The top 20 best new books of 2021 so far, according to Amazon’s book editors

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What a whirlwind 2021 has been – and we’re only halfway through. Although only six months in, 2021 has already been an exciting, challenging, and hopeful year for so many. If you’re looking to pass the time as you restart your commute, seeking an escape from reality, or eager to learn, a good book can go a long way.

Enter: Amazon’s best books of 2021 (so far). Amazon’s book editors have curated a list of their 20 favorites from January through June, with descriptions provided for the top 10 below. The best overall pick – ‘Great Circle’ by Maggie Shipstead – is a story about flight, connections, and perception all rolled into one thrilling plot.

Here are Amazon’s 20 best books of 2021 so far:

*Captions have been provided by Amazon’s book editors.

‘Great Circle’ by Maggie Shipstead

'Great Circle' by Maggie Shipstead

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At a young age, Marian Graves becomes obsessed with flying, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get into the sky and circumnavigate the globe. Fast forward 100 years, and Hadley Baxter is remaking herself in Hollywood as the role of Marian Graves in a Hollywood bio-epic. From Montana to Los Angeles, London to New Zealand, “Great Circle” follows these two women who yearn for adventure and freedom, and like flying, it’s the thrill of the century. –Al Woodworth

‘Klara and the Sun’ by Kazuo Ishiguro

Amazon books Klara and the Sun

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When he was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, the committee noted how Ishiguro “uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.” In this beautiful novel, Ishiguro presents an “Artificial Friend,” a robot girl with artificial intelligence designed as a playmate for real children. It is a simultaneously heartbreaking and heart-mending story about the abyss we may never cross. —Chris Schluep

‘The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race’ by Walter Isaacson

Amazon books The Code Breaker

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Isaacson is famous for writing “Steve Jobs” and “Leonardo da Vinci”, so a title like “The Code Breaker” might imply a book about a lesser character. But the 2020 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, who co-developed the gene-editing technology CRISPR, is a giant in her own right. CRISPR could open some of the greatest opportunities, and most troubling quandaries, of this century — and this book delivers. Chris Schluep

‘We Begin at the End’ by Chris Whitaker

Amazon books We Begin at the End

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“We Begin at the End” is a story of regret and revenge, wrapped around a mystery, buried inside a tale of star-crossed love. 13-year-old “outlaw” Duchess Radley — fierce but vulnerable — attempts to protect her troubled mother but instead sets off a fateful chain of events in this gorgeous, harrowing novel. Vannessa Cronin

‘What’s Mine and Yours’ by Naima Coster

Amazon books What's Mine and Yours

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For fans of Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, and Jacqueline Woodson, “What’s Mine and Yours” beautifully unravels the hurt, happiness, and hope that one generation bestows upon the next. An unforgettable portrait of how parents and kids — white and Black — handle love and loss, racism, and loyalties. Al Woodworth

‘The Four Winds’ by Kristin Hannah

'The Four Winds'

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Set during the Great Depression and featuring an unlikely heroine who will lodge herself into your heart, “The Four Winds” is a reminder, when we so urgently need it, of the resiliency not only of the human spirit, but of this country as well. Kristin Hannah’s latest reads like a classic. —Erin Kodicek

‘Punch Me Up to the Gods’ by Brian Broome

'Punch Me Up to the Gods' by Brian Broome

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Hard-hitting, unflinching, and written with the unfettered gusto of a fist in motion, “Punch Me Up to the Gods” is a searing memoir of racism, homophobia, and addiction from a writer of enormous talent. With humor, grace, and honesty, Broome investigates his own identity and his experience as a gay Black man in America. Al Woodworth

‘Gold Diggers’ by Sanjena Sathian

5 Amazon books Gold Digger 4x3

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This debut novel is part-examination of the immigrant experience, part-exploration of the dark underbelly of suburbia, all with a dash of magical realism thrown in. Two second-generation Indian Americans discover the secret to success is drinking a lemonade made from literal gold, and their lives are forever fused together and altered. If this funny, realistic, and heartbreaking story is any indication, Sathian is an author to watch. –Sarah Gelman

‘The Plot’ by Jean Hanff Korelitz

'The Plot' by Jean Hanff Korelitz

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“The Plot” is a riveting story within a story that is a Rubik’s Cube of twists. Jake Finch Bonner, a once-promising young author, is floundering in obscurity when a one-of-a-kind plot falls into his lap. The resulting book rockets Jake to stardom — only, the plot wasn’t his. Korelitz’s thriller keeps readers guessing right up to its shocking end. Seira Wilson

‘Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It’ by Ethan Kross

'Chatter'

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It turns out that some of the most important conversations we have are with ourselves. Ethan Kross examines the voice that speaks inside our head, explains why it’s there, and reveals how we can learn to rely on it rather than being broken by it. ‘Chatter’ is a masterful, revealing take on human nature. Chris Schluep

More of Amazon’s best books of 2021 so far:

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The 5 best true wireless earbuds in 2021 for listening on the go and at home

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best wireless earbuds balance portability, sound quality, comfort, and features.
  • Jabra’s Elite 85T manage to do all that for a great price, making them our top pick overall.

True wireless earbuds are headphones that fit neatly in your ear and are completely without wires. Because they’re so small and wire-free, these earbuds can be easily transported and stored in small charging cases when you’re not wearing them, not to mention they’re more comfortable and lightweight than on-ear or over-ear headphones.

