Great Cruelty-free French Pharmacy Brands: Aromatherapy issue
Another trip to France happened last summer and of course, I had to stock up on cruelty-free French Pharmacy brands. After two false starts and cancellations, we managed to visit my parents-in-law in September. Apart from a very brief pharmacy visit for ten minutes before we had to catch a train upcountry, I had to slum it out in the country manor for five whole days until I was let loose in another French pharmacy to look for yet more cruelty-free French Pharmacy brands.
And now, a year later, my husband has had to visit on his own as infections rates and travel restrictions seemed to change almost daily. My work schedule could not keep track with the changes so this time I had to slum it out at home and work but I made sure I gave him a shopping list for refills!
I try to buy everything cruelty-free and have reviewed a lot of well-known French skincare products in and French pharmacy Shopping post. With a market dominated by cosmetics and pharmaceutical corporations, which often buy smaller cruelty-free brands, it isn’t always easy to identify truly cruelty-free products, so I hope this post helps you in choosing great cruelty-free products.
This post concentrates on aromatherapy and cosmetic supplies but I also brought a few hair and skincare products. Currently I use Aesop Elemental Facial Barrier Cream as a day moisturizer which isn’t French so there is not much experimentation with daily moisturizers at present.
Where to buy cruelty-free French pharmacy brands
How can you check if a product is cruelty-free?
Two well-recognized certifications exist for body care and cosmetics products. Doing checks on cruelty-free French pharmacy brands proves a little trickier sometimes…
is the Certification of Cruelty Free International (formerly known as “British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection”). It’s a non-profit organisation aiming to end use of animals in laboratories. Certification requires strict compliance and an application process, at a cost.
PETA “Bunny Free”
is the Certification of PETA. Similarly, to get certified, companies have to undergo an lengthy application process, at a cost, too.
So why not just look up the certifications for cruelty-free French pharmacy brands?
Two slight problems. Firstly, a lot of small companies, especially those who extract essential oils only, which, by definition, are all-natural products, will not undergo the rigour of a certification application. As far as I understand it, the fee is based on turnover. This may mean a cut on profit for a smaller company – so a few simply won’t get certified.
Secondly, a certification for a certain company means that their product is surely cruelty-free, but what about its larger parent company? They don’t necessarily have to be cruelty-free. Personally, I only want to use products where everywhere up in the food chain, from the small company up to the bigger owner, is cruelty-free. There are many examples where this happens. For example, Estee Lauder owns Aveda, LeLabo and Origins. Unilever owns Dermalogica and Ren. Shiseido owns BareMinerals. Admittedly, the PETA list for download sometimes has the parent companies in brackets behind them, but sometimes they dont.
Honestly, how is it good to buy from a small, cruelty-free, possibly even organic and vegan brand, when their owner, who’ll profit form the sale, still tests on animals? Sometimes this is hard to figure out.
I find two websites really useful to help with this. They may not list the really small brands. But they’re a good start. The first one is Cruelty-free Kitty, which is a mix of useful lists and informative articles. In their search function, you can tick a box for cruelty-free parent companies. The second site is Ethical Elephant. Both sites concentrate on products available in the US, so smaller European companies may not figure.
My favourite Cruelty-free French Pharmacy Brands in Aromatherapy
If you are into aromatherapy, I highly recommend to check out France’s offerings. Prices are excellent, quality is high, and many oils are organic. Also, the choice of oils and producers is bewildering.
Another fairly large player in Western Europe from Belgium. The company was founded in 1990 by a Belgian aromatherapist and pharmacist Dominique BAudoux. He is the author of many books and his “Contemporary French Aromatherapy” is a very scientific guide to essnetial oils. Pranarom specialises in essential oils and phytotherapy medicines.
Puressentiel was founded by a family of aromatherapists in 2005 and is a relatively big player in the world or aromatherapy, wishing to make “aromatherapy available to all”. Widely available in France and of a somewhat lower price bracket. The products are distributed widely in Europe and you may come across them in other countries. All are organic. They also sell some of the most varied and lowest priced ultrasound diffusers I have come across.
Le Comptoir Aroma (Parent Company may not be cruelty free)
Le Comptoir Aroma is a brand of Laboratoires Gilbert, a French family-owned company known for baby care, health and beauty, founded in 1904 and based in Normandy. All their manufacturing takes place exclusively in France. They have a branch in Hongkong, but have no cruelty-free certification, which one would expect of a company of this size. So while Le Comptoir Aroma is cruelty-free, there is some uncertainty on whether Laboratoires Gilbert is. I am adding this company to the list but wish I had done better research before I bought something as it is not entorely clear whether they are cruelty free
A very brief introduction to “aromatherapy schools”
Historically, the French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse “discovered” the medicinal properties of lavender oils when after burnt his hand badly in some experiments. He wrote several books on the curing effects of essential oils and is the founder of modern aromatherapy. As several authors, mostly chemists, continued to research and publish knowledge on essential oils, the term “French School” was coined.
There have been prominent aromatherapists of German and Swiss descent on the first half of the 20th Century, who practised widely in Europe and used somewhat differing approaches, so that in the early 2000’s, the different groups felt a need to separate aromatherapy into “schools”. Well -known American companies like Young Living and doTerra which werde formed in the last 20-40 years also felt a need to create a unique selling point by praising their own harvest and extraction methods as unique and therefore the best. Many of them are multi level marketing company and if it weren’t just that, their price puts me off. So no experience with these, but why ship a pricey oil from the States when you can buy local?
