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My Paris shopping haul, and a few tips for Beauty shopping in France!

Let’s just say Paris is a place where you’re likely to go for quality over quantity, because unlike in the US, you’re not going to be able to walk into drugstores or places like Target to grab tons of fun products for under a few dollars each.

Before you buy anything, always make sure you see a "Global Blue Tax Free" sticker on the window of the store or check that there is tax refund. This can make up 12 - 19.6% difference depending on where you shop, so it’s a big deal if you’re spending hundreds or thousands of euros.

ALSO, before you leave your own country, make sure you check prices at your airport duty-free. I found more than one instance where the duty-free shop prices in Singapore were lower than French retail prices even after tax deduction. (Chanel varnishes for one.)

Once you’re in France, it’s often a better idea to look out for:

  • High-end: good quality splurges or Europe-exclusives (if any) from brands like Chanel, YSL, and Dior, etc that you wouldn’t necessarily buy at retail prices back home. After tax refund, most French luxury goods are cheaper in France - unless you’re from the US or you’re checking on duty-free prices.
  • Pharmacie: a lot of great French drugstore brands like Lierac, Bioderma, Avene, Mustela, Vichy, NUXE, Embryolisse etc are available at reasonable prices all over the world, but if you want to stock up on favorites, hit tax-free places like Citi-Pharma (Saint Germain des Prez). I managed to grab 2-pack large bottles of Bioderma Sensibio cleansing water for 15 euros, twin-packs of Embryolisse lait créme concentre for 20 euros, and about a whopping 10 bottles of Bioderma and Avéne sunscreens for under 10 Euros per bottle, less about half of what you would pay elsewhere in France.
  • Harder-to-find brands: if you like the niche things, there are tons of artisan parfumeries (sadly I didn’t have the time to seek these out on this trip), and also niche beauty brands like Garancia (great skincare), Black|Up (a fab brand with colors specifically designed for darker skins) and Ladurée - yes, of the French macaron fame - which are still relatively hard to locate outside of France, they are all easily located at most Sephoras.

I obviously didn’t go for the (overly-gimmicky even for me) stuff like Ladurée, but if you’re looking for a super-luxurious gift to pamper a girly-girl in your life, it’s a nice brand to check out.

Avoid:

  • "drugstore" brands like L’oreal, which I incidentally only saw at Sephora, not at local pharmacies. These aren’t that cheap there, even though L’oreal is a French brand technically. The prices are comparable to Asia, and you’re better off getting these in the US.
  • Generic department store brand perfumes. You can often get better deals from online distributors like fragrancex.com.

Do get:

  • Sephora house-brand products in France. These are significantly cheaper than in many other countries.
  • French pharmacy brands. But as mentioned above, if you are buying more than just 1 or 2 products, it’s well worth a trip to Citi-Pharma because the same amount of money can often get you double the amount of products.
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