What’s Good At Walgreens


I’ve recently had a revelation that everything I’ve ever bought at Rite-Aid/Walgreens/CVS/Duane Reade SUCKS and has failed to live up to its ambitious promises. (Except for cashews, ibuprofen, tampons and BioSilk.)

I estimate I’ve wasted at least a billion dollars in my life so far — SO FAR! — chasing impossible dreams of shiny hair, itch relief and clear sinuses. I may be a radical lesbian socialist feminist, but apparently that hasn’t stopped me from developing a traditionally consumerist/capitalist destructive/abusive relationship with the drugstore.

via thisisnthappiness.com

I felt like I was on a roll this year with anti-establishment ethos because last year I practically effortlessly killed my #1 Destructive Relationship With Consumerism: Reading what we refer to as “Women’s Magazines” (e.g., Glamour and Marie Claire).

via luna.typepad.com

See, as a “magazine person,” I read like 20 mags/month, and the Lady-Mags were enjoyable enough although I suspected they were brainwashing me into feeling I needed shinier hair. But last year those mags just got BORING.  Oh look, here’s an article about stuff I could buy if I had money but I don’t and if I did shouldn’t we be spending our money on arts education for public school students instead of on our eyelashes? Also airbrushing is boring the FUCK out of me, who said it was a good idea to make everyone look EXACTLY THE SAME. This isn’t complicated, America.

Anyhow, I don’t like those anymore and lest I revel in my enlightenment for one additional minute, I realize a far bigger problem has been lurking in the darkness all this time. It is Walgreens.

I’m sure you’re at the edge of your beanbag chair with anticipation about what brought me to this major life revelation which I hope some of you can relate to. It began on Friday night, when I dyed my hair orange.

This happens to me constantly, I’m an idiot, the little plastic castle is a surprise every time. So on Saturday I visited some cheap hair salon to get it fixed. Four hours later, my hair looked FANTASTIC but my scalp was ON FIRE.

That’s what happens when you bleach your own hair and then let somebody slather dye on to your scalp 24 hours later.

“I need a like, treatment, like a conditioner thingie to soothe my scalp,” I tell my friendly companion.

“Like what?”

“Some kind of leave-in treatment or something. Can we just go to Walgreens and see what they have?”


I’ve spent ten minutes staring blankly at the aisles and itching my head when my companion inquires if there’s something specific I’m trying to find, and if so, where might she assist me in locating it. When she asks me this, I’m standing dumbly in the African-American hair section, investigating oils. I’m trying to find something I haven’t already tried during previous times of crisis and thinking WHICH OF THESE OVERPRICED, SEDUCTIVELY PACKAGED AND ULTIMATELY COMPLETELY! FUCKING! USELESS PRODUCTS CAN I SPEND MY NON-EXISTENT MONEY ON TODAY? I HAVEN’T TRIED AVOCADOS!

Now, I’ve dealt with this exact scalp problem before. I’ve read 56 Yahoo! Answers, several Web MD articles, seven specialized message board threads and googled variations on ‘hair dye scalp itch’ until my fingers bled. So I get very uppity when my expertise on any number of minor ailments and their various remedies is questioned.

“What about this T-Gel stuff? It says ‘for moderate to severe–”

“Nope, that never works, tried it.”

“Tea tree oil?”

“Nope nope made it worse.”

“This Nioxin thing says it’ll treat –”

“That’s not true, that package is a bottle of lies!”

“Maybe we should go somewhere else–”

“No! Something here will fix me. Something will fix me I JUST HAVE TO FIND IT.”

My friend then departs in search of a salesperson’s assistance, which is both adorable and something I would never do. She’s Canadian and therefore probs unaware that here in America, our drugstore clerks are usually on drugs and know nothing about the store.

I’m staring at conditioning treatments when she returns to say they’re out of hair oil and to provide another bevy of suggestions for me to shoot down.

This is when it begins to dawn on me.


At this point in my years of consumption, selecting products at the drugstore isn’t about selecting a logical solution. It’s doing the mental arithmetic of which products have already failed me and which have yet to fail me and promptly purchasing the latter.

Something is not right here. After buying three things from Forever 21 that fell apart after the first wash, I stopped shopping there. Yet here I was in Walgreens.

I ask my friend if the stuff she buys at the drugstore works.

“All I really buy here is Old Spice,” she says, shrugging. “The only requirement is that it smells good.”

I pat her on the head. “Sigh, you’re such a simple boy.”

“And toothbrushes. Those are hard to fuck up.”

“You’d be surprised.”

Why does my reach so often exceed my grasp? Is it because ads and TV commercials are constantly telling us something better is out there and training our friends to offer product suggestions when an illness or problem of some kind is brought up?

Yup — the next thing could be THE THING. Buttttt it’s also likely that it won’t be!

Me: I have decided that Walgreens is robbing me. No over-the-counter medicine ever works. No hair product. You know what worked better for pimples than Oxy? NOTHING.
Laneia: That is true yes.
Me: Doing absolutely NOTHING made the pimple go away faster.
Laneia: I read a hippie book and there was a part about how when you focus on something that’s negative, it stays. So like, when you’re constantly trying to get rid of a zit, it will stay, b/c you won’t let it go mentally.
Me: Why do we buy the lies?
Laneia: Because it’s instant gratification I think. It feels like improvement in the aisle before you even pay for it. Like — THIS will make something better so you’ll have the space to think of something else so YES you will buy it!
Me: I can’t believe it took 28 years for me to figure this out
Laneia: Well also –we’re programmed, you and I, to try to find solutions because of insurance and our lack of it / lack of good insurance
Me: Exactly. If I had a real doctor I could just call? I can’t even imagine.
Laneia: I remember having a place right down the road. And you just go. Like Riese, you just go.
Me: Yeah I had a “family physician.”
Laneia: You just block off like an hour, and you’re good.
Me: There was a “well child” side and a “sick child” side.
Laneia: I’m jealous of my own children because of their health care.

