Everywhere you look in Paris, you will find a drugstore. They are easily recognizable by the green crosses at the entrance; you definitely have a couple within walking distance of your Paris apartment. The pharmacy plays an important role in a French person’s life, not only as a dispensary of prescription medicine but as a place to search for pieces of info, buy pain killers and over-the-counter medicines or browse shelves of fragrant soaps and nice packaged lotions. Friendly spaces for the most part, with window displays reflecting the seasonal sicknesses and cures, French pharmacies are not the size of America’s drugstores but that is all the biggest reason that everyone adores them.
French pharmacists are incredibly well-trained and educated. Many people use them as a first stop before going to the doctor for a simple thing such as a simple flue. Not only can these professionals advice you in the best way to treat a stuffy nose and scratchy throat, chemists are also qualified to identify various types of mushrooms, which you brought in a during a walk in the woods.
But pharmacies aren’t just for the illnesses. France’s pharmacies are also wonderful places to shop cosmetic products, perfume and shampoo. They can function as a gift shop and a souvenir stand, too. Don’t hesitate to push open the door of your nearest pharmacy; you’ll be surprised at what you can find there.
Paris has a famous pharmacy situated in the heart of St Germain des Près, called City Pharma, located at 26, rue du Four in the 6th arrondissement. Parisians and tourists alike know that this is like a heaven, a place where they can buy all the lovely French creams, perfumes and cosmetics, as their prices for everything that is “parapharmacie,” or non-medicinal items, are a bit lower than in other pharmacies. That said, it is very crowded and frankly saving a euro or two on facial cleanser is not worth standing in a long checkout line for me. But if you are in the area, it is a fun place to check out and there are good deals to be had.
French women love dry-oils, which sounds like an oxymoron, but I’ve tried several of them and have fallen in love with the Nuxe brand. Huile Prodigeuse is one of the beauty cosmetics I usually buy in my pharmacy. A great all-in-one oil for skin, hair and nails, plus it smells divine.
When I’m tired of my common shampoo, I’ll splurge on a Klorane hair care product. I always bring a couple of bottles back to my best friend in Germany, whose favorite is the chamomile shampoo.
I love the Caudally products, especially their Vinosource range, made from grape seed extract. These are much less expensive in Paris than in the States. Caudalie has a travel kit filled with five trial-sized bottles that is perfect for your journey. The pharmacist can also advise you on the best Caudalie products for your skin type.
Two truly amazing items that have reached cult-like levels of fame in the beauty blogging world are Caudelie’s Beauty Elixir and Nuxe’s Rêve de Miel lip balm. The Beauty Elixir is a energizing facial spray that smells slightly minty, and is perfect to bring vitality and moisture back into your face when the afternoon is dragging; it works on bare skin as well as when you are done with your makeup. The Rêve de Miel lip balm is made of honey, and has a unique texture that’s not sticky like many other vaseline-based balms.
Another best-selling product is Bioderma’s micelle water. This is the product that caused micelle water to explode in the industry! Before other American brands were offering this product, Bioderma had been offering it for decades. It’s the best makeup remover you’ll find, it feels like common water and doesn’t leave any oily residue.
Unlike in the States, vitamins and homeopathic cures are only sold in pharmacies and not in supermarkets. You don’t have to go to a special health store to buy natural, alternative drugs. Pharmacies in France sell the homeopathic cures as well as the typical drugs. If you’d like to try out a natural cure for, say, jet-lag, ask your chemist. They have everything from essential herbal oils to natural nutritional supplements made of mushrooms, cod liver oil and more.
Along the same lines, you’ll also find natural, organic brands for skincare and hair care such as Melvita and Weleda.
Other things you will find in drugstores are reading glasses, just in case you forgot yours at home, and even diet foods like low-calorie snacks and high-protein nutritional bars.
Practical Tips for Parisian Pharmacies:
Most pharmacies will have at least one English-speaking professional or dentists ( GEOALLO ) who can be your guide if you do not speak French. But just in case, here are a few words you might find helpful on your next visit to the pharmacy:
Headache = mal à la tête
Sore throat = mal à la gorge
Stuffy nose = le nez pris
Cough = la toux
Cough sirop = Sirop pour la toux
Bandages = Pansements
If you ever be in a situation where the pharmacy which is next to your apartment is closed at the evening or maybe it is closed because it’s Sunday, you will find a post on their front door the address of the designated Pharmacie de Garde, or the pharmacy in the surrounding area that’s open for extended hours. The pharmacies in each neighborhood all take turn each week or month to stay open during nights and Sundays.