Beat Acne The French Way


Forget the Age of Enlightenment, Paris' nickname—The City of Light—was obviously coined because of those greenlit pharmacie crosses you see on every other street corner. As is the French way, you'd be forgiven for associating these chic little shops with products meant for naturally flawless skin. But don’t be discouraged, no skin—not even French skin—is totally effortless. Take it from noted French person Lolita Jacobs: "Every time you read about a French girl, they say, ‘I’m not using anything. I’m like this naturally.’ Yeah right. Don’t worry, we use as much shit as girls anywhere!"

Lucky for the French and non-French alike, the secrets to fewer breakouts are hiding in plain sight: right in the pharmacies. (For the completely uninitiated, read here for the experience rundown.) Maybe your non-French routine works for you—great! But if you're looking to taking your routine for oily, acneic skin up a notch—along with your Parisian street cred—read on. France is full of skin-health nuts, and their homegrown products speak for themselves. Here's what they have to say:

The Cleanser

Maybe you’re already using Paula’s Choice 2% Perfecting Liquid. According to Tom, you’re in good hands. For a French version of those hands, try La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser. Yields best results when used once or twice a week, or every now and then for extra smooth skin right before you put on your makeup. If you feel safer with one you can use daily, try Vichy Normaderm, which is a bit gentler. For your body—bacne!—try washing with Avène’s Cleanance Cleansing Gel For Face And Body a couple times a week. The citric acid will help smooth your limbs to match your face (and target your KP, too).

The Spot Treatment

Not for the first time does La Roche-Posay take the cake for “Best In French Pharmacy" something-or-other. But no matter what country you’re in, the Effaclar Duo is probably, to this day, the most recommended acne quick-fix on ITG. And individual recommendations from French people I've met. You can keep your Peter Thomas Roth—this spot treatment works using a combination of Benzoyl Peroxide and micro-exfoliating LHA to target blemishes and shorten the lifespan of each. It also works on redness, blackheads, whiteheads, and enlarged pores. BUT if you’re dealing with cystic acne, Camille Rowe recommends this Hexomedine Transcutanée: “You just put it on with a Q-tip. It's incredible.”

The Moisturizer

First rule of thumb when you break out: Don’t stop moisturizing! It’s tempting, but if you’re worried about it worsening the problem, don’t. Just swap your Kiehl’s Moisturizer for Bioderma Cicabio Crème and then Avène’s TriAcnéal Night Smoothing Lotion. The Cicabio will help soothe irritated skin, and the TriAcnéal will actually help reduce the blemishes as you sleep. For matte skin under makeup, opt for the Bioderma Sébium Shine-Control moisturizer.

The Toner

It’s almost embarrassing how many times La Roche Posay is showing up here, but were it not worthy, it wouldn't be. Serozinc is a face mist that helps with oiliness and shine. Good under makeup on the bad days. And maybe all the other days.

The Mask

French people come to the US to buy Origins Active Charcoal Mask; American people might as well go to France to buy La Roche-Posay (please do not @ me) Effaclar Unclogging Purifying Mask. “Anti-Shine” it says. “Skin stays mattified and less oily for longer,” it says. Why not? I say.

The Retinoid

Clapping emojis between every word A313 Pommade Is The Greatest Ever French Pharmacy Product For Acne. It’s a fairly gentle, but very thick Retin-A product you can smear all over your face at night. The tube should last you a while and it'll seriously shrink your pores and clear up your skin for the long term. You'll be left with fewer wrinkles. Smoother skin. Trentinoin, you were too expensive anyway. Farewell.

—Anna Jube

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Still looking for acne solutions? Here are all the best organic products to fight the battle for you.