Tuesday, March 17, 2015
French Pharmacy Brands: Why They're Worth The Hype (And My Skincare Sob Story)
So, this isn't a "usual" post for me, but I've got a story to tell (and it's kind of related to being an expat), so don't run away yet!
As "no make-up" selfies exploded on Twitter and Instagram a few years ago, I was thinking of another kind of skin explosion:
Acne. Not a glamorous topic (nor one that bloggers would readily admit to), but something I've dealt with nearly every single day of my teen and adult life. Yes, even now. Any acne-sufferer would know just how "brave" leaving your front door without a single drop of foundation, concealer or tinted moisturiser actually is.
Because I was once emotionally-crippled by acne.
As an acne-ridden teen growing up in Small Town, western Washington (that's State - not D.C.), my skincare choices were limited to drugstore brands like Neutrogena, Clearasil, and sometimes Clinique, if I ventured to the mall. Then, ProActive came along and my parents shelled out so much money on the subscription skincare service for me.
Unfortunately, the harsh ingredients in these cleansers, astringent pads, toners, and moisturisers only seemed to aggravate my combination skin and make it worse: dry patches continuously peeled and became scaly, while my acne flared up more than ever. We're talking on the scale of volcanic eruptions here.
Try being a 14-year-old Chinese-American in Small Town, western Washington with acne and I'll show you how "self-conscious" feels. I'd be laughing, having a great time with my friends - then I'd catch the sight of myself in a mirror, or even in a photo, and immediately stop smiling.
Yes. That bad.
By the time I reached college, my acne hadn't really subsided. I'd tried Chinese medicine. Western medicine. Changing my diet. Facials. Peels. Everything. My mom would spend mornings looking at me sadly over the breakfast table, slowly shaking her head and saying, "Your skin is just ... so terrible. Isn't there anything we can do?"
Visiting my Chinese relatives was the worst: over lunch, my aunts and uncles didn't mince their words, pushing bowls of "skin-clearing" soups toward me and chastising me when my chopsticks even dared enter into fried-dumpling territory saying, "That's just going to make your acne worse! Have some watermelon instead! We're only trying to help!" On such occasions, I'd bite my tongue and smile appreciatively, even though I felt mortified as the tears welled up in my eyes.
Then, during a life-changing trip to Hong Kong, my mom made an appointment for me with my cousin's aesthetician, who specialized in light and laser therapy for cystic acne. I say life-changing because, over the course of the sessions, my life changed. The scars and bumps I had slowly disappeared, and I was introduced to Dermalogica products, which were much gentler and effective on my skin.
I no longer cried when I looked into the mirror every morning (yes, I did this nearly every day when I was studying for my MA at York). Instead, I cried for different reasons: a co-worker complimented me on my skin and after saying, "Thank you!", I ran into the bathroom, locked myself in a stall, and cried because I never thought I'd ever hear those words in my life.
Okay, story's over - you can go now (unless, of course, you'd like to hear the role that French pharmacy brands have played in all of this!).
It wasn't until I moved to the UK that I discovered French pharmacy skincare products from brands that have been revered by the French for years: Avene, La Roche-Posay, Vichy, Nuxe, and Klorane were brands that nearly all my girlfriends here already incorporated into their beauty regimes.
So now, while I like to swap between Dermalogica and Liz Earle products, I also love having the option of using La Roche-Posay and Avene for my face (I find Vichy products to be a little too harsh, but that's just me). In the mornings, I'll use the Physiological Cleansing Gel followed by the Effaclar Duo+ on my chin, where most of my cystic, hormonal acne appears. I use the Avene TriAcneal in the evenings on the same area. So far, they've helped improve the texture of my skin (it looks visibly smoother) and helped to quickly stop breakouts.
Avene's Eau Thermale Thermal Spring Water spray is my secret weapon for long-haul flights - even John loves to use it. It's so refreshing and moisturising to use mid-flight, particularly as cabin air is so drying. It's kept me from breaking out post-flight too. Truth (although some might say, "Why don't you just bring a spray bottle of tap water?" Touché, though I still like to believe that the thermal spring water has super-human healing qualities. But that's just me.).
At work, I keep the La Roche-Posay Lipikar Xerand hand cream on my desk. It's paraben-free, has a lovely, light scent, and keeps my hands beautifully moisturized in the winter.
And the best part? They're so affordable! (Actually, Escentual is offering 1/3 off all French pharmacy brands for the entire month of March, which is where I stocked up.)
Other non-French products that I love? Trilogy's Rosehip Oil - my mom's also a convert. It does wonders for scars and fine lines, and is amazing for leaving my skin feeling plumped and hydrated in the morning. Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant and Overnight Clearing Gel.
What about you? If you're a fellow acne sufferer, I'd love to hear from you. All of my friends (and I mean all) were blessed with blemish-free skin. Not so much for me.