your skin to be immediately soothed and softened.

Avène Eau Thermale Mist, £8.50

3/11 

Sun protection is crucial in keeping skin youthful – that much you already know. This lightweight spray sunscreen can be worn under or over make-up and is totally imperceptible. Plus, it’s small enough to fit in your handbag so you can top up throughout the day.

La Roche Posay Anthelios SPF, £12.38

4/11

Neither a fake tan nor an SPF, this wakes up the melanin in your skin to prepare it for sun and to increase the longevity of your tan post-holiday. Simply mist all over.

Institut Esthederm Bronz Impulse, £43

5/11

A wonderfully simple emollient cream that’s enriched with fatty acids to help ameliorate dryness. It acts as a great primer for make-up, too.

Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentré, £13

6/11

I once heard a rumour that Bourjois is made in the same factory as a luxury make-up mega brand – and this foundation makes me believe it. A classic, it gives that healthy ‘I spent the day in the Tuileries’ glow.

Bourjois Healthy Mix foundation, £9.99

7/11

The OG French pharmacy product, this micellar water removes your make-up and is formulated especially for sensitive skin.

Bioderma Sensibio H20, £10.80

8/11

Want to smell like summer all year round? Of course you do. The scent of this body oil is so delicious and popular it’s been made into a perfume, too. The multi-purpose dry oil uses a mix of camellia, argan and almond oil to deeply nourish any part of the body – from top to toe.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, £18.50

9/11

Originally formulated to treat burns, this water-based emulsion soothes sensitive or sunburnt skin by acting as a literal barrier to protect from germs and other aggressors, while your skin heals itself.

Biafine, £8.99

10/10

This toothpaste is a staple in any French girl’s bathroom as it is effective but doesn’t alter enamel.

Elgydium Toothpaste, £7.87

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