Peaux sèches à très sèches

I’ve always had a tendency toward dry skin, but in the past few years it’s gotten worse. Even in Minnesotan winters I made do pretty well with Pond’s rich dry skin cream, regular old St Ives body lotion, and the occasional moisturizing shower gel.

But for some reason, since coming to France, I’ve found that normal old cosmetic creams do nothing for me. I tried to make do for a while with the free products from my old packaging students, but eventually I had to bite the bullet and go looking for something more to spend my money on. Basically, if a product doesn’t have “peaux très sèches” written on it, it’s not worth buying for my face. I’ve grown wary of regular old “hydratant” lotions and go straight for the heavy duty.

The worst times for dry skin, for me, are after my visits to the United States. I don’t know if it’s like this for the rest of you, but for weeks after I get off the plane, I battle with weird skin. This time it was worse than usual. I was already fighting dryness before leaving for Texas, but wearing sun screen and spending time in the desert did a big number on my face, and it’s still recovering. Just three weeks ago (six weeks after our return from the States!), when I went to the doctor for something else entirely, she immediately noticed my messed up skin.

I’ve decided, rather than complaining about the money this requires me to spend, to enjoy the adventure in French skin products, because there are some really nice things here.

So here are some of the ones I like to varying degrees.


La Roche-Posay Nutritic Intense Riche: Back when I finally came to terms with the fact that supermarket grade lotions wouldn’t do the trick for me, I headed into the pharmacy to search out something more expensive. To my surprise, lotions from the pharmacy are not that expensive, especially the ones in a plain container without a fancy scent. This new one from La Roche Posay costs about 20 euros, which is not particularly cheap, but still better than the fancier stuff being sold by the make-up companies (e.g. Clinique). La Roche Posay sells lotions for less, but they no longer manage to penetrate the wall of dry on my face (you’re welcome for that image!). So far, this one (for “peaux sèches et sensibles”) works fairly well. Having lathered it on my face morning and night for six weeks, my face has finally stopped peeling.


Garnier Crème Bienfaisante Moisture Match: This one I confess I was drawn to by the new ads running on French television. They have four different kinds of lotions, not just for dry skin, (all in different colors!) but of course my criterion was the all-important “très sèches” label. This one runs in the range of 6-8 euros if I remember correctly, but I don’t rely on it entirely.


Neutrogena Clear Face Liquid-lotion Sunscreen SPF 55One of the most irritating things about my experience in the West Texas desert was that part of what destroyed my skin was the sun screen that I put on it to protect it! I can’t NOT wear sunscreen with my un-tannable Irish skin. But I was determined not to suffer through the same adverse effects again, so before leaving the States, at my annual pharmacy stock-up, I bought this face sunscreen. I’ve only used it once so I can’t really report back on it, but with the sun having made its return to Poitiers, hopefully I’ll know soon if it lives up to its claims. It’s $9.50 for the 3 ounce airplane-friendly bottle, which is not much more expensive than any old sunscreen in France. (Seriously, what is up with sunscreen prices here?)

Nuxe Crème Fraiche de Beauté: My friends in France don’t seem to have massive dry skin problems, so when I wanted to try someone else’s advice, I took advantage of Zhu’s article on Correr Es Mi Destino and bought this product from Nuxe. I got the smaller bottle that costs 16.90 (because let’s face it, I maybe don’t need 50 mls of five different face lotions) and so far I love this one mostly because it smells like roses.

Nuxe Eau Démaquillante Micellaire: Recently I also read that washing your face with water can be bad for dry skin, especially since in Poitiers we have water with an awful lot of lime in it. So rather than trying to wash my face with bottled water, I cracked and also went for this water-less make-up remover that also smells like roses.

As for body lotions, it’s not as pressing a need for me (people can’t actually see the skin peeling off my legs as they can my face), but I have discovered Vichy’s Nutriextra Cream and it is luxurious. Also it smells good.

Finally, when exzema rather than plain old dry skin is the problem, I still turn to my yearly US drug store visits and load up on hydrocortisone cream. As far as I can tell, it’s not over the counter in France.

In short, my criteria for face lotions in France are,

  1. Does it say peaux très sèches?
  2. Does it smell good or come in a pretty color?
  3. Does it cost less than 30 euros, and preferably less than 20?

Does anyone else out there have any favorite skin products to share? Or ever been to a dermatologist in France? I’m open to almost everything at this point.


10 thoughts on “Peaux sèches à très sèches

  1. The water in France does a real number on my skin, but not by making it dry, by making it break out like mad. During my first year in France, I seriously looked like a pimpled face teen though my skin was never so bad during my teenage years (though it was pretty bad). The hard water just makes my pores go mad. Luckily, I found an American product that gets the job done. How in the world do French women not look all scaley or have major acne? It seems like I can’t win.

  2. I get super dry skin in winter especially, it’s getting better now thankfully! All my products are Boots No. 7 from the UK, so probably not a big help to you (the body and face microdermabrasion stuff really does make your skin soft if you ever see them though!)

  3. I hauled over two bottles of Eucerin Daily Protection SPF 30 face lotion from the States… love the stuff! Dries quickly, not greasy, no smell, and it seems to do fine under my foundation and makeup. I think it’s around $12 or less at any pharmacy. I’m too wimpy (and poor) to experiment with the French stuff.

    • I wonder if Eucerin is distributed in France, because it is such a standard, worry-free go-to brand in the US. Not greasy is not really an issue for me—I always buy the super rich stuff, but I know that some people hate that.

  4. L says:

    I’m a huge fan of the “Baume fondant” of Maison Berthe Guilhem

    It took me a while to figure out that you can’t use it like regular lotions. You take a small lump, then rub it between your hands to “melt” it. At this point it becomes almost like a body oil, and this is what you rub around. The tub costs 14€ and lasts me about a year, but my skin is not very dry anymore, so it should last you half a year.

    For hydrocortisone cream, try asking for it at your pharmacy. You may be surprised to learn you can get a cream without a prescription but it’s just not something they stock out front. My favorite expectorant is like that: no prescription necessary, but you have to ask for it by name since it’s not “en libre service”. Ask your GP if she would prescribe a cream for you, or ask for the letter to consult a dermatologist. I saw a dermatologist in Toulouse who was very down to business (read not really warm and fuzzy) but treated my bad acne really well. I went to her based on a recommendation from my GP.

    • Oo, goat’s milk. That one is intriguing. I’ll have to try it out at some point.
      When I was an assistant, I had exzema problems and went to the pharmacy to ask for a suggestion. They sold me La Roche Posay Lipikar cream which did nothing. I’ve never tried directly asking for hydrocortisone cream—maybe next time I will.
      If the dryness doesn’t go away, I may end up asking to see the dermatologist. I was sort of surprised the GP noticed my skin without recommending anything, to be honest.

  5. My skin type changed when I moved to Canada! I guess it does that to all of us, immigrants and expats. We are used to a certain environment and when we change, bam! Things happen 😆

    I’m glad you like Nuxe. It’s still my favourite, and the brand is affordable.

    You may want to buy the “Cold Cream” (yes, that’s its name in French). It’s great when you skin is very very dry… you can find it at the pharmacie. I swear by it when my skin is so dry it’s peeling.

    • You’re right, it could be just the change in water—or it could even just be my changing complexion as I age. I’ll definitely check out the Cold Cream when the next round of lotion-buying comes around (and it will…). Thanks!

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