Arriving in Paris for a city break used to mean gaining access to some of the most covetable skincare brands in the world. In fact, beauty aficionados, make-up artists, and skincare professionals made regular trips to the French capital for just that reason, scouring the city’s pharmacies to get their hands on the products that simply weren’t available anywhere else. If package holiday deals to French pharmacies had existed, they would have been fully booked every day of the week.
As time ticked on, however, distributors saw the demand from overseas – and brands began to export their products. Getting our hands on a bottle of micellar cleansing water or rich moisturiser was finally possible without having to book a city break – and luckily for us, the UAE’s thirst for French skincare ensured we had access to the very best that brands had to offer.
Now you can step into any pharmacy or beauty store in the UAE to find a plethora of beauty products from French skincare brands. From the likes of popular and affordable brand Bioderma to luxury lines like Caudalie – whatever your budget and skin type, there is a French skincare brand for you.
But let’s rewind for a moment. Why is it that the French seem to be miles ahead when it comes to skincare in the first place? And why is the rest of the world scrabbling to get their hands on what French skincare brands are offering? French skincare aesthetician Renée Rouleau explains: ‘In France, both women and skincare professionals believe that when it comes to skincare, you should accept what you’ve been given. Many French women rarely change or highlight their natural hair colour, except perhaps to cover grey hair. They rarely opt for plastic surgery and they’ve yet to embrace injectables and fillers the way women from other nations have.
‘In short, French women prefer to celebrate their natural beauty and to age gracefully. And since French women religiously care for their skin at home and practise good skincare habits (washing their face every night, using a gentle cleanser, toner and moisturiser morning and evening, giving their skin weekly masks), the skincare business is very competitive. There are many, many French skincare lines that are sold not only at the facial salons, but at the many beauty stores they have. The products are more natural, using a lot of botanical and essential oils.” Marie-Laure Fournier, founder of Fournier Communications, which imports French skincare products overseas, adds, ‘Shopping for skincare in France is also more thought-out. Many women go to the pharmacy to buy their products, as opposed to browsing endless aisles in the drugstore or department store à la the American way. A pharmacienne has a training similar to a doctor’s and really knows what she’s talking about, so when we shop for skincare, we’re getting real one-on-one advice.’
So it seems we have an acceptance of individual skin types combined with better education and the desire to keep things natural to thank for winning skincare products in France. But, besides familiar brands like Clarins, L’Occitane or Vichy, which French brands and products should we keep an eye out for in the UAE?
We round up some iconic top contenders for your attention, promising to set your new French skincare regime off to the most magnifique start…
Probably one of the most accessible French skincare brands in the UAE, you will find Bioderma in most pharmacies, split into collections of products to suit every skin type. The brand has been around since 1977 in French pharmacies, working closely with dermatologists and taking a biological approach to skincare.
Founder Jean-Noël Thorel explains, ‘We are builders in our area of expertise: the skin, biology, dermatology. Our vision, the way we proceed, is different from that of the others because we don’t stop at simply correcting skin dysfunction, we aim to protect the skin’s resources and enable the skin to adapt to its environment and lifestyle, over time.’
In 2001, the brand started distributing internationally and the products are now available in over 100 countries worldwide. And the item that everyone wants to get their hands on? Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water (from Dh25, pharmacies nationwide), which sells a staggering one bottle every three seconds globally and sits on the dressing tables of millions of women.
So what’s so great about it? This product was in fact the world’s first micellar water, developed in 1991. It promises to cleanse skin in a matter of seconds, while staying in perfect synergy with the physiological and biological characteristics of the skin. Perfect for all skin types (even the most sensitive), you use the product by saturating a cotton wool pad and wiping it across your face to remove dirt, grime and make-up (without any need for rinsing). It knocks time off your usual cleansing routine and our skin, quite simply, seems to love it.
Lierac Paris, as the name suggests, is a Parisian skincare collection that combines the power of nature with active skincare ingredients that are proven to work. Founded in 1975, Lierac takes on a slightly more science-led approach to skincare than a lot of the other French brands, partnering with renowned hospitals and research centres to ensure efficiency.
But much like other French pharmacy brands, natural ingredients are still a big focus (as is limiting potentially harmful ingredients such as parabens and petrochemicals).
Ready to give it a shot? Try one of the brand’s bestsellers, such as Lierac Paris Liftissime Eye Re-Lifting Serum (Dh330, Basharacare.com), which promises to tighten and smooth the eye area, while reducing puffiness and soothing irritation.
We need to travel to the beautiful surroundings of Bordeaux in France to understand the history behind the luxurious French skincare line Caudalie, which is now available in Bin Sina Pharmacies across the UAE.
The story began in 1993 when Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas had a chance meeting with Dr Vercauteren (a professor at the University of Pharmacy in Bordeaux) during the grape harvest at their vineyard. As the world leading expert on grape polyphenols (that’s a scientific word to describe the structure of plants, to you and me), he noticed the leftover skin and seeds of the grapes from the harvest and explained its antioxidant powers to the couple.
An idea was formed – and skincare brand Caudalie was born in 1995, infusing the skincare products with those grape leftovers as powerful tools in both anti-ageing and skin plumping. Co-founder Mathilde explains, ‘I formulate my products for all women who, like me, don’t want to choose between effectiveness and naturalness, between luxury and ecology.’
The skincare brand was a big success in France – and we got to enjoy it too, when Caudalie skincare arrived in the UAE in 2013. If you haven’t yet discovered the collection, a great place to start is the Vinoperfect range, which is where the brand started. Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet (Dh200, Bin Sina Pharmacies) is rich with antioxidants (that’ll be those grape polyphenols), but feels cooling and offers a long-lasting hydrating effect.
Nuxe founder Aliza Jabès grew up in Paris and understood the desire among fellow Parisian women for effective skincare. When she stumbled on a natural skincare laboratory in the city, the idea formed to create a collection that fused natural ingredients with effective formulations – and Nuxe was born in the early 1990s, quickly enjoying huge commercial success.
She explains, ‘The effortless natural beauty of Parisian women and a passion for nature have forged my vision for Nuxe over the years. My philosophy has always been to offer every woman an indulgent, sensorial experience with products that are easy to use and combine precious natural active ingredients with the latest technological innovation.’
The star product in the collection is Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil (Dh172, Boots nationwide), which was one of the first products to be launched by the brand in 1991. Since then it has enjoyed cult beauty status worldwide. The oil has a distinctive dry oil texture, which repairs, softens and hydrates in one step (and it smells delicious!). It can be used in several different ways, including as a moisturiser for hair, the complexion, or the body – or mixed with foundation to give it a more fluid texture, without sticking.