CityPharma Haul + Tips

Prior to visiting Paris, I got a lot of shopping suggestions. Since I am not quite with it on the French luxury brands game, I basically disregarded all advice to stock up on Chanel, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, etc. I don’t have much of a taste for luxury goods, just thinking about the potential prices (which I learned were still lower than the actual prices!)

What did I plan to purchase?
French skincare products.

I care about taking care of skin, and the French really set the bar for the quality with which people should be treating their skin. French skincare is part of the charm of the chic French woman, whose skin is so good that she is able to spend minimal time on her makeup routine and, instead, go for that je ne sais quoi look.

The number one spot recommended to me? CityPharma. I knew that all French pharmacies would carry a much wider range of French skincare products than American drugstores do, but CityPharma is the spot to get great deals on excellent products.

Confession? I was really scared to go here. I read a few testimonies online that the store would be overrun by tourists, a chaotic war scene where shelves would get cleared out before my eyes if I didn’t gird my loins and fight my way through.

Reality? It was so calm and quiet and orderly. I’ll be really honest with you: I’ve never seen a place with so many Asian tourists carrying so much merchandise to bring home be so quiet and orderly, real talk. There were so many staff members answering questions, not rushing people, taking time to explain what products are best for what skin, not pushing to try to make a commission because it’s a pharmacy and not that kind of retailer. Honestly, this was still the most stunning thing about this place, even more stunning to me than the prices.

Anyway, without further ado, here are the products that I panicked and threw into my basket. I didn’t want to come away with so much, and definitely didn’t think I would quality for a VAT refund (more on that later), but Ben was enabling me once he learned what the discount was compared to back in the States.

Tip: Go to the checkout area for a basket, since all the baskets wind up there and NOT at the little basket area near the entrance. You will need a basket. Don’t fool yourself. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll just be casually walking around this store with an armful of products.

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HAIR // I had been meaning to try the Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk for a while, so when I saw this 2-pack for less than one bottle would cost back home, I snatched it up. I don’t exactly need more dry shampoo (I have a dry shampoo round-up coming at you soon though!) but it doesn’t go bad and I will need it eventually.

Also, since I have colored hair and was already in the Klorane section, I picked up the Klorane Color-Safe Shampoo + Conditioner + Leave-In Cream with Pomegranate to round out my hair-care routine. I don’t love these, as I find my hair doesn’t feel as clean when I rinse them out as with my other color-safe stuff, but my color has been holding on.

FACIAL SPRAYS // I can’t believe this is its own category. You know, a year ago, I thought face mists were a scam. Do people really need to be misting their faces? Can’t you just splash water on and then apply more moisturizer? Well, I’m not really sure what changed between then and September, because I left Paris with not one, not two, but THREE different kinds of face mists, most of which are small enough for me to carry on planes so I can, in theory, mist mid-flight. (In practice, I feel a little too obnoxious to spray my face while sitting next to someone.)

The Caudalie Beauty Elixir is something I already have a sample of from the location in DC and enjoy using, and may be the product that led to me having so many face sprays in my arsenal now. The Caudalie Grape Water was a special deal because it’s a limited edition bottle? (I don’t believe the usual bottle design is that fuschia color.) So I wound up with a few of those to give as gifts. And the Avène Thermal Spring Water has such clout that I found it necessary to buy travel-sized and full-sized bottles of it. This is just who I am now, apparently. I just have to get over the perceived weirdness of spraying my face around other people because it’s winter and my face is dry, folks!

OTHER FACE PRODUCTS // I started panicking as I realized how heavy my basket was getting, but I wanted a La Roche-Posay sunscreen. I wound up with one that was a lot heavier than I was hoping, even for the winter, but may be a good option as a heavy-duty sunscreen when I do things in the summer? I also picked up a teeny travel-sized bottle of the famous Bioderma Micellar Water because the giant bottles intimidated me and I don’t use micellar water that frequently. (That being said, there was an insane deal for 2 big bottles of Bioderma for folks that are fans!)

POCKET-SIZED PRODUCTS // As I was leaving, there were these little shelves of products that were bundled for easy gifting and just to get you to buy more products, to be honest, because as I later looked they weren’t buy-one get-one free, more like buy-one get-one 50% sometimes. I got a Nuxe Lip Balm Stick, which is apparently not as good as the potted lip balm and I can see how, and the Caudalie Hand Cream, which smells kind of strange and has a texture I don’t love.

What would I do differently?
I think I would research more products and be more prepared going in. I didn’t know about a lot of these products so I panicked and grabbed things I recognized and ran. But that evening I thought about how I’ve been looking for an eye cream and something with more retinol for anti-wrinkle or just some other serums. I wish I had known about the Nuxe lip balm, for example. It helps to be prepared, especially if you don’t want to have one of the store assistants hold your hand through the entire process. (Which they would still be happy to do!)

Tip: One thing to make sure you do is bring your passport! A lot of other blogs and websites have talked about this at length, but if you spend over €175 you qualify for a VAT tax refund. This was so easy to do at CityPharma. When you are checking out, you just ask if you can apply for the tax refund. They pull out the forms, start filing for you, ask for your passport. Then, you can either have your refund applied to your credit card, if you used one, or you can get a thing to take to the airport when you go back home. I opted to have my refund applied to my credit card, minus the processing fee, because it wasn’t going to be big enough for me to justify waiting in a line at the airport. (The lines can get long, so make sure the factor time for that if this is your plan.)

All in all, we had a really positive experience at CityPharma and will definitely go back to load up on French skincare for ourselves and for others.

What are your favorite French pharmacy products? I love Caudalie as a brand and am glad I have great access to them because they have one of their spa locations in DC. I do like the Klorane dry shampoo, so I have to explore their other products.

