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Let’s get this out of the way: I’m an accidental, yet unapologetic, Francophile. I married my French husband (as a result, we spend a decent chunk of time in France), I can speak a fair amount of the language, and my bookshelf, pantry, closet, and bathroom cabinet are all filled with goods I’ve picked up while in L'Hexagone. But while big French beauty names like Caudalie and La Roche Posay have already made their way to American shores, I get a thrill discovering more elusive brands—the kind you’d only know about because someone told you.
So I’m letting you in on one of my secrets: Officine Universelle Buly 1803, my favorite beauty store that beats out perennial French beauty favorite CityPharma and the duty-free Clarins counter at CDG. With an assortment of luxurious products, from face oils to body lotions, plus an incredible selection of home fragrances, this unique shop is a must-visit if you happen to be in Paris (or any of the other locations in Asia and Europe). If traveling isn’t in the cards for you, don’t worry—you can have Buly shipped straight to your door at about the same price you’d pay if you were actually in France right now.
The Birth (and Rebirth) of Buly
Jean-Vincent Bully (with two L’s), was a French distiller, perfumer, and cosmetologist who opened his eponymous store in 1803 on the famous rue Saint-Honoré. He became most recognized for formulating a unique, aromatic vinegar lauded as a multi-ailment remedy and a must-have product to keep one’s complexion flawless and beautiful. Many years later—in 2014—Victoire de Taillac and Ramdane Touhami co-founded Officine Universelle Buly, combining their backgrounds in fashion and cosmetics and appreciation for heritage to capture the era where beauty and perfumery began to blossom, essentially resurrecting the brand.
The flagship boutique, located in Paris’ 6th arrondissement, celebrates ancient beauty traditions from as far and wide as Japan and Morocco; stepping into the shop feels like a portal to days gone by. The dark wood paneling, glass cabinets, marble countertops, and the Romantic and Art Noveau-influenced artwork evoke a sense of history; the jars, glass vessels, and flasks remind us of Buly’s apothecary past.
My Favorite Things
While Monsieur Bully’s special vinegar formulation is no longer made today, the company has curated and created an array of other unique and valuable beauty items—too many to list, really. If it’s meant to care for the skin, you can find some iteration of it in Buly’s collection, alongside a host of goods for grooming and scents for the home. Here are some standouts:
A combination of apricot and sesame oil, the Huile Antique is a dry oil inspired by the Ancient Greeks, who used plant oils and herbal macerations to nourish the skin. Applied all over the body after showering, it leaves your skin soft, supple, and delicately perfumed (it can even be applied to the ends of your hair for extra moisture). They start at $35 and are available in six signature scents: Kiso Yuzu, Damask Rose, Mexican Tuberose, Berkane Orange Blossom, Scottish Lichen, and Peruvian Heliotrope; four additional scents are offered from the art-inspired Louvre Collection. This arrives in a weighty, opaque bottle that protects the oil from light and oxidation, and also looks absolutely stunning on the bathroom counter. The oil I reach for the most these days is named La Victoire de Samothrace,” a gentle, soulful floral scent created to honor one of the most iconic pieces of art at the Louvre, also known as “Winged Victory”.
Although I am no stranger to a fancy candle (Diptyque and Acqua di Parma, I’m looking at you), never in my life did I expect to shell out $125 for one and be totally okay with it. The twelve available scents are wonderfully complex and each candle comes in a thick, marble-like glass vessel with a domed glass lid. Each candle is made entirely of plant-based wax (a combination of rice, soy, and copra) and the wick is pure cotton—it burns cleanly so you can really experience its fragrance. One of the most intriguing fragrances in the collection is the Sumi Hinoki, it’s mysterious and intense with smoky notes of burnt cypress, juniper, and incense. My current favorite, Conversations dans Un Parc, is an effervescent display of citrus and rose with an underlying hint of peppermint.
Similar brushes are available in the US, like the iconic Mason Pearson BN1, but for a much heftier price tag—this one is just about $88. This lightweight brush is constructed with a combination of boar and nylon bristles, ideal for long, fine to medium textured hair. The handle is made of teak and is ergonomic, making it very comfortable to hold. I use this brush every night to detangle and smooth my hair before I go to bed, and give it a run through my hair in the morning to give it a little bit of volume.
Perhaps one of Buly’s most beloved items, this $25 lip balm is made with shea butter, plum oil, and sesame oil and is very soothing without feeling tacky or greasy. It comes in a vegetable leather-adorned case that can be embossed with one’s initials, making it a great choice to give as a gift or to have for yourself.
From Paris, With Love
One of the things that makes the shopping experience so wonderful is that they ship from Paris via DHL—I placed my most recent order on a Tuesday evening, and I had it in my hands on Friday. You do have to pay for shipping, which can vary depending on how much you order, but since items being shipped to the United States are not subject to VAT, you’re paying duty-free prices (which helps offset the shipping charges). The products are packed in straw and wrapped neatly in Buly’s signature paper, and opening the parcel feels incredibly special. Each item is carefully packaged, and certain boxed items can be calligraphed at no additional cost—a fantastic option if you’re planning on gifting it.
If you’re addicted to beauty or simply love beautiful things, Officine Universelle Buly is a marvelous shop that carries unique and high-quality goods. With a handful of personalization options and exceedingly elegant presentation, it is the attention to detail and French savoir-faire that puts Buly in a class of its own. To pick up your own supply of these history-steeped treasures, head over to their website.