You’ve heard the hype about French pharmacy skin-care brands, yeah? Well, that hype is very real—and you don’t need to book a ticket to Charles de Gaulle to find out why.
Avène, which is one of the most popular drugstore brands across Europe, is readily available in the U.S. and has made reaping the benefits of affordable French skin care as easy as clicking “add to cart” on Amazon. I first discovered the line many years ago on a trip to Paris, and have since become a superfan of the skin-nourishing benefits it delivers.
The brand is named after a commune in France that’s home to a mineral-rich thermal spring. Its full name—Eau Thermale Avène—refers to the water from this “fountain of youth“ that makes its way into every product. The potent, clinically-tested water contains calcium bicarbonate, magnesium, and silicates, and is celebrated for its ability to calm irritation, reduce inflammation, and promote healing for conditions including eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
I’d estimate that I’ve tested upwards of 90 percent of Avène’s products (and use many of them regularly), and have fallen in love with the miracle water the brand uses in each and every one of them. But if I had to narrow it down to the G.O.A.T., must-have products that everyone needs in their routine, there are three that seriously stand out. They’re universally applicable, and can benefit everyone’s skin health—regardless of their complexion type or individual goals. Shop them for yourself below to bring the French pharmacy into your bathroom.
3 best Avène products
RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream — $74.00
Retinol is an almost universally recommended skin-care ingredient, as it targets myriad skin health needs and complexion woes. It helps with cellular turnover, assuages acne, and can help with reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
Avène’s RetrinAL is special because it uses retinaldehyde—a stronger version of retinol—and it’s an absolute masterpiece of an OTC retinoid. Thanks to the rich and soothing peptides in this gentle-yet-powerful formulation (and their inflammation-soothing thermal water), even those with sensitive skin can benefit from this rejuvenating all-in-one cream. RetrinAL for all.
Cold Cream Nutrition Nourishing Lip Balm — $14.00
I know what you must be thinking: Lip balm, really? Yes, really. This is no ordinary lip balm. When I tell you I buy these in bulk, I’m not joking. They’ve got the silkiest, meltiest, non-sticky, non-greasy, non-waxy formula I’ve ever tried… and I’ve tried a lot. The balm is made with shea butter, jojoba oil, and bisabolol, and nourishes your lips while also protecting them from damage. It’s no wonder derms love it as much as I do.
Thermal Spring Water Spray — $19.00
Given the miraculous properties of Avène’s spring water, it would be absurd to leave the brand’s legendary facial mist off the top three list. It’s an all-time best seller for a reason: It’s soothing, light, refreshing, delicate, and exactly what you’d want from a spray.
Packed with the spring water’s naturally-occurring pre- and pro-biotics, the formula is perfectly pH balanced and works as an anti-inflammatory to soothe redness and irritation. Whether you need to prep for your skincare routine, refresh throughout the day, add hydration while you’re traveling, assuage a sunburn, soothe skin after shaving, or you’ve just got a hankering for a cool mist of French water on your face, look no further.
Cleanance Cleansing Gel — $21.00
This gentle cleanser will help control acne without stripping your skin, and I turn to it any time I need to keep my hormonal breakouts at bay. Board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, calls it “a fantastic option for those with sensitive or allergic skin that is still prone to breakouts,” and notes that it isn’t just for your face (gasp!)—it works for body acne too.
Hydrance Intense Rehydrating Serum — $39.00
This is my non-negotiable daily serum, regardless of what else I’m doing with my routine. It improves the efficacy of your other skincare products by prepping the skin with deep hydration. No stickiness, no residue—just a hydrated face that is ‘ready to receive,’ if you will. “I love this serum,” Dr. Gohara previously told Well+Good. “It not only works for [already] hydrated skin, but it also soothes the tightness and discomfort that is common with dehydrated skin, thanks to the brand’s best-in-class healing-helper: thermal spring water.”
Micellar Lotion Cleanser & Make-Up Remover — $28.00
Micellar water is one of the foremost staples of French skin care, and Avène’s version is one of the best that money can buy (I even like it better than Bioderma, which feels blasphemous to say). I came upon it by accident when I asked a French pharmacist for a gentle facial cleanser—she told me this was my best option, and she did not steer me wrong. It uses micelles (aka oil particles suspended in water) to remove dirt, grime, and makeup, leaving skin clean but never parched.
RetrinAL Eye Cream — $52.00
Avène repurposed its powerful retinoid into a rich eye cream, which is designed to be used on the delicate skin in the area. For under 50 bucks, it works to depuff, replenish, and smooth skin (au revoir, crows feet!), and is hands down one of the best eye creams I’ve ever used.
Tolérance Contrôle Soothing Skin Recovery Cream — $36.00
Whether you deal with eczema, are getting some laser facial treatments, or simply have dry and sensitive skin, this thermal water-powered “recovery cream” is a dermatologist favorite and approved by the National Eczema Association. It even comes in sterile packaging to ensure it’s entirely preservative-free and safe for hypersensitive skin.
Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream — $42.00
Think of this as a staple recovery item. Meant for treating injuries, lesions, and scars, it helps your skin retain moisture to speed up the healing process. Basically, it’s skin restoration in a bottle.
Hydrance Aqua-Gel — $38.00
Truly, this is one of the best moisturizers you can get — especially for under $40 (under $20 if you’re lucky enough to live in France). It’s intensely hydrating and barrier-repairing, yet lightweight, and offers suitable levels of protection and moisture for all skin types.
Ever wondered what drugstore products a dermatologist uses in her own routine? Check out the video below to find out.
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