Countless articles have been written about how women can attain the “Parisian look.” Purchase a Breton shirt, a leather moto jacket, and a pair of oversized black sunglasses and you will have captured style à la Francaise.
However, Parisian women know that it takes more than just dressing the part. Their strict skin care regimens and the application of heady fragrances are proof that while beauty truly is only skin deep, having beautiful skin and a wonderful scent are the essence of a beautiful Madame.
While French companies L’Oreal and Lancôme are familiar to American audiences, on your next trip to Paris, I suggest you go in search of a few brands that are less known in the U.S. but which are adored by French femmes. Not only will you leave with a cosmetic or scent that’s more special than anything by the big-name labels, it will also make a treasured memento from your journey to the City of Light.
In this roundup, I will take you on an excursion through the city to highlight the best French epidermal goods and appealing bouquets, and the very cute (but quite hidden) shops in which to find them.
While many Parisian women purchase their products from the pharmacies which heavily dot the city like Starbucks do in the U.S., treating yourself to a luxurious purchase in one of the following spots will be infinitely much more interesting than just pulling a bottle off a pharmacy shelf.
Comptoir Sud Pacifique
Even though I’ve been living in Paris every summer for the past decade, I somehow managed to miss this jewel of a shop until a dear colleague clued me in. Which is proof that every woman should have that one special gal pal who knows everything about basically everything!
Located right off the tony rue Saint Honore in the 1st arrondissement, this precious little shop is an oasis of pure calm in hectic tourist central. So discreet in fact, that I walked past it several times before noticing and then entering this deliciously scented haven.
Although Comptoir Sud Pacifique specializes in fragrance, I had been told that the body moisturizers sold there are really something special and as a woman who deals with perpetual flakiness, I was in search of something rich and creamy infused with my favorite scent of vanilla.
The lovely Anna spared no time to introducing me to Creme Genereuse, a moisturizer brimming with vanilla oil, jasmine milk and an ingredient called tiare oil. Although I was not familiar with the latter ingredient, I can tell you that my skin has never felt so soft and it even took on a sensual pearlescent shimmer.
This cream also lives up to its “Generous” name given the copious amount of product filling the pretty-in-pink jar it comes in and it is sure to give you many, many days of all over silky, beautiful skin.
30 rue Saint Roch, 75001. Metro: Pyramides
Although the French never seem to be too keen on the concept of ice (I’ve been subjected to a number of funny looks from French waiters when requesting some to cool down my room temperature drinks), the luxury brand Anne Semonin embraces the cool cubes in one of the most unique skin care products I have found in Paris to date.
Express Radiance Ice Cubes, or the more melodic sounding Glacons Éclat Express, is a sweet package of little individual squares brimming with moisturizers, sea water and evening primrose.
Simply freeze a square, then wrap it in the soft gauze provided and proceed to stroke your face in a once-a-week ritual that will leave your skin lifted and glowing.
Cosmetic surgery never caught on with the French women and with a product like this that turns back time I doubt it ever will. The only plastic you’ll ever need is the wrapping material this adorable product comes in.
2 rue des Petits Champs, 75002. Metro: Bourse (Anne Semonin also houses a serene spa behind the front room displays)
Oh My Cream
Not sure what skin care product you are looking for? Let the knowledgeable dames at the multi-brand luxury store Oh My Cream be at your service.
Although there are many opulent lines sold here, I did know what I was looking for so I made a beeline for the products of Joelle Ciocco. As a Paris born biochemist, Mme. Ciocco’s main goal is to combat your skin stressors. Her luscious offerings of facial cleansers are at the same time extremely effective and very gentle.
The crown jewel of her collection is the Sensitive Cleansing Milk or the pretty-sounding Lait Onctueux Capital. A little pool of the creamy formula goes a long way and leaves behind a most pleasant orange blossom scent. As the milk changes from creamy white to transparent, it helps to determine when your skin is very clean. I use it nightly as part of an anti-aging routine to leave my skin protected and purified.
The staff is so warm and welcoming, they will be happy to assist you in looking at other fine brands in addition to my beloved Joelle Ciocco. Sitting in the middle of the store is a marble consultation table where these trained ladies will help you select the products that are right for you.
The quiet shop is located in a part of swanky Saint Germain des Pres that’s tucked away from the crowds and is an ideal area for finding other luxury goods from little-known retailers. A perfect day in Paris indeed.
3 rue de Touron, 75006. Metro: Odeon
Ok, so I snuck in a product line that you can indeed find at one of the French pharmacies the locals shop at. But this cherished skin and hair care ensemble is best experienced first at the tranquil Spa Nuxe located on the friendly pedestrian rue Montorguiel in the 2nd arrondissement.
Although I’ve known about their signature product, Huile Prodigieuse Or for years, it wasn’t until I booked an appointment for a deluxe facial that I came to understand just how tres magnifique the Nuxe collection really is.
My sweet esthetician Marie used her capable hands to deftly swipe the Huile
Prodigieuse Or over my face leaving my skin all aglow.
With six botanical oils that nourished, softened and illuminated my parched facial skin, you better believe I stocked up on the stuff at checkout time. And even though summer is coming to an end, a few strokes of the oil across your face will give you a lightly bronzed summer sheen all year long.
Spa Nuxe, 32-34 rue Montorguiel, 75002. Metro: Sentier
They say only the nose knows and nothing could be truer than this perfume concept emporium known for helping you find the right fragrance for you.
By using personalized perfume diagnostics, I found an essence that is not sold in other retail stores and is perfect for my unique profile.
The rather large store is made to feel intimate by the warmth and welcoming tone of its passionate staff and the whole idea is to concentrate on the wearer, not the fragrance itself. In fact, as soon as I entered the airy shop, I was asked a series of questions via iPad and then the process of selecting my perfect perfume began.
Based on the results of the rather fun quiz, five fragrances were offered to me to try at every pulse point. I was asked to rank the aromas and then, based on my preferences, the original scents were distilled into five additional scents for me to choose from.
After a process of elimination, I selected a bouquet named Lalibela that wholeheartedly agreed with me. It had my favorite notes of vanilla and is manufactured by a company called Memo. I certainly have never come across this scent before, let alone ever heard of this perfume producer. To find something exclusive to me was pretty special and I’m certain I’ll find even more happiness by wearing this lovely essence often.
20 rue Bachaumont, 75002, Metro: Sentier