I love shopping in Paris pharmacies and Monoprix cosmetic sections.
My favorite pharmacy is everyone's favorite: City-Pharma at 26 rue du Four. Here's the Yelp review. Why do I love it? Um, the prices (which are even better than Monoprix prices), the madness of the customers inside, and the variety of wacky stuff I can buy, including organic teas.
This place is NOT for the faint of heart. French women push and shove and call you names in an attempt to get around in an admittedly overcrowded store on two levels, where the aisles are barely wide enough for one skinny Frenchwoman, and there are 300 of you.
Make sure--if you go--that you hit both floors, the organic/vitamin area, and the baby product areas. Have a list. Be polite but shameless. Look into other women's baskets to find out what they are buying and what sales items they've discovered.
If you cannot take this (and you'll know in about 60 seconds whether you can), go to Monoprix. Many of the same products can be found there, again at bargain prices, and it is rarely quite so gladiatorial. Here is an article with City Pharma but two other suggestions; there are pharmacies all over Paris: wander in and browse. It is education!
My top 10 favorite products from City Pharma or any Parisian pharmacy include:
1. Crealine H2O from Bioderma. This micellar water removes makeup beautifully and is recommended by models everywhere (well, then!). Recently, US brands have caught on to this: don't be fooled. Also, I recommend the sensitive skin version (pink cap) but there is also a version for acne-prone skin (Crealine Sebium H2O) that I use (green cap) that smells faintly cucumber-y but works for my skin.
2. Vichy's Purete Thermale 3 en 1 is also a makeup remover, a milky, soft-smelling cream that removes eye makeup including mascara (without stinging), general makeup, and acts as a toner. One tube lasts forever: worth every penny, because it leaves your skin feeling silky and read for nighttime moisturizer.
3. Avene Cleanance is a moderately priced and very gentle but thorough cleaning gel. I use it every morning in the shower, and my skin loves it (I have combination skin, and I've over 40). It never makes my skin tight or flaky, and I can use it with my Clarisonic without stopping everything away. the regular size bottle lasts me 5-6 months. No nasty smell, either.
4. Avene Cold Cream lip balm. This is my go-to lip balm any more, and I've tried the Caudelie, Nuxe (stick), and multiple others. This works when my lips are wintry-flaky, dry from heated air or sun, and cools as well as heals. Now, it does nothing for you in terms of color or shine, but it is not waxy or sticky--a bonus, in my opinion--and last long time.
6. Nuxe Creme Fraiche. This is my everyday moisturizer for day; I started using it about eight years ago when I was having real trouble with flaking and dull winter skin. It has been the product I've used longest on this list: cannot live without it. If you need something slightly heavier, the Creme Prodigieuse is that one--I have used that too. Yum. Reviewers sometimes get stuck on the scent of this, which is definitely personal. If Creme Fraiche bothers you, try the Prodigieuse. One jar lasts me about 3 months. Both can be bought on drugstore.com.
7. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse. I am obviously a big fan of the Nuxe line. Love the dry oil phenomenon? Nuxe was doing it with this way before everyone decided to jump on the bandwagon. And it has Vitamin E. This can be used on skin, hair, face... and smells great. It also comes in a version with gold flakes in it, but I go with the traditional. I use this on the dry skin on my arms, neck, décolleté, and it never makes me feel greasy, slick, or messy. Drys almost immediately; I often put it on in the morning right out of the shower, then finish putting on primer and moisturizer on my face, and by then I can dress and the oil doesn't track onto my clothing. If you;ve never tried a dry oil but were thinking about it, you might really love this one.
10. Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk. This is another item that shows up on everyone's list. And deserves to. It is great for that second-day had you don't have time/can't wash (and Frenchwomen do not was their hair every day, n'est-ce pas?). Spray or squeeze in, brush out and voila! You're gone. Again, a nice, light scent that doesn't overwhelm. And by the way, the entire line of Klorane shampoos, conditioners, and hair products are fantastic--and come in sample sizes, if you want to experiment.
I haven't even included the great line of sunscreens from La Roche-Posay Anthelios, the Caudalie Beauty Elixir (big fan!), the Avene Eau Thermale sprays, the Homeoplasmine balm, Avibon Vitamin A cream, and on and on. Or cosmetics! My favorite lipstick comes from Monoprix's (now defunct) Miss Helen line; the in-house cosmetics are just as good (better?) than those by the name brands Monoprix also sells.
When you go to Paris, visit some pharmacies and try the lines by Vichy, Nuxe, La Roche-Posay, Caudalie, Klorane and other French brands. Or most of these are available thru either drugstore.com or amazon.com. Have a little splurge and see what these "top 10 lists" are all about.