Ask Belle Roundup Vol. III, No. Two

Feb 4, 2013

Dear Belle,

What is the best/most effective acne spot treatment?  I have been using Natures Cure for years but it is really hard to find now and not as effective as I would like for it to be. Thanks so much and I LOVE your blog!!


Finding the right spot treatment depends on the kind of acne you have.  I would visit a dermatologist for some suggestions.  If you have cystic acne, they may prescribe something with sulfur, like Mario Badescu Drying Lotion ($17).  But a word of warning, some people have an allergy to sulfur, so if you experience some itching or swelling, you may want to stop using it.  

I prefer Ole Henriksen’s products because they have fewer chemicals in them (no parabens, no sulfates, etc.).  I’ve used both his Roll On Blemish Attack with zinc and his Roll On Acne Clearing Solution with salicylic acid.  And if you’re looking for a drugstore product, Terminator 10 by Acne Free works pretty well.

Prefer a chemical-free option?  Tanda has a small device that clears acne using heat and vibration.  It really helps bring deep blemishes to end more quickly.  The device has 1,000 uses and costs $50.

Lastly, if body acne is your issue, you’re looking for a spray.  Glytone makes the strongest one, and Neutrogena has an under-$10 option.

Hi Belle!

My boyfriend and I are taking our first beach vacation to Mexico in a month and I need some guidance on some fun, flirty, beach attire. We’re both 26 so this isn’t going to be a raging party vacation; more intimate dinners and long walks on the beach. I love sundresses and wedges but have a hard time finding something beachy that’s in-between “this makes me look 12” and “this makes me look like I’m on college spring break”. I have a large bust so finding something that doesn’t partition the breasts is equally difficult. Do you have any fun suggestions??

Best, Nicole

Have you thought about maxi dresses instead of knee length ones? They can go from beach coverup to dinner out with ease, and if it turns a bit chilly, you’re covered.  I like this watercolor print dress, this simple striped number and this racerback dress with a light cowl neck (probably not an ideal choice for a large chested woman, but lovely nonetheless).

If you prefer short dresses, you might try a simple t-shirt dress with flat sandals for daytime or a C&C California tank dress.  If you would like a fun sundress with a breezy skirt this Suzi Chin dress is on sale and comes in three bright colors, and this Topshop dress comes in an interesting print

In my opinion, the way to avoid looking like you’re younger than you are is by styling your dresses and outfits with good accessories.  A sun hat, either a Hollywood starlet hat with a wide brim or a casual Fedora, would be a chic and useful addition.  Some fun, inexpensive bangles in wood or metal or enamel.  A good beach bag for day and a stylish clutch for evening.  And don’t forget a cool pair of sunnies, either aviators or tortoise frames

Hi Belle!

Your post on yesterday on buying your first pair of spring shoes got me thinking. I need to find a pair of comfortable yet stylish shoes for a vacation to Germany this summer that will involve a lot of walking. I want to be comfortable, but don’t want to stand out with bright white sneakers or anything. I also want to pack as light as possible. Any thoughts on a versatile option?

Your blog is a bright spot in the middle of my work day – thanks!

Best, Jessica

I’m going to ask for an assist from the readership, as I have never traveled internationally.  However, when touristing domestically, I like Cole Haan’s Nike Air ballet flats.  Their Maria Sharapova designed metallic flats are currently on sale at several retailers if you’re looking for something under-$100.  I’ve found them to be a good walking shoe because they provide a lot of shock absorption via the rubber sole and Nike insoles without looking too athletic.  They’re also a great commuting shoe.

Rockport also makes a good shoe for walking around.  Their Faye flat is built like a light sneaker but looks like a ballet flat.  I owned a pair of Rockport round toe pumps a few years ago, and I wish I had purchased 10 pair because they were so comfortable.  Sadly, the styles that followed were not as lovely.

Beyond that, I’m sure other readers who travel more than I do can offer some helpful suggestions as well. 

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  1. anth says:

    I am in love with pikolinos as my 2 mile work commute shoe. They have some cute flats with strap and nice cushion on the bottom.

