The French Pharmacie - une femme d'un certain âge

The French Pharmacie

pharmacie 1

Like a moth to a flame…those green crosses are a siren’s call to me.

One of my favorite parts of visiting France is checking out les pharmacies and trying new skincare products. As much as I love my Eucerin Hyaluron-Filler , it can sometimes be tough to source in the U.S., so I was hoping to find something moderately priced also with hyaluronic acid that was readily available here as well as Europe.

In Amboise, there was a nicely stocked pharmacie not too far from our hotel. I stopped in when it looked as though they weren’t busy, and asked the woman working there for some recommendations for skin care with hyaluronic acid (in France it’s pronounced “eeh-ah-lur-on-EEK”) other than Eucerin. She thought for a minute and then pulled one of these off the shelf.


There are two formulations, one for dry skin (“Riche”) and one for combination skin (“Legere”). I decided to go with the Riche, as even though my skin isn’t particularly dry, the low humidity here in LA does tend to suck up moisture. And the pharmacist seemed to indicate (delicately) that the richer version would be better for mature skin.

I’ve been using this for the last three weeks as a daytime moisturizer and am very happy with it. It’s priced comparably to the Eucerin, and much more available. The pump packaging means less exposure to air and contaminants. Ulta carries it, as does Dermstore, and

While perusing the one pharmacie we found open on May Day, Josephine recommended this high-powered (SPF 50) mineral sunscreen from Skinceuticals. It has a slight tint, so doesn’t create an ashy cast to the skin. My dermatologist also recommends high-SPF barrier sunscreens (titanuim dioxide, zinc oxide) for longer-lasting sun protection. This is a good addition to my sunscreen arsenal.

While not as readily available and a bit higher in price, this Filorga HYDRA-FILLER is another nice product for hydration and the skin plumping that hyaluronic acid provides. I’ve been using as a night cream. I picked this up at “Monop,” along with a Filorga spot correcting serum I haven’t tried yet (and can’t seem to find online).

It’s really a shame that drugstore chains here in the U.S. seem to give skin care short shrift. I don’t know about where you live, but I find that inventory in drugstores near me is limited to a few “major” brands, stock is spotty and often depleted and there is no one in the store who can answer questions about the products. And the products they do offer aren’t that much less expensive than what I can find in French pharmacies (or Boots in the UK, for that matter).

Do you have favorite drugstore brand skin care products? How did you first find them?

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  1. May 19, 2014 / 4:02 am

    I have been able to buy La Roche-Posay, Reversa, Avène and Nuxe in certain drugstores in Canada. These brands were not available here 5 years ago. It seems that the most remote Boots shop in the UK stocks more product dispensed by more knowledgeable staff than do our major Canadian chains. I expect that this will change with time.

  2. LauraH
    May 19, 2014 / 4:18 am

    The cosmetics industry hype is something I’ve turned away from and I now get my skin care products online from Paula’s Choice. They have some great stuff and I never need to worry about finding it on the shelves!

    • May 19, 2014 / 5:09 am

      Same with me. Paula also has many super drugstore recommendations on her Beautypedia site. Thanks to her, I use Cerave.

      • Justine
        May 19, 2014 / 10:10 am

        CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM is also my staple. It’s the only beauty product that I repeatedly purchase. It has a thin lightweight texture so I layer oils on top.

  3. May 19, 2014 / 5:19 am

    Yes we are lucky to have boots. Have just found a very useful compact by La Roche Posay in their Anthelios XL range SPF50. It is like a solid foundation with a small sponge. I keep it in my bag for touch ups during the day. Not sure if it is available in the States.

  4. May 19, 2014 / 5:30 am

    I use the Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense (Riche) as a night cream. The products are available at Shoppers Drug Mart here in Canada…and since my sister is the “associate’ (which means the franchisee) for a Shoppers….I always get Roche Posay products in my “goodie bag” birthday or Christmas gift. Yeah! She always stocks me up on the products I use plus a few surprises. Love opening that bag!

    • Pauline Frost
      May 19, 2014 / 12:31 pm

      Shoppers’ Drug Mart = Pharmaprix in Quebec. Jean-Coutu drug stores in Quebec have a wide range of these products too.

  5. Jill
    May 19, 2014 / 6:01 am

    I just noticed at my local CVS here in Brooklyn that they carry a rather large selection of products by both Vichy and La Roche-Posay so thanks for these recommendations. Between you and Tish I am going to add a few new skincare products to my lineup.

    • MJ
      May 19, 2014 / 11:38 am

      The CVS near my office in midtown Manhattan carries La Roche-Posay, and I’ve been using its Active C at night for years, with really good results. But no LRP at the CVS stores near my home in the suburbs.

  6. Marilyn
    May 19, 2014 / 6:32 am

    Have a new Walgreen near moi, has a beautiful cosmetic area a la Shoppers Drugs/Canada and sales help says was modeled after Duane Reade….full of French lines: La Roche, Vichy, Avene,Nuxe, and more tho no higher end Eucerin, but better than zero. The ladies in my store are well trained. Even noticed Target now has small selection of Vichy

    • gingerR
      May 19, 2014 / 10:57 am

      I’ve seen signs in Target that they’ll have a beauty consultant available certain peak hours.

