I Traded My Usual Skincare for French Pharmacy Staples—These Were the Results

I have spent most of my career studying the beauty routines of the French. From chic French makeup to effortless hairstyles, I've researched everything I can in order to channel some of that Parisian allure. However, one thing that intrigues me more than anything is French skincare. Why, I hear you ask? Well, if you didn't know, France is home to some of the best skincare brands on the market (I'm talking about La Roche-Posay, Bioderma, Clarins, Vichy and more). Not only that, but thanks to their simple, laidback approach to beauty, French women always seem to have the most incredible skin.

@juliesfi glowing skin

(Image credit: @juliesfi)

So much so, that I decided to conduct a little experiment, and I swapped out my entire skincare cabinet to French pharmacy staples. Before using these products, I also reached out to a range of experts from the brands to find out what they think makes a French skincare routine so effective, and I've been following all of their tips and tricks for the last few weeks. It's safe to say that I've learnt a lot along the way, so keep on scrolling to see how I got on...

@frannfyne taking a selfie with glowing skin

(Image credit: @frannfyne)

First things first, I wanted to get an expert's opinion on why French skincare is so popular. According to Gemma Jones, UK and Ireland Brand Trainer at NAOS (home to French skincare favourites Bioderma and Institut Esthederm), it's all about education. "Culturally, we all know that the French have been taught to look after their skin from a young age and that there is a greater focus on skin education. For the French, skincare is so intuitive and embedded into their culture, skin wisdom being passed on from one generation to the next, that it is not surprising that French skincare brands are not only producing high quality products, but are industry experts when it comes to formulating the safest and most efficient products, dominating the global skincare market."

Dr Marine Vincent, founder of The French Pharmacy, adds that French skincare brands are also much more approachable for consumers. "When you think of French skincare brands, you’ll find that they are not too intimidating for the general public. It’s also important to note that they are affordable. So for me, you have the best as not only are they affordable, but they are effective products that are [often] supported by pharmacists." Although they are more affordable than luxury alternatives, as stated by consultant dermatologist Dr Angela Tewari, the brands still exude style and finesse. "I think that notion of sophistication is a held belief with all French skincare products."

@emmahoareau Clarins beauty products

(Image credit: @emmahoareau)

How to Carry Out a French Skincare Routine:

After learning what makes French skincare brands so good, I was eager to find out how I could carry out a French-inspired skincare routine with my new products. "For me, a French-inspired skincare routine all about enjoying the moment and taking your time," says Dr Vincent. "It must stay simple and consistent, so in the morning this would include a cleanser, serum, cream and finally SPF."

Of course, it goes without saying that everyone's skin is different. "It would be easy to say "here is a one size fits all French routine" but because of the cultural emphasis on skin education, the French person through the years has had to put the work in and slowly learn and understand better their own skin type, their skin condition and from this, establish their main skin goals," explains Jones. "If you were to really press me for a routine though, a French person would usually always prioritise and be consistent with what I call "the basics", being a well-formulated cleanser, a dedicated serum, a hydrating moisturiser and a reliable high protection SPF." With that in mind, I made sure to focus on my own skin goals while keeping my routine simple and consistent as recommended above.

Trying Out a French Skincare Routine:

A collection of French skincare products

(Image credit: @gracelindsay__ for Who What Wear UK)

My skin has been pretty much the same over the last few months. I get the occasional breakout now and again, and I also suffer with a lot of skin texture and dullness. Because of my job, I am lucky enough to receive lots of products, which means that sometimes my skincare routine is more complicated than it should be. I was really excited to strip things back while trying out a French skincare routine and see if this made any difference to my complexion.

I swapped out all of my usual brands for French pharmacy favourites, and opted for a really simple morning and nightime routine. I took out any unnecessary steps and stuck to the basics as recommended by the experts. While I would usually use up to twelve different products a day, I kept it to the eight products listed below.

Morning routine:

-Refreshing facial mist

-Vitamin C serum



Evening routine:

-Oil-based cleanser

-Water-based cleanser


-Retinol 2x3 times a week

The Results

I've been staying consistent with this routine for over three weeks now, and I have definitely noticed a difference in how my skin looks and feels.

Junior Beauty Editor, Grace Lindsay, with no makeup

(Image credit: @gracelindsay__ for Who What Wear UK)

My skin before makeup.

Junior Beauty Editor, Grace Lindsay, with makeup

(Image credit: @gracelindsay__ for Who What Wear UK)

My skin after makeup.

My skin is already looking so much more radiant both with and without makeup, and it also feels a lot smoother which means my makeup practically glides on. I truly thought that by stripping back my routine my skin would get worse, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how it has changed. If I've learnt anything from this experiment, it's that you really don't need to use a lot of products in order to get the results you want.

Another thing that I realised is that the French products I used are a lot more affordable than my usual skincare favourites, which also proves that you don't need to spend a fortune in order to get that Parisian glow. All in all, I can totally see why French women love these brands, and I will be sticking to my pared-back routine from now on.

Shop My French Skincare Favourites:

Junior Beauty Editor

Grace Lindsay is the junior beauty editor at Who What Wear UK. At the age of 18 she decided to train as a makeup artist before going on to study english and media at Goldsmiths University. It was during that time that she explored her love for journalism by interning at a small beauty start-up based in Shoreditch. Since then, she has worked at a number of publications including Marie Claire and Hello!, where her love for all things beauty continued to grow.

As Who What Wear UK's junior beauty editor, she covers everything from the latest hair trends to the stand-out makeup products of the season.