Where do you like to shop in Paris?

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Spoopy Catch-Up

Can you believe we’re almost halfway through October already?

It seems like just yesterday that I was sweating through the end of September and wondering when it would feel like fall. I could see my breath when I went out this morning, and I’ve started contemplating posting a cover of “Sweater Weather” up (don’t worry, I won’t), so it really is that time of year already!

Spoopy time!

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The spoopy season is upon us, and it kicks off 3 months of festive fun, but I feel like I’ve barely had the chance to settle into October. Remember how I was supposed to “cool down for fall“? I’m not great at it, but I am getting better!

So let’s do a quick catch up of what I’ve been doing instead of taking it easy since I resolved to do just that…

DEVFESTDC // Maybe I wrote that post because I was staring down the barrel at a packed itinerary, because that Saturday I attended Day 2 of DevfestDC, a Google Developer Group mini-conference. I found out that my friend Yufeng (still waiting on your wedding photos, friend!) was one of the speakers, and with the venue so close to home, I had to go! It was nice to learn about machine learning and Google’s software (in advance of their big hardware announcement shortly after). It was especially nice to get to spend time with Yufeng, who I haven’t seen since his wedding. And seeing him twice in one year is like a new record!

SEEING RED // I dyed my hair!

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It’s a lot more subtle than I was going for, but I am still happy to have red in my hair for autumn! And to be honest, maybe it’s safer for work that my hair isn’t as vibrant of a red as I was going for?

TWO YELPER PARTIES // I worked at not one but two Yelper parties, one week apart! You know I’m a sucker for a good themed party, so for the famous rivalry theme, I quickly donned an Ursula getup and convinced Ben to do an Eric Disneybound.

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And at the DC Halloween bash, I gave Little Red a little test drive. (You’ll be seeing her again later!)

(And of course, I ate a lot of great food.)

HOMECOMING // I went back to my alma mater for yet another rainy homecoming. It feels very different now, when I go back to campus. I feel super out of touch with the campus community as the neighborhood changes.  The student involvement suite – where I used to spend hours of my week running different clubs and meetings – had been completely redone and I was invited to the ribbon-cutting. It is so new and snazzy now, and I am really excited for the student orgs who are going to get to use that space. The homecoming leadership reception – which I’ve attended for the past 4 years – was held in a different building than usual because the old building… is not there anymore. They are redoing it. I remember feeling super tethered to my alma mater as my first job after graduating was research on campus, but I definitely do not feel that anymore.

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I’ll be honest: part of the reason I come back for homecoming is the delicious food they feed me.

TREVOR NOAH // I got to see Trevor Noah, who currently hosts The Daily Show, perform standup at the Kennedy Center while he promotes his upcoming book, Born Illegal. He was really funny, and I didn’t know that he did so many great impressions and accents! I appreciated his commitment to his one-man skits, which less-bold comics would not sustain the way he did. And then, because my friend Krystal is going to marry him and got the chance to get a photo with him… and bring some friends… I got to meet him!

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I like to think he’s laughing because when Annie and Krystal walked up, he exclaimed “Oh, you guys are tiny, I love that!” and then I approached him and said, “I see how it is, no love for a tall girl?” He then performed a 10:30 show about 5 minutes after this photo.

SETH MEYERS //  Late Night with Seth Meyers is filming in DC this week, and I was able to attend Tuesday’s taping! It was very stressful because even though I left work quite early, Metro was hell-bent on making me late. When I escaped from underground and decided to bike over instead, the first three Capital Bikeshare hubs I got to were full! No where to park my bike! This was one of the rare times I ran in the streets and I immediately stopped when I saw the line wrapping around the block. My friends already had their wristbands to sit in the orchestra section, and I was sure I wasn’t going to make it because there were hundreds of people in line in front of me. But I made it!!! Here’s the episode I watched them film, with guests Lena Dunham and John Mulaney and Nick Kroll as their characters from their Broadway show, Oh, Hello. It was fun to get to see them film live, and I liked seeing Seth Meyers again. (I saw him perform standup in college, shortly before he hosted the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2011.)

CIRQUE DE LA SYMPHONIE // I just saw this last night: it’s the NSO Pops performing Cirque de la Symphonie:  classic Halloween instrumentals to accompany some incredible circus acts. I’m talking aerial artists, strongmen, a juggling clown, a contortionist. There was a woman doing these amazing fast changes! It was awesome, and the set list included a lot of my favorite orchestral Halloween pieces. To top it all off, the weather is beautiful, so we walked to and fro the Kennedy Center and thoroughly enjoyed the stroll.

#FALLINTODISNEYSTYLE // I’ve been occasionally participating in Disney Style’s fall  Instagram challenge, and I have been getting to know a lot of really cool Disney Instagrammers through it!

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I’m not as hardcore as most of the community is, but it’s still a really fun community to get to know.

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Otherwise very unaccustomed to posting photos of my socks or my desk!

Believe it or not, this is actually a slightly slowed-down few weeks for me. I have been very consciously giving myself days at home to cook dinner, clean, and prepare for future activities. (Halloween is rapidly approaching and then the holiday season will be upon us before we know it!)

What have you been up to lately as fall kicks into full gear?
What are your favorite politically-minded comedy shows?
I don’t really watch a lot of TV anymore, and I definitely don’t stay up late to watch them, so I actually don’t watch much of The Daily Show or Late Night with Seth Meyers.

P.S. Are you in the spoopy mood yet? Get in it with Required Halloween Viewing and laughing at my resolution to Cool Down for Fall.
P.P.S. I quickly set up a Facebook page if that’s your preferred way to read blogs!