No trip to Europe is complete without the obligatory stop (or three) at the pharmacy. Foreign pharmacies are not only go-tos for easily accessible, prescription-free medicine, but treasure troves of hard-to-find beauty brands. Flashing green-light crosses set my heart a flutter because I know inside I can find something new to fill my shelf and cover my face with.
Pharmacies in Barcelona carry similar products to the ones you find in Paris, which is why my first mission was to seek out my very own bottle of the cult beauty product, Créaline by Bioderma.
Over in Poble Nou, my husband's local beach neighborhood, I couldn’t find it, only versions of the same product for Avene and La Roche Posay, which don't count because those brands are in Duane Reade now. I knew I had seen Bioderma shampoo in Spain before so I was determined to find the original.
While running errands in Diagonal, I spotted that flashing green cross and stumbled into a tiny pharmacy that happened to have every version of Bioderma Créaline under the sun: for oily skin, whitening, and sensitive skin. I had to go for the classic for sensitive skin.
I was a little horrified to see the bottle read Sensibio instead of Créaline, but after a little research, I found out it was the same thing, just rebranded. (Now, if only I could retrain my brain.)
I have been experimenting with different methods of removing my makeup that will (hopefully) cause my skin less irritation, and this Sensibio fits the bill quite nicely. It literally feels like water and dissolved my makeup easily. Even my heavy-duty Revlon Photoready 3D Mascara that usually requires tons of coconut oil to come off at night disappears in one swipe of a Sensibio-soaked cotton ball. My skin is left plump, dewy, and less irritated. I'm just upset I only bought one bottle, but now I know what to ask the in-law's for on their next trip here.
My second pharmacy purchase was made on a long walk in Barceloneta. I was staring at a wall of Catalan products trying to find any recognizable words that I could discern the meaning of when the word “urea” jumped out at me.
“Um, like urine?"
Yes, apparently this is not just an old wive's tale about urine curing athlete's foot. Urea is a chemical found in much more than urine and can be extremely helpful when dealing with common skin conditions.
This urine foot cream (because let's face it, it will forever be known as that) is dispensed through a tiny tube and is more like a treatment than a foot cream. It did help reduce the pain in my feet after walking around a dehydrated, frozen city all winter in uncomfortable shoes, and I no longer feel like my heels are on the verge of cracking.
I'll probably stick to coconut oil for softening my feet, but this urine foot cream is a nice companion, plus the packaging reminds me of what I often find rifling through the in-laws' medicine cabinets between sips of cava on Sunday afternoons.
On our last sunny Saturday stroll through el Borne, I wandered into Herboristeria de Rei in Plaça Reiel, an old apothecary that carried teas, herbs, and other natural goodies. Basically, heaven. There was even an adorable old Catalan man who was so sweet and helpful, so put me down as the naive America tourist twirling around an old pharmacy in the middle of the day.
I wanted to take everything home, but by then I was running out of euros and refused to exchange more. A little bar of soap caught my eye. I had previously asked my mother-in-law what her go-to products were and she told me she only uses oil of rosas moscqueta, a species of rose grown in the Andes, and this little soap was scented with the same roses, plus it was made from donkey milk, of all things. I'm a sucker for anything weird, so of course I bought it.
My husband told me that donkeys are a symbol of Catalan independence as a way to ridicule the Castillian bull.
When I returned back to NYC and opened my suitcase to unpack, a potent smell of roses hit me and I realized the donkey soap was to thank. For now, I'm deciding to store this soap in my dresser instead of the shower so that my clothes smell like sweet roses every day.
I managed to bring back something hard-to-find, something utterly weird but useful, and something that will remind me of Barcelona every day. I'm extremely satisfied with my tiny strange Spanish beauty bounty.