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10 Life-Changing Things To Try In July

Because we tried them for you in June!

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Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed

The BuzzFeed staff is always trying new products, apps, hacks, and DIY projects, and we decided it was time to start sharing the best of them with you. Each month, we post our recommendations for what's actually worth it. For the sake of transparency, items under "Things We Bought" and "Tricks We Learned" were purchased with our own money and/or were not the result of a PR pitch. Those under "Things We Tried" are items that were provided to us at no cost for the sake of review. (But! We're under no obligation to write a review of those things, let alone a positive review. We also didn't get any free shit this month so let's just move on!)

We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a small share of sales from the links on this page. Let us know in the comments what sorts of things you'd like us to review next month!

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1. Honest Company Hand Sanitizer Spray Sweet Orange Vanilla — $2.99

Terri Pous / BuzzFeed

Every day, I become more like my mom, and every day, I'm more OK with it. I'm not yet at the point where I wipe down every surface of a hotel room with a Sani-Wipe, but this hand sanitizer spray is pretty much a guarantee that those days aren't too far in the future.

I've always been pro–hand sanitizer in the sense that it's nice to immediately get subway grime off my hands with a quick squirt, but Purell smells like straight rubbing alcohol and always dries out my hands — which is a feat unto itself — so I never sanitized as much as I could've. The Honest Company's hand sanitizer is the opposite in all ways. A friend that's also obsessed with it gave me a bottle of the orange-scented variety, and it radically changed my life with a single spray.

First things first: The spray bottle feature is great because there's no threat of excess gloop. The orange scent is fresh and floral, without a trace of a chemical scent. It also has a moisturizer in it, which keeps my hands at a perfect equilibrium of dry and moist (sorry). Above all, it makes me want to keep my hands clean, which in turn makes me feel put-together and adult, and that, my friends, makes me feel more like my mom than anything else. —Terri Pous

2. The Five-Minute Journal — $24.95

Julia Reinstein / Via Instagram: @juliareinstein

I’ve always wanted to be a person who keeps a diary, but every time I've tried, I always give up after like a week. I have lots of feelings and words swimming around in my brain, and committing to documenting them every day is just…a lot. During a recent visit to my favorite store, Paper Source, I spotted something called The Five Minute Journal. I was intrigued, and I impulse-bought it immediately.

Here’s how it works: Every morning, you spend five minutes (seriously — it takes me no longer than that, and often way shorter) writing down three things you’re grateful for, three things that would make today great, and a ~daily affirmation~ (I still don’t fully GET what that means, but I usually just write a one-sentence pep talk to myself). At night, you spend five minutes writing down three amazing things that happened that day and something that would have made the day better.

What’s really cool about The Five Minute Journal is the positivity and structure it’s added to my everyday routine. I write in it every morning, right after I shut off my alarm, and before I do anything else. I try to make my evening entry the last thing I do before falling asleep. (But I’m millennial trash who’s addicted to my phone, so sometimes I slip up and spend another hour swiping through Bumble. It’s fine.)

Creating this twice-daily space to reflect on the good things in my life has been fucking revolutionary in how I feel. The journal has also helped me notice patterns in my life that could be areas for improvement — don’t ask me how many days in a row “return your Zappos order” has been under “what could’ve made today better.” But whatever. I’m a work in progress. —Julia Reinstein

3. Uniqlo AIRism Sleeveless Bra Top — $24.90 (though sometimes LIKE RIGHT NOW TUESDAY 7/5/16 it will go on sale for $14.90!)

Here are a few things that are true:

1. Summer in NYC is hot and gross.

2. Visible bra straps and visible lady nipples are generally frowned upon in the workplace, even if that workplace is BuzzFeed dot com the website.

3. Finding a good basic tank top that doesn't show your bra straps can be surprisingly difficult.

4. Most strapless bras are garbage.

5. Built-in bra tanks promise a lot but rarely deliver.

The good news is that this tank top from Uniqlo managed to solve all of these problems for me! I impulse-bought it a few months ago and loved it so much that I bought two more. First, the built-in bra actually functions like I expect a bra to — it has cups sewn into it, cups that are lined and moulded so you are left with two distinct boobs and your nipples will fully disappear, even when under relentless attack from your office AC. Second, the fabric it's made of is super silky and lightweight, which keeps me feeling cool and dry even when I'm standing on humid subway platform, trying to decide whether or not this man shouting in my general direction is going to actually stab me or nah.