There’s no shortage of true wireless earbuds available, making any buying decision difficult. The sheer convenience of this type of headphone makes them suitable for everyday use, on-the-go listening, workouts, and noisy environments. The best models offer the right balance of comfort, cost, and battery life.

After testing and comparing several pairs of true wireless earbuds, we’ve selected the best models you can buy in 2021. Our picks cover a variety of needs and budgets, offering recommendations based on overall value, sound quality, specific platforms, and more.

Here are the best true wireless earbuds:

How we test wireless earbuds

We take product testing seriously, and we aim to use consistent, reproducible testing methods. For audio products like headphones and wireless earbuds, we assess their sound quality by listening to a wide range of music genres. To replicate the most likely scenario that our readers would be using wireless earbuds, we stream music from common mobile devices, both iOS and Android, with popular music streaming services. We also test the ease of setup and use. 

An extra note on sound quality on wireless earbuds: We don’t base our assessment on how “accurate” their sound is. “Accurate” headphones tend to be studio-grade or monitor headphones that have flatter sound signatures, and they aren’t very pleasing for general listening. Those kinds of studio-grade headphones tend to be designed for audiophiles or professionals. We’re making recommendations for “most of us” who simply want a good, convenient pair of wireless earbuds we can use with our computers and mobile devices. 

For noise-cancelling performance, we find common noisy environments and try new models against our top picks one after the other in the same testing period. 

We are currently devising a way to validate the battery life claims that companies make about their wireless earbuds and headphones. However, we haven’t found that any claims have been dramatically inaccurate so far.

The best wireless earbuds overall

An open case of the Jabra Elite 85T with one outside of the case on a white background

The Jabra Elite 85T have high-end audio quality and noise-cancelling performance for a great price.

Pros: Great audio quality, good noise cancellation, customizable sound, Bluetooth Multipoint, comfortable fit, wireless charging case, water resistant

Cons: Can be prone to interference (very rare) 

Jabra’s Elite 85T are the first headphones that pop into my mind when someone asks me what wireless earbuds they should buy. 

That’s largely because they’re such good all-rounders that do almost everything well for a good price. Audio quality and noise cancellation are very good, they fit well, they come with a wireless charging case, and they’re water-resistant. 

Battery life is fairly average at five and half hours for the buds with ANC activated, but the wireless charging case holds 19.5 hours of charge, making for a total of 25 hours. You can get up to 31 hours with ANC turned off. 

Phone calls are fine, but they’ll struggle in noisy environments, where my test calls were disjointed and full of “can-you-hear-mes.” That’s par for the course in noisy places with most wireless earbuds and even full-size headphones — you need to spend more and get the Sony WF-1000XM4, or full-size WH-1000XM4 or Bose 700 if this is a priority for you. 

There was one instance during testing where the Elite 85T faced interference — they hated being next to a TV in an office waiting room, and they crackled to the point that it was better to simply take them off. This was the only instance I encountered this issue, so it’s likely isolated.

The best premium wireless earbuds

The Sony WF-1000XM4 outside of their case on a glass table

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are best-in-class for sound quality and noise cancellation, but they’re best suited for those willing to pay their high price. 

Pros: Superb audio quality and noise cancellation, customizable sound, long battery life, comfortable ear tips, wireless charging case, good phone call quality, water resistant

Cons: Pricey, lack Bluetooth Multipoint, app could be easier to use

If you’re looking for the best pair of wireless earbuds and you’re willing to spend up to $280, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 come highly recommended. 

Audio quality and noise-cancelling performance are only rivaled by the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds, but for the same price as the Bose, we’d rather recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4 for their slightly better battery life. Sony also has excellent EQ settings in the Sony Headphones app that helps you get the best out of the earbuds. 

We also prefer the foam ear tips on the WF-1000XM4, as they make for a more secure ear-plug-style fit that ensures a tighter seal. The Bose may be more comfortable in the ears, but users who have difficulty getting earbuds to fit properly may have more trouble getting a proper seal with them. 

You also get a long eight-hour battery life with ANC activated on the buds themselves, and the wireless charging case’s 16 hours makes for a total of 24 hours of battery life. You can get up to 36 hours with ANC turned off. The WF-1000XM4 are also water-resistant, and offer good phone call quality with some ability to reduce ambient noise, so the person you’re calling can hear you better.

The best mid-range wireless earbuds

Amazon’s new Echo Buds (2nd generation) offer plenty of features and customization

Amazon’s Echo Buds 2 offer almost everything you’d want in wireless earbuds for a little less than most competitors.

Pros: Good sound quality and noise cancellation for the price, customizable sound, sleek and comfortable design

Cons: Not as much bass as pricier earbuds, sometimes feel loose while exercising without wing tips, no multi-device connectivity

If $180 for our overall top pick — the Jabra Elite 85T — is a little out of budget, Amazon’s Echo Buds 2 are a great alternative. They offer good sound that can be customized, noise cancellation, and water resistance for a cheaper price.

The Echo Buds 2 come with four different tips compared to the usual three you get with most earbuds, so you’re likely to find a great fit. Plus, the optional included wingtips add security to the fit for workouts.  

Battery is about average at five hours for the buds with ANC enabled, or six and a half hours with ANC off. With the case, you get 15 hours total with ANC on, and 19.5 hours with ANC off. For $20 extra, Amazon offers a model with a wireless charging case.

The best budget wireless earbuds

The Belkin SoundForm Earbuds in an open case on a white background

Belkin’s Soundform wireless earbuds deliver impressive sound for the money, and they’re water-resistant, too.

