Vive la France Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Paris pharmacy Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Bonjour! I was in Paris last week, and obviously one of the stops on my list was la pharmacie. Actually, pharmacies are a big deal in France. Not only is there one on practically every corner (designated by these huge, glowing green crosses) but there are two kinds of them: the pharmacie is the more common, basic, drug-dispensing version, but the parapharmacie is more like a French Shoppers Drug Mart, with all kinds of beauty products just waiting to be discovered.

The cheapest and best one to go to is called City Pharma in Saint-Germain (26 Rue de Four). Due to a packed schedule, terrible cold, torrential downpour and the pressing need to buy Lanvin shoes and a Longchamp carry-on, I didn’t make it all the way over there this time. But that actually doesn’t matter, because pretty much every single cult favourite French beauty product can be found—or at least ordered—right here at home.

That’s right! Here’s my list of a whopping 15 French beauty buys that you previously couldn’t get in North America… but now you can.

1. Bioderma Crealine H2O / Sensibio H2O

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Solution Micellaire Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

In France, this is called Crealine H2O, but ever since it arrived here in Canada a few years ago, it’s been labelled Sensibio H2O. No idea what either of those terms mean, but it’s the same thing inside. Arguably the Rolls Royce of micellar cleansers, it’s a favourite of makeup artists the world over because the no-rinse, soap-free, pH-balanced formula removes even waterproof makeup without irritating sensitive skin. I like it as a nighttime pre-cleanse step or for removing the day’s makeup before re-applying for a night out. Everyone needs a bottle of this stuff in their beauty arsenal. Also available in a combination/oily skin version.

Where to find it: Shoppers Drug Mart, Murale, London Drugs and Rexall Pharma Plus, plus it’s online here:

2. Nuxe Huile Prodigiuese Multi-Usage Dry Oil

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi Usage Dry Oil Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Nuxe is another French brand that arrived in Canada in the ’00s, and there’s no question that this guy is their star product. You might think a dry oil would only serve as a body moisturizer… but you’d be wrong. You can use this 98.8 percent natural, silicone- and preservative-free oil on your body, hair and face to nourish, repair and add a subtle yet non-greasy glow. It’s also reported to improve the appearance of stretch marks. I find the soft scent totally comforting, too.

Where to find it:

3. Avène Eau Thermale

Avene Eau Thermale Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home
Facial mists are totally a French thing. You can use them to hydrate your skin, set your makeup, cool you down… or, like beauty editors do, mist yourself when you’re simply bored at your desk at work. (I’m serious. All beauty editors do this.) If you haven’t hopped on the facial misting train after I told you why (and how) you should use one, then Avène would be a great brand to start with. Theirs has a low salt content, so you don’t need to worry about blotting it after you spray (which is important with some of them, otherwise they can dry you out).

Where to find it:

4. Leonor Greyl Huile de Palme Hair Oil

Leonor Greyl Huile de Palme Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

When you go to the beauty floor of the Galeries Lafayette (one of the top three department stores in Paris), amongst the Chanels and the Lancômes and the Diors there is a HUGE Leonor Greyl counter… which lets you know that this ain’t no small-time brand in France. In fact, even though it’s pretty much unheard of here, the brand has been around since the 1970s—and this multi-purpose hair oil is their most famous offering. You can use it as a pre-shampooing or overnight conditioning treatment; on damp hair to style or detangle; or on dry hair to tame frizz, soften or protect your colour from sun and chlorine. If my hair was coarse and frizz-prone instead of fine and straight, I’d totally buy this.

Where to find it:

5. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Sunscreen

La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Melt In Cream SPF 60 Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Apparently one Anthelios sunscreen is sold around the world every 15 seconds. And for good reason: La Roche-Posay was one of the first brands to offer both UVA and UVB protection in this sought-after formula that is also photo-stable (which means it doesn’t degrade like others can in the sun). It’s surprisingly non-greasy and absorbs quickly, so you can use it on face or body. Also? The French-Greek name reminds me of the summer I spent bopping around the beaches in France (Nice, Cannes, Antibes) and Greece (Corfu, Ios)… so there’s that. I didn’t use this then, but obviously I’d slather it on now.

