Avène Is the French Girl Skincare Brand You Need to Know If You Have Sensitive Skin

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Avene Products for Avene Brand Guide

Avene / Byrdie

If there's one beauty category I'll always consider deserving of its hype, it's French pharmacy brands. As is the case with bread and motorcycle jackets, the French are simply playing chess while the rest of us play checkers. Chock full of high-quality, efficacious ingredients, the skincare products you pick up at a French pharmacy aren't just last-minute grabs for when you have to pour out your liquids at security: They're coveted potions that beauty lovers make pilgrimages to get their hands on.

Among the most well-known of these brands is Avène, a dermo-cosmetics label with nearly 300 years of history and one extremely well-known ingredient: its soothing thermal spring water. Read on to learn more about the brand and some of its standout products.


Founded: 1736

Based In: Avène, France

Pricing: $-$$

Best Known For: Sensitive skin-friendly products containing its signature thermal spring water

Most Popular Product: Thermal Spring Water

Other Brands You’ll Love: La Roche-Posay, Embryolisse, Vichy

It all started with a horse: Specifically, a steed with dermatitis owned by the Marquis of Rocozels. In 1736, the Marquis noticed that the horse would regularly roll in the water of the Orb River, near the town of Avène, to soothe its skin. Eventually, its skin was healed, and its coat was restored. Less than 10 years later, the Marquis built the first Hydrotherapy Center near the original spring.

The brand was acquired by its current owner, the dermo-cosmetics company Pierre Fabre Group, in 1975; the current Avène Hydrotherapy Center and production center (located in Avène, France) were opened in 1990. Since then, the company has made it a mission to conduct scientific research that explains why the thermal spring water is so skin-soothing. "While the benefits of Avène thermal spring water have long been unexplained, for over 30 years, our studies have scientifically proven its soothing properties," says Sophie Mery, general manager at the Avène Hydrotherapy Center.

The secret, as it turns out, was right under their feet all along: "In fact, Avène thermal spring water is rainwater that sets off on a 50-year journey into the deepest and oldest layers, where it becomes impregnated with trace elements, silicates, and comes into contact with a unique microflora—Aquae dolomiae—that you can't find anywhere else," explains Mery. The water then emerges at a flow of 70,000 liters per hour. "It's this double signature, both mineral and biological, that explains the soothing, anti-irritating, and anti-inflammatory properties," says Mery. "But we still have many mysteries… to clear up, and that's fine."

Today, the Hydrotherapy Center welcomes thousands of patients annually, treating skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, eczema, or side effects from cancer treatments over three weeks. The treatments—including baths, showers, and body wraps—are prescribed by an on-site dermatologist and provided by on-site professionals. Patients are equipped with the know-how to maintain their results at home. "We are at the service of our patients so that they leave these three weeks with Avène with not only improvement in the condition of their skin but also the assurance that they will be stronger to face the recurrence of flare-ups," says Mery. 

Given the brand's efficacy at treating the most sensitive skin conditions, it's unsurprising that dermatologists are fans of Avène, too; if you don't have any French pharmacies nearby, there's a good chance you could pick up some of the brand's star products at your derm's office. "Avène is currently being distributed in over 1,400 dermatologist offices, and with the demand, we aim to increase that distribution within retailers and [to] partner with dermatologists in wider ways," says Mery. "We have incredible innovations in the pipeline, with focuses on anti-aging, sun care, and [skin barrier health]."

Scroll on for seven Avène products we can't live without.

01 of 07

Thermal Spring Water

Avene Thermal Water
Avène Thermal Spring Water $19.00

A hero product if there ever was one, the secret ingredient in Avène's Thermal Spring Water is, well, water—specifically, the aforementioned rainwater that proves especially soothing to the skin. The fan-favorite spray earns rave reviews from customers for boosting hydration and calming irritation; you'll see plenty of reviews touting its post-sun exposure benefits, and yours truly has definitely spritzed it on after an unfortunate encounter with especially strong AHA pads. Another pro tip: I also like to spray my Beautyblender with Thermal Water before blending out foundation, a luxe trick I've known a few other beauty lovers to dabble in as well.

