When in France… buy cosmetics! Welcome to the cruelty-free French pharmacy!
Once I discovered you can buy mid-priced, high-quality body care and cosmetic products all over France even in the tiniest village pharmacy, I brought home lots of skincare. I think plenty knowledge is out now that France produces some excellent cosmetics. But the question is: which of these are actually cruelty-free French pharmacy products? Animal testing has been banned in Europe since 2013. Theoretically, a product sold in Europe product must not be tested on animals. However: most large companies sell in the China where, at present, animal testing is mandatory.
All products have been bought and used by me. None of these are co-operations or paid posts. There are no affiliate links – these are my honest and truthful recommendations. As I now have stopped using Amazon as a customer and as a consequence, I stopped using them for affiliate marketing, too.
I don’t care about income from this blog as much as I care about supporting companies that pay a fair wage, pay taxes and provide good customer service. If you want to know where to buy a product, I suggest you search for it. I use duckduckgo on the Firefox browser which sees off most paid ads. I had some good experience with iherb for US and Indian products, otherwise I buy locally.
Table of Contents
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 products 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 products?
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.
Where to Buy cruelty-free French pharmacy products
Well. Wherever you go, why not have a look what’s available in the local pharmacy? Bigger out of town supermarkets usually have large, often separate “parapharmacies” attached to them. It depends very much on the region you are in. In the South-West of France, the larger E. Leclerc are a good bet. I bought most of my things in the very large parapharmacie of E. Leclerc in Gaillac but there are others.
There are also larger pharmacy-markets in city centres. Prices may be slightly higher. They usually have the classics, like Embryolisse and Homeoplasmin. But now… here are my favourites, most recent acquisitions that I would recommend highly.
My cruelty-free French Pharmacy Favourites
Embryolisse Lait-Cream Concentre
The most famous Embryolisse product is a rich paraben-free Moisturizer can also be used to cleanse and cool face. It is great for travelling, when you only want to take one type of product. I’ve gone from pimply mixed skin to partially very dry mixed skin over the years. This cream takes it well in its stride.
Update 25/08/2020: 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. Thank you to Natasha for pointing this out!
Anything by Cattier
Cattier is a French company that starts to pop up in organic stores every now and then in my native Germany, but I haven’t seen many other places outside France that sell them. They belong to any cruelty-free French pharmacy shopping list. They are a certified organic and cruelty-free company They have been organic and cruelty-free from the start over 50 years ago and grew to a sizeable company that sells its products in larger stores and online now. So far, I only used their excellent clay mask. It really cleared up impurities even after cleansing. There are various ones for different skin types, and at about 4 EURO per tube, they are really cheap for such a quality product. I also have their pure shea butter which is very good. NExt, Ia m excited to try some of their richer anti-ageing moisturizers.
Prize: Low! Starting at 3 EUROs, about 15-20 EUROs for anti-ageing moisturizers and serums
Is it vegan? NO. Contains beeswax
Is it animal testing free? YES. They do not have any of the major cruelty-free certifications. They state clearly on their company website that they never tested on animals and do not sell in China. Their German parent website states (in German) that only Cattier and Kneipp products that do not require registration 9solid soap) are sold in China. Anything requiring registration in China has been taken off the market there.
Homeoplasmine is a rich moisturizer for rough spots with extracts of arnica and calendula. It has been hailed as a wonder balm by many, including make-up artists, who use it as a primer and a lip plumber. I’ve tried it on a spot of bothersome eczema where only a pricey Aesop lotion would do, and it worked, too. I use it as a rich moisturizer for areas that need a bit more grease, to soften rough skin on elbows, sometimes my shins, and my hands after disinfecting them about 50 times a day. Boiron is a company that makes mainly homeopathic medications. Believe in homeopathy or not, this product is a winner. This has made it onto the “cult prodcuts” lists many times, and is a classic cruelty-free French pharmacy goodie!
Is it animal testing free? Probably. Certainly not distributed or sold in China, and according to my online research it’s a homeopathic herbal product
Prize: About 6-10 EUROs depending on size
L’Huile Leonor Greyl
I have thin and fine yet always unruly hair and have been through a number of products. At first, I wouldn’t believe that something greasy applied to by scalp would result in full, manageable hair, but it does! Admittedly, I also use plain organic coconut oil sometimes (very cheap) or Dr. Hauschka Strenghtening Hair Treatment (formerly known as Neem Hair oil). All work well and have almost completely replaced conditioner and styling products.
