One only needs to turn to names like Jeanne Damas, Camille Rowe, and Inès de la Fressange to realise how effortlessly beautiful French women are.

(Image credit: Jeanne Damas)


These ladies have spent their lives perfecting the art of flawless, foundation-free beauty, and while it’s easy to resign it to the water they drink or genetics, we’d like to gently point out the fact that they also have the most sophisticated pharmacies in the world. 

These establishments — run by white-coated pharmacists who probably know more about your face than you do — have become quite simply known as the mecca for quality skincare products that both makeup artists and dermatologists swear by, and a trip to Paris is not considered complete without a little traipse down the storied aisles. 

A trip to the French capital might not be in anyone’s agenda anytime soon, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll have to wait till the pandemic dies down to adopt these cult classics into your skincare regimen. From multi-purpose ointments and tried-and-tested retinols to exfoliating lotions, here’s a guide to the best French pharmacy skincare products, and where you can buy them in Singapore. 

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré

Adored by professionals for its versatility and effectiveness, it’s little wonder that a tube of this product is sold every 23 seconds around the world. The rich cream is multi-functional and can juggle between being a moisturising lotion, make-up remover, or even post-shave lotion, thanks to its formula of essential fatty acids and vitamins. As a primer, it preps the skin and creates a glowing complexion for the rest of your beauty regime too.

Its cocktail of natural ingredients like shea butter, soy protein, aloe vera, and beeswax makes it immensely soothing and hydrating, especially for dehydrated and tired skin.

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Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

Now a holy grail in many a skincare junkie’s arsenal, this chemical exfoliator gained cult-like status  (it’s called “Jesus in a bottle” for a reason) for its ability to regulate sebum production, get rid of acne, reduce dark spots, and balance the skin’s pH level all at once. The P50 lotion is the purest and strongest formula of the lot, with active ingredients such as thyme essential oil and myrrh that work alongside a potent concoction of AHA, BHA and PHA acids. The only caveat though, is its smell. This “junk juice” has been said to smell like anything from formaldehyde to expired yogurt to straight-up trash, but soldier on and amazing skin awaits.

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This multi-purpose and household beauty product can be found in the cabinets of every French woman, as well as backstage at fashion week for a reason. The homeopathic ointment, packed with plant extracts, boric acid and Vaseline, has been hailed as “the ultimate balm” for its ability to soothe irritated, dry, or itchy skin anywhere, stat. The balm also doubles up as an overnight lip mask for chapped puckers, as well as a protective barrier under lipstick because it dries to a matte finish.

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Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Purpose Dry Oil

Now that French pharmacy favourite Nuxe is back in town, your dehydrated skin can breathe a sigh of relief. With its return comes this legendary skincare oil, a multi-purpose salve that works wonders on your body, face, and hair. The product is 98.1 percent natural, and is packed with lightweight but antioxidant-rich ingredients such as camellia, sweet almond, macadamia, and borage oils to nourish while preventing free-radical damage. This dry oil is also a miracle worker for those with damaged hair, or are looking to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. If that’s not enough incentive for you, its addictive “fancy French suntan oil” scent of neroli, coconut milk, and musk should be enough to get you hooked.

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A313 Vitamin A Pommade

This pharmaceutical-grade Vitamin A has been said to be one of the country’s best kept beauty secrets for flawless skin, promising to eradicate acne, oily skin, blackheads, uneven textures and even wrinkles. Here, retinyl palmitate (a retinol ester) is suspended in a base of marcrogol (to help with the delivery of vitamin A into the skin), and dispenses as a thick, greasy ointment. Best used at night for baby-soft, glowing skin the next morning. 

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Bioderma Sensibio H20

We dare say there isn’t a French woman who hasn’t yet used eau micellaire at some point in her life. Bioderma’s Sensibio H20 is one of the best formulas out there for gently removing makeup and impurities from the skin at the end of the day. The clear, odorless fluid — formulated with an ideal pH of around 5.5 — respects the skin’s biological balance while micro-emulsifying impurities, especially on sensitive skin. Use on its own to refresh your skin in the morning, or as the first step in your double-cleansing routine at night.

S$60.61 (twinpack)
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Collosol Eau de Lait

Packaged within a conspicuously pink rectangular bottle, Collosol is a water milk cleanser that removes make-up gently while moisturising the skin. The formula — which dates back to the 1950s when it was first created by a French pharmacist for actresses to remove their makeup — became a cult classic for its ability to pull grime from the skin, even after what you assume is a thorough wash. The blend of castor oil, water, and glycerin is so ingrained in French culture, that it’s known to be “jealously transmitted from mother to daughter.” The late Karl Lagerfeld also reportedly bathed in this stuff, so we’re already sold.

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La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+

It might not look like it but French women suffer from blemishes too. For that, they reach for Effaclar Duo, an anti-acne moisturiser by French pharmacy staple La Roche-Posay — which, by the way, also makes grail-worthy sunscreens. The dual-action pimple cream exfoliates dead skin and unclogs pores with chemical exfoliants like salicylic acid, all while healing acne marks and plumping the skin with niacinamide and Mannose. 

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Shatricia Nair
Deputy Editor
Shatricia Nair is a motoring, watches, and wellness writer who is perpetually knee-deep in the world of V8s, tourbillons, and the latest fitness trends. She is fuelled by peanut butter and three cups of coffee a day.