French Pharmacy Skincare Finds

Around this time last year (2018), my husband and I booked a trip to Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris for Feb 2019. By the next week, I already started to plan out what I would buy at the french pharmacies and then I had 4 months to keep looking at that list and making sure I wouldn’t miss out on some huge skincare deals. I went to Paris two years prior and found SO many good deals. During that I trip I bought a ton of the “classic” recommendations. I will briefly talk about what I bought during that trip and then I will talk about what I bought during this latest trip.

At the end of the post you will find information about VAT refund to save even more money as well as some tips about different pharmacies to visit. Looking back, I should  have shopped at Pharmacy Monge Notre Dame instead of CityPharma because they have a larger selection, nicer store, better hours, and even though their prices aren’t always as low as CityPharma, they do a 15% instant VAT refund (for purchases over 175 euro) in store (I got back 12% from CityPharma and I had to get the refund processed at the airport, which was really quick and easy but it still wasn’t immediate).

First: Here are some other blog posts that I found extremely helpful

Overall Tips

  • Go in with a plan and try to set a budget! Otherwise you may find yourself spending more than you had intended or forgetting things you wish you had bought.
  • As tempting as it is to buy things in bulk, I wouldn’t do that for a product that you have never tried because even if everyone else loves it, you may not. Also, consider expiration dates if you are stocking up.
  • Try to focus on products that have the biggest savings or you can’t get in the US if you are having a hard time narrowing down your list.
  • Pack large Ziploc bags to help ensure any liquids don’t destroy your luggage.
  • Bring a separate fold-up bag. I was given this Paravel bag as a gift (I found it on Oprah’s favorite things and then asked for it for Christmas) and I LOVE it. Not only is it sturdy (I don’t have to worry about it snagging and ripping to shreds) and has a really nice material so it doesn’t look like a cheap bag (which is good, because it isn’t) but it folds up so small AND it has a slot so that you can put it over your luggage handle–perfection! (The luggage handle slot is my favorite part). Pack your clothes in this and carry it on the plane and then pack the skincare in the checked luggage.
  • If you plan to shop at CityPharma go early–ideally soon after they open. Once it gets to midday the place is so packed that its near impossible to try to move through the aisles. CityPharma isn’t the place to peruse products and figure out what you like–go to somewhere like Pharmacie Bader for that (see below)–instead, go in and try to get out as quick as possible (and in saying that… I stayed nearly 2 hours this last time.. AND I HAD A PLAN!)

 

First Trip to Paris in 2017

During this trip I didn’t know what to expect or what to buy for that matter. I made a list of all the classic recommendations and stuck to those. One thing I learned during this trip is just how much prices fluctuate across pharmacies. I forgot to pick up one item at CityPharma and I kept popping into little pharmacies that I passed on the days that followed and some of the prices were up to 10 euros more! But nonetheless, I was happy with my haul. My favorite things ended up being the La roche-posay SPF (both of the products I bought were great), the LRP serozinc, the Biafine, and the Roger & Gallet Amande Persane shower gel. The things I didn’t like was the fluocaril toothpaste, the Nuxe rev miel stick (I should have gotten the pot), the homeoplasmine (I don’t get the hype), and the Vichy Normaderm cleanser/mask.

Paris old.PNGparis 2

Second Trip to Paris in 2019

For this trip I wanted to explore some different products than before and I wanted to make sure that what I was buying was greater than a 20% savings from the US. So I updated my original excel file (inspired by beautyandthecat) and made a list. (I have created a version with a list of as many products as I could find the prices for here, keep in mind this was NOT my actual shopping list! haha). If you want to check out some prices to make your own list, I recommend this website: https://eiffel-commerce.pharmacie-monge.fr/accueil

I realized that a lot of things that appeared in the “must buy” list of various websites and magazines weren’t that great of a deal. So my strategy was to (1) prioritize things that I couldn’t actually get in the US, (2) only buy things where I would save more than 25% (because many of the products are available at dermstore, skinstore, or sephora and they have 20-25% off coupon codes), and (3) don’t buy bulk in things that expire (and in general, I didn’t buy multiples of things).

Products I wish I would have bought more

  • Bioderma Matricium
    •  €38,95 (vs $89!)
    • This stuff is Amazing at healing my skin. Truly so wonderful to have on hand for skin emergencies. Works great under makeup and at night too. Also perfect for travel because they come in little vials.
  • Bioderma Atoderm SOS body spray€10,99
    • $23.82 (I thought this wasn’t available in the US and I was so sad but I found a website that has it!)
    • This is AMAZING for itchy skin.  I adore it
  • La Roche Posay Anthelios Invisible Face Mist Anti Shine Spf50 75ml
    • €10,60
    • Such a fine mist. I spray alot to make sure I get coverage for midday touchups and it never feels heavy. I loveeee this for on the go SPF application. So mad I didn’t buy more.
    • You can find it for twice as much here: caretobeauty.com
  • Wish I would have bought…More Hair products
      • There were so many great deals on shampoo & hair products compared to what we pay in the states!
      • Phyto Phytologist 15 Anti-Hair Loss TreatmentI had this in my basket and then ended up putting it back, but I wish I would have tried it (I would have saved $56 bucks buying this in Paris!)
        • Actually, I wish I would have bought any Phyto hair products for that matter!
        • Also wish I would have picked up Furterer Triphasic VHT Anti Falling Regenerating Serum
      • Klorane Smoothing and Relaxing Patches with Soothing Cornflower Rather than buy these that I KNOW I love, I bought a stupid cornflower water by Melvita and I hated it. Really regret not getting these and saving 50%
      • My favorite shower gel – Roger Gallet Amande Persane €3,95 (I ended up buying the perfume so I didn’t get the shower gel, but I wish I would have because that is a scent that I can never find online even if I were to spend 5 times as much buying it)

