As any beauty junkie will tell you, Europe–and France in particular–corners the market on great beauty products. In some cases, they use active ingredients that aren’t approved for use in the U.S. In other cases, they go much simpler (example: micellar water) and create really phenomenal products. For all these reasons, I was pretty excited to begin shopping beauty products when I moved over. Here in Italy, it’s been touch-and-go. I can get by with my broken Italian, but trying to read product labels in our local farmacia has been tough. France, on the other hand, has been much easier to shop. English often shows up on their packaging, making it much easier to understand what I’m buying.
The day before we visited the French Riviera last summer, I sat and pored over the ‘net searching for French drugstore beauty suggestions. It was pretty convenient that the first floor of our AirBNB had an English-speaking parapharmacie. Five days and about $100 USD later, I came home and started trying out all my French drugstore beauty products (slowly since my skin can be finicky). Over the course of the summer and fall, I really had a chance to see what worked and what was just meh for my complexion. Out of around 15, the products below are what I love and continue to use.
La Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen
I developed adult acne (with dry skin…go figure) in my mid-twenties. One product that continually breaks me out is sunscreen. Obviously I can’t go without it, so I’ve been on the hunt for a good one for years. This La Roche-Posay sunscreen is light, non-greasy, and doesn’t seem to freak out my skin. If you’re shopping in the U.S., be aware that the formulation is a little different and the price is a bit higher than in Europe. Still, it’s a great product.
Caudalie Beauty Elixir
When I ran out of my first bottle of Caudalie Beauty Elixir, I didn’t re-buy immediately. It feels fantastic when you spray it on, but I didn’t really think I noticed any benefits. Somehow I began to notice that my skin was a bit dull and pores were clogged. I bought another bottle and…Voila!…my skin went back to the way it was. It’s more expensive in the U.S., but I think it’s worth it.
Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre
This moisturizer is everything! As I said before, I suffer from adult acne and use prescription medications to combat it. That means that my dry skin becomes downright flaky in the winter…well, until this winter. Lait Creme Concentre is light, absorbs quickly, doesn’t break me out, and it really hydrates. Another bonus: $16 from Amazon is pretty close to the Euro price. Buy this. Seriously.
Christian Lenart Cornflower Floral Water
I bought this for the gorgeous cobalt blue bottle and pretty label. The equivalent of $6 USD, it was a steal no matter what was in it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a cooling, de-puffing elixir for eyes. When I’m tired (and that’s often given my kids), I put a few drops on a cotton pad and swipe it over my eyes. It does tingle a bit but doesn’t sting. You’re going to pay a premium if you order it in the States. If you happen to check a bag in France, buy several bottles.
Bioderma Crealine H20 Micelle Solution
Micellar water is a cleanser and make-up remover. I find that it takes too many cotton pads and much too long to thoroughly remove my make-up; however, it is great after yoga or the gym. I was breaking out on my forehead, which I attributed to my yoga mat despite regular wipe-downs. I started using a single cotton pad with Bioderma as I left the gym. Suddenly the forehead breakouts were gone.
Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil
I began using cleansing oils off and on eons ago when the Indie brand Aromaleigh made skincare. When they discontinued the line, I stopped using oils for the most part because I really couldn’t find another that I liked. Nuxe brought me back into the fold. While it isn’t a cleansing oil, it is an extremely nice multipurpose oil. I’ve used it as a moisturizer in a pinch, as a shine serum (and to tame fly-aways) in my hair, on rough elbows and knees, to try to smooth out bad sunless tanning applications. The scent is really nice, too.
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