For a French girl, I’m remarkably low-maintenance. Some women claim their husband wouldn’t recognize them without make-up—mine won’t recognize me if I put make-up on.

I do have a fondness for cream, though. I probably got it from my mother who insatiably tests and collects various creams, commenting on their textures and their efficiency. Putting cream on is comforting and their smell often reminds me of places I’ve been to: for instance, I used the Olive Body Butter from Body Shop in Australia 7 years ago and to this day, it still makes me think of Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne.

I don’t buy creams often but I’m always on the look for a great face cream which will protect me from our harsh Canadian winters. Last year, after completing an early morning exam at university, I walked through The Bay and sampled a few creams at the beauty counter—that’s how I relax. Pathetic, I know. One of the salesgirls must have sensed I was in the mood to spend money and she presented me with a few samples. I must have looked interested: she gave me a small white beauty case with two samples inside. “You will see,” she claimed. “You will come back to buy the cream in less than a couple of weeks”.

The cream she gave me smelled great. It felt great—the texture was soft and rich, yet it didn’t leave any oily film. My skin was glowing and it wasn’t so dry after a couple of days, which was no small miracle considering we were in February. One night, I looked that miracle cream up on the web, determined to go back to The Bay to buy it. I was ready to dig deep in my pocket. I wanted it badly.

I gasped when I saw how much it was. And that was the online price, in US$. Let’s just say I could have bought a very nice iPod for the price of the small jar, and another zoom lens for my camera for the price of the not-so-small jar. Bah.

I felt like one of those people who are offered drugs at a party, got hooked and ended up selling their car for a few grams of crack or whatever is trendy these days. The girl at the counter had me hooked on the best cream ever by giving me a free sample. I decided to do the sensible thing: I just said no. I’m not spending that much on a cream, this is ridiculous, no matter how good it is.

During this trip to France, I went back to basics and shopped for creams and beauty products that are a great value and yet don’t break my bank account.

I bought:

  • Les Gouttes Bleues (Innoxa, €4.50) : really cool eye drops that relaxed tired eyes and make the sclera looks very white.
  • Argan Oil Cream and Oil (around €15 each): this nutritive oil is great to repair dry skin. The cream is moisturizing yet not oily.
  • L’Occitane soaps (€9 for three soaps): for the longest time, I used liquid soap before I eventually realized it was expensive and I switched back to bar soap. L’Occitane, a company based in Southern France, has great products inspired by Mediterranean beauty rituals. These soaps smell good, are moisturizing and last me for quite a while.
  • Pierre d’Alun (€7) : Alun is a chemical compound that can be used for a variety of things, including as a deo. I’m not a huge fan of North American deos, I find the smell strong and they tend to stain clothes. Funny thing, I heard a lot of Americans complain about French deo… I guess our bodies are just different! The Pierre d’Alun, a deodorant stone, is supposed to last for ages, just wet it a bit and rub it on the skin as you would do with other deos. It works very well and has no smell.
  • Nuxe Crème Fraîche (Nuxe, €22) : this is one of the best face creams I know. I love Nuxe products in general, they are not too expensive and the quality is great. This cream smells good, moisturizes the skin yet doesn’t leave an oily film. Plus, it’s about €150 cheaper than the famous French cream mentioned above…
  • Nuxe Honey Lip Balm (Nuxe, €8): I had to buy this one, the box stated it was the tests were conducted in conditions of extreme Canadian cold! It smells of honey and makes the lips super smooth.
  • Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (Nuxe, €10) : this shimmery oil is truly multipurpose and can be used on the face, body and hair. It repairs dry patches and makes the skin glow.
Gouttes Bleues from Innoxa
Huile d’Argan Cream and Body Oil
L’Occitance Soaps
Pierre D’Alun (Natural Deo)
Nuxe Products: Shimmery Body Oil, Face Cream and Honey Lip Balm
Tests Conducted in Conditions of Extreme Canadian Cold!

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  1. DianeCA August 8, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Beauty may come from within, but then again it doesn’t hurt to give it a delicous boost with good french products. My favorite is my perfume which was shopped at an exclusive perfumery in the south of France which only deals in non designer authentic perfume houses. My love, my fragrance, my personality is Serge Lutens – Fleurs D’ Orange, now my favorite part of my daily routine. And I do agree that good cremes are worth a bit extra, so mine comes from DECLÉOR, of course. Otherwise you might know I am doing something special if I even put on mascara, but I always smell good and have lovely young skin hehehe!

  2. Soleil August 8, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I always wanted to try all of those amazing creams while I was in France but my skin is really sensitive to anything perfumed and EVERYTHING there is scented! Even sensitive skin products!

  3. London Caller August 8, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    Ha ha… I actually prefer Asian brands!
    They are more delicate to Asian skin?! Ha ha…

    Have you noticed that Asians appear to age slower than White people?!?

  4. Linguist-in-Waiting August 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Sorry, I have to admit but I didn’t understand much of what you said in this post. But then again, I don’t use cream, so…

    However, when it comes to aesthetic products, I use the run-of-the-mill skin healing lotion, only during the winter months, and lip balm from The Body Shop. Oh, and tons of hair products. I apply hair putty when I just had a haircut, and then I switch to hair gel when it gets a little longer.

