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Ask Chris Black: What Are Your Tried-and-True Drugstore Buys?

Photo: Eric Chakeen

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or the handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, Chris Black is here to answer it in a regular column.

What are your go-to drugstore buys? Not stuff that may work in a pinch, but stuff you think is actually the best or perfectly adequate without having to cost more or come from a more specialized store? 

I don’t just love expensive shit! I buy essentials at the drugstore just like you, my dear reader. Being able to grab essentials on the walk home is one of the great joys of living in New York City.

I have been using the Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque since high school. It’s cheap and actually shrinks pores. Unlike wild specialty shit, you can find this at lots of places while on the road. I always have some in the medicine cabinet.

As an (amateur) athlete, I always keep Aleve Back & Muscle Pain on me for when I am feeling sore. It works well and doesn’t smell like a Tiger Balm patch. These two-a-days require self care of all sorts!

A lot of my friends have tried Quip and other assorted “cool” toothbrushes. I gotta say … WHO CARES?! My local drugstore sells Colgate’s Slim Soft Charcoal Toothbrush, and that is perfectly good enough for my chompers. The charcoal-infused bristles make sure my piehole stays extra clean. Plus, I save a few bucks so I can buy my Marvis toothpaste!

Beyond Baggu, are there any bags you suggest I carry (or you might carry yourself) to ensure one is never empty-handed when the city’s plastic bag ban kicks in on March 1?

New York City is built on bags. Since we must walk everywhere, we are given a bag with every purchase. When I first moved here and saw guys getting bags for cups of coffee, my mind was blown. But we’ve got to save the planet, inconvenience be damned!

Before we go beyond it, I do love Baggu. The standard size in green checkerboard or a waspy blue gingham are both perfect for a bodega run. But, we want options!

The large foldable bags in this 12-pack are done in nice, simple colors (black, blue, and green) and have no visible logos. With their reinforced straps, any one of them can safely carry a case of Oatly home from Whole Foods.

I love these French-style bags made of cotton mesh that come in a set of five. They can be squished to fit anywhere, look very organic, and hold up to 40 pounds — perfect for your farmer’s market produce (don’t skimp on the micro greens) and a cheeky cheat-day baguette. You can even wash them!

Should you be looking to splurge on a reusable shopping tote, this mesh beach bag from Stussy is big enough to hold all your gluten-free pasta and cans of San Marzano tomatoes. It’s a bit more structured than the other options, but still mesh, so you can stuff it anywhere and have it ready for use on the go.

Work is about to transfer me out of the city to a decidedly non-coastal-elite location. What mementos of New York City life would you bring with you to flex your cred at home, the office, or around town, without being in your face or at all nostalgic about it?

First of all, I am sorry. Moving to a tertiary market can be crushing. But keeping a few mementos around to remind you of your life in the Big Apple is something I can help you with.

Coffee is a big part of life here. So sip your pour-over from a Café Grumpy orange logo mug. The angry face will remind you of all the people you encountered daily in this lovable s***hole.

You will need to keep up with the news. Depending on where you are moving, a New York Times subscription is a must, even if it is just to the Weekend or Sunday edition. After a long week of punching the clock, you need to kick up your feet and digest some damn culture. Take T Magazine with you to the local breakfast establishment to let them know you are a patron of the arts, not just another townie! Since you read the Strategist, you may already subscribe to New York Magazine, but if you do not, it is another worthy way to keep up with the news and the city you are leaving behind.

[Editor’s note: the New York Times first requires you to enter a zip code before displaying subscription options and prices.]

Some things that are overdone here will work in a flyover city. Let your new neighbors know that you miss chic lunches in Tribeca with the Odeon’s classic baseball hat. A subtle nod to overindulgence and timeless downtown glamor. For more memorabilia from the greatest city on earth, check out the Strategist’s NYC merch gift guide (which, incidentally, includes this very hat). Good luck!

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.

Ask Chris: What Are Your Tried-and-True Drugstore Buys?