European Beauty Musings: French Pharmacie OTC review


I have been living in Germany for three years, but because I am near France, I head to the French shops, apothecaries, and drug stores as well. This post is a musing of my personal experience of European skincare. In the OTC world of Europe, there are 3-4 big players: La Roche Posay, Vichy, Biotherm (not to be confused with Bioderma which is also amazing) followed by Nuxe (more on the expensive side), Caudalie and others.

All of these brands are super gentle and quality brands. Vichy’s philosophy is hydrating with water for the skin.  They use thermal water with other natural ingredients in their core formulation, this is also true of Avene and La Roche Posay.

I have tried the Vichy anti-aging Aqualia Thermal line which I thought was not as effective as their Neovadiol line. I recommend Vichy for women in their 20-30’s, and if you need more heavy lifting, for anti-aging solution, I would look elsewhere.

La Roche Posay is everywhere in Europe.  It is best for sensitive skins, and their focus and research is for sensitive skin.  My sister who only uses Cetaphil can tolerate La Roche Posay. It is super gentle and effective on sensitive skin. However, they have a formulation for every skin type. I love their body wash, Lipikr Syndet AP. I accidently bought this for my daughter thinking it was lotion (as you can see, I can’t read French!), and I ended up using it in the shower and loving it. It’s not super sudsy, goes on like a dream, and leaves you silky smooth and supple. I use it to shave my legs as well. Mainly for severe dry skin, as it restores your skin barrier and rebalances your skin microbiome my daughter and I love using it for everyday wash. But my favorite La Roche de Posay product? Their SPF line! It is simply amazing, and also very moisturizing. Try their Anthelios sunscreen line. It offers UVA/UVB protection, is photo-stable, has a non-greasy feel and is fast absorbing. Of course it has no parabens, and is fragrance free. My daughter has sensitive skin (She is 14), and she loves this line.

Nuxe: I have tried their cleansers, exfoliators, and oils.  The Nuxe Huile Prodigiuese is one of my favorite oil I use for my neck, hands and face when I feel dry. I love using it before I go to bed. It is absorbent, and you still feel the hydration even after few hours unlike many OTC oils. I have their face exfoliator and I thought it was just okay.. A little too gritty on my skin, and the gel is a bit too thick that I often feel like I have to rinse my face a lot longer than my other exfoliators. I don’t tend to reach for it when I’m in a hurry.

 Another great French brand that is natural, free from synthetic colors, parfumes, paraffin, parabens and phthalates (as is Biotherm, Nuxe, Avene, La Roche Posay, etc), Caudalie started from the wine presses of the countryside in Bourdeaux, France, literally mixing grapes, roots, vines, sebum, and leaves in their formulation. I just ordered the Caudalie Beauty Elixir today as I read great reviews about it and can’t wait to try it.

I pretty much have the same conclusion for many of the OTC French skincare: They are too gentle on my skin. I love the smell, and the feel of the gels, oils and cleansers, but I don’t have huge least not in the immediate future. I still use their cleansers, thermal water (which I will review in a future post between La Roche Posay, Avene & Vichy) and moisturizers, but I don’t rely on it for my anti-aging solutions that need heavy lifting and if you have skin issues that go further than mild acne, or dry skin, I would look elsewhere. These are some of the best OTC skin product out in the market, and I would use it without a doubt for everyday skincare routine because I know the French has one of the strictest rules for skin ingredients to enter into their market.

Tomorrow I’ll talk to you about German skin care and what I love and can live without. In the meantime, did you drink your daily glass of water?

xoxo, Grace

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