In my experience, many people's skincare journey all starts with moisturizer. It’s the most fundamental part of any regimen, no matter what type of skin you have. I was living in Paris when I started really getting into beauty, and was lucky enough to be introduced to the best French moisturizers by local pharmacists who really knew their stuff. I’ve been using them ever since, and, thanks to Amazon, I can get my favorite, once impossible-to-find products delivered to my front door.
Because of our cultural fascination with French beauty, most people have probably owned, or at least heard of, one French pharmacy staple. From body oils and deodorants to dry shampoo and micellar water, the French do it all right. But, in my opinion, their moisturizers are what consistently stand out as phenomenal. And, judging by the skin on all my French friends' mothers, I’m right to think so.
French beauty brands are some of the oldest in the world (L'Oréal, for example, was founded by a French chemist in 1909), so maybe they produce such amazing products because they’ve had decades of practice to perfect their formulas. Or, maybe it’s the country’s mineral-rich thermal waters that are used in so many of their top-selling face creams. Whatever the reasons, French moisturizers are unfussy, affordable, and often contain much safer ingredients than their US counterparts.
But where to begin? When you’re searching for a product from another country, sometimes things can get complicated or lost in translation. But rest assured that these moisturizers below are straight out the French pharmacy and guaranteed to help you achieve your best skin ever.
1. A Cult-Favorite Moisturizer That Makeup Artists And Models Swear By
The OG cult-favorite French skincare product, Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè is a beauty editor favorite, model must-have, and staple in every makeup artists' kit. I’ve used it for years, and it lives up to its reputation as the perfect not-too-light, not-too-heavy, mildly scented cream that works well on all skin types and goes well under makeup. Frankly, there’s nothing spectacular about it, but it’s a solid moisturizer to keep in your beauty arsenal for everyday use.
2. A Rich, Long-Lasting Moisturizer That Doesn’t Feel Greasy Or Heavy
This cream is one of France’s best kept secrets. I just picked up a bottle after hearing about it from a beauty editor who said it’s “better than Embryolisse” — and, I have to agree. It soaks into your skin beautifully and provides long-lasting hydration (up to 24 hours). What makes this moisturizer unique is the physio-adapted water it contains, which the brand literally created as “the ideal water” and is rich in trace elements. If you love rich creams, but hate the heavy feeling that typically accompanies them, this product is guaranteed to be your new favorite.
3. An Award-Winning Moisturizer With SPF 15
If you require SPF in your moisturizer, this formula is as good as it gets. Another cult-favorite French skincare product, La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios moisturizer has literally won awards, and is widely hailed as one of the best face sunscreens around. It’s great for sensitive skin, as it’s fragrance, paraben, and oil-free, and has a lightweight, silky texture that won’t melt off. The trademarked Mexoryl SX technology protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and this specific formula has an SPF of 15, so it's perfect for everyday use.
4. A Dermatologist-Favorite That Soothes And Repairs Damaged Skin
For people with irritated or flaky skin, this cream will be a total lifesaver. It’s actually formulated to treat minor skin damage, and is often prescribed by dermatologists following various skin procedures. This moisturizer is intensely hydrating, and it works to repair the epidermis while relieving skin that’s inflamed or peeling. Key ingredients include hyaluronic acid, resveratrol, copper, and zinc, and it also repairs burns, minimizes redness, and reduces itching.
5. A Nighttime Moisturizer With Retinol
Avibon was a French retinol cream with a cult-following that was discontinued a few years ago, and this is as close to the original formula as it gets. A313 cream is rich in vitamin A (without getting too scientific, retinol is a form of vitamin A), which treats acne and resurfaces skin. It’s recommended for nighttime use, and it’s essential to wear sunscreen while using any retinol product, as it’ll increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. You’ll also have to build up your tolerance to this moisturizer, so start by only using it a few nights a week.
6. A Rich Hydrating Cream That’s Safe On Sensitive Skin
Avène makes tons of amazing skincare products — which are all formulated with mineral-rich thermal spring water sourced from the brand’s namesake town — and this moisturizer is one of their best. If you suffer from acne, it can be hard to find a rich cream that won’t make you break out, but this formula — though thick — is super gentle and non-clogging. It’s a great cream to transition to during winter, as it’ll rehydrate severely parched skin and nourish dry, flaky areas.
7. An Oil-Free Gel Moisturizer That Provides Intense Hydration
When Vichy launched this moisturizer about two years ago, people were instantly obsessed. It’s packed with hyaluronic acid, has a lightweight gel texture that produces a cooling effect upon contact with the skin, and provides up to 48 hours (!!!) of hydration. Like Avène, Vichy uses spa thermal water in all their products that, for thousands of years, has been used for its healing and soothing properties. This moisturizer also protects the skin from harsh environmental aggressors, reduces inflammation, and is free of oil, fragrance, and parabens.
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