Using French Skincare in California

A Californian in Paris: French Skincare on a California Beach

A Californian in Paris: Sunbathing in Orange County

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Happy that I finally got my dose of sun (as well as a nice tan), I’d like to share with you the products I’ve been using to keep my skin nice as it transitions from ghastly Parisian pale to a nice Californian bronze. It’s very important to keep your skin protected from the sun, no matter how much you want to keep laying outside. It doesn’t mean you have to tame your desire for nicely golden skin. But you’ve got to be smart when it comes to shielding yourself from the damaging effects of sun burns, dry skin, and worst of all– potential skin cancer.

As a general rule, you want to put your sunscreen on at least 15 minutes before going into the sun. You may also need to put on several layers of sunscreen. It’s no question that you need to keep reapplying your sunscreen every hour or two, depending on your contact with water. Always double check your products’ directions and follow them exactly.

La Roche Posay Anthelios XL Comfort 50+ SPF For Sensitive and Sun Intolerant Skin (UVB + UVA protection)

Last summer, Petit Copain and I got madly burnt in San Diego. As a brown-skinned person, I rarely burn like a lobster. However, after spending 4 hours in the sun without properly putting on sunscreen, I became terribly sunburnt. I couldn’t sit down for a week or two without being in severe pain. Yeah. This dreadful sunburn happened because it was my first time using a spray-on sunscreen. I didn’t bother reapplying it throughout the day nor did I apply it properly the first time. If you are using spray-on sunscreens, you MUST put on many layers as well as rub the formula into your skin. Petit Copain and I unfortunately didn’t get understand this, and had nice little zig-zag patterns all over our bodies (lobster-zebras!)

Ever since that incident, I have stayed away from spray-ons and have gone back to classic sunscreen lotions. More moisturizing and soothing, I prefer the feel of creams. You also avoid breathing in the fumes of spray-on sunscreens. The problem with creams is that the texture can be extremely chalky or sticky, which is very unpleasant in the sand. La Roche Posay, a very notable brand for sunscreen care (and one of my favs), came to my rescue. Not only was the Anthelios XL successful in preventing sunburns, it was extremely moisturizing without leaving such a heavy residue. At first, the cream is very thick to put on but quickly absorbs into the skin. It also didn’t leave a white, chalky residue and I got my tan without looking like a painted ghost. In 100F/38C weather, I did not get burnt. A solid victory for me.

I think Target now sells some versions of Anthelios and you should definitely grab some if you can. Double check if these American versions contain the UVB + UVA protection formula; otherwise, I can’t guarantee the different versions will be as effective as the originals.

As I’ve said in the beginning of the post, keep reapplying the sunscreen and make sure to let your skin absorb the cream before stepping out into the sun again.

La Roche Posay Anthelios AC Facial Matte Fluid SPF 30

Perfect for the face, this matte sunscreen won’t make your visage super shiny or greasy. If 30 isn’t enough for you, the AC line does have higher SPFs available. I love this sunscreen as it’s way cheaper than the Shiseido Urban Environment Oil-Free UV Protector SPF 42 (also an amazing product). The La Roche Posay version comes out like a liquid and quickly dries onto your skin as you apply it. It’s great to put under or over makeup. I usually use this La Roche Posay cream for sunscreen reapplication throughout the day. The Shiseido sunscreen, which I also love, does make your face quite chalky looking. La Roche Posay does not, making it a very superior product. Nevertheless, most of Shiseido’s products are zinc oxide-based, which helps out people who are allergic to common sunscreen ingredients (hence, the chalkiness). If you’re looking for French mineral-based sunscreens, La Roche Posay does carry some in their Anthelios line.

Avène Hydrance Optimale UV Légère SPF 20

This is my daily facial sunscreen and moisturizer in one. As you have read from my previous post on French skincare, I usually use the Riche version during the winter. This légère version has a lighter cream of course, but it still keeps my face properly moisturized. When it’s extremely hot, I apply the La Roche Posay Anthelios Matte Fluid sunscreen over the course of the day. I find that reapplying the Avène (either type) is a little too greasy for me, as it is a 2-in-1 product after all. Still, it’s a nice base and I highly recommend this product for daily use.

Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré

I have a love and hate relationship with Embryolisse. As popular as it is, I find that it can lead to pesky pimples and greasy faces. At least for me, it’s not meant to be applied every day. However, Embryolisse has saved my dehydrated skin many times. It’s a great moisturizer (but does not contain sunscreen) and you should keep some in your purse for emergencies. I’d recommend using it once or twice a week, or when your skin is very ravaged from being dried up in the sun. Embryolisse is a very heavy cream, so make sure not to use more than a small squeeze or two. I use this cream during the night, after a day of successful sunbathing.