  2. BB says:

    I highly recommend Sircuit Skin's Fixzit.
    Hands down the best overnight spot treatment i have ever used. A bit pricey ($30) but better than the Mario Badescu drying lotion. Word to the wise: only put it on the blemish (i.e. don't try to be proactive in a typical breakout zone, it will dry out your skin – learned this the hard way)

  3. Em says:

    I spent a semester in Europe, and as a fashion-minded women it was hard for me to accept- but when it comes down to it- your footware is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your trip. If your feet aren't happy, you won't be happy no matter where you are or what you're doing! I had good luck with Sperry's. They're leather, and have decent arch support for the days when you'll be walking miles upon miles. I also bought a pair of the least clunky hiking sneakers I could find. I was thankful, though I'll admit I definitely tried to take waist up pictures so that those shoes wouldn't be in all of my memories!

  4. Em says:

    Oh! I also recommend leather boots with insole padding, but that will depend on the weather where you're traveling!

  5. R says:

    I'd recommend making a thick paste with water and baking soda for blemishes. Apply about 5 min to allow to dry and wash off. Takes the red away.

  6. L says:

    For traveling I am a huge fan of loafers or driving moccasins. Ballet flats dont always have all the support and cushion for a full day of sight seeing, but I have a pair of leather loafers I bought from Jcrew a few years ago that work great for travel! They often have a bit more support and if they look so much better then a sneaker

  7. AttiredAttorney says:

    For my summer trip to China last year, I bought the least offensive version of shoes like these that I could find:

    They have gotten very limited use back stateside, but for the tons of walking I did while abroad, they were perfect. Slightly nicer than a white tennis shoe but something I could still wear with a casual skirt in a pinch.

  8. webdoyenne says:

    Those Maria Sharpova flats are godawful. They run very small, the “Nike Air technology” does nothing useful, and they just plain don't hold up. (I could show you two pair than I've had for less than two years and have worn only irregularly)

    Save your money. I prefer Clark's…or Puma has some cute, non-athletic styles that are wonderful:,en_US,sc.html

    Free shipping/returns both ways

  9. ETD says:

    Like Nicole, I'm taking a tropical vacation next month. Belle, what do you suggest proper travel attire be when traveling from early Spring in DC to a much warmer climate?

  10. mvj says:

    I spent the summer walking around Europe in a pair of Merrell's. Their Wonder Glove is very comfy and looks like a ballet flat.

  11. Perry T. says:

    Zits: tea tree oil
    Shoes: Look at Propet. Some are hideous, but some are very cute. They wear very, very well.

  12. Lauren M. says:

    L & Em's comments are good for the German-travel question. Another word of warning from someone who's done a decent amount of European travel: don't expect smooth, paved sidwalks wherever you go. Many historic sites/older parts of a country may have old cobblestone or brick you have to walk on, and for that many ballet flats aren't going to cut it. Something with a Sperry-like sole is definitely the way to go – something that will hold up and not make you feel every bump you might have to walk on. When I'm traveling in warmer climates I'm a fan of my Birkenstocks for that reason. You can go for a more modern style with the same substance on the bottom.

    Have a great time!

  13. Anna Louisa says:

    Sperry's all the way!

  14. jlo says:

    I agree with Em and Lauren M.–Sperry's are definitely the way to go. I wore Sperry's for a ten day trip in Rome that included a lot of walking, and the Sperry's were wonderful. They don't cut into your heels and really do provide a nice cushion, while allowing your feet to breathe.

  15. meg says:

    I wore these during a 10 day trip to South Africa, and they were perfect. I wore them for everything from sightseeing to hiking a mountain. They are flexible, easy to pack, and weigh almost nothing. I wore them barefoot, but they're easy to throw in the washing machine.

    After my experience with this pair, I would imagine that any of the barefoot line would be comfortable.

  16. Kate says:

    They're not the most stylish, but Keen shoes are perfect for lots of walking around on travel. I bought a pair of their clogs when my husband and I went to Paris for a week and there were times everything else was cold, wet, and hurt, but not my feet! They have a quasi-ballet flat that might work.

