Beauty, Lifestyle

The French Pharmacy


The French pharmacy is different, it’s not like others. For me, visiting the French pharmacy is more about browsing and shopping than it is about the medicinal. There is a behind the counter section that is jam packed with medications that could cure any ailment and there are myriads of other more interesting products on show. The French love a pharmacy as much as they love a hairdresser, a pâtisserie and a boulangerie.


There are always long queues at our local pharmacy… much chat goes on about what is new, what works and how. Body products are big business in France and there are plenty of ‘flavoursome’ tonics, pills and gels that promise the world… well, at least a newer slimmer, less ragged you…There are always promotions which need to be shared… the buy-this-and-get-the-other-one-free kind of deals that we expect in a department store not the family run pharmacy… and then there are the freebies, échantillons, with every purchase… I can’t remember a visit to the pharmacy when I haven’t come away with a bag full of product samples… and I have lost count of the beach bags and umbrellas that have come home after a stock up. They even call up from time to time and offer a free beauty treatment or a maquillage…This generosity is only one of the reasons the French pharmacy is on my ‘go to’ list when in France.


The pharmacy is a strange and unusual ‘tourist’ destination to suggest when visiting such a beautiful country as France, but I can tell you that the girlfriends I have taken there have never come away empty handed… Travel is about the whole picture… and while it’s no Notre Dame… it’s a whole lot of fun… I would say it’s more of an attraction to the females but that’s not to say that there aren’t loads of goodies for the boys to preen themselves with.


What sends me dashing to the pharmacy? It is the lesser known beauty brands that I look for… They are not the brands that I was familiar with before coming to France but they have certainly become some of my favourites now… A certain hand cream, a body oil for summer, one type of cleanser… an oil for the bath… small things that have become part of my routines, that I have grown fond of and that I wouldn’t want to be without.


The French Pharmacy List


La Roche Posay Sunscreen… my Parisian friend introduced me to La Roche Posay products… she swears by the sunscreen and now, so do I …  she also told me about
La Roche Posay Lipikar Bath Oil… marvellous for sensitive skins and those times when perfumed products are out… She recommends this range for anyone who has a delicate skin


Darphin by Darphin Cleansing Milk… This is the best cleanser I have ever tried


Avene Eau Thermale Spring Water... a delicate mist for the face… ideal for the handbag
Avene Cold Cream Hand Cream… a non greasy treatment for the hands and nails that is small enough to carry at all times


Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Body Oil… this is my summer saviour
and for the evening
Nuxe Huile with Shimmer... this gives skin a gorgeous glow as well as keeping it dewy


Caudalie Scrub... for smooth skin ‘sun bathing ready’


and when I am swimming most days and don’t want to use my Shu Uemura shampoo and conditioner for every wash… I alternate with the Klorane products… They are not a substitute or as effective but they are less expensive and mild enough for every day shampooing.


This is not as good as a visit to the real thing … but it’s as close as I can take you today… xv

40 Responses to “The French Pharmacy”

  1. WOW!
    I'll have what she's having svp.

  2. Tish Jett says:

    My French "pharmacie" is one of my favorite places in all of France. The pharmacist there has become a friend and she gives me all the latest products she buys so I can test them and report back.

    Can you believe how absolutely gorgeous it is in our corner of the world — probably more so in yours? The weather lady said we will have the sun and warm temperatures until the weekend. Lucky us!


  3. We always take Avenue Eau thermale when we travel in the summer, a must. Is that Diptyque and ren also on the dresser?

    We swim several times a week and are always using new products, Klorane is one we haven't used, will try some.

    Your first book landed on my doorstep looking forward to reading it this week, will wait until theres a quiet moment so I can immerse myself in it.


  4. Little Rus says:

    Oh those wonderful magical Nuxe oils and Aveno hand cream! Can't live without them. Have you tried Caudalie enzymatic peel mask for the face? So so so wonderful. It exfoliates the skin better than any scrub, but doesn't irritate at all. It smells gorgeous, too.

