Many articles have been written about France’s iconic skincare and beauty scene, many popular skincare brands here in the UK are French exports, beauty columnists are always writing about French products, and if you type ‘French beauty buys’ into Google all the top results are articles listing the most popular cult/must have products. So when Jeff and I visited Paris recently, there was absolutely no way I was going to pass up a trip to a French pharmacy…
Before we travelled, I did my research and devised my list. Specifically, I was looking for (1) French brands (there are lots of brands that aren’t French that try to associate themselves with France!) (2) with well-reviewed products (3) that would work with my skin type and (4) be more affordable to buy in France vs. online/here in the UK. I’ll be honest with you: that resulted in a lot of Google searching hours. But, as you’d imagine, when you put the effort in and do your homework the results are typically worth it.
Citypharma du Four Bonaparte was listed in nearly every article and comment thread (yes, I obsessively read comment threads to see what the general consensus is!) as the must-go shopping spot. (And I agree – everything I found there was actually cheaper than I saw online, and also when I was comparing prices with other pharmacies.) Several comments on these articles mentioned that it’s always busy (I discovered that’s an understatement), so I printed out my shopping list spreadsheet (yes – you read that right!) for quick reference, and also so that I could show it to a Citypharma employee if I needed help finding something.
My shopping list detailed the brand, product name (in French and English), price in France (that I found listed from online retailers), price listed in the UK (to make sure I was actually saving money and not buying ‘just because’), and the product size – to make sure I was making a like-for-like comparison. And, oh my, was it ever so helpful to have! I was able to quickly find what I was looking for, double check items weren’t more expensive than in the UK/overpriced compared to what I found online and then get out of there. (For clarification, I was shopping with my husband and, well, let’s just say that beauty shopping isn’t his thing – though I easily could have spent an entire afternoon there!)
The only hiccup-turned-blessing happened when I couldn’t find a product on the shelves and had to ask for it. The sales assistant asked who I was buying for, and when I said it was for myself her eyes opened wide, she clucked her tongue, shook her head and said: “Non, non, non! Not for you. Something else for you.” Then she took me over to a different section, told me my skin type and skin troubles (which she totally got right), picked up a cheaper product and said: “This one is better for you. The other one is not right.” She then went through my basket and inspected each item saying: “Yes, yes, good, perfect, yes,” before smiling at me and saying: “Good items for you, but we fix the problems now.”
What followed was a conversation in a kind of French-English mix (neither of us were fluent in both languages, but spoke enough of each to get by with details) where she asked about my routine and recommended a new face mask to treat my acne and less-expensive alternatives (“If you want to save money this will be OK for you, but not the best for you.”) to what I’d already selected.
I left with a bag overflowing with goodies (c’mon – you read my blog! What else did you expect?), excited about my purchases and without feeling at all taken advantage of.
Here’s a sneak peek of what I bought, and keep an eye out for individual product reviews!