  7. sybes1
    May 19, 2014 / 7:09 am

    I agree with Josephine: the Anthelios mineral tinted spf 50 is fabulous! Susan I agree with your assessment of the US drugstores for beauty/skin products. My local CVS is messy, no one to help you, no experts available, limited stock and most of the stock is picked over or gone!
    You and Tish and Lisa Eldridge have educated me about European (especially French!) products. Love it! Thank you so much! Sally

  8. May 19, 2014 / 7:50 am

    Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair serum is full of hyaluronic acid. I use it day and night for that extra little cushion of moisture and nutrition. Best place to get it is Macy’s. Lauder makes kits for them that I’ve never seen anywhere else, which includes a full size ANR plus two large travel sizes of day cream and eye cream for $5 more than just the ANR alone. I like to buy during GWP time, goodies galore. Anyway, Lauder was probably the first to use hyaluronic acid extensively in a product, so they’re worth checking out. They improved the formula last year, and I think it’s truly even better.

  9. Judy
    May 19, 2014 / 8:45 am

    I discovered Filorga Sleep Recover last fall in Paris. Saw a poster in the window of a pharmacie and was intrigued because I’d never heard of the brand before. Returned a couple days later and bought the Sleep Recover and got some samples. Since then I have added more Filorga products–especially like the Iso Structure day cream as well as the Sleep Recover, and the Optim Eyes. I order through a website based in DC that imports fresh product from France and so you have to wait about three weeks for your order to arrive. Prices are fairly reasonable, though (

  10. Rhea Condra
    May 19, 2014 / 9:14 am

    Thank you for your post about the latest finds in the French pharmacies. I love trying some of these products when I travel to France. I use many Mario Badescue products now and find them very good quality at a very resonable price. They have a wonderful website and the products are also sold at Nordstrum. They do great samples and you will love the prices.
    Once again, thanks for the post and all of your practical info about Paris. Now, where do you shop for clothes there?
    Rhea Condra

  11. PamelaG
    May 19, 2014 / 12:19 pm

    About 5 years ago I completely changed my skin care purchasing when I began to research and learn about skin, aging and ingredients that are helpful for mature skin and those which can be toxic to all skin types. My learning came about with the help of the Truth in Aging, Barefacedtruth, and Cosmetics Cop websites. I have found really excellent, powerful and non-toxic products in all price ranges at NCN Skincare and also through Truth in Aging. My now 62 year old skin has improved to the point that it looks better than it did when I was in my 40’s.

    However, I do still use multiple products from one drugstore line, Cerave, on my neck, decollete, and body. I love these (for neck & decollete: Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion AM, Cerave Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM; and for the rest of the body: Cerave Moisturizing Cream). It is an incredible line because it is priced well, has Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinimide and Ceramides, plus it has been made to continuously release the product to your skin over 24 hours. It is not greasy and has a beautiful finish in my opinion. My body skin is incredibly dry, especially my legs and the Cerave cream keeps them moist and smooth and I don’t ever have to reapply.

  12. Nina
    May 19, 2014 / 12:29 pm

    You know where I live…. so, I am not gping to lie. The variety, quality and assistance you get in France (anywhere) is non existent here, even in the good department stores. I do my research online and then go and look for what I want. The sales people are interested in selling. Period. And if you go in a drugstore, what do you think is going to happen? You better have a good sense of humor, patience and low expectations, or better yet, no expectations.
    The best saline solution I have ever found in my life I got in Paris. The best Pharmacies are in France… and those who work there know their inventory… No, I cannot say I buy drugstore cosmetics.


    • une femme
      May 20, 2014 / 9:17 am

      Judy, yes that’s it. Haven’t tried it yet, will report back once I do.

  13. Catbird Farm
    May 21, 2014 / 7:39 am

    Totally agree with PamelaG. Learn what’s in the stuff you put on your face! I buy pure hyaluronic acid from High Altitude Organics (available on Amazon) – it goes on like a dream and I can mix it with anything I want. Why mess with all those other ingredients that are harmful to our skin? Mainstream skin care products (drug store OR department store) are filled with things we don’t need on our skin: mineral oils (basically a byproduct of petroleum – yuck), silicones, alcohol, preservatives, fillers, colors – none of these are helping our skin, they are there because they are helping the manufacturer make a buck by diluting the pricier ingredients, making the product smell, look and “flow” the way they think the customer wants. If we educate ourselves about what is going on our skin, and thus directly into our bloodstream, we can change the industry by choosing where our money goes.

    PS> If I have to buy proprietary skin care or cosmetics, I buy German because their government standards are the most stringent there are: Weleda, Dr Hauschka, Lavera, etc.

  14. May 23, 2014 / 3:58 pm

    Well, thank you again. Purchased the Eucerin cream because of you and now have just purchased the La Roche from the Derm store at 20% off. Thanks for doing all the testing.

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