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Any skincare junkie knows that the French pharmacy is a goldmine of potential. From the minimal and (though I hate to say it) “chic” packaging, to the expensive-baby scents, to the very fact that the product names are in a different language, it’s all undeniably exciting. So much so, that I think most people have some idea of the French pharmacy classics.

But there is so much more out there to try than simple ol’ Reve de Miel. Even in your local UK drugstore (and even more so in the beauty wildernesses of the internet), shelves are heaving with products that don’t get enough love and affection. And here is just a sampling of them.

Every layperson knows about the pink Bioderma. But its green sister is (and I don’t say this lightly) even better. I’m, of course, referring to the Bioderma Sebium H2O Purifying Cleansing Micelle Solution, aka the pink one but for oily skin. However, dry girls, don’t look away yet. I find that this is simply a makeup remover with more obvious and immediate skincare benefits. It works sort of as a gently refining toner. Pores appear tightened, skin feels clean and fresh, and serums ‘n’ oils absorb faster. I love to use it in the morning as an easy cleanse and tone combined.

If you’re sensitive, prone to irritation or a habitual skin picker (*raises hand*), you will love basic ointment Biafine Act. I’ve used it to great effect particularly after over-exfoliation sessions, and a dab on a picked and scabby blemish by night will speed up healing come morning. For really troublesome, painful and irritated acne, the Cicabiafine Multi Repair is great – combining the soothing and healing of Biafine with an antibacterial boost.

For those more commonly pestered by one pesky zit as opposed to a full outbreak, consider La Roche Posay Effaclar AI. It’s a teeny little tube which deposits a pin-head sized amount of product. It can be applied under makeup to minimize inflammation, but I like to apply a good amount over the affected area by night. Wake to a visibly shrunken and less-red “problem.”

If you’re dry, dehydrated, or simply want skin like a baby’s butt, Collosol Eau De Lait is amazing. I think it’s supposed to be used as a bath milk, but I love it swept over skin on a cotton pad as the most hydrating toner I’ve ever tried. It’s particular great to sandwich in some extra moisture after a clay mask or peel – plus it has that “wealthy baby” smell which is secretly the best.

One of the best cleansers not just at the French pharmacy but in the whole world is the Avène Anti Rougeurs Cleansing Milk. It does it all – removes makeup, cleanses dirt and grime, rinses clean without residue, soothes irritation both of the acneic and dry variety, and comes in a pump bottle. If you want something effective, simple and that leaves skin in better condition than pre-use, look no further.

Caudalie Grape Water is another simple and yet still top of the line product. Whether you want a hydrating facial spray to use before skincare or a dewy makeup finisher, this is your guy. The mist is fine and never too vigorous, the scent is inoffensive and slightly sweet, the ingredients consist of simply grape water and the price is not too high. Overall, you really can’t go wrong.

A final recommendation flies in the face of those who associate French beauty products with a soft, barely there finish. The Vichy Dermablend means business. It’s a full coverage skin-coloured paste which will cover most anything, from hyperpigmentation to inflammation, blocked pores to dark circles. And it never looks too cakey or thick, basically melting into skin and staying put until removal. Drag queens use as foundation, I favour as concealer, but you do you.

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Images: Annie Walton Doyle

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