Glad I bought

Regret buying

  • Cicabiafine Brum De Lait Corporel Spray
    • €11,99
    • This is nice. But I don’t love the scent and it doesn’t absorb that easily. I wish I had bought more of the Bioderma SOS instead
  • Innoxa Gouttes bleues
    • €5,99
    • Eye drops that didn’t whiten my eyes
  • Basically I disliked all things Klorane
    • Klorane Strengthening & Revitalizing Conditioner €5,99
      • Terrible. Left a film. Felt like a waxy thin shampoo.
    • Klorane makeup remover wipes (2 pack) €4,79
      • rough on my eyes
    • Klorane dry shampoo €3,48
      • made my red hair look like it was faded and dull
    • Melvita Bleuet field cornflower floral water €6,90
      • wasn’t soothing on my eyes like I had hoped

VAT refund

At CityPharma if you spend more than 175 euros they will fill out a form for you if you have your passport with you. Then you take that form with you to the airport and BEFORE you check your luggage you go and have it stamped by customs and then go to another window and they will process your refund. I arrived 45 min earlier than I had planned in case there was a line, but I had no line and breezed right through. You can either get it back in cash or back on the credit card. I opted to get it back on the original credit card I paid with and within 5 days it was there. I only got back 12% so now I am realizing that it would have been better to shop Pharmacie Monge and get immediate 15% back–which would offset some of the price differences.

Here are some resources:

Pharmacy Options Outside of CityPharma

Another recommended pharmacy that has similar prices as CityPharma but not always as cheap, is Pharmacie Monge Notre Dame. You can also check out their prices online to help  you prepare for your visit, which is great! https://eiffel-commerce.pharmacie-monge.fr/accueil

The BIGGEST plus of shopping at Pharmacie Monge is that you get an INSTANT 15% VAT refund if your purchases exceed 175.01€ for customers outside of EU (just be sure to bring your passport) AND its has better hours than CityPharma

  • Store hours: 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM Mondays through Saturdays, 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM Sundays
  • Located right outside of the Place Monge Metro Station Exit (#7)


To peruse products, I recommend Pharmacie Bader because it has testers, lots of selection and wide aisles and it happened to be much closer to where we were staying than Pharmacy Monge. If that one was closer then you could skip the Pharmacie Bader rec. While some products were the same price as at CityPharma, most were 1-8 euros more (from the handful of products I checked prices on).

Finally, aside from skincare, here are some things we loved (besides site seeing that is)

For gifts

Gab & Jo was a really cute pop-up store near our hotel.

Cire Trudon – amazing amazing candles. Such a cool story behind the brand too. Its a very special souvenir (but I’m biased because I love candles) to get a special candle.

Épices Roellinger – we brought back some amazing spices as a gift for my sister-in-law that loves to cook

Nose – I went through the “olfactory diagnosis” and it was really such a cool experience and the perfume I ended up buying is something I never would have chosen otherwise. I learned a lot about what scents I tend to like (and they break it down by base notes, top notes, etc).

Comptoirs Richard – they make my favorite earl grey tea — I have had a picture of the empty tea bag on my phone for two years so that I remembered to get some more when I went back to Paris. But sadly we didn’t get to the store 😭. And I can’t find it in the US. Such a good gift idea. Their tea is beautiful and so delicious.

La Cure Gourmande Paris – just delicious cookies and sweets to bring home to a lucky person.

Food

Ippudo Saint-Germain – THE BEST RAMEN. period. so good.

Fish La Boissonnerie- low key but really delicious seafood

Le Petit Pontoise – amazing food not too pricey

Loulou Restaurant Paris – delicious italian

La Rose de France – order the lavender creme brulee

Chez Janou -get the chocolate mousse

Brasserie les Petits Carreaux – low key bistro. duck confit and fried potatoes were great

Le Garde RObe -neighborhood bar. charcuterie and cheese plates
L’ÉCUME SAINT-HONORÉ – neighborhood oyster shop

 

Jazz Club

Le Caveau de la Huchette – such a unique atmosphere. It is in a cozy dungeon looking basement, and we had the greatest time.

Hope this post has been helpful! Happy Travels!