Cheap French beauty secrets







I had the (“spent a”) great fortune of spending a few days in Paris last week.


It’s sort of like everywhere else on earth, except you get to eat crepes and cheese and fries and red wine and baguettes and croissants every single day and no one ever puts on weight! Apparently.

Paris is saturated with exceptionally stylish people, as anyone who has ever been there will testify, (sheepishly and from behind dark glasses.) French women seem to favour very natural, seemingly-product free hair, usually brunette and nice and clean (thanks to all that Klorane dry shampoo is my guess), makeup-free skin and exciting, rich, bright lipstick. The men seem to favour moustaches, berets and street mimes.

French dames take immense care of their skin and hair, (chain smoking aside) and ensure the health and vitality of each is paramount rather than masking it with layers of makeup and styling, which, let’s be honest, can be the way we roll in Australia. I certainly do.

And in great news for women who like their beauty products and routines simple, (e.g. ‘The Cetaphil army’), a great deal of French women swear by their native pharmacy brands. A lot of these prodz and brands (Nuix, La Roche-Posay, Avene) are available online, or in Australia or London, where I am based at the moment, and where I roam the aisles of Boots and Sephora like a crazed fool whose luggage already weighs 789 kilos but who doesn’t give a burp.

But amazingly, in this modern global community, there are some you can still only get in France.

The combination of their hard-to-get-ness, their efficacy, and their low price has granted them a dazzling reputation and as such they have been written up by many the supermodel and makeup artist and beauty editor.

So, here’s my take and my three top French pharmacy picks. (I bought them at City Pharma in St Germain, which seemed to be a lot bigger than the others pharmacies I saw and with more choice). These picks, you will note, tend to be everyone’s top French pharmacy picks, and I can only assume it’s because they are pretty great.

1. Bioderma Crealine H20 Micelle Solution for 13 Euro.

The most lauded and loved makeup remover in the world. It’s gentle, removes all, even very very waterproof, makeup thoroughly and is suitable for every skin type, even the very sensitive. Makeup artists always have this in their kit (like hairstylists have L’Oreal Elnett hairspray…) because unlike traditional cleansers, which require water or scrubbing, Créaline dissolves the impurities on the your skin so you can rinse or wipe them away with a cotton pad and no water is required. It leaves your skin criminally soft, which I love, and not at all tight or dry. It’s a delight for for quick makeup reapplications (work to dinner fresh-ups, for example) when you can’t be arsed starting from scratch again. Note though, that if you use a cleansing water like this, you still need to follow with a regular cleanser that night.

So essentially it is a: Cleansing water that is superb at gentle makeup removal.

Closest thing to this you can get back home: Avène’s Cleansing and Makeup Remover Micellar Lotion or MAC Mineralize Charged Water Cleanser.

2. Embryolisse for 10 Euro.

A cheeky, multi-purpose primer/moisturiser ideal for under makeup. I find it deliciously hydrating for my dry skin (it has taken a beating from all of the wind and cold of the UK, er, summer) and the perfect makeup base. Might not be great for oily skin, due to the heaviness, or sensitive skin, due to the fragrance, but then again, many women of many skin types swear by it. (Never to it, too offensive.)

The trick, I’m finding, is use a TINY amount and sweep it onto the face, don’t massage it in. Leave for a good ten minutes before you apply makeup. Can also be used to remove makeup with a warm cloth, or used a spot treatments on pimples.

So essentially it is a: A thick makeup base that also hydrates.

Closest thing to this you can get back home: Probably Ella Bache Crème Intex.

3. Boiron Homéoplasmine, for 5 Euro.

A do-it-all ointment that is as loved by the French as paw paw is by us Australians. As an antiseptic remedy comprised chiefly of petroleum jelly and calendula, Homeoplasmine is ideal for healing cuts and scratches. And I don’t care what anyone says, do not be fooled into thinking this is a lip balm, as you will be sorely disappointed. It will only act as a BARRIER (trapping moisture that’s already in your lips) not as a moisturiser. That said, it does help soothe intensely dry, cracked lips as a treatment: apply it liberally then wipe off after ten minutes, rather than massaging it in and leaving it on. It’s finest moments are as a nipple balm, or as a terrific lip primer (it’s matte which makes it better than a shiny lip balm), or on a chapped, red schnoz.

So essentially it is a: Multi-purpose healing ointment.

Closest thing to this you can get back home: Lansinoh, Paw paw ointment, Aquaphor, Yu-Be cream, Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour cream and (my newest and most cherished favourite) Lanolips Golden Ointment.

Zoe is an author, columnist and porridge fan. Her books include the beauty bible Amazing Face, dating and relationship guide Textbook Romance, and three novels, Air KissesPlaying The Field and The Younger Man. Find more info on her here, or supervise on her daily procrastination here and here.

Please understand that Zoë cannot respond to ALL your questions – but never fear, there are readers that are bound to know the answers, so don’t be afraid to ask.

Have you tried these prodz? Do you love them or ….meh? Isn’t it odd that French butter is salt-free?


More articles