Travel Guides for Un-tourists


Liberte, Egalite, Pharmacie: A Beauty Lover’s Guide to Paris

by CB Cowling

posted on January 07, 2020

Photo Courtesy: iStock/fortyforks

For the beauty obsessed, a trip to Paris is akin to a pilgrimage. The undisputed capital of the cosmetics world, it holds an embarrassment of riches for lovers of all things pretty and pampering, not to mention all those cult lotions and potions that cost one-third of what they would stateside. Grand perfumeries, iconic pharmacies, exotic hammams: next time you visit the City of Light, head to these hotspots beloved by locals, where off-duty models, beauty editors, and Parisian it-girls flock to score their favorite products and indulge in some serious self care, French-style.

Photo Courtesy: samrigor

Parisian grand dames eschew skincare trends and instead flock to Biologique Recherche’s elegantly-understated mansion just off the Champs-Élysées. Here, cutting-edge clinical treatments smoothe, lift, and hydrate the luminous visages of the city’s chicest residents. Start with a skin analysis that measures hydration, elasticity, and pigment density, before choosing from a menu of oxygenating, toning, and resurfacing treatments. The facial massages are legendary (the saying goes that Parisians don’t need Botox, they have Biologique Recherche) and make sure to grab a bottle or two of its P50 lotion on your way out. This holy-grail product has major cult status for its ability to impart the skin of a glowing ingenue with just one swipe.

Photo Courtesy: riseandgloww

While you’ll see the ubiquitous neon green cross sign marking pharmacies throughout the city, there’s just one address the beauty-obsessed make a beeline for. With a huge selection and rock-bottom prices, CityPharma on the Rue du Four is the place to go to stock up on affordable European skincare, with beloved brands like Embryolisse, La Roche Posay, and Bioderma flying off the shelves from dawn to dusk. Enormous and extremely busy, it’s best to early in the morning on a weekday; we might even suggest that you pack an extra bag in your luggage to haul all your finds home. What can we say: it’s hard to stay under your baggage weight allowance when you’re faced with two-for-one deals on Caudalie serums and Nuxe lip balms.

Photo Courtesy: Maison Guerlain

No fragrance house is as steeped in romance as Guerlain, and its storied past is celebrated in the grand Art Nouveau palace that serves as its flagship location on the Champs Elysee. Part showroom, part museum, the gilded marble interiors are an unmissable excursion for the true fragrance lover. Sample vintage formulations of iconic scents like Mitsouko, Shalimar, and L’Heure Bleue, have your name engraved on one of their famous crystal bee bottles, or be guided through the unique “field to flacon” process that creates the famed “Guerlinade” notes. Afterwards duck into the adjoining restaurant for afternoon tea and pastries, or splash out with a visit to the top floor’s discreetly-luxurious L’Institut spa.

Photo Courtesy: Oh My Cream!

The first Oh My Cream location was born when founder Juliette Levy grew tired of always seeing the same big beauty brands on offer. Handpicking cult favorites from the best natural skincare and makeup lines around the world, she created her line of independent boutiques as an antidote to the monotony. Step into the bright and airy shop on the Rue Debelleyme in the heart of the Marais to browse artfully arranged shelves of clean beauty brands like REN, Patyka, Ilia, and Leonor Greyl. Helpful staff assist with personalized skin diagnoses, while the boutique’s charmingly bijoux treatment cabins beckon with lush Tata Harper facials and Kure Bazaar manicures.

Photo Courtesy: NOSE

If you’re still searching for your signature scent, head to this beautiful boutique in the heart of the 2nd Arrondissement for an immersive fragrance experience. Home to over 50 premiere and niche perfume lines like Heeley, Frederic Malle, and Maison Francis Kurkdjian, NOSE Paris feels like a sleek, modern take on a vintage apothecary, where sampling and choosing a perfume is an adventure rather than a chore. Take a seat at the long bar for a bespoke fragrance profile, where a combination of modern technology and knowledgeable, passionate staff help to pinpoint your likes and dislikes, narrowing down your favorite notes and ingredients

Photo Courtesy: delphinecourteille_paris

No one masters the art of effortlessly-dishevelled hair quite like Parisians, and Delphine Courteille is the city’s current virtuoso of the perfectly undone do, giving style icons like Vanessa Paradis, Marion Cotillard, and Jeanne Damas their trademark tousled tresses. Her salon’s unassuming entrance leads into a pretty green courtyard between the Tuileries and the Place Vendome, while the Palm Springs meets Paris interiors are the stuff of Instagram dreams. The true piece de resistance is the reasonable pricing: meaning that cool sixties fringe you’ve been dreaming of might just be perfect souvenir to take home from the City of Light.

Photo Courtesy: sarahbrittonm

If there’s a best-kept secret to the world of Parisian beauty, it’s the tradition of an afternoon at the Turkish baths. Locals skip the swankier luxury offerings and head to the Hammam Paris Mosque for the most authentic and affordable hammam experience in the city. Hidden within the historic pink marble mosque is a warren of byzantine steam rooms and plunge pools offering an oasis of tranquility and relaxation. Lounge in the fragrant steam areas, wake up with a quick dip in icy water, then try a revitalizing gommage (a vigorous body scrub with traditional black soap) and lavender oil massage. When you’ve been steamed and scrubbed to your heart’s content, make your way to the glorious wisteria-draped Moorish courtyard for mint tea and orange blossom pastries in a truly magical setting.

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