Anyway, thanks to the long tradition of aromatherapy in France, the French are blessed with great, well-priced and accessible aromatherapy products.
And therefore… its not just the oils that are a great buy, but also aromatherapy diffusers! Here in Germany, Primavera is a trusted aromatherapy company, and their ultrasound diffusers retails for an average price of 40-50 Euro, and you can usually only buy them online. I have a Primavera “Ambiente” Diffuser it has a very bog-standard plastic chassis and a rough porcelain-type top which looks nice but is not very pleasant to touch. It is a pain to clean but it does the job
In France… not only is there a greater choice, you can actually see them in the parapharmacie and they cost a lot less. So, I just wish I had some room in my luggage to haul an ultrasound diffuser home, but it had already been taken by eight bottled of Gaillac wine.
Not strictly Aromatherapy but genius: Papier d’Armenie
My favourite Cruelty-free French Pharmacy Brands: oils and hydrolates
This post is meant to be mostly aromatherapy, but I had plenty appetite for some more products. In the past couple of years, I use less ready-made products and try to transition to more pure one- or two-ingredient products.
My to-go facial cleanser and toner is organic rose water, and I use coconut or castor oil as hair conditioners – stuff like that. In Germany I heavily rely on the internet to buy pure ingredients, but when I am in France I always find what I am looking for in any larger pharmacy – or parapharmacie.
I could not find out much about this French brand which carries both EU and French “Agriculture Biologique” certifications. They make hydrolates and organic oils and are based in France.
Natessance is a brand that belongs to the private French Company Groupe Lea Nature, which was founded in 1993. Lea Nature is the second-largest distributor in the organic health and food sector and claims to sell all natural and all-organic products.
I bought some organic fair trade argan oil, castor oils and some shampoo and hair masks.
The oils are really good and the price was incredibly competitive. The pure organic Argan oil for example, was about 10 Euro, the castor oil was the same.
The shampoo and hair masks were about 4 Euro each – and they are really good. The shampoo smells great and my thin lifeless hair was shiny and bouncy for days. It’s definitely something I will buy again.
Eau Thermale Jonzac
Also part of the Lea Nature family, this is the flagship brand of their natural cruelty-free skin care. Free from parabenes, silicones and perfume, this is an incredibly mild moisturizer
And still on the quest for a cruelty-free, aluminium-free deodorant, I bought this too. I have yet to use it. To be honest, the heavy-duty Garnier Mineral roller is still my to-go deodorant, with guest appearances from Weleda, Korres and Lavera. None are amazing when it comes to total control, and I hate body odour with a vengeance. So I have another one to try.
As one reader helpfully remarked, this company may not be cruelty-free as it lists distribution points in China including Mainland China. The Cruelty-free Kitty site (updated July 2020) states that the company is cruelty-free. So, The jury is out here.
A pot-pourri of natural remedies
These don’t fit into anything. I really like these grapefruit seed extract pills. They are supposedly anti-viral, anti-bacterial and antiseptic, but the scientific evidence on this is very thin. Nevertheless, they are wildly popular in France and I have taken them and gotten no flu in the last 18 months – whether that’s to pretty careful mask wearing, is to be debated!
Same goes for Bach Remedies – extremely thin evidence, wildly popular. I like the rescue pastilles – they work well on moderate acute stress situations like bumpy flights. Might be the placebo effect, but they taste nice and are certainly not harmful.
The natural stress relief remedies are a pretty new territory for me – apart from making an alcoholic extract of St. John’s Wort with my granddad. Now many things have been said about St. John’s Wort, and while it is potent, I would rather not have the increased p450 cytochrome oxidase on board. So this Arkorelax “Stress Control” contains Arctic Root extract and Siberian Ginseng, paired with a bit of magnesium und Vitamin B6.
I haven’t had bad levels of anxiety since being mugged last year so I have not used them yet. Fingers crossed I don’t have to – but it is good to have these in my medicine cupboard – just in case.
Toulouse as a shopping stop? Absolutely!
Having come here for a few years now, even if just passing through on our trip to the Tarn, I have grown to love Toulouse. The compact size of its vibrant centre and absence of mass tourism makes Toulouse a perfect stop to visit a few shops and its fine cafes and restaurants.
Since the pandemic, flight connections have been pants and we usually have to spend a night in Toulouse – not that I mind. We usually stay at the Albert 1er Hotel in the city centre – a stones throw from shopping, including the Parapharmacie Lafayette mentioned earlier.
The Small Print
I paid for my trip and all products mentioned in this post using my own funds. While I take great care to only include cruelty-free products in my reviews, sometimes, especially with smaller companies with no cruelty-free certification, I am unable to 100% determine whether a product is cruelty-free, so any comments are greatly appreciated. Everyone’s skin and hair are different – these products may work for me, and I can only base my recommendations on personal reviews. Generally speaking, the more sensitive you are, the more additive-free and fragrance-free your products should be, as even organic cosmetics can contain ingredients with a high allergenic potential.
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