There's an undeniable allure about the beauty and style choices of French women, from their chic trademark fringes to their classic wardrobe basics. For me, though, there's one specific area that I feel they've consistently excelled in more than most: skincare. Yes, French girls have seriously amazing skin, and it's down to the array of hard-working skincare brands that they have access to.
Over the years, I've lost count of the number of industry-approved makeup removers and celebrity-beloved face oils that have been exported from France. Trust me—if it's cult skincare products that you're looking for, then French pharmacy brands are the best place to start. Luckily, many of these historic brands are now available on British soil, which means that French-girl glow has never been more achievable.
Ahead, keep scrolling for the 10 skincare brands that French girls genuinely swear by for amazing skin (and to shop the best sellers from their cult collections).
Kicking things off with one of my favourite French skincare brands, Nuxe. It was founded back in 1989 (incidentally, my year of birth) and reached cult status just two years later with the launch of its now-iconic Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Usage Dry Oil (£19). French pharmacy brands often have a reputation for being basic but effective formulas, but Nuxe, in my opinion, is all about luxury and indulgence. All of the products are formulated to pamper both the skin and the senses and are infused with Nuxe's trademark orange blossom fragrance.
Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Multi-Usage Dry Oil (£30)
This beautiful oil can be used on your face, body and hair to keep your skin soft, hydrated and glowing. Jennifer Aniston and Eva Mendes are both fans.
Nuxe Rêve de Miel Ultra-Nourishing Lip Balm (£12)
I remember buying this product as a student when £12 was an extortionate amount to spend on a lip balm, but I've never looked back. It will transform even the most parched of pouts.
Ideal for dry winter skin, this hyaluronic acid–based treatment works alongside nourishing plant milks to hydrate skin overnight or as an intensive day moisturiser.
What would a French-skincare feature be without Bioderma? The brand's micellar water is possibly one of the most famous skincare exports from France, with makeup artists and celebrities raving about it years before it was available here in the UK. In fact, Bioderma has been creating science-led formulas for hair and skin since the '70s, but when its micellar solution launched in the '90s, the brand went from French-girl secret to global success.
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Makeup Removing Micelle Solution (£11)
Apply this cult micellar solution to a cotton pad and sweep over skin to gently remove even the toughest of makeup.
Bioderma Hydrabio H2O Micelle Solution (£11)
For dehydrated or dry skin, this hydrating version contains Aquagenium, the brand's patented biological complex that retrains the skin to lock in moisture.
Bioderma Sebium Micellar Water For Blemish-Prone Skin (£11)
Created with combination-oily skin types in mind, this micellar water uses Fluidactiv complex to help balance oil production levels and purify skin while cleansing.
3. La Roche-Posay
Another science-backed French skincare brand from the '70s, La Roche-Posay is a brand that I always come back to when I'm dealing with breakouts and I need gentle, effective products that I know will work. The brand prides itself on partnering with dermatologists to create formulations that work, and all of the products are non-comedogenic (meaning that they won't clog pores) and tested on sensitive skin. Plus, the fact that I was actually recommended this brand by a dermatologist during a particularly bad bout of hormonal acne testifies to how trusted it is within the industry.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ (£17)
I have to test tons of products for work, but I always come back to this dual-action moisturiser when I want to give my skin a break. It not only minimises the appearance of active blemishes, but it also works on unclogging blocked pores and reducing the pigmentation left behind by old spots.
La Roche-Posay Toleriane Sensitive Creme (£17)
A dermatologist recommended that I use this when I started using a retinol serum to help combat the redness and irritation that often comes alongside using such a powerful skincare ingredient. It's super mild and makes a great daily moisturiser for all skin types.
La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water (£7)
Thermal spring water is a key ingredient in all La Roche-Posay products thanks to its soothing, softening skin benefits. This can be used as a lightweight toner after cleansing or to refresh skin throughout the day for that French-girl glow.
Alongside their impeccable taste in beauty and fashion, the French are famous for something else: wine. And although Caudalie isn't a brand that bottles vino, it does take inspiration from the same key ingredient, grapes. Founded in 1995 by a husband-and-wife duo, Caudalie is one of the first French skincare brands that I remember getting into. In fact, I have vivid memories of trawling Parisian pharmacies to get my hands on the cult Beauty Elixir (£28) after beauty insiders raved about its glow-giving skin benefits.