Pros: Impressive sound for price, touch controls, water resistance 

Cons: No ANC, microUSB charging case 

At such a budget-friendly price, we’d be too nitpicky to say anything wrong about the audio quality on the Belkin Soundform. Sure, it’s not quite as rich and bass-y as pricier earbuds, but you’re still getting good clarity, and they don’t sound hollow — a common trait in cheaper earbuds. And they certainly have some punch, too. 

You’re not getting noise cancellation, but the ear-plug-style ear tips do a decent job at muffling ambient noise. You do get IPX5 water resistance, which is great to see on such an affordable pair of earbuds. Combined with their lighter weight, they’d make an ideal pair for working out, as well as daily use. 

You get touch sensors for media controls, volume control, and picking up phone calls. They can even summon Siri on iOS devices. Battery life is rated at five hours for the buds themselves, and the charging case holds 19 hours of charge, making for 24 hours of total battery life.

To charge the case, the Soundform use microUSB — a fading standard that’s being replaced by the more modern USB-C connection. That’s not a big deal, especially considering the affordability of these wireless earbuds.

The best wireless earbuds for Apple users

airpods pro

Apple users who want to get the most out of Apple’s ecosystem should consider the AirPods Pro.

Pros: Integrate with the Apple ecosystem, decent sound and noise cancellation, water resistant, wireless charging case, comfortable and more universal fit than standard AirPods

Cons: Inferior earbud battery life compared to competition

The vast majority of wireless earbuds will work on any Apple device with a Bluetooth connection, and you’ll find better sound quality, noise cancellation, and battery life for the price. But no other wireless earbuds complement your Apple devices like the AirPods and AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro pair seamlessly with iPhones and Apple Watches, and they can connect to Macs simultaneously to switch back and forth to various Apple devices automatically. As expected, Siri is fully supported, and you can take advantage of Apple’s Audio Sharing feature that lets you share what you’re listening to with another user’s pair of AirPods. 

Anyone who’s had fitting issues with the standard AirPods will find solace with the AirPods Pro and their silicone tips, which fit deeper in your ear canal, but don’t quite have an ear-plug fit. As a result, they’re comfortable and light in the ear. Their water resistance also makes them a suitable option for working out. 

And if the AirPods Pro are a little over budget, the cheaper standard AirPods also come with seamless Apple ecosystem support. You just lose noise cancellation and water resistance, and audio quality isn’t as good.

What else we considered

We also tried out the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and they actually come highly recommended in the premium category, next to the Sony WF-1000XM4. Their audio quality and noise-cancelling performance are comparable to the WF-1000XM4, and they come with nearly identical features like water resistance. The main reason the Bose didn’t quite make it to the top of the list is because the sound profile is very much Bose’s, and it’s harder to sculpt the sound to the way you like it.

We also tried the Jabra 75T, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+, and the Beats Studio Buds, all of which are in the $120 to $150 price range. These are all great options, and they would be worthy alternatives to the Amazon Echo Buds 2. Just note that the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ don’t have noise cancellation. 

We also tried the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, which we loved at first. However, their value proposition has diminished since we’ve tested more capable and better-priced wireless earbuds.

The best deals on wireless earbuds from this guide

Apple AirPods are one of the most sought-after wireless earbuds on the market. However, they don’t fit all needs. They may be convenient for everyday listening with an iPhone, but other brands are a better fit for Android devices or specific uses, like working out. Most of the year, our picks are discounted to a little less than retail price; the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro are often $20 off, for example. During Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day, they’ll likely be down even more. 

Below, we rounded up the best deals on wireless earbuds from top brands, including Sony, Apple, and Jabra.

Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.

Check out our other headphone buying guides

Bose 700 headphones lifestyle in office
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The 10 best places to shop for summer running gear in 2021

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Best places to shop for summer running gear in 2021 Lead Photo

  • Staying cool and comfortable on summer runs requires breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics.
  • To stay safe on hot runs, you also need sun protection and hydration systems.
  • We love these 10 brands for all the gear you need for a safe, comfortable summer run.
  • Athleta is the best overall hot-weather running brand, thanks to its performance fabrics, extended sizing, and stylish gear.

Running is one of the cheapest, most accessible ways to boost your cardio fitness, improve your overall health, and enjoy the mental benefits of exercise. And while all you truly need is a quality pair of running shoes, having comfortable, functional gear can make running a lot more enjoyable – especially as the temperature starts to heat up.

As an avid runner and personal trainer myself, I’ve run in my fair share of both cheaply-made and luxury gear. What I’ve learned: Cotton and cheap fabrics will either absorb your sweat or trap it next to your body, causing it to literally weigh you down and heat you up.

If running is your sport of the summer, it’s worth it to invest in performance fabrics that have sweat-wicking, quick-drying features and apparel designed to be breezy, lightweight, and move with your body, comfortably (no one needs chafing to interrupt their flow). It’s also crucial that you don sun protection – UPF clothing, polarized sunglasses, sweat-proof sunscreen – and have a comfortable way to carry water, no matter how many miles you’re logging.

Lastly, in an effort to shop smarter and make the fitness world more inclusive for everyone, the brands most worth your money should be able to perform during both speed training and long runs, and offer extended sizing.

To help you figure out where to shop for the best summer running gear, we laid out our favorite go-to retailers. These brands will become your best new run buds so feel free to go all in.

