South Korea might be the world leader when it comes to beauty trends, but true beauty junkies know that if you’re after products that have withstood the test of time and are still passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter, then there’s only one place in the world to look towards, and that’s France.
If you’ve ever had the good fortune to visit, then you would probably have wondered to yourself how French women manage to look so flawless all of the time. It doesn’t matter if they’re 16 or 96 – all of them seem to possess smooth, wrinkle-free skin and perfectly coiffed hair.
Well, we spoke to several French women and it turns out their secret isn’t found in complicated 12-step regimes or oral supplements – it’s in the nondescript aisles of their pharmacies from where the rest of the world was gifted now-cult products like Bioderma micellar water and Eau Thermale Avène Thermal Spring Water Spray. If you’re looking to achieve classic, effortless beauty, you’re in luck because these 10 French women are about to let you in on their beauty secrets.
Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk, SGD14.60, available at Guardian
Fun fact: did you know that one bottle of this is sold every 9 seconds world wide?
The award-winning formula uses the power of oat milk to soothe and protect your scalp while other plant-based actives thoroughly cleanse and rid hair or excess dirt, oil and odor while instantly adding volume.
“I have thick hair and in the summer it can get very oily, but it’s no match for my favourite dry shampoo. I have tried many other brands from the UK or US but nothing beats Klorane. The formula never leaves a white residue, which is quite hard to find with other brands! Also, I’m vegan so I love that the formula is totally vegan.” – Emilie, 29
Avène Cicalfate Repair Cream, $25.40, available at Guardian
This fragrance- and paraben-free cream can be used in a myriad of ways and is primarily used to treat all sorts of skin irritation, from burns to diaper rash.
The rich formula contains skin-loving ingredients, which has been proven to speed the healing process.
“Literally all of my friends have one of these and we use it for all sorts of purposes, from soothing cuts to cracked lips to rough cuticles to treating post-microdermabrasion irritation. Personally, I use it for treating popped pimples. After popping, I slather on a lot and the next day, it’s a lot less inflamed and it helps it heal faster without scarring.” – Corinne, 25
Caudalie Beauty Elixir, $22, available at Sephora.sg
Loved worldwide, this toning mist taps into the power of plant extracts to nourish skin, giving your complexion an instant burst of radiance while tightening the appearance of pores.
“I find it so funny how the rest of the world only “discovered” this a few years ago when we have been using this in France for generations! It is the only skincare product my 81 year old grandmother still uses, and she has literally no wrinkles or pores. I don’t think that is a coincidence.” – Marianne
Homeoplasmine, USD$15, available on amazon.com
Originally developed to soothe the sore and chaffed nipples of breastfeeding mothers, this ultra-nourishing cream is now a favourite of make-up artists and models around the world.
It can be used to treat everything from chapped lips to skin abrasions.
“There are so many fancy types of lip balms these days but none of them work as well as this. In the winter, my lips get very dry and occasionally crack and bleed when I forget to drink enough water, but this saves me every time. I always have one in my handbag just in case – it works wonders on blisters from new shoes too!” – Clara, 29
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Solution, from $11.90 for 100ml, available at Guardian
This ultra gentle cleanser uses the power of micelles to thoroughly lift and remove oil, grime and makeup while maintaining your skin’s cutaneous balance.
Other active ingredients work in tandem to keep skin hydrated and soothed, and even reduce irritation
“I am shocked that so many people are only now discovering micellar water as a cleansing option! A few years ago I stopped using facial wash in the morning because my skin was getting very irritated, and started using just micellar water. A week later my skin was the healthiest and clearest I’ve ever seen it. It’s the best and I’m actually really proud that it is a French product!” – Natalie, 33
Embryolisse Concentrated Lait Crème, $55, available at lazada.sg
Featuring a cocktail of natural ingredients like shea butter, soy protein and aloe vera, this super nourishing cream can be used as a day cream, make up remover, primer and even an after-shave cream for men, and is suitable for even the most sensitive skin.
“This is the only moisturiser that I will allow to touch my skin and I think it is the reason why my skin is still so soft – and I am 50! It also works wonders for my hands, especially during the winter months when the air is so dry” – Marisse, 50
Eau de Thermale Avène Facial Mist, $29.90 for 2, available at Watsons
Packed with ultra nourishing thermal spring water, this mist offers your skin long-lasting protection and helps to soothe redness, sunburns, diaper rash and even post-surgery irritation.
“I keep a bottle everywhere; in my handbag, at my office and next to my bedside! Almost every French woman you meet will say good things about this because it is truly amazing how many uses you have for it. In fact, I have a friend whose skin is very sensitive to the hard water in Paris, so she started to use this to wash off her cleanser and her skin is amazing now. Also really love this for the hot summer months to cool my entire body.” – Caroline, 33
René Furterer Vegetal Finishing Spray, $35.70, available at Guardian
Soften, volumize and fix your locks in just a few spritzes with this beauty staple that combines the power of vitamin B5 with cakilé (a type of flower) extract.
This spray helps to set your painstakingly coiffed hairdo without any stiffness.
“This is the only hair spray that works for me. I have fine hair that tends to go limp like, 15 minutes after I style it (which is incredibly frustrating) but this actually helps to keep my hairdo in place for most of the day while leaving it shiny and smelling nice.” – Anna, 35
A313 Vitamin A Pommade, USD$19.25, available at amazon.com
This powerful cream uses vitamin A (retinol) to treat blemishes, wrinkles, stretch marks and enlarged pores.
It can easily be mixed with your existing moisturisers or serums as an overnight treatment. Do note that your skin will be photosensitive, so use it only at night and a good sunscreen the day after.
“So many expensive retinol products on the market and yet nothing compares to this! In fact, I do not know anywhere outside of France that sells vitamin A over the counter. I like to mix it with my night moisturiser 3 times a week to keep my skin looking flawless.” – Renee, 31
Vichy Mineral 89, $62, available at Guardian
Packed with pollution-fighting mineralizing thermal water and hyaluronic acid, this lightweight serum helps strengthen your skin’s barrier against environmental factors that cause premature aging, leaving your skin moisturized and glowing.
“I’m obsessed with this product! The formulation is amazing and is so fresh and hydrating on your skin. I like using it day and night before my moisturiser, and it makes such a big difference because my skin gets really dry and uncomfortable when I don’t use it. Love that it’s so affordable too!” - @mademoisellestef, 37