As a self-confessed Francophile, I've spent more money on French beauty than I'd care to admit. Still, I consider these to be wise investments, mainly because I've been so impressed by their performance.
Of course, you probably already know of or have used products from the big French beauty brands—Chanel, Givenchy, Lancôme, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, to name a few—but let's put those to one side for a second. I'm talking about the brands that truly epitomise French beauty; the ones you'll find in small pharmacies.
A good skincare regimen is integral to French women. Generally speaking, they tend to apply their makeup delicately, so clear skin is a must. This is perhaps why there are many excellent skincare brands to choose from over there—not all of which will bankrupt you either. You'll find these in my edit, as well as some less-is-more makeup brands that have that certain je ne sais quoi.
I thought many of my friends would already be well-versed in French beauty. Still, after comparing our skincare routines and beauty bags over Zoom one evening, I was surprised to learn that none had tried many of what I had considered mainstream and readily available French beauty products. Think the likes of Bioderma's iconic Micellar Water or La Roche-Posay's best-selling Effaclar Duo+, both of which you can pick up in Boots, among other places.
I worry they're not the only ones missing out on incredible (and not to mention affordable) French skincare. So if you too have contemplated picking them up but hadn't yet done so, don't worry—I've slated out the must-buy products for you below. Scroll on to see and shop the French beauty brands I genuinely think are worth knowing.
A fan favourite, French beauty brand Nuxe's dry oils, targeted creams, balms, and universally adored fragrance water are staples on the bathroom shelves of those in the know. As for our editorial director, Hannah Almassi, she can't get enough of the shimmer oil.
I've been using Typology skincare for the last six months, and honestly, my skin has never looked better. My ride-or-die buy is its 5% Caffeine + 5% Niacinamide eye serum, with its tinted serum coming up a close second.
The beauty offshoot from Rouje, the Gallic brand created by influencer-supreme Jeanne Damas, Rouje's makeup is undone, effortless, and totally sexy. Lips are the focus, with its quad proving popular as ever. I also hear the mascara works wonders.
La Roche-Posay was my foray into French skincare, and I haven't looked back since. As I mentioned previously, its Effaclar Duo+ face cream is perhaps its most famous product, and for good reason. After just one use, the fine lines that decorate my forehead are gone. My mum has since started using it too and tells me it also does the job on her more mature skin.
Our beauty editor Mica Ricketts tells me that many of her beauty-editor pals use Aime's supplements daily. I'm yet to try them for myself, but I'm absolutely eyeing up the French Glow Capsules. Am I that transparent? Yes—unapologetically so.
Another drugstore discovery, Embryolisse's cult Lait-Crème Concentré is now the stuff of legend. A backstage constant at all the fashion shows (which it will continue to be when they resume), the brand comes recommended by skincare specialists all over the world.
Every skincare routine should start with a sweeping of Bioderma Micellar Water. That's not an opinion; it's a fact. Though the brand has created plenty of skincare products in its time, none are quite as iconic as its pink-topped bottle. That said, there are lots of formulations to choose from depending on your skin type, and although cleansing wipes should only be used sparingly (they are notoriously bad for the environment), Victoria Beckham does swear by Bioderma's wipes. I know it's true—she told me herself.
After an impressive career at Yves Saint Laurent, Terry de Gunzburg opened her own beauty laboratory in 1998. The goal? To create a comprehensive range designed to enhance—not detract from—your natural beauty. I've used By Terry products in the past and can confirm they give you that covetable French-girl glow. I also really rate the eye crayons.
This is another French beauty brand I'm yet to try for myself, but I can't tell you how many people have told me how good its eye patches are. Dark circles are my biggest beauty hang-up, but they're said to be no match for these patches. When I finally get around to ordering them, I'm also tempted to order the neck mask, too.
Ever wondered how French women seem to have great hair? Well, look no further. Perhaps the most decorated haircare range out there, Leonor Greyl has won more industry awards than I can count. With a variety of products that tackle any and every hair stressor, the formulations provide instant and long-lasting results and will grant you gorgeously glossy and lustrous locks without any nasties including silicones, parabens, coal tar, harsh chemicals or sodium lauryl sulphate.
France's number one dermo-cosmetic brand, Avène makes products that contain spring water, a powerful active ingredient that is naturally soothing and anti-irritating, making it great for anyone with sensitive skin. Although I don't suffer from skin concerns right now, I still use this range, as it makes my skin feel so incredibly soft.
A relatively new addition on the French beauty scene, La Bouche Rouge has already been picked up by Net-a-Porter and sits in its sustainable category. The brand offers refills on many of its products and has quickly developed a cult following. The mascara is like gold dust right now, so get it while you can.
Caudalie is another celebrity-loved French beauty brand. It focuses on skincare, and you're sure to find a bottle of its Beauty Elixir in every A-list makeup artist's kit. I know what you're thinking—is it all just good marketing? However, one mist of this spray will instantly rejuvenate your skin, freshen your makeup, and make your complexion look brighter. I'm telling you this is the closest thing to beauty in a bottle.
The first thing I noticed after trying Vichy skincare was how hydrated and plumped my face felt. I'd advise anyone to start with the Minéral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Hydration Booster; it's incredibly gentle, and the formulation instantly quenches your skin.