There is such a mystique around French skincare. It is true that the concept of French beauty, while well known, is portrayed differently than in American culture. American beauty finds its foundation in perfection: flawless skin, ultimate youth, airbrushed and contoured until mannequin-like. French beauty celebrates differences in skin, even that which I was always taught were flaws are considered beauty marks. Freckles, dark shadows under the eyes and even acne are not hidden to the extent they are in North America. Instead of heavy makeup, you see glowy skin. There’s a reason why so many skin products are French!
Here are the products I discovered and fell in love with while living in Geneva. The great thing: they are (almost) all available here in Canada, so you just need to pop to your drugstore to get a start on the dewy skin French women use as an accessory in itself.
Vichy Laboratoire’s Skin Cleanser
I love Vichy’s Normaderm Phytosolution face wash – it gets the skin clean without causing tightness or dryness. This is especially awesome as I have acne, and must use an anti-acne wash. Traditionally, this means: dry the life out of your skin. But not so here. Even with salicylic acid in the formula, I don’t have to worry about dryness.
Eau Thermale Avène Lotion Micellaire
When I was first introduced to Micellar lotion, I was like: what even is this? It’s basically water, right? No, my friends, it is so much more. It is micelles (which as far as I can tell are balls of oil) suspended in soft water, and they attract oil and dirt without drying the face out. So this is a perfect way to cleanse the skin, and is often used as a makeup remover (including on the fashion runway, as it is so easy to use!)
I begin my nightly beauty routine with micellar lotion to remove makeup. It does take off my eye makeup, but one thing it doesn’t do is removed really intense thick foundation or waterproof mascara, so if you’re using those products you’d have to use a different product for those things.
La Roche-Posay is the gold standard when it comes to skincare in Switzerland. Every pharmacist and dermatologist I spoke to recommended the brand, and I’ve come to love and trust the line. My favourite is the Effaclar products, which are for acne-prone skin. My one frustration is my hands-down best moisturizer I’ve ever used, Effaclar H, is not available to purchase in Canada, and I have to ship it in. But I do because it’s awesome. (For more on my favourite acne-fighting skin products, check out 3 Products to Banish Adult Acne).
While it is true that the French celebrate skin differences more than I’ve seen in North America, the Swiss dermatologists and infirmières are near-obsessive about scars, to a point I found a bit funny. If either I or the kids were at the doctor’s or in the hospital with scrapes or burns, they would be all over making sure we would be slathering on scar cream. This was the cream they always recommended – Avene’s Cicalfate. Anything that could discolour your skin gets the cream treatment – and they recommended using for up to two years! I absolutely do not have that kind of regime where I would remember to put scar cream on for two years, but I always like to have a bottle at hand. My nine-year-old now refuses to put it on, because scars are cool. He clearly hasn’t spoken to the French about it.
L’Occitane de Provence
Here is a product I know you know, but L’Occitane de Provence is popular in France too. And honestly, I still think these are some of the best hand creams I’ve ever tried. Whenever I’m in Provence I would load up on local products, but you can get as near enough to the real thing with L’Occitane – so why not? My favourite scent is Lavande de Haute-Provence.
L’Eau d’Issey Parfum
Not quite skincare, but what is a line-up of French beauty products if I don’t include perfume? And okay, it’s Japanese, but was discovered in a Genevois department store. L’Eau d’Issey Pure Nectar de Parfum, to me, is the epitome of spring. It is floral, fruity and woodsy; delicate but completely grown up. Luckily for me, this one is carried by Sephora!
While I’m giving away all the beauty secrets I picked up over in Europe, I might as well share my favourite fashion find as well – Rouje Paris! This clothing line is the epitome of French chic, the feminine quality that seems ephemeral on the continent. These pieces come at a pretty penny, so I more look that click their website. But another online brand that offers a similar type style, with more affordability, is Simple Retro. Not French but New York, it is both feminine and whimsical.