If you’ve ever been tempted into a French pharmacy by the flashing green cross above the door, you’ll know that they’re a treasure trove of prettily-packaged beauty treats and mysterious medicinal products.
For years, clandestine discoveries made in Parisian chemists were swapped and shared by tourists and gradually gained a fanatical following among beauty aficionados.
But now, thanks largely to the explosion of the beauty blogger scene, the secret’s out - retailers have cottoned on and these cult cosmetics are now more easily available in the UK.
And not just the French ones, either. From Swedish hair care to Spanish soap, and a German cream to treat your toes, these are the Euro stars to get acquainted with...
FEED YOUR SKIN
Every bodycare product from German brand Weleda is certified 100 per cent natural, with no synthetics or additives whatsoever. But that doesn’t mean they’re any less effective. Alexa Chung is a big fan of Skin Food, the rich, fresh-scented cream that goes to work on your parched patches.
lWeleda Skin Food, £9.95, BigGreenSmile.com
RAISE THE BAR
Hailing from the swanky spa town of La Toja, this ink-black ‘beauty soap’ has been popular in its native Spain since it was created in the Fifties. The formulation means it will lather up in even the hardest water, releasing the signature Magno scent.
lMagno La Toja Soap, £3.75, PureSpain.co.uk
A Swedish hair brand that’s hugely popular over in America, Sachajuan has recently landed on our shores. The supremely nourishing Hair Repair promotes cell regeneration and leaves your locks looking and feeling stronger. Plus, you only need to use it a couple of times a week.
lSachajuan Hair Repair, £23, www.urbanretreat.co.uk
THE SENSIBLE CHOICE
Formerly known as Crealine, Bioderma’s Micelle cleanser has made the leap from French pharmacy secret to cult favourite among bloggers, models and make-up artists. With no alcohol or fragrance, it’s well-suited to even the most sensitive skin, removing every last trace of make-up.
lBioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution, from £4.50, Escentual.com
Kind of like the M&S of Holland, Hema (pronounced Hay-ma) recently opened its first stores in the UK, offering effective but affordable beauty buys. If you like to layer on the smoky-eye look, then Hema’s bargainous heavy-duty Eye Makeup Remover Oil is a godsend, dissolving mascara with ease so you won’t wake up with panda eyes.
lHema Eye Makeup Remover Oil, £1.75, HemaShop.com
With all the sunshine those islands enjoy, it’s no wonder Greece is home to an unbeatable sun protection brand. FrezyDerm products are light, non-greasy and start at a minimum of SPF 20. For year-round anti-ageing protection, use the 50+ Tinted Face Cream instead of foundation.
lFrezyDerm Face Cream Tinted SPF50+, £13.95, HunterandHeath.com
This moisturising lotion also happens to be an excellent primer, which is why it’s favoured by make-up artists backstage at the catwalk shows. Another product that used to be brought back in bulk from Paris by those in the know, the good news is, it’s now stocked in Boots.
lEmbryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre, £13, Boots (www.boots.com)
Nothing to do with the Icelandic singer, Bjork And Berries is a company that uses natural and organic products - Bjork means birch - from its native Sweden. The White Forest Hand Cream and Handwash are 98 per cent natural and leave a deeply comforting fragrance lingering on your hands.
lBjork And Berries White Forest Hand Wash, £15.50, and Hand Cream, £19.50, Pedlars.co.uk
When Thalgo’s algae-filled Thalassobath was discontinued, bathers the world over sighed with disappointment. The next best thing? The French marine beauty brand’s Micronized Marine Algae. One sachet of this green powder turns your bath into a mineral-rich soothing soup, but be warned: it definitely smells like the sea too!
lThalgo Micronized Marine Algae, £31.65, FeelUnique.com