Is it animal testing free? Highly likely. I emailed to them and they have confirmed that they are indeed cruelty-free and do not sell or distribute in mainland China.
It’s a real hassle to find even in France – only salons sell it.
Essential Oils – Organic and Non-Organic
There are so many different brands to choose from! I thought Germany was well oiled-up, given that every self-respectiong organic supermarket sells at least three home-grown brands of orgnais essential oil but how wrong I was! Below, you see about half the essential oil selection of the E.Leclerc parapharmacie in Rodez. You get a huge selection of essential oils, an enormous choice in base oils and other diluent, and very reasonably priced glass dispensers and mixing bottles which, if you want to avoid waste, are great. This time, I bought essential oils from Pranarom, Ladrome and Puressentiel.
Pranarom is a relatively young Belgian Company founded by a pharmacist that offers organic, cruelty-free and vegan essential oils, base oils and products based on them. You can buy them on shops in Europe and the US or online*.
Puressentiel is another young company founded by an aromatherapist with a lot of green values, Not all their oils and products are certified organic although they lean towards additive free, all natural products. You can easily buy them in Canada, Russia, Europe and Southeast Asia or online.
Last in the trio of essential oils and pastilles that I got is Ladrome, founded in 1993 in Provence, and the oldest company of the three. They’re a small local company of just over 30 people and sell organic essential oils and plant extracts mainly in France and Belgium. You can buy some of their most popular products online*, but this might be one to try on a Europe trip.
All three are cruelty-free and do not sell in China, and offer organic products. Price-wise, I didn’t find much difference in them, the price depended mostly on the scarcity of the source plant. At prices starting at about 2.50 EURO for 10ml of organic oil, I highly recommend stocking up in France. I like the way Ladrome is selling even their cheapest oils in these handy tins, which protect the oil from light.
What about Perfume in the Cruelty-free French Pharmacy?
My quest for cruelty-free scent is ongoing and I have only a few news to report, other than some of my favourite niche perfumers have been bought up by larger companies that still test and I will therefore not buy them again. And I am afraid you will have to add a visit to a perfume shop to your cruelty-free pharmacy shopping tour.
Parfum d’Empire is cruelty-free
Here’s a French perfume recommendation. A few years back, a friend bought “Yuzu Fou” on the recommendation of a great salesperson at Les Senteurs in London. They are a great perfume shop, by the way, you can go in and say “I want something grassy yet with a hint of pear and margarita” and they will come up with good suggestions, and they are really knowledgeable about perfumers, too. So this “Yuzu Fou” was by a perfumer I never heard of, but wow, what a scent! Citrus is my preferred scent note, so it soon graced by scent cabinet, too. I love Atelier Cologne’s “Orange Sanguine” (they sell in China now, so bye-bye, lovely scent) and Edition de Parfums Frederic Malle’s “Bigarade Concentree” (sold to Estee Lauder in 2015, no more for me) and I wanted a new favourite citrus, fast. This summer, I wrote to them to clarify that they are indeed cruelty-free, because I was on the lookout for something new and fresh, and not only did their very responsive customer service confirm that they indeed do not test on animals nor sell in China, but also pointed me in the direction of some small perfumeries in Occitanie where I could purchase their scents.
They have about six scents of the citrus group. In the end, I tried three and bought “Azemour Les Orangers”. If Luca Turin gives it five stars… good enough for me, but honestly, I walked around the Musee Fenaille sniffing this one and “Iskander” furiously for an hour before dropping the 130EURO on a bottle. Yes, it’s pricey, but for a citrus, it has great sillage and doesn’t disappear after five minutes, so you get a real nose full for your money. Their website is relatively informative, but you can email them – they were really helpful to me with stockists, since I had been running after this perfume in the finest perfumeries of London and Berlin and not found any.
