So there I am, loading up a handbasket at Trader Joe’s with pretty much every beauty product they offer, realizing—as usual—that I should have gotten a regular cart and will definitely be kicking this down the checkout line like a concrete soccer ball very soon. I do this every time. There are staples I can’t survive without: Old Amsterdam Gouda, those homemade-style flour tortillas, 19-cent bananas, frozen edamame that I’ll blister in a cast iron (hell yes), and that mysteriously watery almond butter. And then there are the impulse buys: What is partially popped popcorn? (in the basket); it’s pumpkin spice season? (all of it, in the basket); jalapeño Greek yogurt CHIP DIP?! (two, in the basket). I’m only human.
Being a general beauty snob, I’ve never tried any of their hair/skin/body products, which is what brought me to Trader Joe's on this particular trip. But to keep the mission realistic, I’ve paired all of the best products I tried with their matching flavor profile snack in a wholly unscientific Beggsian manner. So twist open a bottle of Charles Shaw, peel off the plastic seal from that roasted tomatillo salsa, and let’s get to business.
Coconut Body Butter + Coconut Cashews
In the dry-skin days of winter, I like to oil up right before bed and imagine I'm Kramer tanning on the rooftop with Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. In fact, my cat knows the sound of the lid being twisted off and trots over to lick it off my toes—it’s cute but also very ticklish. Anyway, the Coconut Body Butter has a fluffy texture and smells like cake frosting. Do I like to smell like cake frosting all of the time? No. Some of the time? Oh yes. It may come in a dollar store container with the flimsiest lid in lid history, but it’s seriously moisturizing. It makes me want to wear glitter eyeshadow and marathon Bar Rescue. True, I always feel that way, but the point here is to indulge sparingly. I’ve paired it with Coconut Cashews, which are sweet, nutty, totally addicting, packed with healthy fats, and must also be portioned modestly.
Refresh Citrus Body Wash with Vitamin C + Imported English Authentic Lemon Curd
Lately I’ve been really into Molton Brown’s Pink Pepperpod Body Wash, a spicy/sexy Powerful Lady scent that sticks on your skin all day. So Trader Joe’s mega-grapefruity Refresh was a pretty big leap in another direction. In the shower it is refreshing and great for that early morning wake-up feeling (so is coffee), but the Flintstones Push Up pop scent doesn’t stick on your skin—at all. At least it makes you feel really clean! I’ve paired it with the deliciously grandma choice of lemon curd, which is heaven on Trader Joe’s scones or their sliced sourdough (or vanilla ice cream!!)—another early morning ritual.
Nourish Antioxidant Facial Serum + Actual blueberries
I have more serums on my counter than you can shake an ugly stick at, so what’s one more, really? I put on two pumps of the Trader Joe’s serum after I washed my face in the evening (with the Cetaphil-like Nourish All-in-One Facial Cleanser), and it went on like Smashbox’s famous Photo Finish Foundation Primer—super velvety—but with a distinct orange juice scent (seriously craving a Push Up pop now). Overall, my face suddenly felt tight (which I hope meant my “fine lines” were disappearing into the ether, but probably not). While studies on antioxidants in skincare are still on the fence, consuming them in their natural state, like in blueberries, seems like a safer bet. Trader Joe’s always has the cheapest, biggest containers of blueberries, so get after it.
Micellar Cleanser and Makeup Remover Towelettes + Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream
Please don’t tell my Fairy Skincare Godmother, but I’m one of those people who uses face wipes every night to take my makeup off and also count it as washing my face. My favorite is the Olay 4-in-1 Daily Facial Cloths, which are lightly scented, affordable, and don’t leave any funky residue. Trader Joe’s Micellar Cleanser and Makeup Remover Towelettes are also affordable, but only 20 wipes? Joe, Josef, José, Jacques—whatever your real name is—what kind of calendar are you on? They get the job done (mascara = gone) but are heavily floral-scented, which stung my eyes a little and then required a quick rinse after (despite the fact that “micellar” usually indicates no rinse necessary). Because this is a nighttime routine, I paired them with a great midnight snack: Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream! You may also need to rinse afterward.
Green Tea The Vert Triple Milled Soap + Lightly Salted Crunchy Green Beans
Out of all the options for bar soap at TJ’s, Green Tea is easily the best scent. The Ginger Almond Oatmeal Exfoliant Soap is way too reminiscent of public restroom toilet cakes, and the Oatmeal & Honey Soap is straight-up oatmeal cookies (OK, that one’s pretty great). Despite the insistent “French” packaging (sure) the soap is probably too drying to use on your whole body, but it's great for armpits/feet. Unfortunately, if you don’t use it every day, the bar ends up drying out and cracking down the center like the Grand Canyon, which has happened to me a few times when I go in and out of bar soap phases. (“I’m really in a bar soap phase right now” is a thing I’ve said.) I’ve paired it with the Lightly Salted Crunchy Green Beans, which I also enjoy in phases. They’re slightly salty and sweet, crunchy and kind of stale-tasting—but in a good way. A reliable soap, a reliable snack.
Head to Toe Moisturizing Balm + Teriyaki Turkey Jerky
The idea of sticking my fingers in a balm is never appealing to me for sanitary reasons—especially one that so excitedly suggests using it on your lips...and your heels. I only used this balm on my lips and cuticles and was surprised how much I liked it. It’s not gloppy like Vaseline and its many imitators. It’s more of a solid wax with a light, orange-peel/herbal scent that goes on smooth and sinks in. The overtly dude-like packaging and suggested use as beard-tamer is why I paired it with TJ’s Teriyaki Turkey Jerky, which I can eat in an entire stress-sitting. I’m not sure why I gendered turkey jerky, but I did.
Moisturizing Cream Shave in Honey Mango+ Chile Spiced Mango
I used to use Alba Botanica’s Very Emollient Cream Shave in Mango Vanilla, and their old packaging was clearly inspiration for Trader Joe’s. I’ve since moved on to Kiehl’s Close Shavers Squadron Ultimate Brushless Shave Cream, which I share with my dude and lasts forever—no scent, no foam, no nonsense. The honey side of the TJ’s cream had a funky scent—dare I say stinky? Something is not right in the perfume formula here, but it works with no complaints as a shaving cream. My store is always sold out of the unscented version, which I’d probably prefer. But hey! Any excuse to snack on those chile spiced mangoes, please!
A Midsummer Night’s Cream Moisturizing Cream Extra Dry Formula + Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake Bites
It’s a noble endeavor, attempting to make an “unscented” product, but it’s rarely achieved. Whatever harmless herbs and things they used to make this rich lotion, it carries a sort of medicinal, chemical scent. I blame the aloe. The lotion itself is wonderful, creamy, and heavy-duty for dry skin—it’s just an unpleasant un-scent. The good news is that it doesn’t last on your skin after it soaks in. Similarly creamy are the frozen Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake Bites—that’s right, cookie butter meets cheesecake in the best dessert marriage since root beer and ice cream. Beware the absolute void of nutritional value here; enjoy with bitter black coffee.
What are your favorite products and snacks? Does anyone actually like the fennel toothpaste? Someone pass me a Triple Ginger Snap, and let’s meet in the comments.
Photographed by Tom Newton. Next time you go grocery shopping, pick up these good mood foods.