Hunting for Italian cosmetics: How to be bella in Italia?
December 8, 2009 2:52 PM   Subscribe

I love cosmetics, and I'm in Rome. What should I buy here that I can't get in the United States?

Things I'd love to find here: the best eyeliner, delicious blushes, fabulous mascaras, luxurious lotions, wrinkle creams that aren't FDA-approved, the eye cream that changed your life, the bronzer that makes you seem like you just got back from Cozumel, hand creams that make you weep, etc.

Has globalization eliminated this kind of shopping? Should I use all my liquid allocation for olive oil, or are there still Italian cosmetics and beauty elixirs worth seeking out?
posted by purpleclover to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
At the moment I can't recall any such place in Rome. If you're on an itinerary and have Florence on your way, I can definitely help you there. Hopefully some of the roman Mefites will show up. (and, olive oil is great for your skin and hair!)
posted by _dario at 3:07 PM on December 8, 2009

Gah, I'm not going to be of much help as my mom is an aesthetician in the US and I've got a small suitcase filled with skin care stuff & makeup that I haven't even gotten around to using yet.

That said, you might try the pharmacies & erboristeria for creams. La Giardena, Beauty Point and er, Sephora are the chains that come to mind. Zara Home on Via Cola di Rienzo has a White Jasmine bar soap & body lotion that I love. Sabon (Via Cola di Rienzo again) seems to be similar to Lush but with a more understated/classy branding; I've only ever popped in there a few times as, like Lush, I can't handle the scent overload very well.

And you might even try picking up some brands that you know of just for comparisons sake: I love Pantene I get in the US but the similar line here I can't stand (I bop between Sunsilk, Garnier & Herbal Essences, the latter which didn't used to be available here).

Or just take _dario up on his offer if you're heading that way ;)
posted by romakimmy at 4:19 PM on December 8, 2009

And I'm a dunce: until I Googled for their website, I didn't realize that Sabon was a worldwide chain as well.
posted by romakimmy at 4:25 PM on December 8, 2009

There are only 1 or 2 sunscreens with mexoryl available in the US, but plenty in Europe. It's supposedly a better sunscreen than those made with avobenzone, and it was only approved by the FDA a few years ago, so it might be cheaper and easier to find in Europe, where it has been available much longer.
posted by slow graffiti at 4:51 PM on December 8, 2009

Curious facts encountered during research:
a) there *might* still be a pharmacy run by monks in Piazza delle Cinque Lune, close to Piazza Navona, and
b) rather unsurprisingly, the Vatican Pharmacy won't sell you condoms. On the other hand, they're much cheaper than italian ones, but you need a prescription and ID to get there.
posted by _dario at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2009

I haven't been to Rome, but when I have been in foreign countries, I do enjoy going into their pharmacies or boots-esque places and just seeing what they have. Bonus: weird bath balls/bubbles, lip goo etc. make excellent gifts for your friends back home.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:26 PM on December 8, 2009

The only thing that springs to mind is Santa Maria Novella products. The original pharmacy is in Florence, rather than Rome, although it wouldn't surprised me if they had an outpost there. Some of the products are available in the U.S. (and elsewhere I imagine) but I bet that there is a much larger selection of products available in Italy and they might be cheaper. Haven't tried anything from the range (I think that it's mostly soaps, lotions, and perfumes) so I don't have a specific recommendation. Here's a link to an article from the NYT that mentions Santa Maria Novella as well as other pharmacies in Florence.

Have fun; I'm so jealous!
posted by kaybdc at 7:16 PM on December 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend recommends the "German made Nivea cream" which is apparently different from what we can get in the States. She also said "eye shadow primer from a cosmetic brand called Art Deco is very well liked. Some prefer it over Urban Decay Primer Potion and Too Face Shadow Insurance."
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:31 PM on December 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've never been to Rome, but the Sephoras in Europe have a much different selection than in the U.S. You said you were interested in cosmetics, but there is a much wider variety of fragrances available in Europe. Have fun!
posted by defreckled at 8:50 PM on December 8, 2009

Nivea facial products, yes! What haveanicesummer's friend said. Nivea visage isn't sold in the US anymore, but it's lovely stuff, and I always try to stock up when in Europe. Bonus, it's sold all over (grocery stores included).
posted by AthenaPolias at 9:11 PM on December 8, 2009

kaybdc, looks like there is a Santa Maria Novella outpost in Rome.

Romakimmy, Sabon may be a chain, but its outposts aren't anywhere near my home, so it's a good find.

Thanks, all!
posted by purpleclover at 11:38 PM on December 8, 2009

In case you're wondering, Santa Maria Novella was cool, but was extremely expensive. I bought three bars of soap and a tin of candies and spent 52 euros. Also of note, their signature fragrance smells precisely like Pantene shampoo. (American Pantene, at least.)
posted by purpleclover at 8:20 AM on December 15, 2009

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