These phytocosmetic brands still test on animals or are owned by companies that test or are not transparent about it
Here are some products I used to love, but, sadly, are not cruelty-free. They all are based on natural ingredients, some are entirely organic, and naturopathy-based, and provide an example of how far a good spin and a well-written website can lull you into believing you are buying a cruelty-free product when actually, you are not!
Admittedly, their shampoo, conditioner, hair mask and dry shampoo are fabulous and do not cost much. Alas, they are owned by Pierre Fabre, and Klorane products are sold in China, therefore undergo testing. Their website is very nice and well-written and really, thei amount of greenery and the tagline “made in France with carefully selected botanical active ingredients” as well as their support of environmental projects makes you believe Klorane is an organic-cruelty-free company. They also have an Eco-Cert certification and are advocates of sustainable development. Still, not cruelty-free, and sadly for me, I will no longer buy them.
I love their moisturizers and body cream but I wont’t buy it again once I figured out Nuxe sells in China and is, therefore, not cruelty-free.
The Bio-Beaute Line has never been tested on animals and has organic certification, but by my standards… it’s no longer an option.
Jumping on the bandwagon of Korean miracle skincare, the Ales Group, which also owns respectable skincare brand Lierac, is selling products from “natural Japanese and Korean ingredients” under the brand name Jowae. Their website is also very lovely and full of pastel green and cherry blossoms. Promising flawless skin, but the 6-12 layers every day put me right off. Anyway, I was released into the pharmacy starving and fresh off the plane, so I fell for the spin and bought a bottle of soothing balm… All products are made in France, and with the exception of three products, all are vegan. Their website states that according to EU regulation, no animal testing is performed – which leaves the China issue very much open. The website of Owner Ales Group is in French only. While they appear very transparent about their financial issues and publish a financial report, there is no specific information about animal testing.
Non-French Pharmacy but Cruelty-free Alternatives
Having stopped buying a lot of stuff that I thought was cruelty-free but in fact, isn’t, I had to look elsewhere for my bath and beauty supplies. Of course, we have plenty or organic brands in Germany. I mean, world-wide anthroposophical and organic pioneer Weleda is an established German company. And yes, think about their philosophy what you like some of their products are really good, some others (shampoo, moisturizer, perfume) I’ve tried once and thought they were terrible. Dr Hauschka is another candidate for cruelty-free beauty Made in Germany, and indeed, they have a large range of products, but man, are they expensive. Organic supermarket stalwarts Benecos, Lavera and Logona haven’t really convinced me, quality-wise – with the exception of the really good Lavera deodorant.
Alba Botanica Shampoo and Conditioner
I stumbled across them on a trip to Hawaii a few years back. They come in different fragrances and are seriously the best smelling shampoo and conditioner I ever used. What they did to my hair wasn’t too bad, either. And I am happy I can buy my favourite mango shampoo and conditioner online on iherb, at a super low price, with very reasonable shipping costs (about 6 EURO) to Europe!
Anything by Korres
Here’s a product line I happily roam the Greek pharmacies for! Korres is a Greek brand aiming to use all-natural products, using organic where possible. They can be really pricey outside Greece. In a Greek pharmacy (or their standalone stores in Greek cities) you get two bottles of a very good shampoo or shower gel for around 6 EURO. An absolute steal. If there ever was a reason to pay for check-in luggage, bringing a ton of Korres products home is it!
Look out for them in Greece! I currently use the 3D Black Pine Day Cream as a moisturizer and apart from the odd smell, love it. They also have a US Online Store, but it isn’t exactly cheap, so this is another one to buy when in Greece.
I keep this very short because I wear almost no Make-up and prefer to care for my skin the best way I can. I used a bit of BareMinerals when I felt fancy. However they are now owned by Shiseido, so I shall not buy them again.
I’ve given Dr Hauschka a try, or for Make-Up I use very little of, I buy cheap German drugstore brands, which are only sold in Germany and therefore never tested on animals, or recently I came across e.l.f which seemed super-cheap but is vegan and certified cruelty-free. It’s not really available much in shops here in Europe, but plenty of online places sell it, including Amazon. What can I say? For 10 EURO for a big eye shadow and liner palette, it was super cheap, but I used it for my wedding make-up, and there wasn’t a single itch or smear all day! Certainly one I use again.
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