We can't help it—there's just something so captivating about French-inspired beauty. Not surprisingly, certain cult-loved brands like La Roche-Posay, Bioderma, Nuxe, Klorane and so, so many more have gained momentous popularity in the U.S. (where I'm from) but also here in Britain. After all, who doesn't want to remove their makeup, apply sunscreen or drench their strands in shine like a chic Parisian? (Thought so.) But, there is a but.
During a recent dinner and wine date I had with one of my very favourite women, Marie-Laure of Fournier PR+Consulting (who also happens to be French—surprise!), we got on the topic of French beauty—two words that have slowly morphed into a sought-after aesthetic and, eek, don't hate me, a diluted, debatably basic category of beauty product.
Not only have some French brands become so well known and popular they've virtually lost their foreign intrigue and sparkle, more upsettingly, there is an increasing number of new beauty brands attempting to ride the popular and ever-so-coveted French beauty bandwagon, but which are not, in fact, French. Rather, they're French-inspired. (Or at least they're trying to be.)
So, on the cusp of my own personal French Beauty Fatigue, FBF for short, I decided to pick Marie-Laure's mind on the real-real when it comes to French beauty—the lesser-known but very iconic products and brands we're not so familiar with here, but sell at insane rates across the pond. Intrigued? Keep scrolling for 12 must-have French brands you've probably never heard of and the specific best-selling product you should most definitely purchase from each. And yes, you're welcome!
The brand: Embyrolisse
The It product: Lait Creme Concentrate
It may have French origin, but this luxurious cream can surreptitiously be found tucked into every celebrity and makeup artist's kit. (It's actually considered the "star makeup base" for makeup artists—hence the inevitable cult celeb following.) It's especially great for those with dry skin and is equipped with satiny ingredients like shea butter, soy protein, aloe vera and essential fatty acids to keep your complexion's moisture levels (and glow!) intact.
The brand: Payot Paris
The It product: Pâte Grise L'Originale
Although it might look like your average drugstore jar of cold cream, this 70-year-old cult-classic ointment is the French woman's secret for clear, blemish-free skin. (It's their coveted acne secret.) Essentially, it works by bringing small, just-bourgeoning blemishes to the maturation phase while you sleep so you can wake up to less noticeable (or vanished!) breakouts in the days following.
The brand: Le Petit Olivier
The It product: Hand Cream with Olive Oil
Smartly formulated with 98% natural ingredients, this olive oil–infused hand cream is the dreamiest send-off for beauty sleep or a long, dehydrating flight. It also features glycerin and shea butter, absorbs quickly and deeply and never leaves your skin feeling greasy or sticky like other intensely hydrating formulas.
The brand: Durance en Provence
The It product: Shower Gel in Blue Lavender
Everything from French skin and scent staple brand Durance is lovely, but its shower gels in freshly floral scents like rose, lavender, vanilla flower and verbena are especially lust-worthy. Plus, what's better than transforming your stateside shower into a French garden-inspired oasis?
The brand: Institut Esthederm Paris
The It product: Adaptasun Body Lotion Strong Sun
As one of the brand's best-selling products, this milky elixir might be the sole reason French women always look perfectly sun-kissed. By activating the skin's natural pigmentation process, this luxe body lotion encourages a natural, faster-forming tan that will last and last and last. It also helps prevent symptoms of sun damage like photo-ageing, dark spots and cell injury thanks to the brand's patented Global Cellular Protection Technology. All you have to do is rub it in 20 minutes before your sun time, taking care to reapply every 20 minutes or so.
The brand: Thalgo La Beaute Marine
The It product: Reviving Marine Mist
Don't even try to buy this mist from Thalgo's website because it's so beloved, it's consistently sold out. Founded back in 1964 with the goal to manufacture top-notch algae-based beauty products, the brand has pretty much been a staple on French vanities since. This specific formula helps rejuvenate a tired, dull complexion with aid from French sea marine minerals, skin-friendly oils and other radiance-enhancing fares.
The brand: Sanoflore Laboratoire Bio
The It Product: Merveilleuse Regenerating Anti-Ageing Night Oil
The pure, organic skincare brand is not only chicly packaged (like, so pretty) it's also prioritised in French women's carefully curated beauty routines. Admittedly, I wanted to buy everything while scrolling through the brand's hero products, but it's this new night oil that I'm voting most destined for fresh cult stardom. It's organic and vegan (as mentioned above) but also so fine and lightweight you'll forget you're wearing it when you tuck in at night. Of course, when you begin waking up with fewer wrinkles and more plumpness and luminosity, you'll remember its magic.
The brand: Ducray
The It product: Ictyane Moisturizing Micellar Water
Since 1930, Ducray has specialised in treating dermatological disorders of the skin, hair and scalp, and it offers a plethora of results-focused antidotes. Though it's hard to choose one product as your gateway elixir of choice, we'd recommend this hydrating and calming micellar water which, ahem, might be better than other (more well-known) formulas on the market. It's great for those with normal to dry skin and won't exacerbate sensitive eyes.
The brand: Garancia Paris
The It product: Diabolique Tomate Enriched
As Marie-Laure told me, this specific cream is the cult-favourite product from Garancia Paris—a French-girl favourite. The iconic orange-tinted cream is a saviour for parched skin, formulated almost entirely with natural ingredients (which, mind you, is the norm in France). It restores skin with 24-hour hydration, plumpness and luminosity.
The brand: Leonor Greyl
The It product: L'Huile de Leonor Greyl Pre-Shampoo Oil Treatment
Okay, so this brand you may have heard of (just because my fellow beauty editor Amanda Montell is beyond obsessed and it's a tad bit easier to track down here), but when it comes to French haircare, Leonor Greyl is just it. You can't go wrong with any of the products—we hoard everything and anything—but this pre-shampooing treatment smells like heaven encapsulated. Oh, and it also has this amazing habit of transforming even the most straw-like strands into the prettiest satin situation. You need it.
The brand: Collosol
The It product: Eau de Lait
Micellar water gets a lot of attention and love when it comes to the French method of makeup removal, but this milky makeup-melter from Collosol is the real under-the-radar product catch. You can now also buy the formula in wipe form, but there's something ritualistic and luxurious about drenching a toning cloth or cotton ball with this iconic French pick. It removes makeup insanely fast and leaves skin soothed and velvet-soft.
The brand: Talika
The It product: Eye Therapy Patch
Talika has been a French beauty staple since its inception in 1948. The brand has amassed lots of best sellers and continues to dole out new amazing launches (hello, Vegetal Gold Mask), but its the masses—and countless celebs—love the 2001-born eye patches the most. (But again, this is sure to spark some debate among Talika lovers.)
Infused with ceramides and shea butter for hydration and a meld of pretty plant oils including avocado, rose and musk, regular use will revive and make over your under eyes so you look more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and less stressed and sleep-deprived.
Want more French Girl-inspired beauty content? Here's what you should buy at the drugstore.