While Paris has its share of boutique beauty shops, sometimes you have to trade the lovely shopping experience for a good deal. That’s where Citypharma comes in. The discount parapharmacy is located in the Saint-Germain neighborhood and is popular with international travelers and locals alike.
Citypharma’s beckoning aisles are packed with countless hair and skincare products, as well as various medicines. Sure, you can buy some cult French pharmacy beauty products on Amazon in the US, but Citypharma sells many of these and more, often at a third of the price.
When you visit Citypharma, located at 26 rue du Four, you won’t be alone. In addition to boasting a vast supply of products, the shop has a band of loyal customers. But I’m here to tell you it’s worth facing the crowds. If you follow a few trusty tips, I’m sure you’ll agree that Citypharma deserves its cult status.
1. Leave your giant purse at home: If possible, put your credit card, keys, phone, and ID in your jacket pocket so you don’t have to lug around a purse with you. The aisles are tight, and you’ll want to have your hands free to browse and carry your shopping basket. Less really is more here.
2. Don’t go after a long day: You want to be fresh when you plan a shopping run at Citypharma. If you’re visiting Paris, don’t plan your shopping visit after a long day of sightseeing or before lunch when you’re prone to get hangry. You’ll be ready to give up as soon as you walk in. Go when you’re feeling good, and it’s totally manageable. The store opens at 8:30 am on weekdays and 9 am on Saturdays (it’s closed Sundays). Arriving at opening time is your best bet, if you don’t mind an early wake-up call.
3. Do your research: You may be overwhelmed by the amount of product you find at Citypharma. So before you arrive, research and jot down a few gems you want to leave with. It will help narrow down the hunt. Some of our favorite brands and products include:
- Bioderma Sensibio H2O cleanser
- Klorane Floral Water Makeup Remover with Soothing Cornflower
- Avene Thermal Spring Water
- Skincare from La Roche-Posay
- Mustela baby products
- Bags of cotton squares for removing makeup and more
- Liniment oléo-calcaire diaper cream for babies
4. Ask for help: The employees wear white coats and most speak English. Plus, they seem to be everywhere. If you bring a list of products, you can show it to them and they will point you in the right direction. The store is maze-like, so when you inevitably get lost, just ask someone else for help.
5. Think beyond beauty: When I go to Citypharma, I grab my favorite skin care products, but I also get other everyday items that happen to be cheaper. Think over-the-counter medication, cotton squares, or special French diaper cream (liniment oléo-calcaire) for my daughter. The baby and children’s section is especially packed with can’t-beat basics.
6. Be optimistic about the line: The check-out area might be swarming with people, but it moves surprisingly fast. I’ve never waited more than 10 minutes. Look for the line labeled “Caisse sans ordonnance” if you don’t have a prescription, since it should move faster.
7. Ask about duty-free: If you’re a foreigner and spend more than 175€, you’re eligible for duty-free. Bring your passport with you and be sure to ask the cashier for the duty-free (detax) paperwork. They will then give you options for your refund and paperwork you’ll need to show at the airport on your way out of France.
Because the EU restricts more than 1,300 potentially harmful ingredients in personal care products, you can generally feel better about the products you buy in France, too (for reference, the FDA bans about 11). If you’re just visiting Paris, be sure to leave room in your luggage.
Citypharma: 26 Rue du Four, 75006 Paris, France Tel: +33 1 46 33 20 81
- For some more tips on how to save money on skin care, head over to Hello Jetlag.
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