Drawer Drugstore: Toiletries to Keep In The Office

junk drawer #1, my middle desk drawer, originally uploaded to Flickr by zeelicious.What toiletries do you keep in your desk drawer?  We’ve talked about the clothes you keep in the office, the food you nibble on during the workday, and the tech stuff you have to have for the office — but what about toiletries?  I have such an established list that, when my brother started his new job, I gave him a little bag filled with these items — they’re helpful for everyone!  (Pictured: junk drawer #1, my middle desk drawer, originally uploaded to Flickr by zeelicious.)

1. New-Skin. Yes, it’s an electronic world, but there are still far more papers to deal with than you’d think — which means papercuts abound — which means every open wound increases your chances of getting sick. My preferred method for dealing with papercuts is to apply a liquid bandage like New-Skin. It dries quickly, stays on all day (even after you’ve washed your hands), and it doesn’t leave that gummy residue on your nails and fingers.

2. Purell. This is another great way to ward off colds — and it’s particularly helpful to keep at your desk if you commute to work via public transportation (you can clean your hands the minute you get to the office), or if you shake hands with a lot of people during the course of your job. If you get one with aloe, it won’t dry your hands out as much.  (And, someone recently gave me the tip that alcohol-based cleaners (like Purell) are a much better habit than antibacterial ones (such as the richly scented ones available at some mall stores).  Of course, regular soap and water is best.

3. Thermometer. The higher up the food chain you go, the more you’ll find that a little head cold is not an acceptable reason to stay away from the office if work needs to be done in it. That said, it’s generally poor form to come to work (or stay at work) if you’re contagious. Obviously you’ve got a thermometer at home to know when you’re running a fever — but it can be helpful to have one at the office for those occasional stretches where you’re practically living at the office, or where you suddenly feel lousy in the middle of the afternoon. I’ve always done well with a digital one, like the Vicks Comfort-Flex Thermometer.  (If you really want to get fancy, get a temporal artery thermometer, such as Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer, available at Amazon for around $30 — you swipe it across your forehead and get a very accurate reading.  The new mom in me loves it.)

4. Preservative-free eye drops. Long hours of staring at the computer = dry eyes. For some women this is a particular problem. My suggestion: invest in preservative-free drops. If you use the drops only occasionally, then you’ll be happy to open up a new vial of eye drops. If you use them frequently, you’ll be glad you’re not overloading your eyes with preservatives. I recommend TheraTears Lubricant Eye Drops, Single-Use Containers.

5. Visine, Clearasil, and cover-up. Yes, I’m recommending you get both Visine and preservative-free eye drops (because while Visine gets the red out, it can be incredibly drying for your eyes).  So use the preservative-free eye drops to soothe your eyes (and possibly fix the underlying problem causing the redness).  Still:  Visine can be handy in a number of situations, such as when you’ve been crying and need to freshen up, and when you want your bloodshot eyes to look better (such as for a big meeting or a new date). My other use for Visine:  if you have an angry red zit, dab a bit of Visine on a Q-tip (or a tissue wrapped around a pencil’s eraser) and use it to make your zit a bit less red.  (I also recommend keeping Clearasil and cover-up on hand.)


6. Floss. You probably won’t use this one a lot, but you’ll thank me that rare time when you do use it — like when you’ve got something in your teeth and have to run to a partner’s or executive’s office. My favorite is Glide.  (Although in a pinch, tape flags and folded Post-It Notes work as well.)

7. Eye-makeup remover. There are a lot of reasons for keeping eye-makeup remover with you in the office. Personally, I’ve always used it on those those nights where you’re stuck in the office in front of the computer for hours on end.  Maybe it’s just me, but 16+ hours of wearing mascara makes my eyes feel, well, crunchy.  Another big reason for having eye-makeup remover: occasionally, emotions may screw up your eye-makeup. Whether you’re crying for joy, sorrow, or frustration or anger (and hopefully you’re doing this behind closed doors), your eye makeup may need to be redone entirely in order to “save face” when you stick your head out of your office.  I’m a fan of Neutrogena Hydrating Eye Makeup Remover.

8. Advil. Just give in to the idea that you’ll likely be at the office when you get a lot of headaches/cramps/aches, and invest in an economy-size bottle.