Where to find it:

6. Caudalie Beauty Elixir

Caudalie Beauty Elixir Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

I love the word “elixir.” Doesn’t it get you all excited that what you’re about to try is some kind of Holy Grail of beauty? Well, this one lives up to its promises. Part-toner and part-serum, you can use it in the same way as the Avène spray to give your complexion a boost, tighten pores and smooth fine lines (yes please!) either before moisturizer or on top of makeup. Did I not say the French are all about facial mists? Plus, while most are formulated with thermal spring water, Caudalie’s has extracts of grape, rosemary, orange blossom, rose, myrrh and organic balm mint.

Where to find it:

7. Avibon Vitamin A Cream

Avibon Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Remember how I told you all about the wonders of vitamin A—a.k.a. Retin-A—the other week? Well, Avibon is French vitamin A cream, and it’s sold there over-the-counter, no prescription required. It’s not as strong as Retin-A, mind you, and I don’t have the command of the French language to figure out exactly how it compares to retinol (our OTC version of the ingredient). My hunch is that it’s somewhere in between—and so if the full-strength stuff is too much for you, this would be a good option for harnessing the same wrinkle-smoothing, blemish-busting benefits.

Where to find it: New London Pharmacy in NYC (in store or online), or online at Avibon.com.

8. Embryolisse 24-Hour Miracle Cream

Embryolisse Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Sad face—this is the one product on my list I’m kicking myself for not buying. Another makeup artist fave, it’s a rich, concentrated, slightly medicinal cream that’s packed with shea butter and aloe vera. You can use it as a moisturizer, but that’s not all. It doubles as a makeup remover (Pond’s Cold Cream style) and because it absorbs quickly, also works as a makeup primer.

Where to find it:

9. Klorane Dry Shampoo

Klorane Dry Shampoo Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Dry shampoos have totally exploded (ha) within the past year or two, but Klorane’s was one of the originals… and some would argue, still one of the best. What appeals about this one is its quality and purity: it’s made to meet pharmaceutical-grade standards using the lowest number of (and most potent) ingredients like oat milk, corn and rice starch. If you’re looking for a more pure, botanical dry shampoo-slash-volumizer, you can’t go wrong with this French find.

Where to find it:

10. T. LeClerc Pressed Powder

T. LeClerc Pressed Powder Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

T. LeClerc’s famous pressed powders were in Canada for a hot minute (at Ice, the now-closed up Toronto outpost of Kitson in L.A.), but in France the line has been around since 1881. This trip, I saw the full range at a couple of pharmacies (I don’t even think they were parapharmacies), which makes sense given that it was created way back when by an actual pharmacist. Made from zinc oxide and finely milled rice powder, these portable compacts help set makeup, mattify shiny spots and thanks to the zinc, protect from the sun.

Where to find it:

11. L’Oréal Paris Elnett Hairspray

LOreal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Elnett is another one of those beauty products that everyone needs in their collection. And yes, it was a big beauty editor deal when, a few years back, you could finally buy it in Canada and the U.S. instead of having to smuggle it back in your suitcase. The reason: it gives you hold without the stickiness, which is no small feat. I’ve had hairdressers do my hair on behalf of other hair care brands… and STILL pull out their Elnett at the end of the job, telling me it was superior to the one in the very collection they were repping. Doesn’t that tell you something? Note: the smell can be a bit old lady-ish, so opt for the fragrance-free one if you can.

Where to find it:

12. Boiron Homeoplasmine / Cicadermine

Boiron Homeoplasmine Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Homeopathy is also a big thing in France, and this product, an ointment for soothing skin irritations, is homeopathic company Boiron’s biggest beauty export. It goes on like a less greasy, more matte Eight Hour Cream, and can be used for similar skin woes: on dry patches, sunburns, chapped lips, cracked heels and ravaged cuticles. Plus, surprise! You can totally get it in Canada, just under the name Cicadermine.

