How to shop at a French Pharmacy

Explore the nuances between Australian and French pharmacies and master the art of navigating Parisian pharmacies with our expert tips for your next trip!

How to shop at a French Pharmacy - French Beauty Co.

Unlike Australian pharmacies, these little shops contain an array of humble yet comprehensive skin products with famous names like Elle McPherson, Khloe Kardashian and alike raving of their effectiveness. If they are good for these jet-setters, they are more than adequate for us. So what is all the fuss about French pharmacies in France? The French pharmacy is so much more than a place to pick up your prescriptions. Just follow any perfect-skinned Parisienne, as her ballet flats flit along those quaint cobbled streets — chances are she’s en route to her beloved pharmacie.

In your humble French pharmacy – which is all privately owned (might be a few exceptions but nowhere near the scale of pharmacy chains in Australia) - there are the acclaimed backstage brands Bioderma and Embryolisse; or if you like to saunter down the nature-friendly path, you’ll find Nuxe, Caudalie and Cattier. Aisle to aisle, from haircare to makeup, lotions and potions, you will find everything to meet your beauty needs. And, if you’re also tending to your bub’s delicate skin, look no further than the dedicated baby range from Mustela. One whiff of its famous delicate scent takes you back to France!

These creams are categorised as “Dermo-cosmetics” – products specially formulated for skin concerns using modern interventions to adapt the skin in a way to thrive in its natural environment. These formulas are approved, recommended and prescribed by dermatologists and pharmacists.

Now if you are lucky to visit one of these treasure gems and as overwhelming as it can be for a foreigner, we have compiled a list of lessons that we have learned along the way.


Lesson #1 - Just like at French Beauty Co, you can ask for help

All French pharmacy employees are trained in Pharmacology, the minimum being  “Préparateur en pharmacie”, to answer health problems, give advice or questions that you forgot to ask the doctor. If they ask to help you, let them, they are incredibly helpful and are well equipped with Derma-cosmetics knowledge to assist in your treatment plan. 


Lesson #2 - Keep it simple

There is very much an emphasis on natural ingredients used in beauty products sold in pharmacies. There’s nothing more beautiful than the old fashioned “cold cream” formulas that we see our mothers rinse their makeup off and lather thickly at the end of the night – Embryolisse Lait Crème. Or the clear, pure water to sweep makeup and impurities off the skin – Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water. Keeping the beauty routine basic and gentle is what French women do best, because who wants to take out 3 cleansers for double cleansing?


Lesson #3 - Celebrity and Model Approved

Don’t be misguided by the simple and often medical looking packaging. The French don’t fluff around with packaging. It is what lies within the tube that matters. Remember, these products are derma-cosmetics and are formulated with the intention to treat skin concerns that dermatologists and pharmacists can recommend to their patients. With such gentle formulations, it’s no secret that Makeup Artists and models working under past conditions, become reliant on these traditional and gentle formulas to give their skin a break to heal and recover.


Lesson #4 - Homoeopathic treatment wonderland

French pharmacies are treasure troves of affordable homoeopathic treatments. Perhaps the most famous product is Boiron’s Homeoplasmine, a healing balm to soothe any kind of irritation from insect bites to allergic reactions and sore noses in winter. Another brand you may recognise - Biafine – treating superficial burns and a godsend for that Australian summer sun!


Lesson #5 - Clean makeup 

Pharmacies go beyond medications and skincare—they stock all your beauty must-haves. Bourjois epitomises the 'je ne sais quoi' of natural Parisian beauty, while Mavala offers high-performance care and beauty products.


Lesson #6 - The French approach to haircare

As the world becomes more aware of scalp care and the need for gentler hair products, the French have embraced scalp care as an integral part of their skincare regimen. Discover brands like Christophe Robin, created by a renowned hair colorist, and Klorane, committed to preserving both plant heritage and the environment.


Don’t forget to stop by at the local patisserie to grab a bite before venturing off to your next French destination! Bon Shopping!

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