Here are the best places to shop for summer running gear:

  • The best place to buy running clothes overall: Athleta
  • The best brand for budget running apparel: Amazon’s Core 10
  • The best boutique brand for run apparel: Tracksmith
  • The best brand for running socks: Balega
  • The best brand for running hats: rnnr
  • The best brand for sports bras: Brooks
  • The best brand for running sunglasses: 100%
  • The best brand for hydration systems: Nathan Sports
  • The best brand for running shoes: Hoka One One
  • The best brand for sport sunscreens: Coola

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

The best place to buy running clothes overall

Athleta not only has cute, comfortable, and 100% functional gear for going on the run, but they also offer extended sizing and sustainable apparel.

Athleta not only has cute, comfortable, and 100% functional gear for going on the run, but they also offer extended sizing and sustainable apparel. 

For starters, Athleta has great workout clothes that hit that sweet spot of quality and price. I always turn to leggings and shorts with pockets — a must when trying to stash your phone, credit card, keys, and maybe even some fuel on the run. Plus, many of its bottoms feature moisture-wicking fabrics and waistbands that won’t slip as you speed up. Its range of silky soft and extra lightweight tanks also offer that nearly-naked feel I crave on hot, sweaty runs. Lastly, its sports bras provide the support you need to withstand the impact of your stride. In other words, you can wear Athleta from head to toe and feel good through every mile. 

What’s more, earlier this year, Athleta expanded its sizing in more than 70% of its collections to offer everything from XXS to 3X. It also plans to offer extended sizing across all categories by the end of 2022. The brand worked with thousands of women to create clothes that work for all sizes and it’s on a mission to feature diverse body types across its catalogues and in-store mannequins, too. 

In addition to inclusive sizing, Athleta is also a certified B corporation, meaning it treats its employees and the environment well with fair trade practices and sustainable materials incorporated into its clothes.

What to buy:

Phenomena Bra B-DD (small)Vapor Scoop Tank (small)Ultimate Stash Pocket 7″ Short (small)Accelerate Shortie (small)

The best place to buy budget running apparel

Amazon’s Core 10 brand makes cheap workout gear that fits and stays put.

If you’re looking to save money but still want comfortable gear that moves with you and feels good as you go, Amazon’s Core 10 collection has you covered from head to toe. 

With most pieces in this Amazon line checking out at under $30, you can’t go wrong with a set of hot weather run gear from this brand. I felt pleasantly surprised by the touch and feel of the pieces I tried on the run, including the soft, stretchy fabrics and lightweight materials. 

The gear on Amazon’s Core 10 line-up ranges from shorts and leggings to tanks and tees, plus sports bras and jackets too. The clothes also offer features you want from your warm weather apparel, including moisture wicking to soak up the sweat and four-way stretch so the clothes move with you, not against you. Look for the cuts and styles you prefer on the run, but a few of our favorites are below.

What to buy:

Tri-Blend Muscle Workout Tank (small)Knit Waistband Woven Run Short (small)All Day Comfort High Waist Yoga Short with Side Pockets (small)

The best boutique brand for run apparel

Tracksmith is a boutique running brand with great performance fabric and an ethos that gives back to the sport.

For a brand that promotes running in its next-level clothing and athlete-supporting programs, Tracksmith brings the best in fashion and function. 

Tracksmith honors the sport of running in several ways, including making clothing that looks good and feels even better on the move. Each piece of its line has a retro varsity track team vibe, which looks cool on the road. But it’s not all about the style: Each top and bottom also rocks technical properties to help you stay comfortable, like merino wool (a moisture-wicking and anti-odor fabric, which you’ll find in its Harrier collection) and a super lightweight and breathable mesh (which you’ll find in its Van Cortlandt collection). My favorite, the Twilight collection, also features a super lightweight and silky-smooth mesh material that helps to stop you from overheating on those humid days. 

We love Tracksmith because it also has a few initiatives that support runners: Its Amateur Support Program offers help for non-professional athletes looking to compete for the podium, giving them stipends for gear; its Fellowship Program funds creative projects that elevate the sport of running, like film, poetry, or podcasts. So, when you buy Tracksmith clothes you can also feel good knowing you’re supporting a brand that’s advancing the sport.  

What to buy:

Harrier Tank (small)Twilight Crop Tank (small)Twilight Split Shorts (small)Merino Tube Socks (small)

The best brand for running socks

Balega running socks are the best and most comfortable for long runs with more cushioning.

You’ll want to wear Balega socks every day, but especially on the run thanks to their tech, support, and supreme softness. 

You know how good your feet feel after a pedicure? Well, that’s the sensation you get when you slip into Balega’s socks thanks to their ultra-soft material that feels so good against the skin. The brand has a few stand-out performance features, too, including a deep heel pocket that adds comfort and support as you stride, a seamless construction that shields your feet from blisters, plus supreme moisture wicking materials and ventilation that keep your feet cool, even when the weather (and you) heat up. 

In addition to those general performance features, Balega also has a few collections with other technology that makes them ideal for running. For example, the Balega Silver sock line features an anti-microbial finish that keeps stink at bay. If you prefer more cushioning, the Hidden Comfort line also acts like a pillow for your feet, while the V-Tech arch support in the Enduro collection adds extra comfort underfoot, cushioning your stride through plenty of miles. 

What to buy:

Ultralight Crew (small)Hidden Dry (small)No-Show Socks (small, Preferred: Balega)

The best brand for running hats

The best brand for running hats - rnnr

 For a lightweight running hat that looks cool and keeps you cool, too, rnnr has a line-up of caps you’ll love wearing. 

