Join the continental cult

If you've ever been tempted into a French pharmacy by the flashing green cross above the door, you'll know that they're a treasure trove of prettily-packaged beauty treats and mysterious medicinal products.

Join the continental cult

A lady in Paris

For years, clandestine discoveries made in Parisian chemists were swapped and shared by tourists and gradually gained a fanatical following among beauty aficionados.

But now, thanks largely to the explosion of the beauty blogger scene, the secret's out - retailers have cottoned on and these cult cosmetics are now more easily available in the UK.

And not just the French ones, either. From Swedish hair care to Spanish soap, and a German cream to treat your toes, these are the Euro stars to get acquainted with...

FEED YOUR SKIN

Every bodycare product from German brand Weleda is certified 100% natural, with no synthetics or additives whatsoever. But that doesn't mean they're any less effective. Alexa Chung is a big fan of Skin Food, the rich, fresh-scented cream that goes to work on your parched patches.

  • Weleda Skin Food, £9.95, BigGreenSmile.com

RAISE THE BAR

Hailing from the swanky spa town of La Toja, this ink-black 'beauty soap' has been popular in its native Spain since it was created in the Fifties. The formulation means it will lather up in even the hardest water, releasing the signature Magno scent.

  • Magno La Toja Soap, £3.75, PureSpain.co.uk

BEYOND REPAIR

A Swedish hair brand that's hugely popular over in America, Sachajuan has recently landed on our shores. The supremely nourishing Hair Repair promotes cell regeneration and leaves your locks looking and feeling stronger. Plus, you only need to use it a couple of times a week.

  • Sachajuan Hair Repair, £23, www.urbanretreat.co.uk

THE SENSIBLE CHOICE

Formerly known as Crealine, Bioderma's Micelle cleanser has made the leap from French pharmacy secret to cult favourite among bloggers, models and make-up artists. With no alcohol or fragrance, it's well-suited to even the most sensitive skin, removing every last trace of make-up.

  • Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution, from £4.50, Escentual.com

NAKED EYES

Kind of like the M&S of Holland, Hema (pronounced Hay-ma) recently opened its first stores in the UK, offering effective but affordable beauty buys. If you like to layer on the smoky-eye look, then Hema's bargainous heavy-duty Eye Makeup Remover Oil is a godsend, dissolving mascara with ease so you won't wake up with panda eyes.

  • Hema Eye Makeup Remover Oil, £1.75, HemaShop.com

TINTED LOVE

With all the sunshine those islands enjoy, it's no wonder Greece is home to an unbeatable sun protection brand. FrezyDerm products are light, non-greasy and start at a minimum of SPF 20. For year-round anti-ageing protection, use the 50+ Tinted Face Cream instead of foundation.

  • FrezyDerm Face Cream Tinted SPF50+, £13.95, HunterandHeath.com

PRIMER TIME

This moisturising lotion also happens to be an excellent primer, which is why it's favoured by make-up artists backstage at the catwalk shows. Another product that used to be brought back in bulk from Paris by those in the know, the good news is, it's now stocked in Boots.

  • Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre, £13, Boots (www.boots.com)

BERRY NICE

Nothing to do with the Icelandic singer, Bjork And Berries is a company that uses natural and organic products - Bjork means birch - from its native Sweden. The White Forest Hand Cream and Handwash are 98% natural and leave a deeply comforting fragrance lingering on your hands.

  • Bjork And Berries White Forest Hand Wash, £15.50, and Hand Cream, £19.50, Pedlars.co.uk

MARINE LIFE

When Thalgo's algae-filled Thalassobath was discontinued, bathers the world over sighed with disappointment. The next best thing? The French marine beauty brand's Micronized Marine Algae. One sachet of this green powder turns your bath into a mineral-rich soothing soup, but be warned: it definitely smells like the sea too!

  • Thalgo Micronized Marine Algae, £31.65, FeelUnique.com

SOOTHING STEP

A super-strength treatment from German pedi specialists Yava, Yavaped Foot Cream is packed with healing ingredients like urea (which absorbs moisture) and salicylic acid to smooth hardened skin. It also has disinfectant properties and chamomile, to soothe even the most shattered soles.

  • Yavaped Foot Cream For Cracked Skin, £7.99, HunterandHeath.com

TRIED AND TESTED

  • Do DIY beauty products really work? Keeley Bolger mixes up a home-made nourishing blueberry lotion.

Ingredients:

A handful of blueberries, 1tbsp of almond oil, 3tbsp of almond milk, 1tbsp of orange flower water.

Method:

Blend and mix all the ingredients until smooth. Strain the lotion so there's no pulp from the blueberries, and pour into a bottle. Shake well before use, as it may naturally separate.

The verdict:

"This lotion was easy and quick to make in the blender but unless you have a really fine sieve, it's hard to get rid of all the blueberry skin. It smelt nice but was very runny so I had to use cotton wool to apply it, making it feel more like a cleanser than a moisturiser. It's a nice idea and cheap once you have the ingredients, but I didn't feel like it offered enough protection for my skin over winter to want to use it in place of my regular moisturiser."

2/5

  • Recipe courtesy of www.seasonalberries.co.uk

BUY IT NOW

Still fiddling with those little triangular make-up sponges every morning? Save yourself some time (and effort) with a Paul's Boutique High-Definition Blender Sponge, £5.49, Superdrug (www.superdrug.com). Soak the clever tear-drop tool in water (so it doesn't absorb your foundation), squeeze out, then use both ends to roll your base on evenly and quickly.

BEAUTY BULLETIN

  • RED ALERT

If you're wearing red lipstick right now, you're going to like this. Sporting a scarlet lip is a sign of confidence and bravery, according to 84% of women questioned by Halo Wipes. Heavy eye make-up, on the other hand, wasn't rated so highly, with 76% saying it's "too much".

  • SEASONAL SCENTS

How often do you change your perfume? According to a new survey, Londoners are most likely to change their scent according to the season or to keep up with fashion trends. That's 45% of those surveyed by The Perfume Shop, compared with just 10% of females in Scotland and Wales.

RECESSIONISTA ALERT

Bring back the scent of summer with the I Love...Strawberries & Cream range. Previously only available in travel size, the new 250ml bottles of Bath And Shower Cream and Body Lotion, £2 each from Primark, will keep you smelling sweet all winter long.

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