9. Tampons and/or pads.

10. Basic make-up (if you don’t already carry it in your purse). On the rare day that you can get to the gym, or when you walk to work, or when you need to re-do your makeup, you’ll be set.

Readers, what toiletries do you keep on hand at the office?


  1. Lots of great suggestions! I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste here, and also some fragrance oils. Sometimes I need a hit of peppermint oil to keep my brain awake. It’s great to rub into your temples when you’re dragging.

    Does anyone know how good Nordstrom’s half-yearly sale usually is? It starts this Wednesday, and I’m debating whether to snag a pair of full-priced boots there now, or wait and see if they get included in the markdown Wednesday. My brain says to wait, but my shoe-lust says to order them yesterday.

    • Buy the boots and ask for an adjustment if they go on sale Wednesday. Nordstrom is great about this.

      • That’s a great idea! Thank you!

      • SF Bay Associate :

        A lot of the merchandise is already on sale online, even if it’s not officially “half yearly” yet.

        • SF Bay Associate :

          Sorry, that was unclear. Nordie’s online typically loads all the sale merch up online a day or two before the official sale start date. Usually noonish on the Monday before the Wednesday sale starts. Right on schedule, a TON of new markdowns got uploaded a couple hours ago. It’s usually a rolling load, so more things will pop up over the next few days, so it’s good to check back often.

          • That explains why a couple items in my shoppingnotes went down in price.

            On a related note, what items do you keep in your court bag? I keep a ziploc with hand sanitizer, Advil, Pepto, a Tide pen, nuts and granola bars.

    • MaggieLizer :

      The salespeople in the store might already know what’s going on sale. Even if they don’t, they would probably put it on hold for you until Wed.

    • Thanks again for all the tips! I don’t usually shop at Nordstrom (the nearest one is 2 hours away) so I had no idea about their sale cycles. I’m gonna buy some boots tonight! :)

    • They’re not offering to do pre-sales for this event?

  2. a passion for fashion :

    basic make-up
    face lotion
    hand lotion
    cuticle cream
    clear nail polish
    body splash
    contact solution

    wow. who knew i kept so much stuff in my office.

  3. I keep toothbrush, toothpaste, floss; baby wipes and deodorant; contact solution, lens case, and a pair of glasses; cuticle cream and hand lotion because working with paper files = paper cuts galore. I used to keep lavender essential oil to dot on my wrists for stress relief but I ran out and haven’t yet replaced it!

  4. Here’s my (somewhat extensive) list:
    – small first-aid kit. i have one in my car, one at the office, one in my purse…i’m clumsy.
    – travel-size deodorant.
    – mouthwash.
    – moisturizer.
    – bottle of multivitamins. i usually forget to take one at home, so the bottle at work is my “backup” bottle.
    – antacid, a pack or two of saltines, and some Imodium. i also occasionally stock Pepto for the coworkers, since they rarely have anything.
    – antihistamine pills.
    – headache meds.
    – hair spray and hairbrush.
    – toothbrush, toothpaste, floss.
    – feminine products.
    – Purell.
    – lip balm.

    • oh, and superglue! i’m frequently found climbing around in the ceiling or under lab equipment, and i tend to gash myself rather frequently. superglue works well in a pinch to keep bigger wounds closed and free of dirt.

  5. Tweezers! You never know when you’ll notice that your recurring chin hair has recurred.

    Nordstrom half-yearly is Nov. 3, I think, Holly.

  6. You forgot the most important thing: Safety pins. You’ll thank me that one day your dress rips right at your underwear line.

  7. Last week, I wrote something about being “on my period.” Someone called me a troll, and others said they did not like that phrase. I’m seriously wondering what’s wrong with saying that. That’s all I’ve heard my whole life. Some people on the same thread said they “had” their period, and some said it was “that time,” but those don’t seem to work in all contexts. And saying “that time” seems kind of . . . I don’t know. Immature or something. How would you say it in the present tense? “I’m crying because I’m on my period.”

    • Diana Barry :

      Maybe it’s regional? I wouldn’t use that phrase – I just say “I have my period” if it’s happening at the time.