  17. CH says:

    European women do wear sneakers, they just wear really cool ones 🙂 A pair of gray suede Asics Tigers or Pumas would not stand out in a European city in the spring during the day. You can switch to dressy flats or wedges in the evening. Whatever you get, don't forget to break them in first! A 10-hour walking excursion in an unfamiliar city is not the place to test out a new pair of shoes.

    In my experience, a dark (black, charcoal, olive) trench or jacket, plus a pretty scarf, will take you a long way in not looking obviously like a tourist.

  18. Heather says:

    Sperry's are only the way to go IF you have properly worn them in for 2-3 months before you go. Having gone to a preppy southern college where Sperrys were practically uniform, I've owned about 12 pairs in my lifetime, and while they are crazy comfortable/fit like a glove AFTER you wear them in, I must warn you that they are the most painful shoes you will ever have to endure breaking in- blisters and all. If you can survive the painful break in process, then Sperrys are a good option.

    I went on a 5 week Euro trip 2 years ago and wore only one pair of shoes- a pair of peep toe brown leather flats from Bananna Republic. They were the softest leather shoes I've ever worn, had enough support to last all day on cobblestones, and were dressy enough to wear with skirts and dresses at night and shorts in the day. They were the best shoes I've ever worn! Unfortunately, the last day of my trip I wore a hole through the bottom of the sole (stupid cobblestone!) but they were worth every penny of the $85 I reluctantly spent thinking it was too much for a flat. My sister recently found the exact same pair of flats at the Bananna Outlet last fall for $39, so they exist somewhere and should be scooped up if seen!

  19. Amy says:

    Before anyone freaks out, I want to warn you that I'm going to suggest a pair of Crocs. They make a pair of Mary Jane's called Alice Work. Not only are they comfortable, but they are water proof. If you buy them in black, they are unobtrusive. I used to live in London (and wore them on work commutes) and I had people asking me all of the time where to buy them. Plus, at $39.99, it won't break the bank, especially if you want to toss them on your way home to make room for souvenirs.

  20. Liz says:

    For acne, I'll tell you the 3 things that work for me:

    I use raw honey as a facewash. I'm a bit of a hippie, so bear with me – raw honey is more solid and less sticky than normal honey, and you can get it with bits of honeycomb in it, which makes it exfoliating too. It's very gentle, washes off clean, and it's also antibacterial. It has calmed my skin down a lot.

    for spot treatment, sulfur is great – I like Glory for Girls everyday clarifying lotion (and here's a link and I am noticing that it's on sale for $3! Buy it!)

    When your skin is all around angry, bumpy, etc – clay mask! It makes a huge difference. I like Boots but i'm sure there are some other great ones out there. It absorbs gunk, calms down everything but isn't overly drying.

    Also, wearing less makeup makes a difference for me. It's hard to do when you've got acne, but you can also wear makeup for less time – wash your face as soon as you get home in the evening, make your weekend days makeup free, that sort of thing.

  21. DC Atty says:

    As a veteran of 2 trips to Germany and many other European countries, I also recommend the Sperrys. An alternative, but definitely a matter of personal taste, are Minnetonka moccasins: reasonably priced, glove-soft, as comfortable as you'll ever find, and don't need breaking in. Defnitely a jeans-type of style, however, not for skirts.

  22. Ashlee r says:

    I just came back from a 9 day vacation that featured a ton of walking (long 10 hour treks). I really like the Reef Costa Bella's, they come in nice colors including gray, look like a cross between ballet flats and boat shoes and are extremely comfortable without a “breaking in” process. They are also very reasonably priced, I paid less than 75$ for mine.

  23. Molly says:

    Especially for a trip to Germany I would look into some of the Diesel “fashion sneakers” (I believe diesel is a german brand) – they don't look like traditional u.s. athletic sneakers and often come in black or brown. They are very comfortable though and still look stylish and you will not stick out as a tourist.

  24. lindsey says:

    I walked all over Portugal in a pair of Born sandals similar to these:

    They were awesome. My feet nor legs never hurt and they had no 'break in' period. That said, I was in an area where open toed shoes was fine. Might not be ideal as your only pair of shoes when you don't know the weather, streets, etc.

