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When in Paris, your shopping haul needn’t be limited to fashion -- there are a plethora of affordable delights to be found in the ordinary high street chemist.

Parisian women take their grooming seriously and high-performance skincare plays an essential role in their daily routine. Many of the brands available in pharmacies in the French capital are hard to find elsewhere in the world or are only sold by luxury retailers, but are must-haves for a well-turned out Parisienne – and so are easy to come by and affordable to boot.

For sensitive, intolerant or allergic skins, look to the French pharmacy-stocked brand Avène which contains thermal spring water from the Languedoc Roussillon region in the south of France, the soothing properties of which are endorsed by dermatologists. The thermal water spray is a particular comfort for irritated skin, as are the face creams for redness relief.

La Roche Posay is another favourite brand with dermatologists, also using the almost-magical resource of thermal spring water. The brand, which is only sold in  pharmacies, limits the active ingredients in each product and removes every constituent which isn’t necessary for the product's efficacy, making it particularly recommended for sensitive skins.

Chic brands Caudalie and Nuxe  both have spas in Paris and farther afield in the French countryside , yet sell their ranges of luxurious and effective skincare products in the humble pharmacy. Caudalie, sold in high-end cosmetic retailers in the UK such as Space NK and Selfridges, unites the worlds of wine and skincare with “vinotherapy”, using ingredients derived from grapes in their products. Their exfoliating Crushed Cabernet Scrub makes a great gift, as does the cult body oil, Huile Prodigieuse, from Nuxe – a brand which focuses on plant-based ingredients.

Another favourite available at French chemists is the make-up remover from Bioderma, Sensibio H2O, which has a water-like consistency ideal for cleansing sensitive skins, and is often an essential component of professional makeup artists’ kits. And the star product from skincare brand Biafine is their eponymous cream, which is great for healing burned or irritated skin and is a bathroom cupboard staple for many a Parisian.

High quality pharmacy-sold skincare isn’t only topical though, with French brand Oenibiol selling a range of beauty supplements -- including capsules for dark undereye circles, cellulite reduction or for preparing skin for sunbathing -- that work from the inside out.

Look for the neon green cross which denotes all French pharmacies or, even better, a shop sign saying “Para Pharmacy”— the name for a non-dispensing pharmacy which specialises in cosmetics — to scoop up these serious skincare goodies. Pharmacies can be found on most high streets, and the chain ParaShop  has a great, and wide, selection of skincare brands and has branches throughout Paris. Or for a bargain head to City Pharma (26 Rue du Four, 75006; 01-46-33-20-81) in Saint Germain which has extensive stock and some of the lowest prices in the capital.

Kim Laidlaw Adrey is the Paris Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes www.unlockparis.com.

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