  5. VictoriaArt says:

    Delicious! Love your post on these lovely pharmacy items! When I am in Europe, I adore these places and usually bring some thing or other back home!
    Enjoy spring, Vicky!

  6. Mais oui. Whether in France or Italy, I love to visit the pharmacies, not only for medicinal purposes, but to see what wonderful and different beauty aids they offer. Certainly adds 'texture' to your travel experience.

  7. Karen says:

    What fun! I do love to shop regular stores when I travel to see what regional goodies I can find. The 'pharmacy' or "drug store" as we in the states call it, is always a treasure trove of handy toiletries. Thanks for this tour in the south of France.

  8. Mary Timmers says:

    One of the things I do when I travel overseas is hit the drug stores and grocery stores. These are where the locals shop, and you're right, they are much more than just stores. But, I especially love pharmacies. I wish our drug stores here were like that. Go in, browse, chat and trade "tips", and go home with something to make you more beautiful/healthy. Wish I were there with you when you go to your pharmacy!

  9. A beautiful post. I truly felt like I was on a guided tour through a French pharmacy.
    My dermatologist here in Australia sells La Roche sunscreen so I am one of the converted and agree it's the best.

  10. miranda says:

    Oh, your pharmacy sounds better than ours – ours is really friendly and always asks after my husband, earning our bread sadly far too far away. But I find some pharmacies too neat and tidy and also quite intimidating. Ours NEVER gives away free samples or umbrellas (more's the pity at the rate my daughter keeps losing them)but also never charges us that annoying 30% that the mutuelle will make up, but lets us wander off with copious quantities of medicine without paying a bean.(i guess they get the 30% back somehow!)

  11. Anonymous says:

    A friend went to Paris in September, and I had him pick up a few things for me. The results: La Roche Posay sunscreen broke my skin out badly, Klorane chamomile shampoo dries my scalp, but Embryolisse is fantastic! Now I know… ;)


  12. LA CONTESSA says:

    I too love the LA ROCHE make-up/sunscreen!In fact, having a friend get me some now in Italy!

  13. Karena says:

    Vicki this would be a wonderful concept for the US. I love your list of must haves…

    Art by Karena
    The 2012 Artist Series

  14. Suzanne says:

    I always make a trip to a french pharmacie to stock up on Latisse. It's OTC in France and just 15 euro compaired to $125 in the US. (Yes, it really does grow longer, thicker, darker eyelashes in just a few weeks!) FYI it's called Lumigan in France.

    • Brenda says:

      I had no idea this can be purchased for a great price in France. Thank you for the tip! I typically purchase it via online through All Day Chemist for $11 with a $25 shipping charge.

  15. Great post Vicki. How I miss French pharmacies (and pharmacists!) here in the US! Everytime I go home, I always, always visit my parents' neighborhood pharmacy, browse the aisles, and leave with a bag of my favorite French products. If I am sick, the pharmacist is happy to advise me and help me choose over the counter medication. This has often saved me a trip to the doctor's office. As a side note, all the cosmetics and wonderful products you list in your post are referred to as a "Para-Pharmacie." No good French pharmacy would be caught without them ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  16. PURA VIDA says:

    My favorite store is our Gordon's Drug…been here for nearly ever…soda fountain and cosmetics have brought me in since I can remember

  17. Oh if only we had a pharmacy such as yours In France…
    ours do sell cosmetics where I buy my Avene skin care products.

    Somehow I think it is in the presentation and the decor we could use a few lessons over here!

  18. Our local pharmacy has a shop like this! Love.
    I hope that your week is off to a great start, Vicki.

  19. love the pharmacies and remind me of the old american drugstores , although I realize they are very different, but still .. the idea of wandering around, looking shopping

  20. Karen in CT says:

    .. I will never forget the first time I went to Paris .. we walked constantly, and I was ragged on the way back to the hotel. I stopped in a pharmacie and bought some CLOVE bath gel, went to the hotel, filled the tub with really hot water and lots of CLOVE … when I went home, I used it rarely, but smelled it often to remind me of the trip. They are magical places, no doubt. I must check out these products. Karen

  21. Andi says:

    I absolutely love going to French pharmacies and could spend days in there. I always pick up La Roche Posay lip balm and several different Avene products.