      For toiletries, I keep toothbrush/toothpaste, deodorant, tampax, pads, bandaids and neosporin. Also an extra pair of underwear for the oops period day.

    • I have never used the phrase you mention. I would say, “I’m crying because you’re an a-hole!”

      Ask my husband.

    • I dislike the phrase because I have always thought it to be a sanitized version of the awful “on the rag,” which I’ve never heard used in a non-insulting way.

      • Always a NYer :

        (shudders) Ugh, I hate the phrase “on the rag.” I don’t find anything offensive with “on my period” but I’ve never used it, or mentioned my period with anyone for that matter. I’m also not prone to crying or anything else period related except cramps so I haven’t had to explain, nor would I.

    • Nothing is wrong with what you said and nothing is wrong with you. Women who don’t get irrational anger or depression just don’t get it. The women who judge you are the problem. They belong in middle school.

    • I personally don’t love the phrase, but it’s your period so say it however you want to say it.

      But I think part of the reason that phrase rubs some people the wrong way is that it is usually men who say it and it just sounds off when they do. I say, “I have my period.” I figure you wouldn’t say you’re “on the flu,” or “on the hay fever,” so “have” works for me.

    • I’m pretty sure I say I have my period, or am about to get it. I don’t think I’ve discussed it with anyone but my son in years. I didn’t want to give him the idea that women are inferior, so at first I didn’t tell him anything about cramps, etc, but I do get migraines and there are cycles when I’m really grouchy around then, so I figure it’s fair to tell him as plainly as possible. He deals with it really well and respectfully, sometimes offers to rub my back. He’s 8. When he’s older, I hope he treats women his own age as well as he treats me!

    • Research, Not Law :

      “On your period” seems normal to me.

    • Working Girl :

      I think it just seems a little off grammatically and therefore sounds like something people said in the olden days. I can imagine a grandfather saying that. I HAVE my period; I am not “on” it. But there is nothing offensive about using a slightly awkward phraseology. “On the rag” is another story–that’s offensive.

    • I say “on my period.” It may be a regional thing, but it’s also logical to me because I say “I just got off my period” as opposed to “My period just ended.” What do others say when it’s over?

      My work toiletries include:
      Feminine supplies
      Lint brush
      Contact solution
      Hair spray
      Throat drops
      Gold Bond Hand Sanitizer Lotion (it changed my life!)
      Perfume (rollerballs and sample-size sprays)
      Sephora mirror/brush compact
      Hair elastics
      Tide pen
      Basic makeup (eyes/lips, no foundation)

    • Shark Week.

      Yes, really. The euphemism delights me.

      That said, I did go to a women’s college, and I am a big advocate for non-disposable products like Diva Cups, so I’m pretty comfortable referring to “menstruation” in general. For my own menses, though–which usually only come up when I’m reminding The Boyfriend–I just use Shark Week.

      • My female peer group says Shark Week when around the guys, or “it’s my period” if it’s just us women. With my partner I say I’m bleedy or crampy.

        “On my period” doesn’t feel grammatically correct to me, maybe it’s a regional thing. Growing up I would say “I have my period” or “it’s that time of month.” I agree that since starting to use non-disposable products (I use GladRags, so “on the rag” doesn’t really offend me — it’s true!) I’ve become a lot less euphemistic about the process.

  8. I saw your comment last week but didn’t respond. Being “on my period” reminds me of being teased by middle school boys. “What? Are you on your period?” It makes my period sound like a drug that I am taking and thus am affected by, making me not responsible for my actions. I’m not offended by others using the term, but it’s not how I would refer to myself.

    My period doesn’t come up in conversation much, so I don’t often have to refer to it. I typically would say that I was having my period. Were I crying, it would be because of my period or because I was hormonal or because I was having my period. Or just because, now please pass the chocolate.

  9. In addition to many of the things listed, I keep a bottle of dry shampoo in my desk. Fluffs my hair up when I’ve been working all night and nice for those (admittedly few) times I can squeeze in a workout during the day.

  10. I also keep clear nail polish and a mini-sewing kit. Not technically toiletries, but very handy for runs and popped buttons.