Where to find it: See here for retail locations.

13. Decléor Aromessence Néroli

Decleor Aromessence Neroli Essential Serum Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

This spa brand has a range of serums that could more accurately be described as face oils—but don’t let that scare you off. I LOVE face oils. They do more for my dry skin in the wintertime than any regular moisturizer could—and when it comes to skincare, you’ve got to trust the French. (These woman are ALL about good skincare. You just don’t see anyone walking around with caked-on makeup.) The neroli one is suitable for all skin types, smells like heaven, absorbs quickly so it’s not greasy, and leaves your skin looking and feeling all hydrated and glowy. Say oui!

Where to find it:

14. Institut Esthederm Self-Tanner

Institut Esthederm Light Tan Self Tanning Face Cream Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Institut Esthederm is another French fave that we used to be able to buy here, but has since (to my knowledge) exited the Canadian market. A total shame, because when it comes to all things sun and faux-tanning, this line is incredible—as French brands often are. Specifically, they have a wicked self-tanning technology that makes the colour develop more evenly, making for a natural-looking, “only in Europe” kind of tan. (Aren’t the tans you get in Europe so much better? I think so.)

Where to find it:

15. By Terry Baume de Rose

By Terry Baume de Rose Paris beauty products! 15 cult faves from the French pharmacy that you can also buy at home

Technically, I’m not sure if you can buy this lip balm at the parapharmacie, because the only place I saw it was at the Bon Marché department store. Anyway—I’ve missed it ever since I finished every last drop of my jar, because it was the most amazing, nourishing, lightly rose-scented tub of lip goodness I’ve ever come across. (Probably Rodial’s lip balm is the next closest thing, but it’s much goopier.) Apparently By Terry now makes it in two versions: the original, and a new, shimmery format (which was all I saw at Bon Marché and therefore the reason I didn’t snap it up).

Where to find it:

Have your say

Ever been to a French pharmacy?
Have you tried any of these French beauty buys?
What’s your all-time favourite overseas beauty find?

19 Comments

Melanie
Monday, February 4/2013 at 7:12 pm

I love French pharmacies. They can vary so much from one to the next with the products that they carry, so you HAVE to visit more than one! Annoying thing: when I was there last spring, my hotel was near City Pharma — and I did not make it there! But like you say, so much is available here now. More room for shoes in the luggage that way! You can e-mail Institut Esthederm for Canadian locations: info@esthederm.ca
Great post!

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amanda
Monday, February 4/2013 at 9:17 pm

What an awesome list! I’m now googling all in Australia.

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Nomadic D.
Tuesday, February 5/2013 at 3:19 am

These are some of my favorites! I absolutely LOVE the sensibio and use it every day, morning and night, instead of a regular cleanser:

http://www.nomadicd.com/2011/05/sensational-sensibio.html

Also a huge fan of the klorane dry shampoo:

http://www.nomadicd.com/2011/03/not-drop.html

though honestly now that my hair is so much darker, it’s not as fabulous

I also use the anthelios sunscreen and the elnett (on the rare occasion that I actually put any hairspray on, for sure it would be that one). So now, of course, I’m curious about the rest. Especially that dry oil and the water mist. And here in Spain we have all this stuff, right at our local “parafarmacia”! Such a fun post!

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eriyle
Tuesday, February 5/2013 at 4:59 am

I feel like I’m the only one who finds Bioderma practically useless for removing makeup. It works alright for face makeup (nothing that my toner can’t do, though) but it doesn’t even remove my eyeshadow, let alone mascara or eyeliner. I do like it to just freshen up my skin in the morning, though, since I only wash my face at night.

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Melanie
Tuesday, February 5/2013 at 10:13 am

I agree with you. Tried it because of the hype. Had to use so much of it to be effective — must explain the large bottles!

