We write about hundreds of products a week. Here, in our version of the Sunday circular, we’ve plucked out some of our favorites — expert-recommended essentials, life-changing stuff you didn’t know you needed, newly launched gizmos, and the very good deals we uncovered while trawling through the vast online-shopping universe this past week, including a non-ugly kids’ carry-on, beginner-friendly menstrual cups, and giftable (on-sale) literature by the late, legendary bell hooks.
An affordable, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial toner
Strategist beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton tipped us off to her morning skin-care routine, which is “all about moisturizing and protecting my skin from the outside world.” One of the four products mentioned is this budget-friendly toner from K-beauty wonderbrand Cosrx. “I love this particular propolis toner for a few reasons: It’s affordable and a humectant without creating that sticky, tacky feel,” Viera-Newton writes, adding that it does an “equally good job of calming inflammation and redness (whether that be breakouts or just cold-weather flaky bits) as it does moisturizing my skin.” She attributes this to the product’s standout ingredient, propolis, which is “said to not just be anti-inflammatory but also have antibacterial benefits. That makes it a great ingredient to reach for if you have dry or dehydrated acne-prone skin.”
Portable power for the budding prepper
“These past few years, facing the ongoing pandemic, a return of urban firestorms, and now ‘atmospheric rivers,’ many have found their emergency-preparedness stashes insufficient,” writes Strategist contributor Stacey Dee Woods. She consulted with cleanup professionals, survivalists, and emergency experts to see exactly what one might want to have on-hand. Along with flashlights and first-aid kits, a power bank was recommended. “Afrovivalist” Sharon Ross says this Jackery power station has “all the features you might need in a portable power bank: dual USB ports, an AC outlet, and a car port. The company also sells a foldable solar panel you can use to charge the power station outdoors.”
Molds for making edible, effortless brownstones
Strategist contributor Tanya Bush has worked as a baker, but writes, “I’m someone with little patience for pastries that require careful detailing.” Still, she often lusted over “showstopper-style desserts” that popped up on her Instagram feed. “Enter the row-house mold, the perfect mechanism for the lazy baker with an appetite for drama,” Bush writes. A friend shared the silicone molds with her, and Bush was “thrilled by the straightforwardness of these delightful little molds. Whimsical, Instagram-worthy desserts with little fuss or skill required? Yes, please.” She was able to make her own show-stopping structures that looked like she “had labored over their construction,” but in reality, “it was easier than making popsicles.”
A refreshing mister for sticky situations
In our latest installment of Steal My Vacation, we followed Brandon Mahler, head of U.S. operations for the British menswear label Drake’s, through Galveston. Mahler has visited Galveston at least 75 times in his life, and shares with us his favorite historical neighborhood walk, vintage bookstore, and fried po’ boy. This Aesop facial mister is an essential when he visits the hot and muggy climate. “The humid salty air isn’t the best for everyone’s skin, and sometimes it leaves me a little moist and sticky,” Mahler says. “While most people don’t care, I get uncomfortable and start to think about it too much. I can’t enjoy my fried food po’ boy when I’m almost as greasy as the dish! Before walking into a few places, I’ll put a little spritzer on to refresh my face.”
A non-ugly kids’ carry-on
“A lot of stuff for kids — toys, clothing, everyday essentials — is ugly. And if you want something a little more aesthetically pleasing, you’re going to have to pay up for it,” writes Strategist writer Lauren Ro who was looking for a decent-looking suitcase for her son, Augie. Her search left her frustrated because “every rolling suitcase designed for little kids was emblazoned with either characters, superheroes, or straight-up fugly graphics.” That is, until her husband found a plain, hardside spinner for kids. “Now that we’ve taken it on two cross-country trips, I can confidently say it was a fantastic purchase,” Ro writes. It’s large enough to hold all of her son’s things for a week-plus trip to California, and it has “incredibly smooth wheels” so Augie can “go super-fast through the airport terminal — a great way for him to burn off some energy before (and after) a five-hour flight.” And while they’ve only used it as a carry-on, Ro says, “I’m sure that despite its extremely lightweight construction, it would withstand the banging and abuse endured by checked baggage.”