Founded by a former special education teacher and track and cross-country coach, rnnr aims to get more people to lace up and hit the road via affordable gear. That gear includes their extremely lightweight and breathable hats, perfect for blocking the sun without locking in heat. Its collection of hats feature mesh materials that allow for airflow and ventilation, plus quick-dry and moisture-management properties — all features you want in a good run hat and at an affordable price point (the most expensive one is $35). With each hat, you can also style it to your liking, with a flat, curved, or popped-up brim, or choose to get in on the trucker hat trend.

In an effort to get more people to fall in love with running at an early age, the brand also donates  a portion of the proceeds from each purchase to initiatives that fund local youth running programs.

What to buy:

Lightweight Running Hat Pacer Oreo (small)Lightweight Distance Hat Unicorn (small)

The best brand for sports bras

Brooks makes incredibly supportive sports bras for small and big chests alike.

To find a great fit at any size, along with high-impact support, Brooks sports bras bring all the features you want to keep things in place — without too much restriction. 

Brooks has long been making bras that offer max support during high-impact activity like running and the brand particularly beloved by ladies with a large bra size (some items go up to 44E) for being comfortable, not too restrictive, and reliably supportive. That’s why it’s one of our top picks among the best sports bras you can buy.

You’ll also find more customization throughout its collections, with straps you can arrange multiple ways, straps that you can tighten in the front for easier access, and hook-and-eye closures in the back. They also offer bras with or without molded cups, and some even have pockets for storing keys or more with ease. There’s truly an option for all women at all sizes, with any preference.

Brooks recently launched a new running bra collection called Drive, meant to offer full support through every run. Based on research and testing in partnership with the University of Portsmouth and 1,000 runner reviews, this line stops the bounce, no matter your speed or size. This line features four new bras, including those with high necklines, mesh materials, and fabric that holds you in — and while all these bras stop any uncomfortable movement on the run, they don’t make you feel restricted.

Like their shoe search, Brooks also offers a Bra Finder so you can find your best fit before buying. It’ll ask you a series of questions on fit, preferences, issues you’ve had in the past, and what you like about your sports bras, and then it’ll serve up some suggestions.

Drive Convertible Run Bra (small)Drive 3 Pocket Run Bra (small)Dare Racerback Run Bra (small)

The best brand for running sunglasses

100% performance sunglasses are light weight and non-slip, even when you’re sweaty.

You can’t get much more lightweight and non-slip than 100% performance sunglasses, which stay comfy through every mile. 

Sunglasses not only keep you from having to squint from the brightness of the sun, but they’ll also protect your eyes from harmful rays, especially if you get a quality set. The problem: I’ve always found it tough to run (especially when super sweaty) with glasses. That is until I found a solid, lightweight pair that didn’t slip off my nose as I hit my stride. These from small-business 100% do just that. They feel incredibly light on the face, courtesy of the carbon material, and have a rubber nose piece that keeps them from sliding down with sweat. 

100% sunglasses have plenty of tech on each pair, too, in both their active performance and sports performance lines. For starters, they offer color contrasting lenses to make various hues on the street or trails pop and enhance your depth perception. The polarized lenses also reduce glare and, if you choose the Photochromic lenses, they also adjust to the lighting outdoors to better your vision. Finally, you get superior UV protection on all 100% glasses, as well as a treatment that keeps dirt, oil, and water from smudging up your lenses. And just in case you take a spill, this eyewear is also impact- and scratch-resistant. 

What to buy:

Lagere Round (small)Rideley (small)Racetrap (small)

The best brand for hydration systems

Nathan Sports makes water bottles and hydration vests for cheap, ideal for running in the summer.

Stay hydrated on the move, without feeling like you’re carrying around tons of weight with Nathan Sports bottle, belt, and vest options. 

During long, hot runs (and even during some especially humid short ones), water is crucial to not only finishing your miles, but also making sure you’re still standing at the end. For that, you need to take some water with you on the go, and it should be easy to carry along. Enter Nathan Sports’ hydration systems from bottles to vests to waist belts. 

Handheld bottles work perfectly for any short- to medium-distance mileage and you have several options from Nathan. The brand’s line-up of handhelds includes insulated bottles that not only feel easy to hold (no grip required, thanks to comfy straps), but also keep your liquids cooler for longer and some have extra pockets, too. Nathan also offer belts, complete with water bottles tucked into the sides, so you have plenty of H2O for longer distances. And for those going extra far, you can opt for a vest that makes drinking up easy and carrying convenient. 

The new line of Pinnacle vests is a solid go-to. Created from years of feedback from customers and athletes, these vests weigh 20% less than others in Nathan’s line-up, plus they have 13 pockets to stash all your snacks and other belongings, a more comfortable carry design, and they hold up to 12 liters of water. 

What to buy:

Pinnacle 12L Women’s Hydration Vest (small)Peak Hydration Waist Pak (small)Quicksqueeze Lite 12oz Insulated Handheld (small)Speeddraw Plus Insulated Flask (small)

The best brand for running shoes

Hoka One One makes well-cushioned running shoes for distance running, sprints, and recovering from injuries.

For that sweet spot between cushion and responsiveness, Hoka One One brings the shoes that keep you going the distance. 

Shoes hold the top spot for must-haves when it comes to running gear, no matter the temperature. Finding a sneaker that works for you and your gait often takes a little trial-and-error to see what keeps you comfy and ache-free through all the miles. And sometimes, you might love a shoe for your long runs and a totally different one for some speed work. But one brand I love myself as a long-time runner and that I hear the most raves reviews about again and again is Hoka One One. 