Rachel Miller

The fabric coupled with the blessed lack of wires means it's also comfortable — as in, I don't walk through the door and immediately want to take it off like I would if I were wearing a regular bra/strapless bra under a tank. Beyond that, the scoop neck and width of the straps just make for a very fetching silhouette — it's not so low that I can't wear it to work, but it's low enough that I can definitely take the kind of selfie that will earn me a smirky-face emoji in response if I need to. The overall effect is that this tank top makes me feel so goddam FREE, and like I'm getting away with something every time I wear it. —Rachel Wilkerson Miller

4. Fakespot — free

fakespot.com

I shop on Amazon. A LOT. A big part of my job is to sort through items on Amazon to find the gems. I spend a lot of time reading Amazon reviews, and I often come across odd best-selling items from companies I’ve never heard of. Sometimes these items have thousands of glowing positive reviews. Like who the hell is buying all these aromatherapy oils AND REVIEWING THEM nonetheless?! It has 6,345 reviews! Even Apple’s iPhone 6s has only 584 reviews.

Amazon is trying to crack down on fraudulent reviews, but until then you’re still going to have to rely on your critical shop savvy in one way or another. For the past month I’ve been using this nifty online tool called Fakespot to quickly sniff out the bullshit. Fakespot will take any item from Amazon, analyze all the reviews for it, and then assign a letter grade based on how authentic it believes the reviews to be.

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To use it, you just copy the link to the item on Amazon, paste it into the spot on Fakespot, and it does the rest. There are also browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox so if you’re looking at something on Amazon, you can just click the icon and it will check out the item for you. This tool has saved me countless times from buying and recommending shady products. It has also done the opposite and made me warm up to products I thought were shady. It costs nothing and it offers an insane value. Use it! —Jeff Barron

5. Amazon Fire TV Stick, $40

Augusta Falletta / BuzzFeed

Picking a method of streaming TV feels a lot like choosing a method of birth control. Do I want to put it in there once and forget about it, or would I prefer to have a reminder each night? For me, the latter (using an HDMI cord from my computer to the TV) was a complete pain in the ass. I tried it for years, but I am too lazy to have to get out of my comfortable bed nest to shut down the whole operation every time I want to immediately fall asleep. The former method (using a streaming stick — mine was Chromecast) was working really well until I realized I was missing out on every form of television that wasn’t Netflix.

With a nudge from my boyfriend’s password to access Amazon Prime videos, I decided to hoof it to Best Buy to buy an Amazon Fire Stick. (The irony in buying a TV streaming device from an actual store and not the online retail giant that created said stick is not lost on me. But Prime isn’t instant yet. So sue me.) And LET. ME. TELL. YOU. The stick is FIRE. It looks like a USB drive on steroids and it has Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and every other television platform that you can probably borrow a password for. The home screen appears instantly and is maybe the most pleasant TV experience I’ve had to date. Also, it comes with a remote which makes me feel like an actual adult, not a pretend adult who uses her iPhone to control every electrical item in her apartment. This thing needs AA batteries and it makes me feel alive.

Augusta Falletta / BuzzFeed

I’ve had the Fire Stick for a little over a month now and I’ve already had fewer connectivity issues and technical issues than I was having with the Chromecast. It costs $40 — which is only $5 more than Chromecast — and is completely worth it. I can fall asleep watching Transparent one night and Orange Is the New Black the next. It’s a broke TV junkie’s dream. —Augusta Falletta

6. Teisseire Mint Syrup — $13.99

First of all, YES, THE DRINK IS REALLY THAT COLOR. I know. It's an even more intense green in person.

When my friends and I went to Paris, we fell in love with this drink called diabolo menthe. You can get it in every café or bar, and it's basically a lemonade or Sprite mixed with this mint syrup that's BRIGHT GREEN and tastes like heaven. We later discovered that it's a standard French café offering and the amazing color comes from this Teisseire brand syrup.

Once I got back to the States, I kept dreaming about this drink, so I finally Primed myself some of the syrup. It goes very well with Izze or San Pellegrino lemon soda, seltzer, or Diet Sprite.

If you don't like mint, this syrup is not going to be your jam. Also, there is no way that color comes from anything naturally found on our planet. But it comes in fun other flavors, like pink grapefruit and passion fruit! For me, this drink is the perfect thing to drink at home when you want something refreshing and summer-y that's non-alcoholic — although you could probably sex it up with some vodka — and that reminds you of your fun trip to Paris, which you're still paying off on your credit card. —Jess Misener

7. Universal Bamboo Kitchen Knife Block Stand Holder — $39.99

Rachel Christensen / BuzzFeed

After many years of sharpening and resharpening, I finally got rid of my old-faithful-but-also-kinda-shitty knife. Upon doing research for a new chef's knife, I came across this very scary (and helpful!) article about never keeping your knives loose in drawers. Apparently this makes them bang around and lose their sharpness! AHH!