  25. Marilla says:

    I have spent a lot of time walking around in Europe and since I have high arches I cannot wear ballet flats without my feet dying. I swear by anything by Mephisto or Rieker. European women wear these brands so you won't stick out like a tourist and they are designed for walking for many hours. Your feet will thank you. I am more comfortable wearing a big of a wedge heel, and these brands have so many style options you would be sure to find something suitable. They are a little bit expensive (especially the Mephistos) but worth every penny.

  26. Walk in My Shoes says:

    Born sandals are pricey, but worth it! I bought a pair before spending a summer in Italy and Spain. I walked to the ends of the earth in those sandals but you'd never know it looking at them now.

    Also, Clarks flats are classic and super comfy. I bought mine while in London and wore them the next day–no blisters, no pain. Great buy!

  27. Leslie says:

    I recommend J Crew Cece flats: I wore them when I lived in Austria and traveled every weekend. They are also my commuting shoe now. Besides having a magical cushioned sole, they are also adorable.

  28. Kim says:

    I spent two weeks in Sicily walking miles a day and climbing ruins in a pair of Me Too flats similar to these

    They have thick soles and some nice padding on the inside. European women do wear (non white, trendy) sneakers, but I was able to just wipe off my shoes when we experienced rainy weather and then wear them to dinner. You can't do that with sneakers.

  29. EBT says:

    This may sound crazy, but I have walked hundreds of miles in the leather Les Tropeziennes sandals I bought when I lived in Paris nearly three years ago. I take them with me whenever I travel and always end up regretting I brought other walking shoes. They're cute and stylish (every Parisian woman I've ever been friends with owns a pair of the Les Tropeziennes or the original K. Jacques, which are more expensive) and surprisingly comfortable. When I bought them, they were 38 euros. I don't know if the price has gone up. If you have seriously sensitive feet the lack of a padded foot bed may cause problems, but I've never experienced foot/back/leg pain from wearing them.

    I bought a kind of pricey pair of Patagonia ballet flats for a trip to Morocco last summer and they were alright but I ended up with some blisters. I actually wore my Tom's a lot on that trip, but I don't know how those would look in Germany. They were great for keeping my feel clean while I was in the desert, though.

  30. Kim says:

    We were in Germany and Austria in the Fall and I strongly suggest Puma ballerina flats (I wore the Zandy ballerinas). Puma is a very popular European brand so I was stylish, didn't stick out like an American and was very comfortable. I used these shoes walking on all the cobble stones, sightseeing and even with a skirt for dinner.

  31. Migraine Sufferer says:

    Malin and Goetz Acne Treatment. Works on cystic (has 10% sulfur) and regular acne. Overnight. I love this stuff.

  32. @Jessica: In my opinion, Birkenstock's are not acceptable outside footwear in Germany. They are house shoes (lots of people wear slippers around their house, because a lot of the older houses still have tile floors and no floor heating and it can get pretty chilly) or garden shoes. If I saw someone with Birkenstock's on a German street, I'd instantly think American tourist. Not that that's a bad thing – but you said you didn't want to stand out.
    Flat Lace-Ups used to be the footwear of norm over there and I think you'd be well off with a pair of Oxford loafers. I also like the Nu Day flats from Aerosoles. Either the gold or the leopard print versions are cute. And I don't know how old you are, but a pair of slim, laceless Keds could work, too. Keds have pretty good arch support and lots of German women in their 20ies and early 30ies wear them (kind of depends on the rest of your outfit).
    I think Ballerinas would be too uncomfortable for walking all day (might be okay for one day, but if you want to get up the next morning and do it again it might prove problematic) especially as someone so rightfully pointed out, cobblestone streets are not an exception – particularly near preserved tourist sights.
    And I agree with Marilla – Rieker and Mephisto are very commonly worn by loads of German women (over the age of 40) – but that doesn't mean you should because who ever heard anyone gush: Wow these German gals have such stylish shoes?

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