  22. fGs says:

    This sounds like a wonderful experience!

  23. D says:

    Some of my girlfriends back home find it weird that I love going to to our local pharmacy here in France. I love buying products not just for myself but also for my baby : from feeding bottles to soothers to baby wipes! They just have everything! Plus, our pharmacist is very attentive so it really just feels like shopping!

  24. Leslie says:

    So many pretties here! Great list of goodies and I must try those oils!

  25. Anonymous says:

    I always worry about Caudalie products because some of them are supposed to be made from side products/left overs from grape harvests. Unless the Caudalie vines are organic this is a worry because of all the dreadful sprays that are used on grapevines to protect them and get rid of plant diseases like mildew and rust.

  26. Tout est si juste… mais une image habituelle chez moi…
    gros bisous à vous

  27. On my first visit to a French pharmacy I quickly learned that it wasn’t just a visit but an occasion. The queue of customers wound around the shop making perusing the shelves difficult . I definitely agree that entering a pharmacy in France does offer a different type of glimpse into French life.……………..

  28. miss b says:

    I'm always amazed how many pharmacies there are in France but I agree a trip to one is always such a treat and I love to discover new brands. Nuxe Huile has long been a summer favourite for me.

  29. Frédérique says:

    I agree, Embryolisse is a great brand, better than La Roche Posay or even Avène.

  30. eMerly says:

    I'm looking forward to trying some of the things on your list. My dermatologist recommended La Roche sunscreen also, and I already use their face soap

  31. Tobias says:

    Nice post!
    You should check out gwyneth paltrow's blog (
    Some time ago she posted similar items:

  32. la la Lovely says:

    oh, thanks for sharing these. Gwyneth did a post on this and I kept it as reference. Now I'll be adding your suggestions. I had a friend bring me back some of the Nuxe Body Oil and I love it. It has such a nice scent. Also, love La Roche Posay.
    xo . trina

  33. Simone says:

    I LOVE a French pharmacy….they are full of the most wonderful products, I could quite easily fill a suitcase with the magical sounding products I'd like to bring home after a summer in France!! Caudalie is one of my favourite brands, Nuxe too actually.

    Great post :) XX

  34. Debbie McMillan says:


    I was surprised to see a supermarket selling lingerie.
    For a French girls last minute romantic date.

  35. Brenda says:

    thank you for your recommendations. I love La Roche Posay SPF also. We are planning a trip to Paris for the Maison & Objet in September and I was wondering if I should wait to pick up certain products such as shampoo, conditioner, etc. once we arrive. I have never left a pharmacy in France with samples. Should one ask for them?
    Wishing you a lovely week! xoxo, B

  36. Cherri says:

    Vicki, Once while visiting St. Remy we spent lots of time in a shop that sells Creme pour les Mains A L’Huile D’Olive Hand Cream. Have you tried it? I am continuing to order more on Amazon. My favorite hand cream EVER!!!!!

    • Vicki says:

      Which shop Cheryl? Was it on the outskirts in begind a beautiful gravelled garden.. ?? I change mine a bit but I still love the L’Occitane one… and often I just use the Embryolisse cream .. :)

  37. Juanita in OH says:

    This excursion sounds like a fantastic place to be. When I was a young girl, living in NYC, many of the drug stores have quite a variety of items such as those you have mentioned. Now we get points instead of gifts, which is still a gift none the less. Your trip sounds like a stop in heaven! TFS.

  38. Judy Marrone says:

    I was pleasantly surprised with the skin care samples I came away with after my first visit to a French pharmacy (and i was just after something for a sore throat!). Thanks for mentioning Quelques Fleurs recently – I bought some and LOVE it.

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