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A guide to the best French beauty brands


French women have long been admired for their fine complexions as well as their effortless style. Global Blue reveals the pharmacy brands that keep this chic nation looking beautiful

Fleur Fruzza
Fleur Fruzza ,

Questions have been asked, debates held, books written, espionage attempted (probably)… and still French women seem to be the only females privy to the Gallic secret of how to look effortlessly beautiful and chic at every age. One part of that secret that we have uncovered, however, is the French approach to skincare. French women consider their dermatologist in much the same light as their dentist: an essential contributor to wellbeing who ought to be visited regularly and whose advice is sacrosanct.

A different approach
‘In continental European countries like France, there are many more dermatologists per inhabitant than in, say, the UK,’ says dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams. ‘This means that while UK dermatologists are extremely busy seeing only the most severe cases, in France they are able to approach patients with more of an overlap between medical and aesthetic dermatology.’

Quite as important as dermatologists’ treatments are their insider pointers on which products to invest in. This is what drives French women to bypass pretty packaging in beauty halls and favour niche, innovative and often dermatologically developed products from their local pharmacy.

Go-to brands
La Roche-Posay is one of the original go-to brands for French dermatologists. It was developed more than 30 years ago, with problematic and sensitive skin in mind. Today, as well as working with dermatologists to develop its products, the brand also supports the professionals through educational workshops and skincare research. ‘La Roche-Posay’s products are science-based and backed by research,’ says Williams. ‘I often recommend these to my patients and I use some of them myself.’

Among the brand’s best-loved wonder-workers are those in the Effaclar line, which has recently seen the addition of Effaclar Duo+, an updated formulation of super-targeted Effaclar Duo released in 2009. As well as simultaneously reducing blemishes and unclogging pores, as the original formula does, the new Duo+ has also been developed to treat hyperpigmentation, a condition in which patches of skin become darker in colour. It does this with a ceramide exclusive to La Roche-Posay which calms inflammation and rapidly rebuilds the skin’s surface. The product is a must-have for an evenly toned complexion.

Natural beauty
Caudalie is another winner – and how sublimely French that a skincare brand’s story should begin in a vineyard. Mathilde Thomas established Caudalie after realising that the grapes being discarded at her family winery were naturally packed with resveratrol. This active ingredient has huge anti-ageing benefits if it is stabilised and combined with essential fatty acids and polyphenols, micronutrients that help prevent degenerative diseases. Such was the formulation’s success that it led to a string of Caudalie Vinothérapie spas across Europe and North America.

For 2016, the brand has developed the super-hydrating Vinosource range. The line’s Grape Water has been created from organic Merlot and Muscat grapes, which contain anti-oxidant polyphenols as well as minerals that help keep the skin hydrated. And as we head into autumn, the range’s Moisture Recovery Cream is perfect for cooler days, using grape oil and other plant lipid nutrients to keep skin supple.

Real rejuvenation
However, dermatologists don’t have a monopoly on knowing what’s best for the skin. Darphin was established in 1958 by kinesiotherapist Pierre Darphin, who appreciated the importance of massage in rejuvenating the complexion. He pioneered treatments such as facial gymnastics, which use targeted exercise to encourage circulation and ultimately tone and smooth the skin. For 2016 Darphin has taken its facial massage technology to a new level with the innovative L’Institut Facial Sonic Cleansing and Massaging Expert. This handheld device was inspired by the manual massage techniques used at L’Institut Darphin in Paris. It features an interchangeable head that deep cleanses with a brush and massages with a cooling steel plate ‒ to be used after moisturising. The radiant results (rather wonderfully) make you feel as if you’ve spent two hours in the Institute rather than two minutes in the bathroom.

Holistic methods
Parisiennes understand that great skin cannot be achieved through clinical solutions alone; holistic products that help restore a calm state of mind are equally important. For this reason Nuxe has become a French pharmacy favourite. The brand combines natural, sensorial skincare experiences with innovations from its own lab.

The Nuxe product that every beauty editor has stashed in her bathroom cabinet is Huile Prodigieuse. This multi-purpose dry oil for face, body and hair (developed, incidentally, long before the current trend for oils), comprises six plant oils selected for their naturally restorative properties. Among them are nourishing camellia and healing St John’s Wort. Nuxe has developed the product not only to repair and soften the dermis but also to allow the scent to relax and refocus the mind. Combine this with Nuxe’s Rêve de Miel honey-based lip balm for some of the very best natural skincare remedies you’ll find anywhere. Your skin will thank you for it.

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