You’ve heard the hype about French pharmaceutical skincare brands, yes? Well, that hype is very real, and you don’t need to book a Charles de Gaulle ticket to find out why.
Avène, which is one of the most popular drugstore brands across Europe, is available in the US and has made reaping the benefits of affordable French skincare as easy as clicking “add to cart” on Amazon. I first discovered the line many years ago on a trip to Paris, and have since become a super fan of the skin-nourishing benefits it offers.
The brand is named after a commune in France that is home to a mineral-rich hot spring. Your full name-Eau Thermale Avène: refers to the water of this “fountain of youth“ that makes its way into each product. The clinically proven, potent water contains calcium bicarbonate, magnesium, and silicates, and is renowned for its ability to soothe irritation, reduce inflammation, and promote healing of conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
I reckon I’ve tried over 90 percent of Avène’s products (and use many of them regularly) and have fallen in love with the miracle water the brand uses in each and every one of them. But if you were to boil it down to GOATs, must-haves that everyone needs in their routine, there are three that seriously stand out. They are universally applicable and can benefit everyone’s skin health, regardless of complexion type or individual goals. Shop for yourself below to bring the French pharmacy into your bathroom.
The 3 best Avène products
RetrinAL Intensive Cream 0.1 — $74.00
Retinol is an almost universally recommended skin care ingredient, targeting countless skin health needs and complexion concerns. It helps with cell renewal, soothes acne, and can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Avène RetrinAL is special because it uses retinaldehyde, a stronger version of retinol, and is an absolute masterpiece of an over-the-counter retinoid. Thanks to the rich, soothing peptides in this gentle yet powerful formula (and its inflammation-soothing thermal spring water), even those with sensitive skin can benefit from this all-in-one rejuvenating cream. RetrinAL for everybody.
Cold Cream Nutrition Nourishing Lip Balm — $14.00
I know what you must be thinking: lip balm, really? Yes really. This is no ordinary lip balm. When I tell you that I buy them wholesale, I’m not kidding. They have the silkiest, meltiest, non-sticky, non-greasy, non-waxy formula I’ve ever tried…and I’ve tried a batch. Made with shea butter, jojoba oil, and bisabolol, the balm nourishes your lips while protecting them from damage. No wonder derms love it as much as I do.
Thermal Water Spray — $19.00
Given the miraculous properties of Avène spring water, it would be foolhardy to leave the brand’s legendary facial mist out of the top three list. It’s an all-time bestseller for a reason: it’s soothing, light, refreshing, gentle, and exactly what you’d expect from a spray.
Packed with natural prebiotics and probiotics from spring water, the formula is perfectly pH balanced and works as an anti-inflammatory to soothe redness and irritation. Whether you need gear up for your skincare routine, refresh during the day, add hydration on the go, soothe a sunburn, soothe skin after shaving, or just crave a cool mist of french water on your face, look no further. .
Cleanance Cleansing Gel — $21.00
This gentle cleanser will help control acne without stripping the skin, and I turn to it whenever I need to keep my hormonal breakouts at bay. Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, calls it “a fantastic option for people with sensitive or allergic skin that’s still prone to breakouts,” noting that it’s not just for the face (gasp!), but that works for the body. acne too.
Hydrance Intense Rehydrating Serum — $39.00
This is my non-negotiable daily serum, regardless of what I’m doing with my routine. Enhances the effectiveness of your other skincare products by prepping skin with deep hydration. No stickiness, no residue, just a hydrated face that’s ‘ready to receive’, so to speak. “I love this serum,” Dr. Gohara previously told Well+Good. “It doesn’t just work for [already] hydrated skin, but also relieves the tightness and discomfort that are common with dehydrated skin, thanks to the brand’s best healing aid: thermal water.
Micellar Cleansing Lotion and Makeup Remover — $28.00
Micellar water is one of the top skincare staples in France, and Avène’s version is one of the best money can buy (I even like it better than Bioderma, which seems blasphemy to say). I found it by accident when I asked a French pharmacist for a gentle facial cleanser; she told me that this was my best option and she was not wrong. It uses micelles (also known as oil particles suspended in water) to remove dirt, grime, and makeup, leaving skin feeling cleansed but never dry.
RetrinAL Eye Cream — $52.00
Avène repurposed its powerful retinoid into a rich eye cream, which is designed to be used on the delicate skin of the area. For under $50, it works to de-puff, replenish, and smooth the skin (au revoir, crow’s feet!), and is hands down one of the best eye creams I’ve ever used.
Tolérance Contrôle Soothing Skin Recovery Cream — $36.00
Whether you’re dealing with eczema, getting some laser facials, or just have dry, sensitive skin, this thermal water-based “recovery cream” is a dermatologist favorite and is approved by the National Eczema Association. It even comes in sterile packaging to ensure it’s preservative-free and safe for hypersensitive skin.
Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream — $42.00
Think of this as a recovery staple. Designed for the treatment of wounds, injuries and scars, it helps the skin retain moisture to speed up the healing process. Basically, it’s skin restoration in a bottle.
Hydrance Aqua-Gel — $38.00
Truly, this is one of the best moisturizers you can get, especially for under $40 (under $20 if you’re lucky enough to live in France). Intensely hydrating and barrier-repairing, yet lightweight, it offers adequate levels of protection and hydration for all skin types.
Ever wonder what drugstore products a dermatologist uses in their own routine? Check out the video below to find out.
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These products are independently selected by our editors. Making a purchase through our links may generate a commission for Well+Good.