It’s not the south of France, but…

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It’s not the south of France, but…

For much of the year, the small town of Avène les Bains huddles quietly at the skirt of the Cévennes mountains in southern France. But between June and September, thousands of holidaymakers shake its sleepy streets wide awake. They want crusty baguettes, they want to pose alongside the photogenic mountains and probably wouldn’t mind a little camembert and rosé either. But tourists to Avène le Bains don’t just come for the good life; they come for hydrotherapy at one of France’s most famous ‘skincare resorts’.

The pilgrimage to Avène began over 250 years ago with a horse that had an itch. It’s said that the horse of the Marquis de Rocozels discovered a thermal spring and was soon cured of all its ills. The tale spread for miles, public pools were built in 1743, and in 1873 the baths were made an official dermatological hydrotherapy centre.

The Marquis and his horse probably thought it was magic, but science now knows the water, which trickles through the mountains for 40 years before reaching the spring, has a perfect pH of 7.5, brims with silica and trace elements like iron, manganese, zinc and copper and is bacteriologically pure. And now that it’s home to Avène Dermatological Laboratories, the baths have become part of a sleek and shiny skincare centre where people from all over the world soothe itchy ills like dermatitis, eczema, burns, rosacea and sensitivity. The legendary spring has become the source of the Avène range of skincare too.

But you don’t have to fly to France or even be that itchy and scratchy to soak up the goodness. I keep a spray bottle of Avène Thermal Spring Water on my desk at all times for hits of hydration, for relief when the air con starts to feel sticky and because it’s magnifique at setting maquillage. It’s a must-have. About the only thing my Avène spray’s not is a sojourn in the south of France. Sigh…

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