Merci Handy Chill Out Love & Refreshing Face Mist in Mint

At first, I hated this product. A sample from one of my French Birchboxes, I was very confused to receive a mint-smelling facial spray. Mint isn’t exactly a scent/flavor I like… unless it’s ground-up in a Mojito. My first application wasn’t so charming either… breathing in the product while you spray it leads to a nasty coughing fit, full of mint. But a hot day on Paris completely changed my mind. Closing my eyes and holding my breath, I found out how extremely refreshing and cooling the spray is. Mint does wonders to soothe a sweaty and uncomfortable face (it’s also nice on the neck and arms). While I still love my Avène and Evian thermal sprays, the Mercy Handy Face Mist is a great way to cool down in the summer heat.

L’Occitane Amande Mains à Croquer (Almond Delicious Hands) Hand Cream

Who doesn’t have a tube of L’Occitane hand cream in their purse? Don’t fret if you’re an exception. Quickly go out and buy some now. Compact, with a spill-proof, easy-to-open cap, I love this hand cream. Almond is one of my favorite flavors/scents; it is also extremely moisturizing. It was great having this in my purse while traveling around L.A. My hands became very dry in the sand as well as on biking excursions along the beach. A must-have.

Labello Strawberry Shine Lip Balm

Before coming to France, I heard so much raving about this lip balm from a former, beloved roommate. Sadly, upon my arrival to Paris, I totally forgot the name. After trying numerous chapsticks, I finally found Labello. It was my destiny. An extremely moisturizing lip balm, I have completely abandoned Burt’s Bees for Labello. While the menthol cool of Burt’s Bees has always been a nice feel to my lips, I much prefer how beautifully plump and soft my lips are when using Labello. This pleasant scent and shine is a perfect summer companion. The color blends naturally with my lips and also features little scrubby, glittery beads which adds shine as well as exfoliation. Kinda like rubbing your lips on an actual strawberry. Buy it now!

La Roche Posay Posthelios After-Sun Face and Body Cream (not pictured)

Another reason why I didn’t get horribly sunburnt this summer is due to this special after-tanning cream. It’s so soothing, I want to use it every day as a body lotion. Petit Copain ended up being a lobster towards the end of our trip, as he kept forgetting to reapply sunscreen after his long dips in the ocean. It eased the pain of his sunburns and prevented major peeling on his back. While I wasn’t terribly sunburnt this time around, the cream seemed to reinvigorate and rehydrate my sun-baked skin. I highly recommend this product even if you don’t easily burn. It’s like adding a whole other layer of protection on your skin.

Well, that’s all for now. Enjoy the sun, readers, and keep yourself safe!

À bientôt 🙂

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10 Favorite Things for Spring in Paris

A Californian in Paris: Paris in the Spring

A Californian in Paris: Cool down at a brasserie

A Californian in Paris: Place des Vosges

Finally, the sun is out and Parisians are in a better mood (well, slightly better). Here are some things I’m enjoying during spring here that I hope you’ll find fun too.

1. Photography at Jeu de Paume

Jeu de Paume is a cute little museum in the back of the Tuileries garden (Métro Concorde). A museum dedicated solely to photography exhibitions, you’ll catch amazing work by artists such as Garry Winogrand or Robert Adams. Like many museums in Paris, it’s free on the first Sunday of every month. This quaint but enriching museum is a must-see that many tourists seem to pass over. Their current exhibition is on Helena Almeida Corpus and I highly suggest you get over there before it’s over on May 22nd.

2. Walks in the Jardin des Plantes

A Californian in Paris: A walk in the Jardin des Plantes

A Californian in Paris: Enjoy the spring blooms at Jardin des Plantes

Leaves on the trees on Paris are finally appearing and underneath them, beautiful, colorful blooming flowers. There are many museums on the grounds of Jardin des Plantes (most notably the Grande Galerie d’Évolution and the Galeries d’Anatomie comparée et de Paléontologie). You may want to also check out the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie, which I haven’t personally visited yet but it’s on my to-do list ASAP.

3. Discovering new products with Birchbox France

A Californian in Paris: I love Birchbox France!

Ever since subscribing to Birchbox France, my life has become very exciting. Not only have I been practicing my French by writing reviews for products, I just absolutely love what Birchbox has sent me so far for the past 4 months. If you’re staying in France for a while, I highly suggest subscribing. There’s also My Little Box, another amazing monthly subscription box that many Parisian girls are obsessed with.

