Revisiting the French Pharmacie…

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The winter months in a cold, dry climate can be a challenge for mature, sensitive skin.  I have fair skin, prone to redness (rosacea) and although I’m far from being an adolescent, I can have a breakout at the most inopportune time.  I haven’t had cosmetic surgery (however, not ruling that out in future) but I have had mild chemical peels and laser treatments, in the hope of getting rid of redness and broken capillaries.  Wouldn’t it be so much easier to find a miracle in a bottle?

After years of using high-end luxury skincare products,  I’ve completely (well almost) converted to drugstore brands, especially French Pharmacie products if I can find them in Canada or the US.

Finding just the perfect balance between delicate, hydrating, anti-aging, and unscented skincare products is challenging.  The following are the French Pharmacie products that work for me and are readily available on this side of the Atlantic:

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 7.55.27 pmBioderma Micellar Water

  • unscented, gentle, non-stinging
  • gets rid of grime and makeup (even waterproof mascara) with a few swipes
  • won’t rinse away natural oils, therefore, the skin does not dry out

*Micellar water has been available for over a century.  Micelles attract dirt and oil drawing out impurities without drying out the skin leaving behind a glowy, hydrated finish.  Contains no alcohol or paraben but has a cucumber extract that smoothes the skin.

I use Shiseido cotton pads (also found in the drugstore) to swipe Bioderma over my face morning and night.  They are heavenly soft.

screen shot 2019-01-23 at 7.54.23 pmEmbroylisse, Lait-Creme Concentre, translates to baby smooth

A three in one product, it not only has a cult following with makeup artists worldwide but the French love it too.

  •  makeup remover, moisturizer, and makeup primer
  • gives a glow without looking greasy
  • contains shea butter and aloe vera

I can’t go without this product!  It’s gentle and lightweight but provides ample moisture for dry, irritated skin.  I was thrilled to see that the drugstore has expanded the products available within this brand offering a refreshing eye cream and a night cream.

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The history of Avene going back to the 1700s began with a horse!    This horse had a serious skin condition. After the horse bathed in the thermal springs in the Cevennes Mountains, the skin irritation was dramatically improved by the healing waters.  The Avene company was founded believing in the medicinal and restorative powers of these waters.

Avene Cicalfate

  • healing benefits for excessively dry or cracking skin, burns
  • contains sucralfate to reduce inflammation
  • contains copper-zinc complex to promote healing
  • works wonders  on rashes caused by an allergic reaction,  or an eczema breakout


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Avene Thermal Spring Water

  • infused with antioxidants
  • gentle mist to rehydrate the skin in hot, dry climates, in central heating environments and/or on airplanes
  • sets and refreshes makeup (if you don’t use powder to set your makeup)
  • also available in a convenient purse size




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Caudalie Beauty Elixir

  • similar uses as Avene Thermal Spring Water spray
  • mist infused with essential oils (rose, orange blossom, mint and rosemary)
  • also comes in purse size ideal for refreshing the senses or makeup



screen shot 2019-01-23 at 7.59.00 pmNuxe Lip Balm

  • long-lasting nurturing lip balm
  • formulated with plant extracts, shea butter and anti-bacterial honey
  • can be mixed with brown sugar and used to exfoliate chapped lips
  • adds extra moisture to lips when worn under a matte lipstick which has a tendency to be drying


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La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Sunscreen

  • UVA/UVB protection
  • lightweight and is quickly absorbed into the skin
  • fragrance-free
  • can be worn under makeup



screen shot 2019-01-22 at 8.09.22 pmIf I were much younger, I would want to have my hair cut in the style that Michelle Williams wore for the Louis Vuitton ads several years ago.

When I first saw this LV campaign, I checked online to see if there was any information on how her hair was styled.  I was pleasantly surprised that stylist, Odile Gilbert, gave a step by step guide to achieving this look.


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Kerastase Mousse Bouffante

  • once Michelle’s hair was washed,  Kerastase Mousse Bouffante was applied to damp hair
  • after the hair was blown dry, the style was achieved by Gilbert simply  running her fingers back and forth through Michelle’s hair
  • a light spray of Elnett hairspray followed
  • both the mousse and hairspray are L’Oreal products


*My hair will never look like this but I do use this mousse, and while I’m applying it to my damp hair I am channelling my inner “Michelle Williams”…

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Klorane Dry Shampoo

It took some time getting used to not washing my hair every day or two.  When I was still colouring my hair, I found that my colour lasted longer if I could stretch out the period between washings.  Now I only wash my hair once every five days.  I use this dry shampoo the day or so before washing.

  •  oat milk formula will absorb excess oil
  • spray on the roots to add texture and volume
  • doesn’t leave hair sticky




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I have been trying to find Avibon in Canada but have had no luck.  It is a French vitamin A cream that is not as strong as Retin-A.  I have tried Retin-A and Retinol products on many occasions desperately hoping they would be the magic cream that would take the wrinkles and fine lines away.  The formula in the products I have tried is too strong for my skin, and I have had to cope with dry flaking skin while trying to build up a tolerance for it.  In the end,  I have just given up…many times…

A313 is the closest version to Avibon that is available in Canada.  To date,  I haven’t found it in a drugstore here so have had to order it online.  I am hopeful that this will become my anti-aging product.



screenshot2019-01-31at4.02.51pmNothing gets me more excited than seeing my favourite French Pharmacie skincare and hair products available locally, however, this will never compete with the buzz you get walking into a Pharmacie in Paris.  If you are vacationing in Paris (or France) plan on spending an hour or so to wander the aisles of “skincare heaven”.  Come prepared as the bigger Pharmacies (City Pharma) are busy and crowded.  Have your list with you and don’t hesitate to ask for help or suggestions.  The staff in the Pharmacie are only too happy to talk (at length…in English if necessary) about what could work for your particular needs and may offer samples to try.  City Pharma will have everything you are looking for, but if you are wary of the hustle bustle in the bigger Pharmacies, you can visit the smaller ones.  There is a Pharmacie on almost every street, easily identified with the neon green cross.   If you don’t find what you want in the first one you walk into,  the one around the corner just might what you are looking for.

Do you have any Pharmacie brands that have become your go-to skincare products?


* P.S.  I have not added the French accents on the products names.  I’ve tried…and tried, but I lack in the necessary “tech” skills… The names should read as follows:

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4 thoughts on “Revisiting the French Pharmacie…”

  1. Hi Judy!

    The pharmacies in Paris are so much fun. My favorite is the two story location on Rue du Four.
    I use the Roche Posay sun screen and love it. Bioderma and Caudalie Elixir are also favorites.
    Don’t know if you like the Le Pitit Marseillais shower soap, but I did see it at Superstore. Can’t recall exactly, but it was either the Windermere or Calgary Trail location. I found it to be non-drying, and lightly scented.

    Not a French product, but Canadian, the NeoStrata line has a Retinol line, that has three levels of Retinol. So you can start with the lowest percentage of Retinal and work your way up to the higher levels. I have been using it for many years, and find it very effective on fine lines, and gets ride of the little white bumps I get from moisturizers that are too rich.

    Not a beautify product, but by accident I came across the Bonne Maman Tartelettes, at London Drugs at South Common.

    I am going to look for the Embroylisse on my next trip to Paris.


  2. Hi Karen, Thank you for sharing your tips. I will check out the NeoStrata retinol products. You can buy Embroylisse at Shoppers Drug Mart at the 23 Avenue close to Rabbit Hill Rd. I have found most of the French Pharmacie at that drugstore as well as excellent customer service.

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