Paris: Take care of yourself at the neighborhood pharmacy

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Pharmacies in Paris
There's nothing quite like a French pharmacy. Photos by Theadora Brack

By Theadora Brack in Paris—

There are certain hazy shades of winter in Paris that can wreck a Cheapo’s complexion! So where do I go for a lil’ beauty SOS during the colder months? Like the locals, I usually head to my trusted neighborhood pharmacist, and she’s never let my well-hydrated visage (face) or mains (hands) down!

Paris Pharmacy

Waiting in line at the Pharmacie Place d'Italie

Shine on, Cheapos!

Is there a beauty glitch or hiccup that can’t be fixed at the French pharmacy? I don’t think so! Left with chapped hands from the cold handrail while scaling the steps in the Catacombs? Frightened by your own wild, mile-high hair after riding the lift to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Scratching your lizard-like skin following a bateaux-mouche excursion on the Seine? Are your lips chapped from kissing Oscar Wilde’s grave at Père-Lachaise while no one was looking?

Well then, don’t just grin and bear it! Get thee to a pharmacy, where they’ll not only take the time to listen, but they’ll also recommend a product just for your malady, whatever it may be. So for the love of smooth healthy skin with an impeccable glow, don’t let this opportunity slip through your fingers. Trust me, you won’t get “lost in translation,” as most pharmacists speak English.

Dial back the clock

Each time I enter a French pharmacy, the squeaky clean, powdered scent of the savon (soap) transports me back to my two grandmothers’ row houses in Baltimore, giving me a strong Proustian dose of solidarity with both past and present. The pharmacy shelves are typically stocked with a wide array of exquisitely packaged, plant-based soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, crèmes, and cosmetics.

Roger & Gallet soap

Roger & Gallet in the rond

Your lèvres (lips), yeux (eyes), corps (body), cheveux (hair), and pieds (feet) will thank you. Take your coat off and stay awhile, because the browsing is addicting, expected and free.

Secrets of the Inner Sanctum

After years of snooping in my pals’ salles de bains, I can honestly report that a healthy number of classic French produits de beauté are represented at the pharmacies.

Keep your eyes curled for family favorites like the blemish-fighting Payot Pâte Grise (1947), the soothing Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentrée (1950), and bars of Rogé Cavaillès Surgras Savon (1924), along with the ahead-of-the-curve Ella Baché Crème Tomate (1936), boxes of Roger & Gallet Savon Rond (1879), and the golden beauty Carita Fluide de Beauté N° 14 (1956)—just to name a few!

Cents and Sensibility

Here you’ll also find my beloved Laboratoires Klorane Shampooing Volumateur au Lait d’Amande (almond milk shampoo). Recommended by my friend Véronique’s pharmacist, I’ve been using it on my difficult-to-manage red locks for about five years.

French shampoo

So many choices in the Klorane shampoo corner

Tip: The Pharmacie-Bader on 12 Boulevard Saint Michel in the 6th arrondissement sells Klorane for about a euro less than the other pharmacies. It all adds up, Cheapos!

Practical tips

Pharmacies are easily recognizable by their flashing green cross signs, dressed in neon and super cool LED.

In each neighborhood at least one remains open through the night (and any closed pharmacy will post a sign directing you to the nearest one that’s open).

French pharmacists are licensed to diagnose and treat minor illnesses without doctors’ prescriptions. Look for the conseils pharmaciens sign outside on the shop’s window.

When buying aspirine (aspirin) or Ibuprofène (Ibuprofen), ask for the “marque générique,” because it’s usually half the cost of the name brands.

The pharmacy is also where you’ll pick up contact solution, eye-drops, and contact lens cases. Grocery stores usually don’t carry them. (Monoprix and its sparky “Beauty Monop” satellite shops are the exceptions.)

Prescription for some pampering

Go on and pamper yourself, Cheapos, because in the words of Oscar Wilde, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”

Do you have a special love for French pharmacies? Are there beauty products you can’t wait to pick up when you get to France? Tell us about it in the comments section.

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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2 thoughts on “Paris: Take care of yourself at the neighborhood pharmacy”

  1. It’s amazing how many medications they’re able to give you over the counter in Paris…it never ceases to amaze me. And the prices! I don’t even flinch when allergy season rolls around anymore…bring on the meds!

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