This Beauty Editor’s Guide to Shopping An Authentic French Pharmacy
My French pharmacy beauty haul which sadly, still lives in the hotel bathroom.
I recently travelled to Cannes with cult French skincare brand Bioderma, and on behalf of Byrdie Australia's INF / Network. After a visit to the brand's headquarters (which included a walk-through of their product development lab, the beauty nerd version of Disneyland), we made the all-important visit to a genuine French pharmacy.
I'll be the first to admit it was a little intimidating. There's all the unfamiliar beauty products, a much larger body category that tends to be under-developed in Australia, and a great health and pharmaceutical section. Upon setting foot inside I immediately wished I had mentally prepared for the experience, or at least written a list of what I wanted and/or needed. So did my bank account.
There's always next time. But for you? Please read my guidelines before embarking on your own French pharmacy skincare adventure.
1. Shop By Colour
Thanks to a helpful and impossibly chic pharmacy assistant named Justine, I learnt Bioderma’s product offering is colour-coded: pink for sensitive skin, blue for dehydrated skin, green for combination skin. I chose a combination of pink and blue products to target my specific skin concerns. The cult Sensibio H20 Micelle Soloution has been part of my routine for two years, on recommendation from Melanie Grant, and is especially important now that I live in New York. The water in the city is hard, so post-shower I like to cleanse again. Naturally I bought two large bottles, and one travel size for the road. In the Bioderma lab we did a pH level comparison test between Bioderma and other brands’ micellar waters. No surprises, Sensibio H20 is an exact match for the natural pH level of our skin.
I was also sold on the Hydrabio Brume, which is essentially a large spray bottle of cleansing water. It now lives in my bathroom and I spritz all-over my body (you're meant to use it for the face but I'm a rule-breaker) to prep my skin for the body serum, oils or moisturisers that follow. The Sensibo AR BB Cream also made my haul—it is a similar consistency and coverage to Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint, but you can actually buy it in Australia!
2. Not All Products Are Created Equal
If you plan on travelling anywhere outside of Australia, I highly recommend stocking up on items that you may need before you leave. In the U.S. and France, as I learnt, items like cold sore cream might require a prescription for the same dosage you can buy over-the-counter in Australia. I tried to request Zovirax from the French speaking pharmacist, who adorably pointed me in the direction of Bioderma’s Atoderm Lip Balm. Note: this does not treat cold sores, but it does hydrate lips. And yes, it made my haul.
3. The Weight Loss Section Will Inspire a Detox
After three days of indulging at beautiful restaurants in Cannes, Monaco and Eze, I felt like I had transformed into the French equivalent of a centaur: half croissant, half wheel of Brie. When I reached the diet section of the pharmacy, I had a lot of questions that required a translator—luckily, I had Bioderma Australia Marketing Manager Emilie Roberson with me.
It turns out the pharmacist specialises in nutrition—via Emilie, she quizzed me on the amount of weight I’d like to lose and after I disclosed a conservative five kilograms, she advised I should be aiming for at least 10 to 20 kilograms. In the moment I forgot to be offended. Combined with the diet plan she printed out for me, and regular exercise, she said I would lose 10kg in one month. I left the pharmacy with a Thermoxyl (a fat burner) and Aqualyse (a detoxifier). With strict instructions to start Aqualyse for 10 days, prior to starting Thermoxyl in conjunction until I finished the course.
In the car ride back to the hotel I Google translated the diet: it involved a piece of bread and cheese for breakfast and one glass of champagne every night, among other things that I would not traditionally associate with healthy eating. I decided to bin it, and stick with my usual focus on clean, non-processed food with minimal animal products. I’ll let you know if the detox does what it says it will, in two weeks.
4. Don’t Forget Your Haul
After leaving the pharmacy with a 300€ bill I was excited to start my detox and French girl beauty routine that would surely make me look and feel like Jeanne Damas. I set up all the products for the perfect shelfie in the hotel's bathroom cabinet, naturally. . . And aside from the products and detox items I used the morning of departure, the rest of my haul still lives in that cabinet. Or, hopefully the cabinet of one of the lovely housekeepers at Hotel Majestic. Zut!