Known for being super light but mega cushioned, Hoka shoes tend to have a thicker sole that provides the support needed for longer miles. They also have a heel cup that helps to keep the foot stable as you land and take off. Depending on which shoe you choose, you may also experience the ProFly technology, which provides a bouncy, more responsive ride, or if you’re really looking to pick up the pace, a carbon fiber plate in some shoes will help to propel you forward. For those who pronate, Hoka also offers stability shoes, thanks to their J-Frame construction. And another feature that helps with the impact on landing is Hoka’s extended heel. So whether you’re looking for light and bouncy or something more stable, Hoka has an option for you.  

What to buy:

Clifton Running Shoes (small)Mach 4 (small)Speedgoat 4 (Women’s) (small)

 

The best brand for sport sunscreens

Coola

In addition to your typical body and face sunscreens that feel lightweight and smell delicious, Coola also has tons of products to fulfill all your UV protection needs. 

Coola has a few stamps of approvals from third parties, including maintaining formulas that are cruelty free, vegan, organic, paraben free, and safe on our coral reefs. So, you always have the benefit of feeling good about what you’re putting on your body with this brand! But beyond the label, each product in the brand’s line-up also feels lightweight and great against the skin — and most smell delicious too. 

In addition to your typical non-greasy body lotions and sprays, the brand also features several facial products that don’t feel oily when you rub it on and those that keep your eyes from burning when you start to sweat. The brand also has a few products you wouldn’t even think you need but are totally helpful, like the Scalp & Hair Mist SPF 30 — perfect for those who wear braids and need some protection for their part as they run. 

What to buy:

Full Spectrum 360° Sun Silk Drops SPF 30 (small)Classic Body Organic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 (small)Classic Body Organic Sunscreen Spray SPF 70 (small)Liplux with SPF 30 (small)

 

Check out our other running gear guides

epic react flyknit womens running shoe KRdA3R (6)
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The 4 best toaster ovens we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A good toaster oven is easy to use, preheats quickly, and stays at the temperature you set it to.
  • We cooked whole chickens, frozen pizza, cookies, and toast in eight toaster ovens to find the best.
  • The Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven is our top pick with its fast and even cooking.

Toaster ovens are the unsung heroes of kitchen appliances. If your living situation doesn’t allow for a standard oven, a toaster oven allows you to bake, roast, and make anything else you might cook in a regular oven, only on a smaller scale.

During the holidays when a big turkey is hogging the oven, you can prepare your sides in the toaster oven. And, in the summer, you can cook meals efficiently without heating up your home.

Many convection toaster ovens are now marketed as air fryers. You should know that “convection cooking” and “air frying” are the same thing. Both methods brown your food by using heat and a fan. So, if you see that a toaster oven is an “air fryer,” know that it also does convection cooking and vice versa. We use both terms in our guide.

So, what’s the difference between the two? Convection toaster ovens give you the option of baking or broiling, while air fryers tend to only have one function: convection baking. Also, the typical toaster oven looks like a miniature standard oven with a window, while most air fryers have a small drawer that you put your food in.

For this guide, I roasted, toasted, air fried, and baked 32 pounds of chicken, eight dozen chocolate chip cookies, eight pizzas, and four loaves of bread in eight toaster ovens.

I also consulted with Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore, known as “The Electrified Cooks” and authors of the new toaster oven cookbook Toaster Oven Takeover.

I have reviewed kitchen appliances for four years and have developed many objective tests to determine which models are best for different needs and budgets. You can find details about how I test toaster ovens here.

Here are the best toaster ovens in 2021

Our testing methodology

A cooked whole chicken on a baking sheet

I tested all of the toaster ovens in this guide. I put each through many objective tests, and during the testing period, my traditional oven sat idle as I relied exclusively on the toaster ovens. When testing toaster ovens, the most important factors to consider are ease of use, temperature accuracy and consistency, and how quickly it preheats.

Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:

Ease of use: I evaluate ease of use several ways. First, I look at how intuitive the functions are. I was able to get all but the Anova up and running without the use of instructions. I see how easy it is to clean each, if there’s a removable crumb tray, if there are a few rack positions for different types of cooking, and if the timer allows you to run the unit for extended periods. I also looked for helpful functions, such as smart connectivity, convection/air fry cooking, and steam. 

Temperature variance: When you set a toaster oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, you want it to reach that temperature and stay there. To assess this, I set each unit to 350 degrees and took digital readings of the temperature every 15 minutes for two hours. Then, I looked at the average and range of the temperatures. All of the models I tested averaged less than 350 degrees. The median was about 336 degrees, and the median range was 9.7 degrees.

Preheating: One of the main benefits of a toaster oven is that it preheats faster than a standard oven, and thus, you can enjoy your meal faster. I timed how quickly each oven reached 350 and 425 degrees, repeating each test several times, to see which models preheated fastest. Most models reached 350 in under six minutes, and half of the units had trouble even achieving a reading of 425 degrees.