A bouquet of floral bras and underwear …
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Parade collaborated with BRRCH Floral on a limited-edition collection inspired by florist Brittany Asch’s arrangements, in case you (or your loved one) like your florals “a little less delicate and more photorealistic.” As we write in our latest installment of Don’t Dillydally, “Offerings include Strategist writer Chloe Anello’s favorite mesh bra, which she says is both comfortable and supportive, a matching mesh silk thong, and a long-sleeved bodysuit. And if you’d like to stock up, consider the bundle, which comes with the bra and two thongs.” Additionally, $1 from every bundle purchase goes toward supporting reproductive rights.
… and an actual bouquet of long-lasting roses
If instead your Valentine wants real flowers and hates seeing them wilt after a few days, consider these from Venus Et Fleur. Not only can they last for a year, but they’re celebrity-approved, too. Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar told us, “They’re one of my favorite gifts to send — I sent one to my mother-in-law yesterday. They make a great birthday gift, holiday gift, or something to just let someone know you’re thinking of them.”
Beginner-friendly menstrual cups
Menstrual cups have plenty of pros: They’re less wasteful, they don’t have to be changed as often, and they save you a lot of money over time. “But there are tons of brands these days putting out highly specific period cups in different shapes and sizes in an effort to comfortably fit each of the millions of different vaginas and periods in the world,” writer Dominique Pariso explains. To find the best ones, Pariso spoke to various professionals, enthusiasts, and gynecological experts about their favorites. This one from the company Lena was recommended by Kim Rosas and Amanda Hearn, the founders of Put a Cup in It, for anyone who’s new to menstrual cups. It comes in two sizes, making it great for both teens and adults, and is made from 100 percent medical-grade silicone (meaning most people won’t have allergy concerns). Jackie Bolen, author of the The Ultimate Guide to Menstrual Cups, is also a fan of the Lena Cup and specifically recommends the “sensitive” model because it doesn’t give her cramps like some of the stiffer cups — and is a breeze to put in.
A tiny but mighty Bluetooth speaker
“The joy of a good Bluetooth speaker is that you can listen to music anywhere without sacrificing great sound quality. But not all Bluetooth speakers are good Bluetooth speakers,” Strategist’s resident tech writer Jordan Bowman writes. In search of the best ones, he tested 14 speakers over the past six months, including this one from JBL, which was the lightest and smallest of the bunch. Despite that fact, Bowman notes that “its battery still lasts up to ten hours. And though I initially thought there was no way you could fit a good speaker into something as small as the Clip 4, I was quickly proven wrong.” When he tested the speaker on a beach, “it managed to sound clear and vibrant while playing Haim’s Women in Music Pt. III even with waves crashing quite loudly nearby.” On top of that, it clips to nearly anything and is incredibly durable in case it does fall. “It’s waterproof and dustproof, and I’ve knocked it against hard surfaces, had it roll through a pile of sand, and watched it fall flat on its face against a hardwood floor without the music skipping a beat,” Bowman writes.
Giftable (on-sale) literature by the late, legendary bell hooks
“The past few years have been a study in appreciating what we have before it’s gone and learning new ways to love, whether in a romantic sense or simply by doing a better job of caring for one another and ourselves,” writes senior writer Liza Corsillo. And a still-relevant guide to the current state of the world is All About Love, by the late, legendary bell hooks. “In it, hooks uses personal experiences to examine society’s lack of caring, compassion, and unity,” says Corsillo. “At a time when we could all use more connection, not to mention more lessons in Black feminism, this testament to hooks’s enduring brilliance should be required reading.” While it’s always a good time to gift the book, right now it’s on sale and would make a very nice gift for Valentine’s Day.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.