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Navigating a French Pharmacy

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentre
1

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentre

Biafine
2

Biafine

Homeoplasmine
3

Homeoplasmine

Bioderma Créaline
4

Bioderma Créaline

Avène
5

Avène

Uriage
6

Uriage

Sanoflore
7

Sanoflore

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentre

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentre

Biafine

Biafine

Homeoplasmine

Homeoplasmine

Bioderma Créaline

Bioderma Créaline

Avène

Avène

Uriage

Uriage

Sanoflore

Sanoflore

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentre
Biafine
Homeoplasmine
Bioderma Créaline
Avène
Uriage
Sanoflore
replies

My favorite store in Paris is not Céline, Isabel Marant, or Chanel, but Citypharma on Rue du Four (conveniently located a stone's throw from Café de Flore). French pharmacies probably feel like CVS to French people, but to me they feel like a real-life version of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Why, you might ask? Because they are 100% dedicated to skin care (and medicinal) products of all colors, shapes, and sizes.

There are no photos of Citypharma in this story because the ratio of stern, lab-coated sales ladies to customers in that store is nearly 1-1 and they do not allow photographs. Which leads us to rule #1 of navigating a French pharmacy:

1. Respect Authority: The guardians of French pharmacies—the lab-coated salespeople—are busy, serious, and probably know more about your face than you do. Therefore, don’t interrupt them, and if they ask you if they can help you, for God’s sake, let them. They will not steer you wrong.

At this point you’re probably asking, “What’s so great about the product selection in French pharmacies?” Everything. Everything is great. But especially when you remember to…

2. Stay Basic: The old-fashioned ‘cold cream’-style formulas of lotions and creams are, in a word, beautiful. Perhaps the most famous face product is the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentre, a self-described “moisturizing and nourishing care product for a smooth and elastic, supple and soft skin.” Who doesn’t want smooth and elastic, supple soft skin?! That is literally all I want. For body, I’ve gone through an entire bottle of Topicrem, and am on the last drop of Carlyne Cerf du Dudzeele’s beloved Biafine. And let’s not forget lips: the French pharmacy’s answer to Chapstick? It’s Homéoplasmine, a waxy Aquaphor-like balm traditionally used to soothe nursing mothers’ chafed nipples and other skin irritations—now used as lip balm by makeup artists and models worldwide.

Also to file in the “Huh, imagine that!” folder…

3. Rethink Cleanser: Show me one French woman who hasn’t used eau micellaire—cleansing water—and I’ll show you…an American disguised as a French woman (and even then she’d have at least tried it). Bioderma Créaline is a clear, odorless fluid that you soak a cotton round with, sweeping it over your eyes, face, wherever, to remove makeup and debris. I much prefer it to oil-based makeup removers and even most traditional H2O-activated “face washes,” even if it doesn’t always get the job done quite as well. At least it’s gentle.

And on that note…

4. Treat Your Face Like Silk: Do not subject it to pushing, pulling, and prodding. Coddle it. Better yet: mist it. Mist it like the precious garden it is, with rose water and/or “Thermal Spring Water” from Avène, La Roche Posay, or Uriage (the latter recommended to me by the creator of this very rule, Isabelle Bellis). My favorite rose water is by Sanoflore, but there are many and they each have subtly different scents. Go to town.

Other fun aisles to explore? Feminine hygiene, and baby. But don’t linger! I had to be asked three times to leave at 6:57 PM so that they could pull the gates down when the clock struck 19:00. Back to Rule #1…

—Emily Weiss

Photographed by Emily Weiss.