Cooking performance: I put each toaster oven through four cooking tests:

  • Toasting bread: I evaluated how many slices of Hillbilly Old Fashion Bread each model held. Then, I set the controls to toast the bread to a medium shade. I looked at how long and how evenly each toasted.
  • Frozen Pizza: In addition to evaluating how large of a pizza each unit can fit, I timed how long it took to bake the pizza and how even it turned out. I used Kirkland Signature Pepperoni Pizza in all but two of the toaster ovens. The Hamilton Beach and Panasonic models couldn’t fit the 10.5-inch pizza so I used Totino’s Party Pizzas in those models instead.
  • Whole chicken: I cooked a whole chicken (between 3.5 and 4.5 pounds) according to the recipe in Toaster Oven Takeover. I used the Meater Block to monitor the internal temperature and removed the chicken once it hit 165 degrees. I timed how long it took to cook the chicken, how evenly it was cooked, and how different parts of the chicken tasted.
  • Cookies: I baked gluten-free chocolate chip cookies using a homemade dough and evaluated how quickly and evenly they cooked.

The best toaster oven overall

The front of the Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven with three pieces of bread in it

The Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven maintains consistent heat to cook quickly and evenly, and it doubles as an air fryer and dehydrator.

Pros: Has convection cooking/air frying, large enough to fit a 12-inch pizza, provides consistent heat, cooked pizza, chicken, and cookies quickly and evenly 

Cons: Temperature settings appear to be inaccurate, did not toast evenly

The Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven (Model TOA-65) had the best overall performance in our objective tests. It took less than five minutes to set up and features an easy-to-read backlit digital display. You navigate through the many different functions by turning a knob and pressing it to select the function and adjust the time and temp.

The Cuisinart toaster oven was one of the best models for making pizza, chicken, and cookies. It heated a frozen pizza in under six minutes, and the cheese, crust, and pepperoni were evenly cooked. Using the convection cooking function, the chicken reached a safe internal temperature in 52 minutes, and the skin was a beautiful golden brown and tasted outstanding. The meat was moist and flavorful. And, the cookies were evenly cooked in about 12 minutes, which was significantly faster than the average, 13 minutes and 45 seconds.

When we ran the Cuisinart Digital AirFryer Toaster Oven for two hours at 350 degrees, we noticed the temperature only varied by four degrees. However, the display said it was preheated when our thermometer read 270. It continued to heat up and reached 350 after eight minutes. The average temperature during the test was 314, well below 350.

The Cuisinart toaster oven fell short of perfection in two other categories. We used the presets to toast six slices of bread, but after a blazing fast toasting speed of less than three minutes, the top was lighter than the medium shading we set it to. And, the bottom was uneven with the center almost burnt and the edges barely toasted. If I were to use this toaster oven for regular toasting, I’d likely up the time a little bit and flip the bread halfway through.

Lastly, by our measurements, the Cuisinart was slower than average to preheat to 350. However, it was quick to get to 425, which made it ideal for frozen pizza.

The best budget toaster oven

The Black+Decker toaster on a kitchen counter with a chicken in it

If you want a cheap toaster oven but don’t want to sacrifice performance, we recommend the Black+Decker Crisp ‘N Bake Air Fry Toaster Oven with its fast preheating and accurate temperatures.

Pros: Fast preheating, accurate temperature settings, even cooking, features air frying/convection cooking, timer has stay-on function

Cons: Uneven toasting, was among slowest to roast a chicken

Despite costing less than a third of the price of the other models in our guide, the Black+Decker Crisp ‘N Bake Air Fry Toaster Oven (Model TO3217SS) held its own in our tests. We like that it has intuitive, no-nonsense analog knob controls, a roomy interior, and convection cooking/air frying. Another nice touch is the “stay on” option on the timer, which makes it so you don’t have to keep adding more time during longer cooks.

The Black+Decker toaster oven appeared to have the most accurate thermostat. At 347 degrees, it came closest to reaching a 350-degree average during our two-hour test. However, the temperature varied by 13 degrees, which put it in the middle of the pack.

It was consistently one of the fastest to preheat. The oven reached 350 degrees in under four minutes, and getting to 425 only took about a minute more. 

The Black+Decker Crisp ‘N Bake Air Fry Toaster Oven excelled at making cookies and frozen pizza. Each batch took about 14 minutes to bake, which was just fair, but the results were even and delicious. The story was the same with frozen pizza: the cooking time was about average, but the pizza was excellent. The chicken was also great: flavorful, juicy, and evenly cooked. However, it took nearly an hour and a half to finish, which made it one of the slowest models.

The Black+Decker oven’s toasting was subpar. It toasted six slices of bread in three-and-a-half minutes, which was about average, but the results weren’t very even. The top of the toast was close to consistent, but it was noticeably less done near the front, and the bottom was much less toasted than the top.

The best large-capacity toaster oven

The Breville Smart Oven on a kitchen counter with a pizza cooking

The Breville Smart Oven is large enough to fit nine slices of toast, a dozen cookies, or a 12-inch pizza making it ideal for larger families or if you just want to use it in place of your standard oven.

Pros: Can fit nine slices of toast and a 12-inch pizza, provides consistent and even heat, features convection cooking/air frying, attractive backlit digital display with several functions and sub-functions

Cons: Temperature settings were consistently higher than what we measured, slow to preheat

Along with our best combination pick below, the Breville Smart Oven (Model BOV800XL) was one of two models that could toast nine slices of bread at once, and it did a good job of it. Plus, it can hold a 12.5-inch pizza. This is impressive considering the exterior dimensions aren’t inordinately large.

Like our top pick, the Breville Smart Oven has a backlit digital display with separate knobs for quickly adjusting the function, temperature, and time. It also has sub-functions that adjust the cooking time and heat based on the size of the pizza you are baking or the slices of toast you’re toasting. Plus, the Smart Oven features convection cooking/air frying.

