Top 10 German Drugstore Beauty Buys

July 22, 2014

Top 10 German Drugstore Beauty Buys

It's funny how when you move to another country, you are so focused on the big stuff - visas, residence permits, communicating day-to-day in a new language - that you can forget about the little things you have to adapt until you're standing in front of a drugstore shelf, tirelessly translating the key words on the fronts of bottles until something sounds like what you are looking for. That face wash you depended on since your teens may not be available in your new home, or as I found out, your skin has changed so much in a new climate, it has a whole new set of requirements.

It can be daunting to embark a major journey for new products that will work for you, let alone in a language you are still working to master, but I've compiled a list of my favorites after nearly five years here from the German equivalents of CVS or Walgreens to help. So if you're unsure of what's worth grabbing at your local dm, Rossmann and the like, take a look at these recommendations to see if there's something that might help fill a need in your beauty line-up.

Essie nail polish

Essie polish is one of the few US treats that don't pass the high cost of importing onto its customers. Bottles of OPI are an ungodly 16€ here, while Essie remains at a reasonable 8€. Still relatively new to the drugstore scene, the color selection is not comprehensive and the displays often go unreplenished for long periods of time, but at least it's quality polish at a good price. This perfect urban grey, Chinchilly, is one of my favorites, but it's hard to go wrong with other classics like Sugar Daddy or Wicked.

Essie apricot cuticle oil

Yes, another buy from Essie, but this is my new favorite product find. It doesn't soften my cuticles as much as I would like, but it makes my nails - especially manicured - glossy and beautiful. Plus, it smells deliciously like apricots.

Neutrogena Norwedische Handcreme

A long-time staple for me in the States, I was thrilled to discover this was sold here in Germany as well. Super thick and rich, this is a must for dry German winters, though my dry skin drinks it up year-round. The regular formula's scent is quite pleasant, but I stock up on the perfume-free version to have at our bathroom sink, my bedside table and in my bag at all times.

Loreal Elnett Haarspray

This European stylist favorite had been smuggled into the US for years before some retailers started to wise up and worked out a deal to sell it to us Americans directly - at a price. Now living in the glorious European Union, where this hair magic hails from, I can get it at a fraction of what they charged to import it in the States (for some reason, it's also much cheaper in Germany than it is in France). Even better, it comes in a multitude of variations - dry hair, colored hair, extra volume, extra strong hold - so you can pick just the right one for you. If you have used it, you love it. It's everything a hairspray should be (soft, lasting hold) and nothing it's not (hard, sticky or gross).

Syoss classic hair color

For the few years that I was a redhead, I relied on Syoss hair color for frequent color refreshes and root touchups. It's super cheap and I found the color was surprisingly better than more expensive hues. When I changed things up to a darker brown, I was equally impressed by the color performance. While I now leave my new platinum locks up to the professionals, if I ever go back to the auburn or brown shades, this will be my go-to.

Alverde NATURKOSMETIK AugenBrauengel

Strangely enough, I discovered this German beauty brand product through a French fashion and beauty blogger. A huge fan of her style, not to mention any beauty recommendation that really works and doesn't break the bank, I was floored to see someone in France importing a drugstore product from Germany because it was that good. I was never a big user of eyebrow product as I always found it either streaky or crunchy or fake-looking, but this product was a game-changer. It's the perfect balance of subtle color and gentle hold that takes your brows to the next level - without looking like you tried too hard.

Maybelline Eyestudio Lasting Drama Gel Liner

Admittedly, I'm not usually a fan of drugstore cosmetics, mascara aside, as I find they under-perform so drastically compared to more expensive brands. So when I picked this stuff up on a whim to replace some of my favorite dried out Bobbi Brown gel liners, I didn't have very high hopes. Boy, was I surprised. Not only is the color strong and easy to apply, but it stays on all day like its more expensive counterparts without fading or flaking.


I originally picked up this reparative oil for my legs that are overly sensitive and irritated from my shift from waxing to shaving last year, but then discovered that it works wonders on my face. Granted, my daily sunscreen routine since my teens has left me with only minor wrinkles thus far, but this stuff seems to smooth and repair what damage my facial skin has endured. I use a couple of drops around my eyes and on my forehead under my face moisturizer and at night, but my skin has shown definite improvement for the year or so that I've been using this. Better yet, it doesn't irritate my sensitive skin the way almost every anti-age product I've ever tried has.

Nivea honey & oil creme seife

Basic, creamy, superb-smelling soap. I rarely will use anything else and even my mother stocks her suitcase with these bars every time she comes to visit.

Garnier Ambre Solaire Sonnenschutz-Milch

A faithful Neutrogena sunscreen-wearer in the States, I quickly learned that Garnier was the European drugstore gold standard for sun protection. Great formulas and range of protection options, I always have a bottle of this stuff with me when I'm headed out in the sun.

How about you? Are there any German or European drugstore products you can't live without?

Stay tuned, as I will be showcasing more beauty buys I count on from the Apoteke (think high-end drugstore) and department/specialty stores...


  1. Love this! It's taken me awhile to find my drugstore favorites here in Germany, but I've also narrowed it down to Neutrogena hand cream and the Garnier sun cream (though I still prefer Neutrogena's dry-touch sun cream from the States if I can get my hands on it). I am intrigued though by the eyebrow gel. I've been wanting to try one, but am not ready to shell out a lot of dough -- I'll have to look for it next time I'm at DM.

    1. I so hear you, Mandi. There is nothing worse than spending money on a beauty product only to find out it doesn't perform how you hoped it would. The eyebrow gel is a solid buy if you're looking for a subtle grooming product. And isn't that hand cream the best?! I always hear raves about these 10-20€ tubes, but I go through so much of it, I just can't justify spending that much. Neutrogena is a big winner on price-performance on this one.

  2. Love Bi Oil back here in the states - it's done wonders for my stretch marks & scars. The scent is a bonus too.

  3. I absolutely prefer Annemarie Börlind's Handbalsam for my hands. I tried so many hand care products throughout the years - and no one but Annemarie helped me with my extremly dry skin.
    It's been sold only in Reformhäusern, but now you can get it in well-assorted Parfümerien. It costs about 6,--€ per tube (50 ml). Its scent is very discreet which I like very much as I am very sensitive to smell.

    Shower gels I prefer are - and I would like to know if you tried them also:
    Balea Dusche & Creme - Limette Aloe Very (dm)
    Aldo Vandini Reichhaltige Cremedusche - Schwarze Olive + Granatapfel (all drugstores and supermarkets)
    Lavera Basis Sensitive Duschbad

    My facial care is of Kanebo, which seems to be way too expensive (Douglas and other beauty shops), but as I need just 1 drop for each use, it's absolutely worth the price. I use this since the late 80s and whenever I thought "too expensive, let's take something cheaper" I regretted it.
    Plus it seems to be anti-aging as people always misestimate my age. Try "SENSAI - Cellular performance - Emulsion I (Light)" - you won't believe it!
    I was very unhappy with dry skin akne during my teenage years, spent a lot of money for products that did not work, almost gave up, stumbled into a Parfümerie just to find a concealer stick - and that lady there told me that she did not want to sell me such a stick, but offered me a trial pack of this Kanebo stuff. She told me that she did not want to push me into something but after trying this moisturizing liquid for a week I would be convinced and not wanting anything else.
    I did not like her directness, rolled my eyes and went home with that trial pack.
    And - I returned after a week, as my akne was almost gone and my skin was bright and shining! This lady was so right! And I am still grateful for having had such a competent and true advice.
    I tried some other Kanebo products - and I am always very impressed how good they are.

    Have you tried this Japanese wonder?


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