02 of 07

Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50+

Avene Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense
Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50+ $36.00

I have about ten face sunscreens on my shelf at the moment, and if you asked me which I've worn the most over the last few months, it would easily be this one (or should I say two, since I prefer to mix the tinted and non-tinted formulas). A 100 percent mineral UVA/UVB filter containing 12 percent zinc oxide, Solaire UV feels shockingly lightweight—maybe even more lightweight than some of the chemical sunscreens I've used. Plus, the elegant formulation makes it really easy to layer over. Check out the brand's Mineral Sunscreen Face & Body Lotion SPF 50 ($38)—also a zinc oxide formulation—for head-to-toe coverage.

03 of 07

Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream

Avene Cicalfate+
Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream $42.00

If you're looking for skin-barrier boosting—such as after a professional skincare treatment—Cicalfate+ should be on your radar. It's formulated with C+ Restore (a protein-rich post-biotic ingredient), a copper-zinc sulfate complex that promotes recovery, and, of course, the thermal spring water, as well as moisturizing glycerin and the emollients caprylic/capric triglyceride and mineral oil. It's a rich cream that doesn't just boost moisture but locks that moisture in while keeping environmental aggressors out. And I do mean rich: In a highly unscientific study, it took me about 10 seconds longer to completely rub Cicalfate+ in compared to Tolérance Control. But don't just take my word for it: This product also garnered a stamp of approval from the Internet's favorite It Girl herself.

04 of 07

Tolerance Control Skin Recovery Cream

Avene Tolerance Control
Avène Tolerance Control Skin Recovery Cream $38.00

French pharmacy brands are famed for delivering products that compete with—or surpass—offerings from the country's storied luxury brands, and Tolérance Control is definitely among them. More of an everyday moisturizer, the ingredient list includes (what else?) the brand's soothing thermal water, along with glycerin, caprylic/capric triglyceride, moisturizing squalane, and occlusive beeswax. The resulting formula is fantastic for sensitive skin: Along with the thermal water, I will say this might be the most thoroughly fragrance-free moisturizer I've ever encountered. It's rich but lightweight, and, thanks to the sterile pump packaging, it's preservative-free, too. I don't find it at all greasy or heavy, but I also only use moisturizers at night; some of those who use it during the day have said it doesn't play particularly well under makeup.

05 of 07

Makeup Removing Micellar Water

Avene Micellar Water
Avène Makeup Removing Micellar Water $18.00

If you did a command+F search on the other Byrdie articles I've written, I'd be willing to wager that "eye makeup" pops up in a disproportionately high number of my bylines. What can I say: I'm dedicated to a cat-eye wing and coats of mascara. And I'm equally dedicated to taking them off at the end of the day. Lately, my method of choice for doing so has been the Makeup Removing Micellar Water. Just pop some on a reusable cotton round, sit it on your eyelid for about 10 seconds, and presto—your eye day has been sufficiently wiped away. What I love even more than the effectiveness, however, is the gentleness: There's absolutely none of that painful momentary stinging so many of us are used to with eye makeup removers. You can truly swipe and go.

06 of 07

Cleanance Acne Medicated Clearing Gel Cleanser

Avene Cleanance Acne Gel Cleanser
Avène Cleanance Acne Medicated Clearing Gel Cleanser $21.00

Among the brand's newer offerings, the Cleanance Acne Medicated Clearing Gel is specifically formulated with those with sensitive, oily, or acne-prone skin in mind. The star ingredient here is salicylic acid, a BHA beloved by derms for sloughing off dead skin and clearing pores. Also on the list: Lactobacillius ferment lysas to keep the skin microbiome balanced and a betaine and saccharide isomerate blend to help mitigate any surfactant-induced barrier damage and up hydration. The formula is also fragrance-, paraben-, and mineral-oil-free.

07 of 07

Cleanance Acne Medicated Clearing Treatment

Avene Cleanance Medicated Clearing Treatment
Avène Cleanance Acne Medicated Clearing Treatment $32.00

The Acne Medicated Clearing Treatment is the perfect partner for the Acne Medicated Clearing Gel Cleanser, helping to clear blemishes and keep them from popping up in the first place. The hero in this formula is 5.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, which helps reduce the bacteria that cause acne and is known to work well with salicylic acid. Also in the mix is IBR-DRAGON, a dragon fruit extract that helps keep the skin's microbiome balanced and healthy.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Martin H, Laborel-Préneron E, Fraysse F, et al. Aquaphilus dolomiae extract counteracts the effects of cutaneous S. aureus secretome isolated from atopic children on CD4+ T cell activationPharm Biol. 2016;54(11):2782-2785.

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