Perhaps one of our favorite things to do when visiting Paris (besides visiting monuments, soaking in the culture and, ahem, eating all the pastries) is to scour the local pharmacies for quality skincare. Afterall, it’s no secret that the French know a thing or two about maintaining radiant, healthy skin. The country has brought the world high-performing brands like La Roche-Posay®, Vichy®, and Avène®, to name a few, and skincare aficionados have been smuggling the most popular Parisian formulas back to their home countries for decades.
Luckily, in recent years, it’s become much easier to snap up some of these French favorites (American retailers have finally taken notice!), but it can still be a challenge to sift through all the options to find the best ones for your skin. So, we consulted dermatologists across the country to share their go-tos when they want to indulge in French skincare. From a bestselling shea butter hand cream that will nourish dry hands to a magical cleanser that will gently remove all traces of makeup, read on to discover 10 French beauty staples that derms say have the power to transform your skin.
There’s a reason the L’Occitane® Shea Butter Hand Cream ($29) remains one of the brand’s best sellers. “It’s chock full of shea butter, almond, and coconut oils that instantly absorb into the skin to hydrate and soften hands,” says Sapna Palep, MD, board-certified dermatologist of New York City’s Spring Street Dermatology℠. “As a bonus, the rich cream smells divine. I really enjoy applying it,” she adds.
Those with sensitive skin might just find their new favorite SPF in the La Roche-Posay Anthelios® 50 Mineral Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid ($34). It’s mineral based, paraben free, and even remains water-resistant for up to 80 minutes (perfect for your next seaside getaway). “It combines a mineral sunscreen, which I prefer, with antioxidants like vitamin E and polyphenols,” explains Dr. Palep. “It’s also lightweight, matte, and doesn’t leave behind a white finish, unlike some other zinc oxide and titanium dioxide-based formulas I’ve tried.“ She notes that the sun protection factor of 50 makes it ideal for everyday UVA/UVB defense.
The Vichy LiftActiv® Retinol HA Advanced Concentrate ($45) is among Dr. Palep’s go-tos when it comes to reducing wrinkles and plumping the skin. “It’s a retinol combined with a unique ingredient, LR2412, an acid derived from the jasmine plant,” she explains. “It accelerates the skin’s ability to repair itself and increases its capacity to defend itself from outside aggressors.” If you find your skin is particularly sensitive when you use retinol, try applying it using the retinol sandwich method, which will help create a barrier of hydration between your complexion and the vitamin A derivative.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
The iconic Bioderma® Sensibio® H₂O ($15) has garnered a following among beauty enthusiasts for its ability to be tough on makeup and dirt without ever irritating skin. “The formula is non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, making it great for everyday and ideal for those with acne-prone and sensitive skin,” shares Jenny Liu, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Minneapolis. “It’s even safe for those with redness or rosacea, and contains special fatty acids (or micelles) for rebuilding and maintaining a healthy skin barrier.” Discover more of our favorite micellar waters here.
Dr. Liu keeps a can of Avène Thermal Spring Water ($19) on hand when she’s in need of a quick fix for irritated or inflamed skin. “It contains minerals for relieving and moisturizing in a pinch,” she explains. “I also like using it as a way to refresh after a workout or freshen up throughout the day.” Try keeping it in the refrigerator for an extra burst of hydration.
The lipid-rich La Roche-Posay Lipikar® Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizing Cream ($20) boasts up to 48 hours of hydration for face and body, making it ideal for those with extra dry skin. “The thermal spring water helps to balance the skin’s microbiome, whereas the niacinamide helps to sooth skin,” says Dr. Liu. She adds that it doesn't contain any harsh fragrances or preservatives, which sensitive skin types will love.
Rita Linkner, MD, board-certified dermatologist of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, relies on Biafine® ($40) when skin needs extra hydration or wound-healing support post-laser or peel. “It works wonders for burns, as well— that’s why it was originally formulated by a French chemist back in the 1970s,” she explains. “I have all my patients who are undergoing radiation use it for the rash that is commonly associated with that treatment.” Unfortunately, she notes that this “phenomenal product” can be hard to come by, so snap it up ASAP if you spot a tube.
The lightweight, oil-free Caudalie® Vinoperfect™ Radiance Serum ($79) is formulated with viniferine, a brightening component derived from French grapevine stalk sap that helps reduce the appearance of pigmentation. “It’s considered to be one of the most powerful anti-aging ingredients on the market,” divulges board-certified Amanda Doyle, MD, of New York City’s Russak Aesthetic Center℠. “I recommend patients use it twice daily — once in the morning and then again at night — for radiant skin.”
Zain Husain, MD, FAAD, of the Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center of Princeton, LLC, says the Avène Gentle Eye Makeup Remover ($18), an oil-free, gel-based formula, is one of his wife’s must-haves when it comes to removing eye makeup. “It’s gentle enough to use around the eyes without causing any irritation,” he says. According to the brand, the solution is also mild enough for those with sensitive eyes or contact lenses.
The La Mer® Creme de la Mer® Moisturizing Cream ($90) is formulated with the brand’s signature ‘miracle broth,’ powered by algae extract, minerals, and other nourishing ingredients, which is why Dr. Husain considers it worth the splurge. “It’s extremely rich, luxurious, and hydrating,” he shares. “Upon using it, your skin feels rejuvenated and pampered.” The cream is also formulated to help firm skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and pores for a smoother, more youthful-looking surface.
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