And what happens when a product doesn’t work or makes things worse? We buy another product, or we go to the professional we would’ve probably visited the first time if we had health insurance/time. Back in the heyday of my youth I recall never seeking an over-the-counter solution to ANYTHING. In college, I’d just go straight to the health clinic every time I had a problem and get it fucking FIXED. (However, my relationship to “beauty” products has pretty much been an issue all my life.)

Am I a superhuman particularly resistant to anything that doesn’t come from the earth or a doctor’s office? Maybe. I never get colds or flus or fevers, I never take antibiotics unless it’s a LAST RESORT — to some degree, I’ve trained my immune system to not get scared of the natural world or copious amounts of recreational drugs & alcohol. But it remains very scared of processed chemicals.

Is trial & error ever actually worth it?

I have assembled, with the help of other dissatisfied customers, a list of shit that doesn’t work. Yeah, the research was done on a sample size of “1” person (not always the same person, though!) But whatever, this isn’t the Mayo Clinic. Let us know in the comments what works / doesn’t work for you!


1. Secret Platinum Protection (no better than regular Secret)
2. Tend-Skin Razor Burn Treatment
3. Mitchum (claims you can “skip a day” due to its strength, this is false)
4. Frizz-Ease Curl‑Boosting Mousse
5. Clear Eyes Drops
6. Any “volumizing” hair brush
7. Any “nail strenghtening polish remover”
8. L’Oreal Paris “Out of Bed” Texturizer
9. Monistat 1-Day/3-day/7-day
10. Any over-the-counter acne spot treatment
11. Tylenol Cold & Sinus
12. Cloraseptic (“you can’t get it on the spot that’s sore unless it’s on the tippy-top of your mouth”)
13. “Spray self-tanner, that shit says two shades darker and it’s NOT.”
14. Advil for Arthritis
15. Dermarest Eczema Medicated Lotion
16. Icy-Hot
17. Anbesol
18. Bayer Back & Body Ache
19. Certain Dri (“gave me a rash, did not stop the sweating”)
20. Sominex
21. Affrin Nasal Spray (“made me addicted to affrin”)
20. Herbal Essences Hairspray (“That hairspray SUCKS. HARD.”)
21. Feria Hair Colour (this one landed me in the hospital, actually)
22. Midol (“makes me jittery”)
23. All Whitening Toothpastes
24. Neutrogena Build-a-Tan
25. Nads
26. Orajel
27. Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Chip-Free Top Coat
28. Any “long-lasting” lip color
29. Anything by Wet ‘n Wild



1. Ibuprofen
2. For radiant! skin!:  Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser & Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer.
3. For Shane/Allison-in-The-Breakfast Club eyes: CoverGirl Eyeliner Perfect Blend Pencil Black/Brown. (Also put concealer on your top eyelid and use the eyeliner as inefficient eye shadow for long-lasting smoky flavor)
4. For Silky Hair: Biosilk Silk Therapy
5. For Razor Burn: Bikini Zone Medicated Creme (you know) & Nivea for Men Sensitive After Shave Balm (legs)
6. To avoid razor burn altogether: Nivea for Men Shaving Gel, Sensitive
7. Studio 35 Nail Polish Remover
8. For long-lasting manicures: OPI Black Onyx
9. To prevent or protect blisters: Moleskin.
10. Toilet Paper


1. Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Extra Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner.
2. Noxzema (Riese also likes Noxzema)
3. Blistex DCT
4. Eucerine original cream
5. Aveeno positively nourishing smoothing body wash (pomegranate and rice)
6. Sally Hansen Insta-Dry in Cinnasnap
7. Unisom sleepgels

SO what happened to my head? I got some dumb products, per ushe. The Benadryl Itch Cream gave me a rash on my neck. The “deep treatment” conditioner had no impact, but I’ll def still use it. The baby oil made my hair oily.

Basically, after 29 years on earth, this experience finally convinced me that we’re all pawns in a massive government / corporate conspiracy wherin Johnson & Johnson sells us a product that fucks us with one hand and a product that allegedly fixes it on the other. So the best bet is to do away with chemicals altogether.

What fixed my poor head?


And switching to chemical-free all-natural shampoo/conditioner.


Here’s what sucks: drugstore shit is cheaper than organic shit. But sometimes it’s better to just get the massage straight away instead of wasting money on the Icy-Hot and Asprin.

So at this point — in my TOTALLY UNEDUCATED OPINION — any problem you have, whether it be “limp, lifeless hair” or “shooting pains in your uterus,” is best solved using:

1) Home or natural remedy

2) Stop using chemicals on things, cut out refined sugar

3) Nothing, just wait (this is what I usually do as I’m paradoxically convinced that most physical illness is actually mental/emotional)

4) Obtaining services and/or prescriptions or other professionally distributed products from a professional like a doctor or dentist or hairstylist or makeup artist

Anyone wanna talk about shit that works? Go to town OPEN THREAD.

Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2843 articles for us.


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