French Pharmacy Must-Haves for 30-Somethings
The French pharmacy has a reputation for being the BEST place to get amazing skincare products and it only took me 4 years of living here to actually figure out my own faves. There’s a LOT of recommendations out there and honestly, they’re all legit. What’s “best” really just depends on what your skin needs.
I didn’t take my skincare seriously until this year when I turned 32. I started seeing changes I didn’t like in my skin between pregnancy, postpartum, inconsistent diet, and wonky sleep, so I was ready to do something about it.
Ever since I gave birth, my skin changed completely from being breakout prone to being super dry and suddenly older. Like, visibly older.
Forehead wrinkles (my face is SUPER expressive which I actually love, but my perpetual concentration face is giving me some seriously deep wrinkles!)
My skin type:
I researched what I wanted in terms of products for an embarrassing amount of time before settling on a few I thought would be good. But I also know how inflated the beauty industry is when it comes to price and promises, so to say I was shocked when I saw a clear difference after two days is a massive understatement.
My whole routine takes 6 minutes both in the AM and PM. Not bad at all for someone who hates doing this stuff, plus it’s a great way to spoil yourself a little!
And because I love this kind of info, here’s the totals for what you’ll spend in the US vs in France:
€111 (-€5 because I had a coupon, so really it ended up costing me only €106!)
Here’s what I got and what’s been working for me:
Avene TriXera Fluid Cleansing Gel, $29/€11 for 13.5oz
I always go for the gentlest cleanser I can find because I personally don’t think we need to over-cleanse our skin with needless chemicals all the time. That said, I do think it’s important to make sure we fully remove makeup at the end of the day, so I want one that will actually work. I also use it in the morning to give me a clean slate and I love how well this works for me without being too drying.
Step 2, Remove makeup/impurities:
Bioderma Sensibio Misceller Water, $17 for 16.9oz/€15 for 2 16.9oz bottles
This is like a magic eraser for any and all makeup. French women generally use this stuff more than cleanser because it’s technically all you need– it removes even the most stubborn waterproof eye makeup while also removing toxins and impurities. It leaves your skin feeling so fresh and clean while also not being the least bit drying. It does NOT have any sort of astringent/alcohol effect.
Step 3, Toner:
Caudalie Beauty Elixir, $37/€27 for 3.4oz OR $17/€9 for 1oz
This is a toner I use to remove the somewhat oily feeling of the micellar water. It smells AMAZING and makes my skin feel super fresh. I never like the feeling of leaving micellar water on, so I use this. It’s also totally non-drying and all natural which is a nice bonus. It’s pricey though no matter where you are, but it lasts a while. I got the 1oz bottle to start, I use it twice a day, and after two weeks straight, I’ve barely made a dent in it yet.
Step 4, Serum:
Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum, $79/€39 for 1oz
Use: AM/PM (but in the evenings I alternate between this & Step 5 but I don’t use both.)
I’ve had some unevenness in my skin since pregnancy, so I was looking for something gentle but effective for helping to even things out. This seriously WORKED for me. After two nights I noticed a huge difference and I wish I had taken a before picture! I just never thought I’d be able to photograph a difference– especially so soon! Also, I read some reviews about this on Amazon and a lot of people said they got duped with a fake version. Just go to Sephora and get the real thing if you’re gonna swing it!
Step 5, Retinol:
A313 Pommade $22/€14 for 1.7oz
Use: PM, every other night (am working up to every night)
This retinol a cult classic over here and you can get it OTC, without a prescription. If you’ve ever looked into any anti-aging beauty regimen, you’ve no doubt heard about the importance of using retinol. The TL;DR is that retinol is a Vitamin A derivative and “is a class of anti-aging compounds used in skincare. They help fight acne, reduce wrinkles, stimulate collagen, and promote cellular turnover. They’re also known for evening out skin tone and increasing blood flow to the skin.”
As a teenager I used Retin-A to help with acne and only have bad memories. It made my acne worse and I hated how dry and red it made my skin. I was definitely not on board with trying ANY retinol again after all that. But after a bunch of research (here’s a great rundown on retinol) I figured I’d give it one more try. A313 Pommade is probably unlike any retinol you’ve ever used. It’s extremely mild– much more mild than Retin-A– so the side effects you’re used to are minimal, comparatively. I had mild itchiness for the first couple weeks when using it, but it didn’t make me red or break out or even dry/peely! The consistency is also a sticky, goopy, balm, so it’s hyper-moisturizing and super thick.
A few things to note: (1) make sure your skin is COMPLETELY dry before using, otherwise your face will feel like it’s burning and itching like crazy! (2) Only use this at night. You don’t want to expose your skin to the sun while using any retinol because it makes you ultra photo-sensitive and prone to sunburn. (3) Since my skin is pretty sensitive, I only use this every other night, but you should start just once every few days and build up to every night (if you want) from there.
Pro tip: mix a little A313 with your moisturizer and it’ll prevent itching.
But overall, this is the best bang for your buck because it seriously WORKS.
Step 6, Moisturizer:
Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre $28/€11 for 2.4oz
Another one that I’d say if you get nothing else, let it be this. Before I tried this, to me, a moisturizer was a moisturizer and none could be that different than another. HOW WRONG I WAS. This has a cult following for a reason. Not only is it the perfect level of moisture, but it also serves as an incredibly silky base layer to put on before your foundation. And it makes a great positive difference with how your makeup looks, too, so that was a nice bonus!
Step 7, Lip balm:
Nuxe Reve de Miel Lip Balm $19/€6 for .5oz
Use: AM/PM/All day!
I bought this on an impulse at checkout. I’d heard it was amazing, but lip balm is one of those things I never consider. I’ve used Burt’s Bees for years and always felt that was enough until recently. I’ve been biting my lip a lot (hello, anxiety) and my lips have been cracked and dry for WEEKS. I couldn’t get them to soften up at all no matter how much lip balm I used. So I grabbed this and HOLY WOW, it seriously worked. One use, overnight, and my lips were completely healed. Totally soft! Now I’m addicted. A nice bonus is that it smells amaaaaazing– a little citrus-y and it’s easy to put on despite you having to use your finger.
OPTIONAL alternative to Step 6:
Embryolisse Anti-Age Global $55/€30
Use: PM. I alternate between using this and Step 6 after the A313.
This is a bonus product that I don’t think has been essential, but I really like it. One thing I love about this brand is that it’s pretty simple and made with natural ingredients. They believe in not putting anything unnecessary which I like. This cream is ultra rich and SUPER effective in reducing fine lines. I got it for my neck and it seriously works. Again, I was surprised because I was half expecting to be duped, haha! It’s made for more mature skin, but I’d heard a lot of young French women using it anyway because it’s so good. I wouldn’t say it’s an essential for me yet, but it gets an A from me because it definitely does what it says.
Over to you! Do you have any French pharmacy favorites? What about faves from the drugstores/pharmacies in your country?