So I got a new (perfectly fine, but not worth writing about) knife, and this bomb-ass knife block that doesn't have pre-cut holes... which means I can stick my knives in it any which way I want and it feels like the FUTURE! It's made up of a bunch of tiny bristles that are made to fit any knife up to 8 inches (that's what she said), and putting knives in it feels like the reverse of one of those pin art things from the '90s. It also doesn't take up too much counter space. Hand-washing it when I first bought it took a while, but it's generally great — especially when I thought my only ultimate option was buying one of those terrifying magnetic knife wall holders, which is the scariest possible storage solution imaginable. —Rachel Christensen

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8. Birkenstock BirkoSport (lol) Arch Support Insoles — $64.95

When I was a wee lass, I rolled my eyes anytime my mom complained about shoes without effing arch support. OMG MOM, so embarrassing, arch support shoes are so not cute.

Well, now I'm a wizened old 26, and I need some effing arch support or my knees, hips, and feet will start to ache after a long day of walking through the city. I bought my first pair of Birks last summer and haven't looked back — except for every time I need to wear shoes that aren't chunky sandals, which is less often than you'd think but more often than I'd like. In an attempt to be a little less casual but also still comfortable, I picked up a pair of the miracle Coach flats that Rachel recommended. They were great in every way, except they still needed some effing arch support.

Enter the Birkenstock insoles, which basically transform any pair of flats into Birks. They're not quite the same, but they are as close as you'll get without the boat that's a traditional Birk footbed. They carry a hefty price tag for insoles, but they're about the same price as the cheapest pair of Birk sandals, and you can put them in almost any pair of flats or low (one or two inch) heels that you own already. The pair I bought have two parts: a cork under-layer with arch support and a heel cup, and a blue footbed that goes on top of the cork. The blue part gives you a tiny bit more arch support plus toe supports (if you wear Birks, you'll be familiar with these). But they can be worn with or without the blue footbed, so depending on the shoe/my mood, I sometime just wear the cork arch and heel insert.

You buy them in your specific shoe size, so they fit perfectly without any of the silly trimming-down-to-size that I've had to do with cheaper insoles. Which also means you can switch them between shoes as many times as you'd like, because they don't need any adhesive to stay put. Worth the cost if I get more (and more comfy) wear out of my non-Birk shoes, IMHO. And more important: Being the right size for your shoes means they don't slip around as you walk.

I've spent a good five hours on my feet on them so far (on top of just normal going-to-work wear), and have literally no complaints, and my hip and foot soreness has subsided. Maybe my mom was on to something. —Natalie Brown

9. Sephora Sleeping Masks — $4 each

I'm a big fan of sheet masks, but they can get so messy. So when I discovered these these overnight face masks from Sephora, I became obsessed! These masks are no muss, no fuss. You basically just slather them on your face, get your beauty rest, and wake up refreshed and renewed and glowing. You can wash off in the morning, but you don't have to. I always get compliments when I use them! Absolutely perfect for traveling, too. I put them in my carry-on and use them whenever I'm flying a long distance. There are 11 different varieties to choose from, and at $4 a pop, you can stock up. Rose, Pearl, and Algae are my personal favorites. —Weesie Viera

10. Using an Analog Alarm Clock Instead of a Phone Alarm

Alanna Okun / BuzzFeed

I am beginning to suspect that growing up is mostly just about realizing that the way you used to do things long ago is actually still the best way to do them. I had an alarm clock when I was younger — a Nickelodeon Time Blaster with an extremely satisfying orange snooze button — but in the past decade my series of cell phones has replaced any sort of separate timekeeper.

This was all well and good back when the cell phone in question was a simple flip phone, and even when it was one of those Verizon joints with the huge QWERTY keyboard, but now that it is an iPhone, it's a problem. I stare at it until just before I turn out the light and sometimes long after, refreshing Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr (for the porn GIFs) and then back to Twitter because who knows what I missed while I was busy looking at everything else? When I inevitably wake up in the middle of the night I grab my phone and repeat the ritual, registering nothing but achieving that particular anxious dopamine rush, and then again first thing in the morning.

I'm not out here wringing my hands over the SNAPCHATSELFIEMILLENNIALRUININATIONOFSOCIETY, but it is a habit I am trying to break, if only so I am not so tired and stupid all of the time. And the best tool I've found in this quest is a simple old-timey-style alarm clock, bought for the price of a cocktail. It does exactly what it is supposed to do and no more; it's silent and easily ignored for 23 hours and 59 minutes of the day, and then ear-shatteringly, bed-leavingly loud at 7:45 a.m. There is no snooze button and no need for one, because it is hard to snooze after a self-induced heart attack. Most important, my alarm clock does not have Twitter. It means that I can leave my phone across the room at night and learn to live without its numbing comfort. Maybe one night, I will shut it off entirely. —Alanna Okun

(N.B. The clock I bought came in this very pleasing copper finish, but now it is only available in a British flag theme. Which, cool, if you want that, but otherwise don't worry, there are many similar options available on Amazon.)

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