France is considered by many to be the center of the fashion and beauty world, so it was a particularly difficult pill to swallow on my trip to Monoprix in Toulouse to see the space so far behind in curl care. Another two bloggers, Fly and Tiga, took me under their wings for a field trip around Paris to show me exactly where it was that they did their hair shopping. It was an awesome adventure, filled with some shocking surprises, that took us to three very different stops:
- a natural ingredient boutique
- “Black Paris” and the beauty supply stores and salons
Arret Un (Stop One): Aroma-Zone
Man, this place is a mixtresses’ DREAM! And I mean D-R-E-A-M! Filled with every single type of oil, butter, cream, powder and seed you could ever imagine, Aroma-Zone is the place to go for the DIY types. For those (like me) who are lacking in the mixtress gene, each ingredient not only has a full description beneath it, but also there’s also a shelf of books where each ingredient has a page dedicated to it (including all sorts of info, such as its scientific name, melting point, usages, origins and more).
There’s also computer stations where you can search for ingredients and it tells you specifically how to use them, so when I found myself scoping the facial exfoliants Fly took me over to the computer where each of the facial exfoliants was placed on a grid from fine to coarse in terms of whether they were more suited to body or face. I ended up selecting Strawberry Seeds, which I can add to an oil or cleanser to amp up my exfoliation!
Aroma-Zone is also filled with a chic assortment of bottles, pumps, spoons, cases, funnels, measuring cups, and molds to place your finished goods in. The place was packed with people scooping up essential oils and other DIY needs. Fly explained to me that she was in the market for creating a body beauty assortment for herself to kick off le printemps (springtime!). I spent my time marveling over everything, but since I’m not particularly used to or good at concocting my own products, I was pretty dang lost. That is, until I found the A-Z Kits, boxes filled with specific ingredients to make your own beauty product sets. There were A-K Kits for everything from hair care to skin care to lip glosses to massage oils. Due to my suitcase space limitations, I settled on a smaller kit for a Honey Facial Masque. Will definitely be documenting that process once I get back home and in the kitchen to mix it up!
Ok, fine, I also bought some Cottonseed Oil, Cupuacu Butter and pure protein powder to add to conditioners. Very cool stuff. I also took a peek at their hair dye section where there was lots of henna, but also Powder of Curucuma, a hair-colorant which I had never seen before. Have you?
Arret Deux (Stop Two): Boulevard de Strasbourg
We hopped back on the metro and emerged in what was being referred to as “Black Paris” and it certainly was! Except that the first thing I saw upon exiting the metro, was a store called “Fair and White”, which I was kind of confused about considering we were supposed to be in “Black Paris”. Fly and Tiga quickly explained to me was a skin bleaching studio and that I would be seeing A LOT products and spas marketed as “purifying skin cleansers” or “skin illuminators” or “dermatological institutes”, but that everyone knew they were for skin bleaching.
Eventually I picked my jaw off the sidewalk (we saw five of these places in a two block walk) and we went into the beauty supply store. The place was buzzing and I set off to take my inventory to see what they had there:
- Lots of the big labels we’ve seen in the states in BSS, in fact most of the products there were made in the US. We’re talking the Dark&Lovely’s, SoftSheen Carson, and Cream of Nature
- Lots of “Beurre de Karite” (shea butter)-based products
- A whole wing dedicated to wigs and weaves
- Only one Curl Product Line (the Queen Helene Royal Curl line, which interestingly was missing it’s Curl Creme! Only the shampoo and conditioners were in the store.
- This one’s for you mom: a shelf FULL of Wave Nouveau! (For those who don’t know, I rocked one of these when I was 7 years old. Wasn’t the greatest idea. But most of the hair styles we were rocking in ’93 weren’t…#noshade.)
- And, as expected by this point, an aisle full of skin bleachers.
As we walked through the streets, men kept approaching us trying to lure us into the salons and offer up tissage and defrissage (weaves and relaxers). I could clearly see into the windows of these jam packed hair shops and peeped exactly that, a whole lot of weavin’ and relaxin’ with not a drop of natural hair to be seen.
Arret Trois (Stop Three): Indian Grocery
After finally telling a man who was following us that NO, WE ARE NOT INTERESTED IN RELAXERS on Boulevard Strasbourg, we ducked into a tiny alley and found ourselves in….India! No really, we’re talking statues of Ganesh, brightly painting buildings with colorful lanterns, and the whole alley wafting of curries and spices. I looked behind me, yep there were the beauty supply stores and the salon, but we were most definitely standing in India. We went into the little market and while the gourmande in me started to set in and I laid my eyes on a pack of delicious looking dried apricots and some Kohl eyeliner with a built in sharpener, Fly and Tiga scoped the hair goods. We all learned that all tumeric is not created the same and that eating tumeric is different than facial tumeric which is different than hair tumeric. I’m not sure if this was simply a marketing ploy on behalf of the vendor, but we left tumeric-less from the store (but I got my apricots!).
So after all of these adventures, there are certainly products for the naturalista in Paris, but you might just have to do some legwork to get there! I will say that I did have a chance to try the leave-in conditioner purchased at Monoprix and I was pretty impressed with it. It didn’t have a squeaky clean ingredient list, but it gave me a lot of moisture and slip. As I said, I’ll be doing a piece upon my return about the facial masque kit I purchased from Aroma-Zone because I can’t wait to give that a whirl!
Huge thanks to Fly and Tiga for taking showing me around. Be sure to check out their blogs and give them some love!