Alverde Calendula Lip Balm

Why is it so damn hard to find a good lip balm? I don't just mean any old thing you can slather on your mouth to prevent Saharan conditions, but a really excellent product that fits with your lifestyle and isn't too goopy, hard, greasy, smelly, visible, ineffective, or impractically packaged. Some are too drying while others invariable give you that disgusting just-sucked-on-a-slab-of-bacon luster that has to be scraped off at the end of the day. It can't actually be that hard to make a lightly moisturizing balm with a reasonable price and inoffensive smell and taste, right?

Well, apparently not, because German drugstore brand Alverde has done exactly that. I've been hooked on their Calendula stick balm for over a year and am only slightly ashamed to say that there are currently 4 floating around my one-room apartment. I'm absolutely stocking up before I go back home. This little gem is exactly what a lip conditioner should be. It's got just the right amount of moisture and staying power in a sturdy and convenient package. When it wears off after several hours, my lips feel soft and comfortable, not dry again. I also appreciate that Alverde, which is a "natural" (yes that's in quotes, but I won't go into my feelings on that phrase in those post) brand, takes care to use ingredients that I wouldn't mind occasionally ingesting in small amounts, as inevitably happens with chapsticks.

And if you're passing through LAX this summer and happen to see a girl being asked by customs agents why exactly she's traveling with fifty unopened tubes of lip balm? Yeah, that'll be me.

Alverde Calendula Lip Balm is 1.35e at dm.

Mario Badescu Elasto-Seamollient Hand Cream

Simply put, I love this stuff. I used to work in a cafe, and this saved my hands from all the harsh cleaning chemicals and time in the dishwashing sinks. It's a very rich but light hand cream with a pleasant perfume-y scent and soft pink color. My favorite things about this product - things that set it apart from the others - are how quickly it sinks in and how long-lasting its effects are. My hands feel softer immediately after I use it and stay moisturized even after I wash them.

I've had this tub for a month and you can see how much is left; it's so thick that you only need a tiny bit at a time. I personally like Mario Badescu's simple, uniform packaging, but can't help laughing at the Elasto-Seamollient cream's ridiculous pseudo-scientific name! I also like the scent, but even if you don't, it fades fairly quickly. The nice thing about Mario Badescu is how generous they are with samples: you get three with every order, and a bunch of free ones (no purchase necessary!) if you fill out their online questionnaire.

I've given this to a friend who has dry hands from washing them so often in med school, and now she's addicted too! Absolutely a must-buy.

Mario Badescu Elasto-Seamollient Hand Cream is $8 for 4 oz. at their website or their Amazon store. You can find it in-store at Nordstrom and Ulta. 
Non-U.S. readers can get it online at

Essence Nail Polish - C'est La Vie (#93)

Essence is quickly becoming my go-to brand for getting my "fix" of a certain color I don't have at my disposal during this study abroad semester. The (bizarrely!) warm weather in Germany only increased my lemming for Butter London's Trout Pout, which I don't own. Its near-identical dupe, Sinful Colors Island Coral, was not among the few polishes I brought with me. Enter C'est La Vie, which definitely leans more orange than those other two, but is still a really nice summer coral. Essence's polish formula is pretty good; not great, but I don't get any damage greater than minor tipwear after 4 or 5 days with a mani. For this price and the convenience of being able to try shades outside of my comfort zone without wasting too much money or space, Essence is a winner!

C'est La Vie is not currently available online, but Essence is widely sold in Europe for 1.25e and available at Ulta in the U.S. for $0.99!

Ocean Potion Ever Glow

This is, hands down, one of the best overall gradual tanners on the market. Ocean Potion Ever Glow is completely foolproof, doesn't smell like DHA, dirt cheap, and looks totally natural. There's really just no way to mess this one up.

As the name would suggest, this is one of those "glow lotions" that gently bronze your skin rather than turning you into a human carrot in one go. I'm naturally quite pale and am very careful about sun exposure, but it's undeniable that my light olive skin looks way better with a bit of tan. I've tried quite a few gradual bronzers, but Ever Glow is my favorite. It's so easy to just slap on - I'm overcautious and moisturize dry spots like knees, ankles, and elbows before applying, but it's not really necessary. And the smell! Just like an orange Creamsicle! Very creamy and sweet, and would perhaps be cloying if it lasted, but it fades into subtlety after a few minutes. The color it gives isn't too orange or too yellow, just a lovely natural glow. The bottle itself won't be most glamorous item on your bathroom counter, but it'll sure make you feel like a million bucks.

Miser that I am, I'm just as delighted by the price: $5.99 with free shipping for 20.5 oz (605ml) at Some Wal-Marts carry it for even cheaper, but I've found that the stock isn't very consistent.

Thayer's Rose Petal Witch Hazel

     I'm so, so happy that I discovered alcohol-free witch hazel. I'd tried the original Dickinson's years ago and it was simply too strong. I didn't need a harsh astringent, just something that cleansed a little better than a toner. Unless I've worn a heavy cream or a retinaldehyde the night before (or had a nightmare that In'n'Out closed forever and wake up sweating!), I don't usually wash my face in the morning. I believe in treating any issues the skin might have with effective products, but still handling it gently overall. And since I'm normal to dry, I just don't typically need to use water and a cleanser more than once a day.

Enter Thayer's Alcohol-Free Rose Petal Witch Hazel. I'd already been using rosewater as a facial spray because I'm a sucker for anything that smells of roses. The combination of the two makes for one great cleansing toner. All I do is swipe it over my face on a cotton pad, and I've got a clean canvas for makeup or moisturizer. 

Pure witch hazel is a strong antioxidant and a wonderful astringent for acne-prone people, so this "lite" version is unbeatable as a milder everyday product.

Thayer's is $10.22 on Amazon or $7.66 on iHerb ($5 off your first purchase with my referral code: BEH289) 

Essence Nail Polish - You Belong To Me (#53)

When I was packing for my semester abroad, I limited myself to 10 nail polishes, not including top and base coat. Of course, it's been 2 months and I'm already bored with all of them. The warm weather had me pining for my China Glaze For Audrey, which, naturally, is sitting in a shoebox in America. So I made do with Essence You Belong To Me (#53), which was only 1.25e and comes in a cute little bottle. Craving satisfied!

(Please forgive the mutilated thumbnail; I had a nasty run-in with a can yesterday.) 

You Belong To Me is less greeny-teal than For Audrey, and more muted. The formula is good, but not great. It's opaque in two coats and self-leveling, which I really appreciate. The polish was just the tiniest bit stringy, though, and if I had my thinner with me I'd probably add a little. I took this picture today, which is 3 days after I did my nails, and there's little tipwear but one or two small chips. But overall I'm pretty pleased with my first foray into Essence polish. I like the tiny bottle, especially if you're trying out a new trend or color, and the price sure is right!

Essence You Belong To Me (#53) is $0.99 at Ulta.

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