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Mandie
Tuesday, February 5/2013 at 10:20 am

I always worry when I hear someone say that Bioderma doesn’t work for them, that they might have gotten a fake product. The real thing foams when shaken and leaves a bitter taste on the lips. To remove eye makeup with Bioderma, wet a cotton pad, hold it against the lid and gently pat the cotton, before wiping it off.

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Marina(Makeup4all)
Tuesday, February 12/2013 at 8:07 am

I really want to try Institut Esthederm , as some people who’s opinion I trust are RAVING about it. And also can’t believe I haven’t tried Leonor Greyl, I have some products on my wish list, will need to get them when I finish my current favourites which are Davines (Italian) and SachaJuan (Swedish).

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Biafine
Wednesday, May 29/2013 at 7:38 am

Just wanted to say the other French cult prod. Biafine can be bought direct from France with free ship via Biafinecream.com

(the miracle for sunburns, or healing skin after cosmetic procedures) I even used it on my daughter’s chicken pox and it was amazing.

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Noel
Wednesday, May 28/2014 at 7:03 am

You can find biafine at a pharmacy in Montreal : Uniprix 3828 boulevard Decarie 514-484-7311 for a very reasonable price (less than 20$)

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Dune
Wednesday, July 10/2013 at 4:45 pm

Hey ! I live in paris, and I use almost all these products… they’re really good ! You can’t find the By terry’s products in pharmacies (maybe in some parapharmacies, I’m not sure so) but you’ll find it in every department stores, such as the BHV, the Galeries Lafayettes, and like you said in the Bon Marché, and in the parfumeries too (stores selling perfumes, and “luxe” brands, like Chanel or Dior or Guerlain) ! I hope this helped !
Dune

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Jennifer Green
Thursday, August 14/2014 at 11:25 am

Can you suggest which pharmacies would be best to go too? I’m visiting September 2014 and I want only want to visit a few store so I can focus on the sites.

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Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, August 14/2014 at 11:55 am

City Pharma for sure!

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Jennifer Green
Friday, August 15/2014 at 1:34 pm

What’s the difference between Boots, Beauty Mart, Para Shop, Mono Prix, etc…

This is my first time visiting so I have no clue.

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jesika
Tuesday, September 10/2013 at 11:37 am

I would like to know if I can represent to you here in peru with your line of productos cosmetics

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BIBA
Thursday, November 14/2013 at 6:04 pm

I spend over 15 years every summer in Canes. When I came back home to Fla. I always came with bags of cosmetics from there. I used Anthelios for years and it was made with mexoril, Now in USA they sell it with Cellex c. Its not the same as the French version. Do you know were to find in Use the same French version? Please advise. Thank you

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Brenna
Wednesday, June 11/2014 at 11:14 am

You can find the exact recipe, imported from France, at clydes pharmacy on the upper east side of Manhattan! Ask for Ricky! x

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Emi
Wednesday, December 11/2013 at 12:32 pm

A great list… I have to agree… Bioderma Crealine is amazing and completely changed my beauty regime for the better…. now no eye redness/soreness when taking my make-up off which I always found with other harsher make-up removers, and the gentler ones just didn’t work.
I totally agree with you on the face-oil comment… I LOVE face oils. They completely restore my skin over that difficult change of season time, and in the winter add that extra hydration.. I use mine when I feel I need it, sometimes both morning and night underneath my moisturiser, and have experienced great results. I really love Delarom products – their Neroli Flower Face Oil is brilliant. Another French must-have brand for me is Caudalie… their Lip Conditioner and their hand cream are both amazing products. Will have to try the other products you mentioned!

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Anum
Sunday, April 6/2014 at 7:25 pm

Where can I buy the Embryolisse cream in Ontario from a retail store?

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Lara
Monday, May 19/2014 at 8:55 am

Just curious – if you are a Canadian website, why are all the “where to buy” options (for the La Roche Posay sunscreen) in the US? I’d love to know if I can pick up the melt in sunscreen 60 lotion from my local Shoppers Drug Mart.

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