Caudalie Beauty Elixir (£12)
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Victoria Beckham and Holly Willoughby all swear by this cult French skincare product. You can pretty much use it however you want—as a toner, to boost glow or to set makeup—but it's the rejuvenating natural scent of orange blossom, mint and rosemary that I love most for calming the senses.
Caudalie Vinoperfect Complexion Correcting Radiance Serum (£46)
This serum makes skin so damn luminous that it isn't just French girls who swear by it—it's the whole world. In fact, one of these sells every two minutes somewhere around the globe thanks to its ability to impart radiance into even the dullest of complexions, tackle dark spots and even out skin tone.
Caudalie Premier Cru the Eye Cream (£46)
A lightweight, fragrance-free eye cream that tackles everything from dark circles to puffiness can be hard to come by, but Caudalie has come up with the solution in the form of this eye-brightening lotion.
5. Vichy Laboratoires
Founded in 1931 by Prosper Haller, Vichy Laboratoires has been creating cult French skincare products from the volcanic region of Auvergne for decades. The brand uses mineral water from the nearby springs as the basis for its formulations thanks to its natural ability to reinforce the skin's natural defences. Plus, the brand works with the best dermatologists and allergy experts to ensure that all products are suitable for even the most sensitive complexions.
Vichy Laboratoires Minéral 89 Serum (£19)
I was recently recommended this product via Vichy's AI skincare tool, but it happens to be one of the brand's best sellers. It's made with 89% thermal water, and you apply it to clean skin to create a moisture barrier. It just might be the secret behind that French-girl glow.
Vichy Laboratoires Normaderm Intensive Purifying Cleansing Gel (£13)
Formulated with salicylic acid—a chemical exfoliator that helps to unclog pores—this daily cleansing gel removes dirt, dust and pollutant particles from the skin so that your complexion looks instantly fresher and clearer.
Vichy Laboratoires Liftactiv Collagen Specialist Day Cream (£35)
Created with more mature skin in mind, this hard-working moisturiser actually helps to boost the skin's collagen production to restore plumpness and elasticity for a smoother complexion.
Named after the region of France in which it was founded, Avène has a unique origin. The story goes that a horse with troubled skin was cured after drinking and swimming in a thermal spring in Avène way back in the 1700s. Rumour or not, it became the place for a dermatological facility where patients would come to be cured of various skin ailments with this magical spring water. In 1990, Avène as we know it was born—using the same water as the key ingredient in its French skincare products.
Avène Cicalfate Cream (£6)
This product is a bit of a French skincare secret, but you're likely to spot a tube in the bathroom cabinet of most French families. It's a bit of a do-it-all product. Use it to soothe cracked skin, hydrate cuticles, reduce irritation and calm sensitive patches.
Avène Hydrance Intense Serum (£20)
If your skin is feeling a little parched as we come into winter, this oil-free serum uses that famed Avène thermal spring water to provide the skin with continuous hydration for 24 hours. Genius.
Avène Thermal Water Spray (£6)
Basically every French girl I've ever asked about her skincare routine has used this spring water spray at some point. Use it after cleansing, to set makeup or to calm flushed skin throughout the day for a healthy-looking complexion.
Embryolisse was actually created in a Parisian hospital in 1950 as a way to hydrate and care for patients' skin. It was then introduced to French pharmacies, where the country took the multipurpose lotion to its hearts, and subsequently, the word spread. This basic moisturiser is now loved by A-listers like Gwyneth Paltrow as well as French girls and our fashion friends.
Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré (£19)
French girls swear by this basic cream as a moisturiser, cleanser, makeup remover and overnight mask. It's just so versatile.
Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré, London Edition (£18)
The same cult formula but in limited-edition London packaging to celebrate that British girls can now get their hands on this iconic French skincare product. Seriously—how cute?