    • I don’t keep clear nail polish, but I do keep a nail file. It drives me batty to break a nail and then spend the rest of the day catching it on my clothing/stockings/whatever.

  11. I keep make up wipes in my desk. Lately, my skin was been greasy AND flaky (figure that one out!) and my makeup looks great when I do it…at 5 AM. When I get to work, it’s a different story.

    • FYI, you may need to up the exfoliation. I get this problem when it starts getting colder – I went to get a facial because my skin felt simultaneously dry/flakey, and greasy. I was told it’s because the lotion can’t penetrate the dry, built-up skin cells, so it doesn’t absorb – hence the greasy feeling. It does make biological sense, and I have found that upping my use of gentle scrubs and Retin-A has made a difference.

  12. Cats Ahoy! :

    In the absence of Nu-Skin, crazy glue works just as well.

  13. MeliaraofTlanth :

    Let’s see. at the moment, hydrogen peroxide and band-aids/bandages (nasty fall on the subway into work one morning), eye drops, a Tide pen (very important), a mini-sewing kit, and tampons. Except for the tampons, these were all in reaction to some mini-crisis. I’ve been meaning to add: contact case and solution, hand cream (because winter is brutal), nail clippers, and chapstick.

    • Seventh Sister :

      Second the Tide pen suggestion. Especially important if you have little snotty or drooly kids that love to snuggle up to your sweater in the morning.

      Also, extra contacts. I am only a little nearsighted, so it’s easy for me to forget to put my contacts in before I leave the house.

  14. I find it easier to keep make up remover wipes in my desk instead of actual eye makeup remover because it’s just more compact, no need to worry about cotton pads, etc.
    Also: nail polish remover wipes & clear nail polish; travel deodorant for when I forget to put some on when I leave the house (sad but it happens).
    In addition to stuff already mentioned above, I also have a mini can of static guard, a shoe shine block from the drugstore (no color, just shine), and a nail clipper (but I would never, ever, ever use it when anyone was around and/or could possibly hear me!).

  15. Not necessarily toiletries, but in addition to many of the things mentioned, I have a mega-sized box of Emergen-C, a sewing kit, a little box of safety pins.

    On a related note, I’ve always kept a box of Pepto chewables, needing them a few times a week. When I looked in my drawer, I realized I haven’t used any of them since I stopped eating gluten (about a month ago – not Celiak, mild wheat intolerance). Small victories.

  16. I just looked in my desk drawer and its embarrassing the amount of stuff I have in there:

    Shine control sheets/blotting papers
    Hand mirror
    Manicure kit (includes tweezers)
    Bobbi Brown Powder
    Bobbi Brown Foundation stick (doubles as concealer)
    Sample size Bare Minerals blush
    Sample size Dior mascara
    Mini Static Guard Spray
    Mini straightening iron
    Hand lotion
    Little q-tip type things that already have the make-up remover on them (I can’t remember what they are called)
    Hair rubber band
    Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon
    Fresh Sugar Rose Balm
    Super glue
    Systane Ultra eye drops
    Tide to Go pen
    Burts Bees Hand Salve

  17. I floss all the time. Actually, I think the only time I do floss is at work. :O I keep a nail file and clipper in my drawer. I know that if I don’t get a hangnail clipped as soon as I see it, it’s sure to get caught on something and leave a gaping wound (always). Rather than bleed all over the files, I take the 5 seconds to clip my hang nails and file any rough edges.

  18. toothbrush
    face spritzer (unscented; very refreshing)
    body spray (light scent)
    feminine products
    safety pins
    makeup (foundation and mascara only)
    mirror to apply said mascara and foundation
    contact solution
    nail clippers and file
    hair ties
    hand lotion
    hand sanitizer
    back pad that can be microwaved or put in freezer depending on whether I want hot or cold for sore back

  19. Research, Not Law :

    In the 10+ years that I’ve been working in an office, the only thing I’ve ever needed was burn cream.

    Ironically, I was working at a major medical center and could not obtain it!

  20. I keep vitamins in the office – I’m more likely to remember to take one when I’m there all day rather than trying to remember as I’m running out of the house in the morning.

    I also keep an extra bottle of prescription migraine meds just in case one comes on when I’m at the office.

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