4. A romantic date at Aux Deux Cygnes

The intimate setting at Aux Deux Cygnes keeps me coming back for more. Their appetizers are delicious, service is great, and most importantly, the wine is to die for. Mostly bio (organic) wine and beer, Aux Deux Cygnes offers an amazing palate of drinks and small dishes. My personal favorite is their organic cider… not too sweet and strong enough.

5. Eating out at Le Camion Qui Fume food truck and then catching a movie at MK2 Bibliotèque

Mon Petit Copain and I love coming to the MK2 Bibliotèque for a date. Le Camion Qui Fume is a very well known food truck in Paris. With lots of different gourmet hamburgers (including a “California” themed chicken burger) and kick-ass fries, you can’t go wrong here. This is probably my second favorite burger place of all time (In-N-Out being number one, duh!). MK2 Bibliotèque is also my favorite movie theater to go to. Its spacious, roomy bright red seats make movie watching more comfortable than my own couch (ok… almost) and you can even lift up the arms of the chairs so you can snuggle with that special someone.

6. Bike riding and/or renting at boat at the Bois de Vincennes

A Californian in Paris: Go biking riding in the woods at Bois de Vincennes

Bois de Vincennes is a park friendly to sad people like me who can’t bike well. With many paths and no cars to threaten you, take that vélib and speed away. Many Parisians come here to picnic and spend all day on the grass if the sun decides to show itself. There is also a huge lake in the center of the park where you can rent a rowboat by the hour. Let your boyfriend row you in a boat while you hold a parasol. Oh wait… that’s my fantasy.

7. Lazy days ordering from Take Eat Easy

On days when I’m finally not working and I can’t get out of my PJ’s, I log onto Take Eat Easy (a French-made pun on the English word for “it”). In France, it’s not okay to go outside wearing anything less than your best (and that includes your pajamas, ladies). Take Eat Easy is a take out service for many of the hip restos (restaurant for short), delivered to your apartment by a skinny hipster Parisian on a bike. It’s pretty fast and reliable. I constantly order sandwiches from delicious Banh Mi (81 rue de Turbigo) on the site. Get the beef sandwich… it’s to die for!

8. A special magnolia and unique bag from the original Chanel store

My mom finally visited me for the first time in February. Because it was her first time in Paris (Europe in general), I had to make her dreams come true. We visited the original Chanel store (address) and it was amazing. The flagship store sells its full line of expensive Chanel products, but they also sell makeup… much more affordable than a Chanel purse! If you buy even just a lipstick, you’re awarded the rare white Chanel shopping bag (all other Chanel stores use black) along with a cute paper magnolia flower attached. While at the shop, I picked up an amazing eau de toilette perfect for spring: the Chanel Gardénia spray. It was a bit of a splurge (about 140 euro) but totally worth the smell and experience (excellent service). Get over there at 31 Rue Cambon, 75001 Paris.

9. Satisfying your homesickness (and sweet tooth) at Sugarplum Cake Shop

An American bakery in France? It’s so popular, French locals crowd the tables. If you’re lucky, you can nab a spot and work on your laptop while munching on delicious American pastries and cake (oh my god, American cake I love you) as well as fragrant teas or coffees. While you’re at it, go down Rue Mouffetard and explore the busy but famous street— a market by day and party central at night.

10. Have an affordable but traditional meal at Au Pied de Fouet

I love taking visitors to this restaurant. It is seriously divine… not just for your taste buds, but also for your wallet. Enjoy traditional French brasserie meals at very generous prices. The service isn’t American, so you must be prepared to cram next to complete strangers or signal down your evasive waitress for the check. Still, the food is excellent (most notably the confit de canard) and the wine of the month is usually 10-14 euros- extraordinary for the price. Come eat outside on the terrace and enjoy the warmer weather.

A Californian in Paris: A small park in the Marais

A Californian in Paris: Woman painting in the Marais

A Californian in Paris: Hidden details in the Marais

Well, that’s it for now. Until next time. À bientôt!