Embryolisse Hydra-Mask (£22)
Enriched with hyaluronic acid, sesame and sweet almond oils and vitamins A, E and F, this regenerating treatment helps to strengthen the skin's moisture barrier for more radiant skin in just 10 minutes.
8. SVR Laboratories
Founded in 1962, long before some of the other well-known French pharmacy brands, SVR was created by two pharmacists to cater specifically to those with sensitive skin. It was one of the original brands to come at skincare from a scientific, pharmaceutical angle, and it's truly amazing. If you struggle with sensitive skin, I urge you to try out some of its products, most notably the suncare. Whereas some SPF formulas have a tendency to irritate sensitive skin, SVR has a way of creating sun creams that feel like a second skin.
SVR Laboratories Masque C 25% Stabilized Vit C Foam Mask (£30)
Formulated with super-hydrating hyaluronic acid and vitamin C to plump and boost radiance, this foaming mask is a real instant pleaser. It also contains polyhydroxy acid gluconolactone to help exfoliate with minimal irritation. Plus, on top of all of that, if you're concerned about redness, it works to soothe stressed-out complexions, too.
SVR Laboratories Sensifine AR Micellar Water (£5)
If you find that micellar waters irritate your skin, this one could be the one for you. Besides getting rid of makeup with minimal fuss, it also contains soothing niacinamide to calm redness and irritation. Plus, this little mini version is perfect for travelling.
SVR Laboratories Sun Secure SPF50+ Blur (£16)
The most wonderful thing about this particular sun cream, besides the fact it feels incredibly lightweight on the skin, is its beautiful matte finish. Whereas some formulas might leave skin looking shiny, this quick-to-absorb gel SPF acts as the perfect daily base.
Unlike French pharmacy brands, L'Occitane (which is pronounced lock-see-tan) is a heritage French skincare brand that champions natural ingredients. While the brand is known for producing some of the best bath and body products around, its skincare is also not to be missed. It has a limited offering, but every single facial skincare product in its line-up is adored by beauty lovers all over the world.
L'Occitane Immortelle Overnight Reset Oil-In-Serum (£50)
This little bottle of magic is potentially one of the best glow-boosting, plumping serums around. Like a lot of French skincare, it really focuses on hydration, and the oily texture really helps to boost radiance. In terms of ingredients, it contains L'Occitane's iconic immortelle to soothe and help skin fend off damage caused by stress.
L'Occitane Immortelle Divine Cream (£79)
For something a little richer, this face cream (which also contains immortelle) is softening and melts into skin like butter. Thanks to firming, plumping and radiance-boosting properties, it's a great option for those who want to lessen the appearance of fine lines.
L'Occitane Immortelle Overnight Reset Eye Serum (£45)
If you're fed up of waking up with dark, puffy eyes, this supercharged eye serum could be just what you need. With immortelle essential oil to plump and deliver antioxidant properties (this will help protect skin from the ageing damage it faces during the day) as well as marjoram to awaken and boost radiance, it's a real all-rounder.
You'd be forgiven if you thought Clarins was little more than a beauty conglomerate that simply capitalised off its French heritage. (It is perhaps one of the most iconic beauty brands in the world, after all.) However, Clarins is actually a family-run business that was founded in Paris in the 1950s. Combining the power of plant extracts with impressive scientific research, Clarins products bring together the two most important French skincare needs: It's luxurious to apply, and it really does work.
Clarins Double Serum (£58)
This iconic brown bottle houses one of the world's best-selling serums. Double Serum is so popular, in fact, that one bottle sells every five seconds worldwide, and despite the fact it has been available for years, it is still the second most-searched-for skincare product on Google. Containing a whole bunch of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant botanical ingredients, this stuff is basically healthy skin in a bottle.
Clarins Super Restorative Night All Skin Types (£79)
This rose night cream is an age-old classic that delivers intense moisture. Not only does it feel spa-like to use, but it also contains radiance-boosting ginkgo biloba so that skin looks luminous beyond belief come morning.
Clarins Instant Eye Make-Up Remover (£21)
If you haven't already guessed, French girls have the art of low-maintenance beauty down to a fine art. This eye-makeup remover gets rid of every last trace of mascara (including waterproof formulas) in just one fell swoop.
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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