The French ‘pharmacie’ is the beauty paradise of every girl’s dream. Here are some of my favorite drugstore must-haves!

French women have the art of looking fresh-faced and graceful down pat. Their classic sense of style and minimalistic approach to makeup gives them a certain something that makes their look highly covetable. After all, who doesn’t want to look like they just swiped on a little lipgloss, tossed their hair and voilà — instant gorgeousness without a thick layer of gunk, not to mention all that silly contouring (yes, I did say ‘silly’).
But don’t let that ‘effortless’ look fool you. Besides taking care of themselves (good food, water, movement, love and a little vin rouge!), these ladies know exactly where to go to stay young and beautiful — their local drugstore, true beauty meccas that offer some of the best (and most affordable!) products out there from brands that are consistently reliable.
Before I show you some of my favorites, let me first point out that like most women, I love shopping for beauty essentials and trying out new products. However, I absolutely abhor cosmetic chain stores where loud music and the fumes of too much fragrance nearly knock you out as soon as you walk in. And, I’m not that fond of pushy salesgirls that make us ‘low-maintenance’ ladies feel slightly inadequate. If not from a French drugstore, I prefer to shop for my beauty products online and give preference to brands that are gentle yet highly effective and made with good ingredients.
Below is a selection of some of my current ‘pharmacie‘ favorites.

Cicalfate Crème Réparatrice
I discovered this miracle product from Avène last year in France after it was prescribed to my husband for a sudden outburst of eczema. The cream is meant to soothe irritated skin, but it also has antibacterial properties due to the content of copper sulfate (helps skin heal and boosts collagen to keep it plump) and zinc oxide (balances skin and even protects it from the sun). The consistency is quite thick, almost like an ointment, so it’s best used at night. My skin is very sensitive, and to be honest, I was actually a little apprehensive when I first used it. But now I couldn’t live without it. My skin looks refreshed in the morning, and it even helps with discoloration. This is the only thing I use before going to bed, on the days that I don’t use A313.

A313 Pommade
Vitamin A is known to be the cure-all in skincare. It helps with acne, hyperpigmentation and is probably the best anti-aging remedy out there. There are a few different forms. Tretinoin, for example, is a retinoid. Though effective, it is very irritating and will actually make your skin worse, before it gets better. Which can take up to a year, if not more. I’ve tried it (for close to two years) and my experience was less than positive. In fact, the first few months were an absolute hell. I looked like a teenager all over again, and I was peeling and red like I had been sunburned. After a while, my skin balanced out somewhat, but the product never really lived up to its hype. So last October I decided to dump my prescription and see what would happen. Well, fine lines and pimples! That’s what happened!
And then I found A313, which is a retinol and much gentler on the skin. I am using this every other night (alternating with Cicalfate) and so far I am very pleased with the results. Zero irritation, and it really is helping with those fine lines and uneven skintone! Though some people have reported itching when using this product, that has not been the case for me. Bear in mind that this product should only be used at night on dry skin (I wait at least twenty minutes after cleansing) and that a little (no more than a pea-sized amount!) goes a long way.

Effaclar A.I.
This targeted breakout corrector from La Roche-Posay is the ultimate solution for those premenstrual pimples that some of us (even at the ripe age of 40!) have to deal with. Niacinamide stops the outbreak right in its tracks, and imperfections heal without leaving any residual marks. My only complaint? Finding out about this product only a few months ago.

Caudalie Eau de Beauté
I have made no secret of the fact that Caudalie is one of the top French beauty brands, as far as I’m concerned. The products are made with environmentally-friendly ingredients and vine and grape extracts (polyphenols, viniferine, resveratrol and grape water) derived from French vineyards. I especially love their face masks, shower gels and fragrances, but my absolute must-have is the Eau de Beauté, a fine, refreshing mist with a hint of uplifting mint that instantly refreshes and tones my skin and even works wonders to set my makeup.

Klorane Dry Shampoo
Nothing (and I mean nothing) works better to cleanse your hair between washings than this gorgeous product, which in fact, has become iconic in the beauty world. I simply spray at the roots, wait a few minutes and then run my hands through my hair, tousling it just a little, (officially, you should use a brush) to evenly distribute the product. The result is light, bouncy hair that looks voluminous and healthy!

How about you? Have you also discovered the wonders of ‘la pharmacie’? If so, what are your favorite products?