Skincare, the French Way

Skincare, the French Way
Even though I’ve been living here a while, I’m often caught up in French stereotypes. I’m always daydreaming of striped shirts, Chanel, and the je ne sais quoi air of legendary French girls. Nevertheless, I’ve realized something about that effortless French sense of fashion and beauty. French girls keep it simple. From the quick tousle of their hair and the barely there makeup, French girls have a knack for highlighting their best features without overdoing it. Sometimes it’s a simple gloss and some mascara. Or their black and grey apparel is spruced up with a bright silk scarf. Most importantly, the French girl style is about attitude and having a solid outlook on life. I’m always seeing French girls reading the latest roman (novel) on the metro or taking a long break for a café (expresso) with friends. They’re rarely tied to their phones or hiding behind giant sunglasses. These French girls enjoy life well and they’re comfortable in their own skins. And it’s their impeccable skin that I admire the most! Since French girls don’t really wear foundation and never contour, they rely on the natural beauty of their skin.

It took me a while to hunt down what kind of skincare products French girls use. Sometimes I’d sneakily look over bottles at different friends’ places just to get an idea. I expected pricey serums and dermatologist concoctions. Most of the time, these girls were using simple products from French pharmacies. And it wasn’t always just girls! I also noticed many French boys were using similar products. They all had one thing in common: their routines were very simple but well suited to their skin types. Most products were designed for sensitive skin and contained no parabens. I never found the 500 euro serums, not even in the bathrooms of my more wealthier French girl friends.

France has taught me that good skincare is not just about the best products. Whenever I asked my French friends how they took care of their skin, they would shrug and tell me general things. But I knew the secret was also based on diet and lifestyle. French diets are much better than in the States (less fat, less chemicals, less everything!) as well as lifestyle (more vacation, universal healthcare, slower pace of life). Most importantly, genetics plays a huge part in skincare and you can’t always control what your body does. Skincare is a constant balancing act. Even if you find the best routine, it will have to change as you change. French skincare strives to adapt to all these different changes and not just to different skin types (oily, combo, dry/sensitive). There are brands that specialize in treating stressed skin, such as La Roche Posay’s line for skin that’s just been operated on (nose jobs or Botox, anyone?). Some brands target dry winter skin while others specialize in skin that’s constantly exposed to sun.

My skin has changed a lot since I’ve been here. Because I’ve moved to a colder climate, my skin is a lot drier and needs more hydration. I’m also close to 30 and I’ve noticed fine lines forming under my eyes. Still, I don’t believe I’m old enough yet to start using anti-aging treatments. Instead, I stick to products that are very hydrating and have natural, anti-oxidant properties. I have combination skin that dries out during the winters here. My skin is also unpredictably sensitive and can sometimes break out into hives if a product is too harsh. The French skincare brands that I like the most are Avène and La Roche Posay. In my opinion, they are the best brands for sensitive skin. Other brands I like are Biotherm, Bioderma, Cauladíe, and Sanoflore. I like Nuxe too, but I feel a little iffy about them these days. I’ve also been trying out bio (organic) products like Placentor and Cattier. Here are some of my favorites, some well known and others not as famous:

 

Avène

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Avène Crème Nutritive Compensatrice (Moisturizing Face Cream)

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A new addition to my collection. This is a replacement cream for my old favorite, the Nuxe Rêve de Miel Crème Visage Ultra-Réconfortante (night cream). Unfortunately, the Nuxe cream has caused a terrible patch of red blisters below my mouth. Because of this irritation, I’ve turned to Avène. Using special thermal water from their natural spring, Avène advertises itself as a dermatological laboratory that formulates “dermo-cosmetic” products for sensitive skin. Avène Thermal Water is supposed to be soothing and anti-irritating. I use this cream at night and it has overall improved the quality of my skin. I wake up with very soft skin and I’m happy with the results. It goes on smooth and a little sticky at first, but it absorbs quickly into the skin. It also comes with a little spoon to prevent contamination by dirty fingers.

Avène Eau Thermale Water (Facial Spray) – I don’t need to write much about this wonder product as it’s celebrated on almost every beauty blog. It’s a spray to refresh your face or top off your washing if your tap water is too hard/full of minerals. Parisian water is really hard and I often use this spray when my face gets irritated.

Avène Cold Cream Lait Corporel Nourrissant (Body Lotion) – Not pictured. I discovered this cream at the house of Petit Copain’s parents! I’ve been using it for more than a year now but the past two times I’ve been to City Pharma, they had run out of this cream. I’m hoping it’s not being discontinued because it will break my heart! This is seriously the best body lotion I have ever tried in my life. I’ve tried body lotions from Uriage and La Roche Posay, and they just weren’t moisturizing enough. I’ve also bought Topicream, but it’s much too greasy and I don’t get the same results as I do with the Avène Cold Cream. The Avène body cream is very heavy at first but it absorbs into the skin quite quickly. I never feel greasy and it keeps me hydrated throughout the day without having to reapply it often.