    And I never get out of the house without spraying myself some cologne.

  5. Lizz August 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    I’ve heard a lot about Argan oil– do you think it’s super good? I was checking Josie Maran cosmetics and a lot of her stuff has argan.

    Also, we have both the heavily scented kind and the stone kind of deo here, but I’ve never tried the latter! I thought it may not work, lol! Now I’m curious to try it out. XD

  6. Kim August 9, 2010 at 5:51 am

    Yay for products! Thanks for this. I used to be a clinque girl but find it very harsh on my skin. I’ve been searching for a new product that is more gentle, more natural and can help with these wrinkles that are appearing! I’ll take a look at the NUXE stuff in Galleries L tomorrow.

  7. Kim August 9, 2010 at 5:53 am

    p.s. I find French deo USELESS! I even buy the same brands that I do in NZ and find they don’t work as well and I still end up all smelly. I buy deo (Mitchum brand) in the UK every time I go over.

  8. Max Coutinho August 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Hey Zhu!

    American deos stain clothes? 😮 European deos have the stain-free technology, as you know well we even have deos to wear with black clothes. America needs to buy our deos LOL.

    Excellent products you’ve bought!
    I can’t live without my body and facial creams either: they are vital! It is not easy being a woman LOL LOL….


  9. Zhu August 9, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    @DianeCA – Décléor is also one of my favorite brands, and it’s not so expensive in France. Like Nuxe, good quality and doesn’t break your bank account! Plus their creams smell great.

    @Soleil – You are right, pretty much anything is scented in France… including toilet paper! There is a brand that has unscented products… my sister who has very sensitive skin use it – I have to find the name again, they are good.

    @London Caller – Well, yes and no. Asian females do look younger than white females at the same age, it’s true. But after a certain age, they do show some signs of aging as well!

    @Linguist-in-Waiting – You’d love Mexico – people there are just obsess with their hair, I had never seen so many hair products 😆

    @Lizz – Argan oil is very good is your skin tends to be dry. It’s the latest craze in France these days!

    @Kim – Nuxe is awesome, I really recommend the crème fraîche or if you want to start with something small, the lip balm. As for deos, I bet it’s a physical difference because so many French complain about N. American deo, and so many Americans complain about French deos!

    @Max Coutinho – I think N. American deos tend to be stronger and not as gentle on the skin and clothes. But maybe our bodies are just different, and therefor the chemical react differently!

  10. N August 10, 2010 at 12:07 am

    I don’t think I’m a high-maintenance woman either (I rarely wear make-up — hubby doesn’t like it!), but as for creams I have to buy the best, thus more expensive (Clarins, Clinique, Lancôme) ! The few times I wanted to “save” money with cheaper brands (L’Oreal, Neutrogena) I ended up regretting it because my skin is very sensitive. I remember waking up with puffy eyes a morning after having “cleaned” my skin with products of the above mentioned (relatively well-known) brands.

    Luckily my horribly expensive creams last me a long time. I always try to buy them at the duty-free shop in airports. 🙂

  11. barbara August 11, 2010 at 4:50 am

    Salut Zhu,
    One in French,for a change… 🙂
    Je suis très friande de la marque l’Occitane!! Parce que j’aime les parfums aux senteurs naturels;très peu de ces parfums entêtants pour moi!
    Les savons l’Occitane sont un pur bonheur et secret entre filles,gare à vos maris:copains,car ils les aiment aussi( Didier adore).
    Il y a toujours les petits plaisirs pas trop chers alors,mets-en en valise quand tu voyages!! Bises xx

  12. Zhu August 14, 2010 at 10:55 am

    @N – I’ve never bought creams at the duty-free — is it really cheaper? I agree with you, cheap creams sometimes are really “cheap” and are not worth it. Better invest in a brand you trust.

    @barbara – Tu as raison, l’Occitane est une super marque. Ils ne sont venus s’installer à Nantes qu’il y a quelques années et j’ai découvert au fur et à mesure… les petits trucs comme les savons ou les produits de bain ne sont pas chers et valent vraiment la peine.

  13. Tanya August 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    I’m always amazed at the sheer variety of face creams and other serious beauty products in French stores. Here in the U.S. people I know mostly just use one or two of the most popular brands, or even the store brands. But my French friends have all kinds of gizmos and gadgets for staying beautiful and healthy!

  14. Vagabonde September 10, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    My mother died at 92 and she did not look past 80 or less. She always used creams. She had a different one for each morning and each night of the week. She said that we do not eat the same food every day so why should we use the same cream? It is not more expensive to do it that way as they last a lot longer. I have several creams, not just a couple.

  15. Alison @ Femita February 2, 2011 at 6:28 am

    Thanks for the tips, i personally love to use olive oil and argan oil in my beauty routine. Both are completely natural and has been used for ages by women. Always makes me feel a bit like Cleopatra 🙂


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