If you’ve ever read beauty blogs as excessively as I did when I was in college, you’ll understand my unbridled excitement at stepping into a French pharmacy for the first time after I graduated.
As I pawed shelf after shelf of products with minimalist packaging and chic names like Vichy, Embryolisse and La Roche-Posay, I could hear French skincare devotees like Karlie Kloss, Lisa Eldridge and Gwyneth Paltrow whispering in my ear: “Buy everything.”
Of course, I had the good sense not to, but I did walk out with two big bottles of Bioderma Sebium H2O (the second one was half-off!) and a can of Klorane dry shampoo (still the best, in my opinion). As I waited in line for the cashier, though, I stole a few wistful looks at the frosted glass bottles of Caudalie Beauty Elixir.
The appeal of shopping abroad is the knowledge that it may be a while before you can get your hands on certain products again. But lately, Manila’s beauty shelves have become better stocked with these imported finds.
Below is a list of cult skincare brands that you may want to check out on your next trip to the mall.
What is it: Credited with popularizing the use of micellar water in makeup removal, Bioderma was created in the 1970s by pioneering pharmacist Jean-Noël Thorel.
The brand is guided by “biological mimetism,” developing products that imitate the natural biological mechanisms of skin by combining molecules naturally found in skin with pure active ingredients.
Who uses it: Scarlett Johansson is a huge fan of Bioderma Sensibio H2O Dermatological Wipes (unavailable locally); the Bioderma Sensibio H2O (P650/100 ml) is also a staple of celebrity makeup artists like Lisa Eldridge, who use it backstage during Fashion Week.
Where to get it: Watsons, Zalora.com.ph and Lazada.com.ph
What is it: The name “Nuxe” is a combination of the words “nature” and “luxury.” What was once a small formulation laboratory based in Paris is now a recognized expert in natural origin cosmetology and a global brand available in 65 countries. It also has 30 Nuxe spas located all over the world.
Who uses it: Jennifer Aniston, Christina Ricci and DJ-slash-It-girl Hannah Bronfman are all fans of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (P1,750/ 100 ml), a dry oil with shimmer. Locally, Nikki Gil is a brand ambassador for the brand.
Where to get it: Beauty Bar, Rustan’s Makati and Rustan’s Shangri-La
What is it: Known in certain circles as the “Hérmes of skincare brands,” Biologique Recherche is an unconventional yet incredibly effective skincare line developed by Dr. Yvan Allouche, a biochemist, and his wife Josette, a physiotherapist. The products go hand-in-hand with the brand’s signature facials, which both work together to create healthy, glowing and youthful skin.
Who uses it: The list of women who swear by the Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 (P1,800/50 ml) is long. It includes celebrities like Jennifer Connelly, Kyra Sedgewick and Julianna Margulies, along with fashion and beauty insiders like Jenna Lyons, Emily Weiss and Julia Restoin-Roitfeld.
Where to get it: Chi, The Spa at Edsa Shangri-La.
What is it: The key ingredient in this skincare line is the Selenium-rich spring water from a thermal spring in the little village of La Roche-Posay in the French region of La Vienne. The spring water eventually became known for its therapeutic properties, prompting Napoleon Bonaparte to build a thermal hospital there to treat the skin diseases of his soldiers.
Who uses it: Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Diane Kruger are all vocal fans of the brand. Charlize Theron uses the La Roche-Posay 50 sunblock every day, while Leighton Meester loves the Hydraphase Line and Anthelios SX moisturizer.
Where to get it: Product stocks tend to run out pretty quickly for this brand, but on www.dtcmakeup.com, you can still find the La Roche-Posay Ceralip balm (P700/15 ml).
What is it: The Embryolisse story began in 1950, when a Paris hospital dermatologist specializing in skin diseases created the legendary Milk-Cream Concentrate, which later sold millions worldwide.
Embryolisse Laboratoires have developed a real expertise in dermo-cosmetics over 60 years, creating a whole range of care to keep skin healthy and beautiful.
Who uses it: The Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré is on heavy rotation in the medicine cabinets of actresses Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson and Yasmin Le Bon, who all love the cream’s soothing properties.
Where to get it: Lazada.com.ph (hurry, it’s currently 20-percent off on the site!)
What is it: Like La Roche-Posay, Avène also has its origins in thermal spring water. The Avène thermal spring facility in the heart of the Orb valley in Haut-Languedoc national park treats patients who have atopic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and burns. In 1871, Avène Thermal Spring Water was sent to the US for victims of the Great Fire of Chicago. Today, dermatologists worldwide continue to refer patients to the Avène Dermatological Hydrotherapy Center, which sees over 2,800 clients each year.
Who uses it: Rita Ora, Sophie Dahl, Alberta Ferretti, Diane Kruger, Ines de la Fressange, Uma Thurman and Gwyneth Paltrow all like to stash a bottle of Avène Thermal Spring Water (P2,248/300 ml) in their bags for a refreshing midday pick-me-up.
Where to get it: Mercury Drug Store and Lazada.com.ph
What is it: Known as “France’s Body Shop,” Yves Rocher’s origins aren’t so glamorous: The brand’s eponymous founder’s first product was a plant-based hemorrhoid cream that was sold through magazine ads. Today, Yves Rocher manufactures more than 700 products for face, body and hair made with ingredients harvested from its own organic botanic gardens.
Who uses it: According to a report by Reuters, one out of three women in France use the brand. The Yves Rocher Rinsing Vinegar (P395/150 ml) is a popular new discovery as it removes product build-up and restores hair’s shine.
Where to get it: 2/F, SM Aura Premier; G/F, SM Southmall; G/F, TriNoma; and G/F, Paseo Solano Wing, Ayala Center Cebu