Beauty editor-approved French skincare brands you’ve never heard of (but are worth trying)

Posted by
Lucy Partington

Some of the best and most effective skincare products ever made have hailed from France. Here are six pharmacy beauty brands you need on your radar…

A couple of years ago, French skincare was an alien concept to us Brits.

We could only get our hands on Bioderma’s cult micellar water if we traveled across the Channel to buy it from a pharmacy, and getting hold of Embryolisse’s cult moisturiser was all but a distant dream.

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Now, though, everything has changed. Bioderma and Embryolisse, along with other hardworking brands like Vichy, Avene and La Roche-Posay, are readily available on the high street and we couldn’t be happier about it. 

After all, who doesn’t want dermatologist-approved products that don’t cost a small fortune and that will actually deliver results? 

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OK, so the packaging might not look as fancy as some brands but that doesn’t matter, and it’s something we can definitely forgo especially when there really is no denying the efficiency of French skincare. 

That’s also the reason that we were only too happy to road test a few lesser known brands that have landed on our desks recently.

Here’s the low down…


Despite creating products specifically for Children, Mustela is a brand that benefits adults too. Created in 1950, its been leading the way in dermatology research since then in order to create products that address the most common skincare issues.

All products meet a selection of extensive requirements as far as quality, efficacy and safety go, and everything has been tested under both dermatological and pediatric control. 

Mustela champions natural ingredients, and it employs the world of plants to source them from. Hero products include Gentle Cleansing Gel, £10.50 which can be used to cleanse the entire body from scalp to toe without drying skin out, and Vitamin Barrier Cream, £6.95 which helps soothe sore skin while restoring and protecting the skin’s natural barrier.


Created by brother and sister duo Julien and Amandine Azencott, Codage has its own nutri-elements which are cocktails of active ingredients that work in synergy and target specific skin needs and were inspired by the Periodic table. With 28 elements in total, the range is made up of cleansers, serums, masks, moisturisers and body treatments meaning there’s something to suit everybody, and you can create a full routine if you like.

One of the brand’s bestselling products, Hydration Intense, £46, is loved by Victoria Beckham. A lightweight body milk perfect for treating dry and sensitive skin, it’s formulated with shea butter and baobab oil to nourish and protect. There’s also aloe vera used for its soothing properties and hyaluronic acid for plumping and hydration benefits. 


Each product in the Uriage range has been scientifically formulated for face and body, and everything is infused with the brands own unique thermal water which works to naturally moisturise skin.

Suitable for all skin types and designed to treat a range of conditions including acne, pigmentation and hyper-sensitivity, Uriage products are approved and prescribed by French dermatologists as well as being recommended by French pharmacists. 

Hero products include a lightweight, marine-friendly SPF (Uriage Bariésun Sun Cream SPF50+, £17.04) and the eau thermale range which helps give skin on both the face and body a huge hit of moisture and hydration. 


Around 15 years before Bioderma came SVR, a brand created in 1962 by a husband and wife duo. Both pharmacists, it was one of the first brands to bridge the gap between medical, problem-solving treatments and cosmetic skincare. Suitable for all skin types – and with ranges targeted towards different conditions – SVR formulas contain some of the most highly concentrated active ingredients found in any dermatalogical brand.

Well known for clever SPF formulations (SVR have different products targeted to specific skin concerns - impressive), we’re also big fans of Hydracid C50, £30. The innovative foam formula, which is not only really satisfying to use, will also brighten and refine and add serious radiance to skin, as well as making it look and feel super soft. It’s jam-packed with niacinamide which works to help soothe, while red algae extract injects a hit of moisture to dry, dehydrated skin, making it perfect after a day sat under that office air conditioning. 


Up there with the bestselling brands in France, Sanoflore is an organically certified and products are not only clinically tested but ingredients are sustainably harvested, too. The botanical plants used in products are cultivated according to the principles of organic farming and are sourced – where possible – from the Vercours Regional Natural Park and Drome, which we’ve learnt is one of Europe’s best protected regions, and the ground and air are pure and uncontaminated. No big deal, then.

Our hero product is Aciana Botanica Divine Bare Skin Gelee Makeup Remover, £17, a soap-free cleanser that works to easily dissolve the day’s make-up and sunscreen without leaving skin feeling tight. Applied onto dry skin, the satisfying jelly texture turns into a cleansing oil that breaks down even the hardiest of mascara, and then it transforms into a milky formula when water is added. A little goes a long way, too, so one tube will last you a while. We seriously recommend trying it.


Originally a French pharmacy hair care brand, Klorane launched the very first dry shampoo back in 1971 (and now there’s one sold every ten seconds). With a huge interest and passion for nature, the brand’s expertise in botany has lead them to develop a certified process in sourcing safe and effective plant active ingredients. 

Luckily for us, though, they didn’t just keep developing hair products - they moved into skincare and also have a range of soothing products that are formulated with cornflower water. They grow cornflowers as an organic crop in South West France, and once the matured, they’re harvested to extract a ‘pure and safe’ soothing water that’s suitable to use on even the most sensitive of eyes. 

Our favourite cornflower-infused product is Floral Water Makeup Remover, £16. It’s the brand’s first venture into the world of micellar waters and it’s a real pleasure to use. The practical pump bottle is easy to use (and is great to keep nail polish remover in once the actual water has run out) and the water itself quickly and easily gets rid of face and eye make-up, prepping skin for a more thorough cleanse.

Images: courtesy of brands


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Lucy Partington

Lucy Partington is Stylist’s beauty editor. She’s obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she’ll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.

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