How can you not feel beautiful standing next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris? (Photo: ThinkStock)
For most people, Paris evokes images of the Eiffel Tower, croissants in a Left Bank café, Notre Dame and a walk along the Seine. For me, Paris is all about indulging in facials, sniffing scented candles, and worrying about stuffing too many 3-ounce bottles of newly-purchased face cream into a one-quart transparent zip-top bag.
Paris is, indeed, a beauty lovers’ paradise, and—although you certainly can spend a couple hundred euros on a massage—all that beautifying doesn’t have to be exorbitantly expensive. Even if your knowledge of the French language begins and ends with “bonjour,” it’s easy to come home looking gorgeous, with a cosmetic bag filled with fabulous finds. Here are some tips on how to have a literally beautiful time in Paris:
The completely divine Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre (Photo: Courtesy of Embryolisse Laboratories)
Think Frugally: Some of France’s most beloved beauty products are also the cheapest. Case in point: intense moisturizers like Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre and Avibon, the favorites of supermodels, makeup artists and beauty editors. The easiest place to find this type of product is either in a local pharmacy or Monoprix, France’s equivalent to Target. (The branch on the Champs-Elysees has a particularly good selection, and is open late.) Allow plenty of time to shop—since some brands offer a huge range of products—and don’t ignore labels that are available back home, like La Roche-Posay, since their French assortment is often wider (and cheaper) than what’s sold in America.
APOM Pour Femme (Photo: Maison Francis Kurkdjian)
Think Small: One of the best souvenirs from Paris is a so-called niche fragrance: perfume from a small producer. Take, for example, the sophisticated creations of perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, which are sold in the U.S. at stores like Neiman Marcus. At his quintessentially French boutique near the Tuileries Garden on the Rue D’Alger, there are exclusive items (like neat paper pinwheels infused with scent) and an atmosphere that’s wonderfully un-intimidating but unquestionably chic. Atelier Cologne and Serge Lutens have similarly welcoming and stylish boutiques in Paris. (At all these stores, the shopping experience is nearly as pleasurable as what you buy.) If honing in on just one brand seems too daunting, two sleek stores—Liquides in the Marais and Nose near the Places des Victoires—offer fragrances from well-curated selection of niche brands.
The wonderful and original Diptyque boutique in Paris. (Photo: Google)
Think of the Greats: Paris’s iconic beauty boutiques are iconic for a reason: there’s a sense of quality, luxury, and history you feel immediately as you walk in the door. The grande dame of these is Guerlain’s ornate (and, yes, gorgeous) building on the Champs-Elysees, which originally opened a century ago. The interior was recently rather majestically renovated, but the history here (from the fragrance house that made perfume for Napoleon, amongst many others) is still tangible. (There are also rooms upstairs for treatments like facials using Guerlain’s products.) It’s got a different feel, and opened many years later, but the original Diptyque boutique on boulevard Saint-Germain is still open and thriving, and the ideal, cozy setting for its famed scented candles, perfumes, and unguents. Similarly atmospheric: the first Parisian stores from Annick Goutal and L’Artisan Parfumeur are both worth a visit.
Read More: How Not to Look Like an Idiot in Paris
L’Institut Kerastase on Saint Honore (Photo: Facebook)
Think French: Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be intimidated about booking a treatment like a blowout, which simply feels chicer in Paris than anywhere else. These don’t have to be pricey—the Dessange chain of salons, for example, has locations throughout Paris that are reasonable—and truly make you feel like a Parisian. To really channel your inner Catherine Deneuve, Maison de Beaute Carita on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore is a worthy splurge, as are quite a few of the city’s hotel spas (where English is typically spoken and standards are very high.) Also of note for beautyaholics: L’Institute Kerastase, the first self-owned salon from the luxury hair care brand, newly opened on rue Saint Honore.
Sephora on Champs-Elysées (Photo: Cathrine Johansson/Flickr)
If you still feel limited by the language, there’s always one of the many Parisian branches of Sephora, where you can easily make your own selections from a myriad of products and silently pay, surrounded by locals, whenever you’re ready.