A long, long time ago, back when Amazon was merely the name of a pristine rainforest, the lore of French beauty products was passed among beauty editors and enthusiasts as the secret to wake-up-flawless skin. It was impossible to get your hands on French pharmacies' miraculous potions stateside, which added to the elusive appeal. At the phenomenon's heart were three brands: Embryolisse, Bioderma, and Avène.
All three specialize in babying skin, but where Embryolisse became synonymous with its moisturizer and Bioderma with its fantastic micellar water, Avène's wide-ranging selection is uniformly reliable for anti-aging products that are so gentle, it's deeply surprising how powerful they are. Flash forward to 2021, and global shipping brings French favorites like Avène right to your door.
Most lauded among them is Avène's RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream, a night cream that combines retinol's de-wrinkling and brightening abilities with plumping peptides, protective vitamin E, and the brand's trademark calming thermal spring water. (The French love their hot springs: Avène's is loaded with softening minerals, while La Roche-Posay's secret sauce specializes in balancing acne-prone skin.)
Shop now: $70; aveneusa.com
The cream's so good that it's raked in 4.9 out of five stars on the brand's website, with shoppers likening the "extremely gentle and efficient" moisturizer to a more user-friendly version of prescription-only retinols like tretinoin. Myriad people write that their dermatologists recommended the yellow-tinted Intensive Cream for its anti-aging benefits that don't come with the peeling, dryness and irritation that traditional retinol can inflict.
Newcomers say it takes just days to see their forehead wrinkles smooth out, and in the span of a week, one shopper says the "miracle lotion" triggered a noticeable difference in their skin. "My wrinkles are remarkably less. It makes my skin look five to ten years younger," they wrote. Another said the formula is even able to target "canyon"-esque, previously-permanent wrinkles.
"I simply can't believe that this tiny, maybe 1/2 teaspoon sample made this shocking change," a third customer concluded.
They clearly hadn't read the reviews. On the other end of the time spectrum, dedicated fans wrote that they're going on 20 years with the retinol cream. An 84-year-old shopper chimed in that after several years of using the retinol cream, they don't have a single wrinkle. A 75-year-old seconds the experience: Along with sunscreen, they credit the Intensive Cream for their wrinkle-free face. And at 67, one last shopper says they stopped wearing foundation — their skin was that soft, even, and wrinkle-free.
Avène RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream is available at the brand's website — no passport needed for this trip back in time.
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