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French skin care products are popping up everywhere we look more and more all the time. And why shouldn’t they? We’ve looked to French women for beauty inspiration for decades. But while everyone looks effortlessly chic in breton shirts and trench coats, when it comes to French skin care, can it really be as simple as the oft-cited French beauty philosophy of “Do nothing and still look incredible”?
Well, yes and no. To French women, “Doing nothing” actually means “Focus on amazing skincare, and don’t worry if you look a little undone.” This easy-does-it beauty philosophy means that French beauty products have to go above and beyond, quality-wise — and we Américains can reap the benefits of these wonder-balms, if we know which ones to look for. Drugstore beauty products in France are often the equivalent of department store beauty products here, which means they are A) fancy, and B) really work.
Here are a few of the best French drugstore beauty products that are not only incredible, but available stateside. Get ready to inject some serious ‘je ne sais quoi’ into your complexion.
Thermal water is a big deal in France. You’ll find it in so many of their skin care products that the question becomes what even is this? Thermal water is essentially well-traveled rain water. It’s water that’s come down through the mountains and valleys of the Earth, picking up tons of minerals and CO2, making it rich in antioxidants and therapeutic properties. It’s wonderful for alleviating arthritis, joint pain, and even skin ailments like eczema and psoriasis. Popular French drugstore brand, Vichy, makes a do-it-all face cleanser that uses thermal water to remove makeup and clean your skin all while imparting its mineral-rich goodness into it.
(Vichy Pureté Thermale One Step Cleanser, $19.50, VichyUSA)
Maybe you’ve seen this on your chic aunt’s dresser, as Huile Prodigeuse as been around for ages (it even comes in a shimmery bronzer formula now). This dry oil from Nuxe is a legendary skin-silkener. With vitamin E, macadamia oil, sweet almond oil, hazelnut oil, and camellia, this is a super-nourishing cocktail that you can use pretty much anywhere on your body, including your hair.
(Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, $21.75, Nuxe US)
A well known French skin care brand, Lierac is a go-to for any skin concerns where science and nature combine to create super-effective products that do everything from restore radiance, smooth fine lines and wrinkles, soften and generally make your skin the best it can be. But doesn’t every skin care brand aim to do that? With an expansive collection of skin and body products, Lierac is France’s answer to having a chem lab in your medecine cabinet. Though it’s not available everywhere in the US yet, you can still find this brand online.
(Lierac Luminescence Serum, $75, Walmart)
La Roche-Posay is almost just as much a drugstore staple here in the US as it is in the land of croissants. While they offer a bevy of anti-aging products and general skin-perfectors, their main concern is skin protection—with LOTS of literature on protecting your skin from the sun and how to detect damage. So needless to say, their sun protection line is extensive and well-loved, not because it does its job but also because it feels great on. Sun protection goes hand in hand with skin care, so pretty much all their products are multi-beneficial for your complexion.
(La Roche-Posay Antethlios 60 Ultra Light Sunscreen Fluid, 29.99, La Roche-Posay)
You’ll probably see this dry shampoo on a lot of holy grail lists. It’s pretty much the bees’ knees for nixing greasy roots and NOT emulsifying to give you that weird rubbery gritty texture that lots of dry shampoos can leave behind (thus making your hair feel doubly-dirty by end of the day). Klorane chiefly focuses on using botanicals to improve your hair and skin, and does so with a veritable apothecary of plant-based products. Even this dry shampoo uses anti-inflammatory oat milk, which softens and moisturizes your hair while calming your scalp.
(Klorane Dry Shampoo, $20, Klorane US)
Embryolisse is one of those makeup artist staples that hydrates the skin, making it plump and velvety to the touch. Touted as a perfectly hydrating primer, it can also be used to remove makeup because its formula is so emulsive and rich. All we know is that it snaps together our tired dull skin like a rubber band and acts like a chug of Gatorade to our thirsty worn-out complexions.
(Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré, $28, Embryolisse USA)
We’re convinced that elegant French ladies invented facial mists. How else could one exercise care for their delicate complexions while also appearing so carefree and fresh? The facial mist, naturally. This one from Caudalie is a gorgeous elixir that tightens pores, energizes skin and can also set makeup. The formula, containing traces of their Vinefera formula, is one of those magic potion type of things that chic women swear by. Toners often get a misleading reputation as being astringent, but spritzing this one before moisturizer will prep your skin to absorb all the goodness inside as well as from your following products.
(Caudalie Beauty Elixir, $18, Sephora)
Avène is all about thermal water—they put it into everything they make. This makes Avène one of the top go-to brands for sensitive, dry or inflamed skin. Doesn’t mean you can’t use it if your skin is fine—this actually works to make your skin stronger and protect itself from environmental stressors by restoring its natural barrier.
(Avène Skin Recovery Cream, $32, Drugstore.com)
Micellar water is this year’s new beauty thing to try, but the French have been all over it long before us. This is pretty much a miracle liquid that removes ALL your makeup in one swipe. It looks and feels just like water but is incredibly effective at cleaning your skin without irritating it. You don’t even have to rinse afterwards, which also makes it a stellar travel product.
(Bioderam Créaline Micellar Water, $11.90, Amazon)