Biafine Emulsion Tube Cream
Affordable price per ounce
Derived from crude oil/fossil fuels
Expensive to order in the US
If you’re in the market to up your moisturizing game and are already a fan of Vaseline, try taking a walk on the French side with Biafine Emulsion Cream.
Biafine Emulsion Tube Cream
As a culture, we've moved through the peak of French Girl mania. But I can't shake my obsession with the culture and its skincare products, to get specific. The French Pharmacy is a holy place for a certain brand of skincare lover. Over the years, products like Biafine have captured the hearts of francophiles everywhere. Biafine has a nostalgic quality for the truly French who grew up with it being applied to burns or after a day in the sun. But for the uninitiated among us, it's a fantastic moisturizer with a lingering scent. The only hangup? It's anything but clean. Ahead, read my honest review of Biafine Emulsion Cream.
Best for: Post-chemical peel, sunburns, and general dryness
Active ingredients: Squalane and avocado oil
Clean?: No; contains paraffin wax and parabens.
About the brand: A staple since the '70s, Biafine is a must-have in the cabinet of French for a variety of use cases—from burns to wound healing. Unchanged, the formula has earned its place in the pantheon of "French Pharmacy Staples."
About My Skin: Unoriginally Dry in the Winter
Winter in New York is brutal. It tests even the most romantic among us with out-of-the-blue blizzards and late trains on above-ground platforms. Though much of the suffering is psychological, the cold's effect on the skin is worth noting. My cheeks flush naturally, thanks to my Dutch heritage, and I experience head-to-toe dryness. Every year, I test out a comforting moisturizer to carry on me at all times. Vaseline and Weleda Skin Food are good options, but I want something more. I want something chic and simple, which is what Biafine offers. I've been slipping it into totes and tiny purses alike, ready for dryness and the impending seasonal shift.
Dieux co-founder and skincare expert Charlotte Palermino turned me on to Biafine in the first place. I asked her to explain what makes a product like Biafine essential to a routine focused on maintaining moisture. "A big part of barrier repair is wound healing," she says. "When your barrier is impaired, more irritants can get in, more water is evaporating from your skin (transepidermal water loss), and you have to rebuild what's missing. Otherwise, the skin is itchy, flaky, irritated, and red. This was my life for years until I understood how to moisturize my skin properly. To be able to create a moist environment to give your skin time to rebuild is what petrolatum-based products do."
The Feel: Between a Lotion and a Cream
Besides a general distaste for pot application methods, my biggest issue with Vaseline is the stickiness it leaves behind. Biafine is much closer to a lotion in its consistency and quickly absorbed within a minute.
The Ingredients: Divisive at Best
Squalane: The golden child of skincare, this ingredient can do no wrong. It's funny to see an ingredient with such massive star power now in a product that has remained mostly unchanged since the 70s.
Avocado Oil: Another generally beloved ingredient, avocado oil is rated a one by EWG. Found in all sorts of skincare and makeup products, it's a workhorse that promises nourishment and protection.
Paraffin Wax: Here's where things get a little tricky. Paraffin wax is not considered clean. It's derived from crude oil. Charlotte Palermino has an amazing IGTV about Biafine, where she brings much-needed nuance to the conversation of ingredients. "Recently, a follower shared with me that Native Americans in Pennsylvania were well documented to refine crude oil and use petroleum jelly on wounds, cuts, and burns," Palermino says. "This dates back to 1415 but could go back further. It's important to note what the beauty industry uses is by-products of crude oil. This means that if we didn't use it for beauty, it would be thrown out. It's important to contextualize this because plant oils, animal oils, and waxes (like beeswax) require a lot of crude oil in farming, refining, and manufacturing. To say anything in our supply chain is 'petroleum-free' is misleading."
Parabens: The parabens in Biafine are short-chain (meaning it's less potent), but for some users, parabens are non-starters.
The Scent: Noticeable, But Not Bad
It's worth mentioning the fragrance included in the product, as some people are strictly no-fragrance. It's widely reported the scent of Biafine is nostalgic for those with a French childhood. Those of us without the adolescent memory might find it a touch abrasive, not bad, but just noticeable. It's somewhere between flowery and powdery.
The Delivery Method / Packaging: French Through and Through
Biafine is the kind of product that reigns supreme when it comes to counter space. The simple white aluminum tube has a puncturable lid, making it easy to unpackage. The tube's design is very easy to use and does not create that horrible layer of remnant product around the cap that some tubes fall victim to inspiring. The box is recyclable, but the bottle is not.
The Results: A Faster Drying Vaseline
As earlier indicated, the absorption time of Biafine might be my favorite benefit of the product. It doesn't catch my hair or transfer to my mask. Off the bat, I feel moisturized. The moisture is taken to an extreme when I employ another method popularized by Charlotte Palermino—slugging. Since I am an emotionally led individual, what might be more important is the way Biafine makes me feel. French, yes, but prepared for winter in the city and all the inevitable grey it brings with it. If skincare can spark joy, or should I say, joie, what more can we ask?
Bonus: I tried Biafine as a primer on top of my moisturizer for a late-night birthday party and was thrilled with the canvas it provided for the rest of my skincare and the mascara I ceremoniously applied for the occasion.
The Value: Affordable, Even With International Shipping
While true French beauty lovers know the key to scoring pharmacy finds at great prices requires a trip to Paris, most products have become widely available online. Biafine remains elusive in this sense, available only on large markup from specialty sites. But even with the markup, the product is affordable. Its stateside competitors are less expensive and come in notably less attractive packaging. However, you spin it, a bottle of any emulsion cream should last for many months, even with dedicated use.
Similar Products: You have options
Vaseline Pure Jelly: As old school as it gets, Vaseline Pure Jelly ($5.52/3 pack) is unmatched in affordability. Made of 100 percent petroleum jelly, the product is as much a part of American culture as baseball. Some find the product too prone to clogging their pores. It's a good starter to see if an extra layer of moisture can benefit your skin without a high startup cost.
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5): Coming in at only $14 for 1.4 ounces, this French competitor is available at most nationwide drugstore chains. La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 has its own traditional usage: baby diaper cream. But nowadays, it's seen as an excellent final layer to lock in moisture.
If you're keen to experiment and not deterred by a hefty shipping fee, give Biafine a try. If you already have a moisturizing routine or feel iffy about added fragrance, stick with what you know. It's helpful to note that Palermino's favorite reason to use Biafine is for its original purpose—after a burn. "If I've burned myself, even on my face (hello curling irons!), I apply a big glob and gently rub it in," she says.
- Product Name Emulsion Tube Cream
- Product Brand Biafine
- Price $40.00
- Weight 6.5 oz.
- Ingredients purified water, liquid paraffin, ethylene glycol monostearate, stearic acid, propylene glycol, paraffin wax, squalane, avocado oil, trolamine/sodium alginate, triethanolamine, cetyl palmitate, methylparaben (sodium salt), sorbic acid (potassium salt), propylparaben (sodium salt), and fragrance.