Shopping in Boots has to be number one on the list of things I didn’t expect to miss when I moved to Italy. Those endless aisles of skincare, toiletries, and cosmetics at price points to suit any budget. From serums for every skin type to haircare for bleach-blondes, the choice of products is vast – and I took it for granted.
In comparison, stores in Italy can be rather limited in their offerings. But things do seem to be improving, especially as more international brands appear on shelves alongside their Italian counterparts. While you might not find everything you need all under one roof, there are good quality, reasonably priced products available. Here are my tried and tested places to buy toiletries and cosmetics in Italy.
At the pharmacy
Most pharmacies in Italy are independent, family-owned stores and, as such, unable to compete with large corporations on price. They’re not the place to go if you want to stock up on essentials as cheaply as possible, but the range of products is usually good and often heavily features French pharmacy brands like La Roche Posay, Caudalie, and Vichy. Italian brands to look out for include BioNike and Collistar. Neighbourhood pharmacies rarely display prices so get used to asking how much things cost, or you might find yourself hiding your surprise at the till later on.
Sephora has a decent range of skincare and toiletries, but the makeup selection is where it really shines. Cosmetic counters vary from store to store, but expect big hitters like Chanel, Nars, and Yves Saint Laurent, and, coming down in price point, Benefit, Pixi, and Urban Decay. Some of the larger stores also have brow bars.
Usually stocked with a small range of essentials, the supermarket is ideal if you need a product in a pinch. You might not find your absolute favourites, but you should be able to pick up an approximate equivalent from reliable and familiar brands like Nivea, L’Oreal, Garnier, or Olay (known as Olaz here).
Occupying the sweet spot between good prices and a great product selection, Look Fantastic is the site I turn to when my beauty supplies are running low and need restocking. My typical basket might include a face cream that costs between €5-10, a super nourishing serum from The Ordinary, and some purple shampoo to tone blonde hair. In summer, I’ll add my favourite transparent sunscreen, which can be hard to track down in stores. Other brands I love include The Inkey List, Jason, and CeraVe. Look Fantastic is also the only place, as far as I’ve seen, that stocks Simple products, even if it’s just a handful.
* If you’re a new LookFantastic.it customer, you can get €10 off a €30 shop by using the code EMMA-R6KH or using this referral link.
Founded in 1997 in Milan, KIKO is the number one makeup brand in Italy. It’s popular with younger shoppers that want to experiment with the latest looks and trends at an accessible price, but also of good enough quality to appeal to older shoppers (i.e. me). Their skincare range seems to grow more comprehensive every time I visit.
Acqua e Sapone
Acqua e Sapone sells all kinds of household goods. Beyond the brooms and bin bags, you’ll find a wide range of products such as moisturiser, toner, serum, vitamins, wax and hair removal cream, shampoo, and other haircare. Cosmetics are covered with makeup stands from the likes of L’Oreal, Rimmel, Maybelline, Essie, and Max Factor (which I always look for but rarely find). Prices are reasonable and there’s usually a couple of offers to be found as well.
Since acquiring Limoni and La Gardenia, Douglas is Italy’s largest chain of profumerie. Like Sephora, they do have their own line of products (which are decent enough both in price and quality) but are better known for their brands, which include Estée Lauder, MAC, and Bourjois. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it here. If not, try the Douglas website – there are a few brands and products they only stock online.
After many years missing its pleasingly familiar aisles, I can confirm that Boots does now exist in Italy. A few stores have popped up in recent years (apparently since a law was passed allowing large companies to own multiple pharmacy outlets), most notably in tourist centres like Milan and Rome. Alongside brands you’d normally find in Italian supermarkets, there are favourites from Soap & Glory, Botanics, and Boots own brand products, including No7. The No7 selection I saw in the Rome store (Via Cipro, 42) had plenty of skincare though not much in terms of makeup, but, honestly, the fact that this old-faithful of the British high street has joined me in the Italian capital is good enough. (Still no Superdrug, alas).
Upim is a mid-market department store that mostly sells clothing but also deals in homewares and toiletries/cosmetics. Like all the shops featured in this list, the choice of product varies from store to store but expect similar stuff what you’d see on the shelves of Douglas or Acqua e Sapone, though maybe a little less of it.
I only just found out about this site so haven’t used it personally, but VanityCase.it is another online retailer of beauty and cosmetic items. Their focus is on products for curly and afro-textured hair, organic and vegan brands, and personal care for kids.
A note about dry shampoo…
‘Where can I buy dry shampoo in Italy?’ was a question that, for a long time, I didn’t have an answer to. Now, it is becoming more easily available, and I’ve seen dry shampoo in a few places including Sephora, Acqua e Sapone, and Boots. I’ve yet to experience the thrill of finding a can of Batiste – the original and best – on shelves here in Rome though. Online, Douglas stocks Batist (which looks like it could be the same brand just with a different spelling?) but it’s expensive at €8.50 for 200ml. Amazon has a few options but, again, prices are high so I’m sticking to stocking up in the UK for now.
This post includes a couple of affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission should you choose to make a purchase from a shop I’ve mentioned.
Oh my, I’m an expat in Israel, and also miss Boots and Super drug more than anything! Going to Venice / Bologna/ Modena and hoping to find some fab products! Came here looking for tips..Thanks