Avène Crème Légère/Riche SPF 20 (Daily Moisturizer with 20 SPF)

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Depending on the weather, I usually choose riche for winter and légère for summer. I am obsessed with this daily moisturizing cream and sunscreen 2-in-1. I never feel oily and my skin keeps hydrated. Coupled with the Avène cream I use for the evening, it’s a great way to keep my face properly moisturized and protected. The SPF is important too, even if it’s always grey in Paris. The cream is a little greasy at first, but it goes away after a few minutes.

 

La Roche Posay

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Effaclar Gel Moussant Purifiant Peaux Grasses Et Sensibles (Foaming Gel for Oily and Sensitive Skin)

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You can see the foaming action here.

I am obsessed with this soap. I find American soaps terribly harsh and full of chemicals, but this “soap free” wash is so gentle and kind to my skin, it’s become my best friend. It purifies the skin well without being overly irritating or drying. This is a must-buy. Make sure to massage the soap into your skin to get that foam going on.

Serozinc (Anti-Irritation Spray) – A treatment spray for irritated skin, this has saved me many many times. Originally formulated for controlling oily-prone skin, the spray also helps upset skin. I get awful ingrown hairs whenever I shave, especially around the bikini area. Serozinc helps soothe angry, red skin and prevents bumps from happening. It also treats bumps that are inflamed. The spray does not sting when you apply it.

Cicaplast Baume B5 (Healing cream)

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Goes on very thick!

I use this cream for everything… burns, cuts, and roughened skin! I also use it alongside Serozinc for ingrown hairs. It’s a lifesaver. Keep it in your purse! The cream is super greasy, so make sure to apply only a little bit at a time.

Pigmentclar Serum (Dark-Spot Removal Cream for the Face)

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For treating dark marks caused by acne or other scarring. Like all lightening creams, it takes a couple weeks to see real results. It has faded the bad acne scars on my chin. The texture is nice and light, and easily absorbs into the skin.

Hydreane Legere/Riche/Extra Riche (Daily Moisturizer) – Not pictured. This was my go-to cream before switching to Avène. I only switched because this cream doesn’t contain sunscreen and I’m too lazy to put it on before my moisturizer. The extra riche type is amazing for skin ravaged by winter. It will soothe you and your soul. The texture is very creamy without being too greasy.

 

Nuxe

Nuxe Crème Fraiche (Hydrating and Healing Overnight Mask)

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While I’ve given up on the Rêve de Miel night cream, I still adore the Nuxe Crème Fraiche repairing mask. This is an ultra healing cream that does wonders on redness, puffy eyes, and overall irritated skin. It’s supposed to be used as an overnight mask, but sometimes I wear it as a moisturizer when my face is out of control during the winter. If you use it as an overnight mask, you will wake up with soothed, baby soft skin. The cream is quite heavy, so if you decide to use it as a moisturizer, don’t put too much on.
 

 
Sanoflore

Véritable Eau Florale Rose Ancienne Bio / Bleuet Messicole Bio (Floral Facial Sprays)

sanoflore, french skincare, french, france

I love these organic herbal sprays. The rosewater spray is uplifting while the cornflower spray is good for calming puffy eyes. Sanflore also sells cornflower eye patches.
 

 
Eye Creams

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Biotherm Skin-Best Eyes (Eye Cream)

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This eye cream has significantly improved my under eye circles. Even during the busiest part of my week, people compliment me a lot, telling me I look “very well rested”. It’s a little pricey for a pharmacy eye cream, but still reasonable (about 28 euro). The cream is a little greasy so make sure not to overapply.

Placentor Crème Réparatrice Contour Yeux et Lèvres (Repairing Cream for Eyes and Lip Contours)

placentor, french skincare, french, france

This was a purchase made on a whim. One of the consultants at City Pharma, the best place to find deals on French skincare, recommended me this instead of an anti-wrinkle eye cream. It’s organic, extra gentle, and one of the most moisturizing eye creams I’ve ever had. The product claims it uses marine collagen, whatever that is! Still, it’s not greasy and works all day to depuff eyes, keeping them looking nice and awake. You can also use this cream on the fine lines around your mouth. I use the Placentor cream in the morning and then the Biotherm cream at night.

 

 
I hope you enjoyed my beauty post! Next time, I’ll be writing about some of the blogs I adore as well as the origin of Petite Copain. Check out Lisa Villaume’s Blogger Recognition Awards post here for blogs you should put on your radar (including me!). Check out her awesome blog while you’re at it. Until next time!