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The French have a monopoly on a lot of things: baguettes, berets and an enviable tendency to look chic with seemingly no effort involved. So it’s only natural that they would also have a monopoly on skincare. Because it isn’t enough for them to be extremely elegant and well-dressed — no, they have to have perfect, pore-less skin to match.
The most surprising part of this, though, is that the best skincare the country has to offer isn’t thousand-dollar creams formulated with snail mucus or bone marrow, but instead comes from their pharmacies, meaning it’s relatively cheap and readily available.
Further adhering to their commitment of low-maintenance living, the products are simple yet effective — there’s no frills about them. But before you book any flights to Paris in the name of stocking up, the creme de la creme of French pharmacy skincare has largely made its way into the American market and is merely a click away.
In an effort to make your venture into French skincare all the more effortless, we’ve outlined below all the brands to know, along with some of their notable products. Do as the French would do and make room in your medicine cabinet.
Founded in 1950, this storied French brand has amassed a cult following due in large part to their Lait-Crème Concentré, a rich multipurpose cream. But there are some other gems to be found among Embryolisse’s offerings, nearly all formulated with natural ingredients so as to be as gentle as possible on the skin, while yielding tangible and visible results.
The aforementioned cult cream, Lait-Crème Concentré’s formula counts shea butter, beeswax, aloe vera and emollients among its ingredients, making for an intensely rich and hydrating moisturizer that can be utilized in a number of ways. Slather it on day or night, pop it into the refrigerator and wear it as a cooling mask and even apply it post-shave to soothe and nourish irritated skin. All that available in one $16 tube.
If you’re in need of as much hydration as you can get, the Hydra-Masque is formulated with beeswax, sesame oils and sweet almond that aid in rebuilding the skin’s lipid barrier so as to keep skin hydrated longer. Follow with the brand’s Lait-Crème Concentré to pack a punch.
In a quaint rural French village in 1743, the Avéne hydrotherapy center was opened. Now, some centuries later, that hydrotherapy center (which still operates today and is frequented by many) gave us the gift of Eau Thermal Avène, a skincare brand dedicated to treating and caring for sensitive skin.
Thermal Spring Water
This is more than just water in a can. This Thermal Spring Water is sourced from rain water that has journeyed 40 years through the Cevennes Mountain to bless our faces. The water is bottled directly from the source and packaged in a sterile environment so as not to lose any of its purity or key qualities. Spritz onto the face to soothe skin or reduce inflammation or any redness, and keep it close by during the summer for when you need a quick cool down or refresh. Just don’t drink it.
From La Roche-Posay, France comes its namesake skincare brand. Like Avène, La Roche-Posay utilizes thermal spring water and has been doing so to treat chronic skin diseases since 1905. Clearly, something in the water is working as the brand continues populate medicine cabinets everywhere, catering specifically to those with sensitive skin and the afflictions that follow.
Anthelios Ultra-Light Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
You should obviously be wearing SPF everyday. It’s the most effective combatant to wrinkles and fine lines, but most importantly, it significantly decreases your chances of sun damage. But the thought of layering another lotion or cream on top of whatever other products you’re using can be off-putting. Luckily La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios sunscreen is ultra-light, dissolving into the skin upon application and leaving behind no sticky unwanted residue. Plus, it’s fragrance-free, so no lingering, stomach-churning scent.
Cicaplast Baume B5
Put this balm on everything. We’re talking face, hands, legs, arms, lips — anything that needs hydrating, the Cicaplast Baume B5 can fix it with its shea butter and panthenol formula. And it’s not just for hydration but can be used to alleviate and soothe burns, cuts and scraps. In other words, you’ll always want to have it on hand.
At the forefront of vinotherapy is Bordeaux-based brand Caudalie, who in 1995 discovered the potential of utilizing grapes in skincare, namely for the multitude of antioxidants and anti-aging properties their vines, grapes and seeds contain. The brand has also pioneered the use of reservatol, an ingredient found in many of their products that aids in protecting the skin’s surface from any potentially harmful environmental influences.
Don’t be dissuaded from trying this product simply because it’s name contains the word ‘beauty.’ This elixir gleans its inspiration from the “elixir of youth” favored by Queen Isabelle of Hungary to tighten pores, smooth out skin and lend an overall brighter, just-woke-up appearance to one’s face. Spray it on anytime you notice your complexion looking a little dull or even use it as an after-shave for an even smoother finish.
Vinopure Purifying Toner
You’re probably familiar with the concept of a toner but what is it actually, and, more importantly, what purpose does it serve? In the instance of Caudalie’s Vinopure Purifying Toner, the 100% natural salicylic acid is used to extract all the gunk that’s accumulated in your pores, tightening them and causing them to shrink in appearance. So basically, you’ll be left with flawless skin.
Bioderma relies heavily on biology when it comes to their practice of dermatology and frequently work in tandem with scientists when developing their products. Like many of the previous brands, Bioderma aims to serve even the most sensitive of skin types and thus formulate their products with the purest of ingredients.
If you’re at all familiar with micellar water, this is the only one that matters. Although primarily favored as a makeup remover, the Sensibio H20 also works well for just cleansing the skin and ridding it of any impurities. We all know men are terrible when it comes to washing their faces, especially prior to going to bed, but all that’s required of this is a quick swipe across the face with a cotton pad.
Similiar to Sensibio H20, Sensibio Milk cleanses the skin, but is better suited for those who have more sensitive, fickle skin. If you feel as though you need to see your skincare in order to feel as though it’s working, the creamy formula of this will create a more visible lather.
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