I’m far from an authority on shopping, I usually leave home with a list of things to check out, or just stick with my standbys and try to do the whole shopping thing efficiently. However I thought a post with some friendly pointers while people are visiting and beauty shopping in Paris may help someone out there. Now I try to be accurate about the information, but don’t hate me if I’m wrong 😦
Some random tidbits:
1. Taxes in France is high. But the price you see has tax included, so there won’t be any surprises at the till.
2. You need to spend a minimum of 175 euros (on one receipt) to qualify for tax refund. See more details on this here.
3. I rarely see exciting GWP/goodie bags. The nice and big GWP bags chocked full of stuff I saw at Clinique/Estee Lauder in the US are sadly absent here.
4. I haven’t seen nor been offered samples scooped/pumped from testers where tester packets aren’t available. However I’ve never asked for one either so I can’t say if this is practiced here. Samples usually come in small packets like those you find in magazines.
5. Good news – you’ll find testers for foundations and lipsticks etc in the supermarket and pharmaicies!
The only thing I recommend you to do, and this applies everywhere, is to say ‘Bonjour’ (or bonsoir). Even (especially?) if you have no intention to buy anything. Greetings are very important here, otherwise you risk coming across as rude and giving a bad first impression, which may or may not influence the service you get afterwards. I understand that perhaps you’re shy/don’t speak French but trust me, saying hello will only work in your favour.
Anyway, because of the tax, and particularly if you are visiting from the US, sometimes it’s just not worth it. You can skip all of our imported brands, and even the French ones like Chanel and Dior. The only exception to this AFAIK is by Terry, which can be cheaper here especially with a tax refund. I base this on the prices I find across various brands on US department store websites/Sephora US and compared it with Sephora FR for example. You *may* find Clarins prices more interesting here, depending on which State you’re from. The brands I looked at are ones that interest me, mostly based in US. I didn’t look at Sisley, for example. Or Valmont.
Unless it’s an LE product/Europe exclusive, or a just-released something that you need to have before it launches at home, I’ll skip it and try to buy at the airport duty-free before your flight home. Or on the flight. Keep in mind though terminals vary at CDG as it does elsewhere in the world and if you’re heading elsewhere in Europe after or not on a direct flight back home you may end up in a terminal that sells nothing.
So, what to buy?
1. Skincare. Get your La Roche-Posay, Avène, Caudalie, Nuxe, Bioderma, Embryolisse what-have-you here. And everyone and their grandma knows the place to go in Paris is CityPharma (26 rue du Four, metro line 4 St. Germain dès Pres or St. Sulpice), because they’re the cheapest. Take deep breaths and try not to elbow someone because they are blocking the aisle. You’ll find yourself battling for space with locals and tourists. They give you plastic bags but if you know you’re going to buy 3 packs of 2x500ml Bioderma micellar lotion just for starters, prepare adequately. Here’s an example of a small haul I would make, before I started working at a place just ten minutes away from them.
For something more luxe there’s Patyka.
2. Perfume. If you’re into scents it’s likely you already have a list of all the shops to go to already (if not try Bois de Jasmin’s list here for inspiration). This is more for niche/independent houses, there are no savings to be had with department store brands. Now is the time to get your Serge Lutens bell jars (cheaper, and you get tax refund. While you’re there check the makeup out), Le Labo Vanille, iunx, for example. I haven’t checked but Malle may be cheaper? Guerlain has exclusives at the Champs Elysées that apparently you won’t find in the US (I’ve been meaning to go check those out, hopefully next week).
3. Bourjois, agnès b. stuff if you’re curious (this can be found at the bigger Monoprix), there’s also UNE, Bourjois’ organic sister brand. Prices for your drugstore brands like L’Oreal, Maybelline will probably make you balk, so unless you find something special/unavailable back home, skip it (especially the mascaras, daylight robbery).
4. Not beauty stuff, but Diptyque candles maybe? Or Cire Trudon. I’m guessing these will be slightly cheaper here.
I don’t want to label the following ‘zOmg U MUST BUY DIS!!!’ because well, we all have different needs and what I like may not be what you like. But these are worth checking out:
1. BIAFINE – not really skincare/beauty, more like first-aid. Biafine is the French go-to for burns, including sunburns. It’s actually good from 1st to 2nd degree burns (even though burns are no longer classified this way). It’s good to have around the house. Biafine also has non-medicated range of skincare, including after-sun etc.
2. Cattier pink clay mask – clay cleansing mask, for sensitive skin. Note that it does contain mint – possible irritant. Still it’s cheap and effective. You can find other versions as well, not just the rose one. And the ‘rose’ refers to the colour, not the flower. Alternatively you can get french clay powder in a box and mix your own at home.
3. Melvita Damask Rose floral water – I like to use this after cleansing and before applying my moisturizer. Have decanted a small bottle to use on the plane/makeup bag. Nice and refreshing. Good to have around if you like to spritz. The other ‘cult favourite’ is of course the Caudalie beauty elixir. I haven’t tried, but that one has essential oils in it and apparently has a citrus-y scent?
4. Bioderma Hydrabio Light Cream – perfect for summer/warmer weather. It’s one of my favourites when I veer off from La Roche-Posay Toleriane. Also exists in a richer cream version. Note that this is scented.
5. La Roche-Posay Serozine – it’s a zinc solution that does a variety of things (diaper rash, razor burn, toner, etc). This is a wildly popular product apparently, and I’m almost done with the bottle but to be honest I’m not sure how effective it is. It’s 4.90 euros at Citypharma, so … why not? And I guess I’ll find out how good it is when I stop using it.
6. Caudalie Huile Divine – or you can get the Nuxe version. I like both and now is the perfect weather for dry oils. Many other brands have hopped onto the bandwagon, you really have a wide variety of choices.
7. Sunscreens – also seems to be a popular item to buy. I have here the Avène SPF 50+ UVA & UVB in a handbag friendly 30ml, and the Daylong Extreme SPF 50+ UVA & UVB in 50ml. I have tried the La Roche-Posay Anthelios range, reviewed here in 2012 (where you’ll find a review of Nuxe’s Huile Prodigieuse as well). For everyday use under makeup, I actually prefer the Nivea one (again, seen here top right) followed by Avène. For beach holidays or outdoor activities, Daylong is good. Then there’s the more expensive Institute Esthederm. Note that Daylong has come out with a new gel formula (checked their website), I didn’t see it the last time I was in Citypharma but if you do it could be a very nice everyday sunscreen.
8. Vichy Dermablend – full coverage foundation that’s good for spot concealing. It may look a little mask-like if you use it all over. They changed the packaging a while ago, I’m not sure if the shades remain the same. I have ‘nude’ but it’s too pink for me. This entry is more a reminder that most pharmacy skincare brands do makeup as well. La Roche-Posay for example has some very nice looking blushes, Caudalie has bronzers, and most have a foundation or two. Good opportunity to try some if you’re curious or have very sensitive skin.
For pharmacy skincare in general, I have good experience with La Roche-Posay, Bioderma and Nuxe. I’m not really that big of a fan of Avène.
If you want to go to Sephora, I suggest the one at the Champs-Elysées – yes it’s the busiest but it’s also the biggest. So you get a more complete experience. You may not be too impressed though… maybe check the products under Sephora’s own brand? Like the popular fizzy bath cubes. Not 100% sure but the brushes appear to be different than the ones in the US. Or we just get a smaller selection. It’s also a stone’s throw away from Guerlain.
Pop into a Monoprix, a bigger one preferably if you happen to spot one in the area to browse their makeup and skincare and whatnot.
That’s all I can think of for now! Have a nice time in Paris 🙂