French pharmacies have long been a treasure trove of skincare gems. For beauty editors and skincare obsessives alike, a trip to Paris is not considered complete without a little explore among the aisles and a mighty restock of favourites: row upon row of Bioderma, nestled alongside Vichy, La Roche-Posay and, of course, stacks of Embryolisse’s Lait-Crème Concentré, a favourite among Fashion Week makeup artists.
But why is French beauty so popular? "Everyone talks about K-Beauty, J-Beauty and other letters of the alphabet, but F-Beauty has always led the way, especially in skincare," explains Anna-Marie Solowij, ex-Vogue beauty editor and cofounder of BeautyMART. "When we launched in 2012 we featured an edit of French pharmacy favourites which you couldn’t find in the UK. These makeup artist-approved skincare staples were products that we knew to be cult in the industry and wanted to share that with customers."
Cofounder and CEO at the British Beauty Council, Millie Kendall agrees. "These were still very much 'underground' at the time and were used primarily by makeup artists and hair stylists." She suggests the formulations, which have stood the test of time, plus the stamp of approval from beauty aficionados, has prompted a swell of interest over recent years. Not to mention the ardour of devoted fans on social media – the packaging does give a #shelfie an undeniable dose of French chic.
But with so many French brands and so many products on the shelf, which ones are worth your time, your money? You’d be hard-pressed to find an article about French beauty products without a mention of cult classics such as Bioderma’s Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution, Klorane’s Oatmilk Gentle Dry Shampoo and La Roche-Posay’s Cicaplast, but as much as these products have earned their stripes, there are many more under-the-radar buys that don’t get quite the same attention. In the name of research, I slathered, massaged and spritzed a multitude of French beauty products over the last two weeks. The best part? You don't have to book a Eurostar ticket to land your hands on them. Here are the products I’d suggest slipping into your shopping basket ASAP.