Great Cruelty-free French Pharmacy Brands: Aromatherapy issue

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

When it comes to relatively specific products, the large parapharmacie is where you get the largest range of products. The larger towns in Occitanie often have a E.Leclerc supermarket. Most of them have separate parapharmacie attached, so this is where I usually go.
Another good one I  found this time is the Pharmacie Lafayette. They have branches all over France. I visited one in central Toulouse. While it did not look as bright and neat as E.Leclerc, this was three floors crammed with cosmetic and care products, with even more choice!

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…

Leaping Bunny

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.

Cruelty-free French Pharmacy brands: solid shampoo
You can buy solid shampoo even in the most staid German drugstores. I still like to try out a new one!

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.


Ladrome is a small company of just over 30 employees based in Auvergne-Rhones Alpes that has been making plant extracts and essential oils since 1993. All products are EU organic certified and they do not distribute in mainland China.
Prize:  Low-moderate
Is it vegan? YES
Is it animal testing free? YES (Company Website)


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.

Company:  Pranarom
Prize:  Low-Moderate
Is it vegan? YES
Is it animal testing free?  (Company Website)


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.

Prize:  Low
Is it vegan? YES
Is it animal testing free? YES (Company Website)

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

Prize:  Low-Moderate
Is it vegan? YES
Is it animal testing free? Brand is cruelty-free (company website), the jury is out whether parent company is cruelty-free
Cruelty-free French Pharmacy brands: aromatherapy
My selection of organic essential oils
To be honest with you: I have yet to discover significant differences between the brands. Some pils, like citrus and other top notes, evaporate and lose their power pretty quickly, which has more to do with the character of the oils rather than a specific brand. I tend to buy the ones with the longest shelf life and with an organic certification, combined with a reasonable price.
I use them to scent linen drawers, homemade cosmetics and in a diffuser. They work great in there. I had less luck with scenting soaps, as the scent is very fleeting.

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.

Aromatherapy diffusers

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

This is a genius room fragrance product I came across while casually browsing the E.Leclerc Parapharmacie website in preparation for my shopping trip.
Intrigued, I started reading more about it: The little scented papers are a French invention inspired by a trip to Armenia where often benzoe resin was burnt to fragrance rooms. The fragrant little booklets are suer easy to use. Even on their own they make your wardrobe smell really lovely. Fold one of the small paper strips, light it, extinguish it and let it glow slowly on a fireproof surface. It will produce a smoke for a minute or so and make any room smell lovely – and is said to purify air, motivate and banish any unpleasant odours!
Cruelty-free French Pharmacy brands:papier d' armenie
I burned a few at home and can confirm they are easy to use fragrance a room extremely quickly. The “Armenie” scent is very fancy and belies this is a cheap little booklet of scented paper. The standard version can be bought for 2 Euro, the “Armenia” Jubilee edition with a scent created by Francis Kurkdjian cost about 3 Euro. Stock up!
This is what I request most if someone offers to bring something from France. The paper strips are extremely easy to use, no special burner is needed, and they keep a room smelling for a whole day.
If you cannot make it to France soon, many fancy stationers around the world sell it. The manufacturer also has a dedicated web shop but the paper costs a fair bit more there.

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.


Cruelty free French Pharmacy brands
Pure orange flower water and argan and castor oils


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.

Cruelty free French Pharmacy brands: Natessance
Inexpensive Natessance products were a great new find

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

Cruelty free French Pharmacy brands: Jonzac
Jonzac – a new cruelty-free skin care brand to try

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.

Cruelty free French Pharmacy brands: deodorant
Will this one banish the BO?


The most famous Embryolisse product is a rich paraben-free Moisturizer  called Lait-Cream Concentre. But they actually have several skin care lines, including two anti age lines. I have used the LAit-Cream Concentre as a light all-purpose moisturizer. Especially when travelling.
I brought back something a bit more, err, potent from my last trip. It is a lot richer than the classic moisturizer. A lot cheaper but it won’t push the my Aesop moisturizer off its plinth.
Cruelty free French Pharmacy brands: embryolisse
Some heavy duty moisturizer from Embryolisse
Prize: About 12-15 EUROs for a large tube
Is it vegan? NO.  Contains beeswax
Is it animal testing free? YES (Company Website, Cruelty-free Kitty: )

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.

Cruelty free French Pharmacy brands: supplements
A trio of natural remedies for anxiety and flu-like illness

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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