The oven excelled at chicken and cookies. It took a little more than an hour to roast a whole chicken, and it was the best tasting and most evenly cooked of all the birds in our tests. We baked a dozen cookies at once in the roomy Breville Smart Oven using the Cookie function, which utilized 350-degree convection cooking. The cookies came out evenly baked in 14 minutes, which was average.

The oven also cooked pizza evenly, but it took 17 minutes, which was longer than all but one of the models. It was also one of the slowest ovens to preheat. And, we weren’t able to get it to preheat to 425 degrees. It maxed out at 387. This was a consistent problem. In our temperature variance test, we measured an average temp of 292 despite setting the controls to 350. Because of this, we’d recommend utilizing an oven thermometer to find your target temperature setting. 

On the plus side, the Breville toaster oven held its temperature consistently, only wavering by four degrees over the course of two hours.

The best combination toaster oven

The Anova Precision Cooker on a kitchen counter cooking a steak

In addition to baking, toasting, and air frying, the Anova Precision Oven offers sous vide cooking, and you can control it and monitor the internal temperature of your food using your phone.

Pros: Features sous vide and air fryer/convection cooking, smart WiFi connectivity via app, comes with probe thermometer that connects to oven, does a good job of roasting

Cons: Slow to preheat, bake, and toast, temperature didn’t stay consistent during our test

The Anova Precision Oven is the first toaster oven that offers sous vide, in addition to air frying/convection cooking. And, while most sous vide devices require vacuum sealing, the Precision Oven cooks your food without the need for additional packaging. 

I cooked several steaks and pork ribs using the sous vide function and found it worked just as well, if not better, than an immersion circulator. I especially liked that the oven comes with a probe thermometer that plugs into the unit so I could monitor the internal temperature of the meat while it cooked, which you can’t do with vacuum-sealed meat in an immersion circulator

The touch buttons on the handle of the oven aren’t as responsive as I would like, and adjusting the temp one degree at a time using the up and down buttons is a hassle. So, I mainly used the Anova Oven app (available for iOS and Android), which allows you to key in your preferred temp and time. Or, you can automate the cooking process. The app features hundreds of recipes. One time, I used the app to preheat the oven as I waited in line at the store to pay for a frozen pizza so I could just pop it in when I got home.

This feature is particularly important since the Anova Culinary Precision Oven was one of the slowest to preheat. It takes about 10 minutes to heat to 350 degrees and 17 minutes to reach 425. 

Also, while it has a relatively accurate setpoint, the temperature varied by 16 degrees during our two-hour test, which was more than most models.

The Anova Precision Oven also took a long time to toast. We used the toast preset, which involved a little steam to keep the bread from drying out. However, the process took longer than any of the other models, and the toast was still underdone. 

It did much better on the other cooking tasks. The Anova oven fits a dozen cookies, and they baked quickly and evenly. We had the same experience with pizza: fast and even cooking. But, the oven really excelled at roasting a whole chicken. It completed the task in under an hour. The skin was crispy and flavorful, and the meat was moist and delicious. I particularly liked that the thermometer let me monitor the internal temperature of the chicken in the app.

What else we tested

We tested eight toaster ovens for this guide. These are the ones that missed the cut.

What else we recommend and why:

Hamilton Beach Countertop (Model 31401): There are two main reasons why you should consider the Hamilton Beach toaster oven. First, at $50, it’s the cheapest model we recommend. Second, it was one of the best at quickly preheating. Plus, it was in the middle of the pack in our toasting, cookie, and temperature variance tests. However, there are a few negatives. The oven is small, only fitting four slices of bread. It also took the longest to cook pizza and chicken.

Dash Chef Series 7-in-1 (Model DAFT2350GBGT01): There’s a lot to like about the Dash toaster oven, but it just wasn’t the best in any category. It has convection cooking/air frying and did an outstanding job baking cookies and pizza. The Dash oven was also one of the fastest to roast a chicken and one of the most even toasters. Yet, it took a long time to toast, parts of the chicken skin were burnt, the unit took longer than most to preheat, and it had the largest variance in temperature during our tests.

Emeril Lagasse Power AirFryer 360 (Model S∙AFO-001): Though we prefer to roast our chicken on a roasting pan, we like that this toaster oven from superstar chef Emeril Lagasse comes with a rotisserie spit. It also has an easy-to-use knob control system with backlit digital display. The Power AirFryer 360 preheated quickly and did a good job with chicken, pizza, and cookies, but it took a long time to toast and was uneven. It also did the worst in our temp variance test.

What we don’t recommend and why:

Panasonic FlashXpress Compact (Model NB-G110P): We really wanted to like this attractive toaster oven because it looks like something you might find in a child’s kitchen playset. It did the best job toasting and maintaining a consistent temperature. However, it was a pain to use. There are only eight temperature settings, and the timer only goes to 25 minutes. If you want to cook anything longer, you have to keep resetting the timer. Despite its small size, it took a long time to preheat. And, it didn’t do well making cookies, pizza, or chicken.

What we’re testing next

We’re always testing new toaster ovens and retesting our top picks to determine the best ones. Here’s what we’re looking forward to testing for potential inclusion in this guide:

Chefman Toast-Air (Model RJ50-SS-T – $135.97): We’ve tested several Chefman kitchen appliances and have found the manufacturer makes quality products at an affordable price. We like that this features several preset functions and comes with two dehydrator racks, an air fry basket, baking/drip pan, and more.

Breville Smart Oven (Model BOV900BSSUSC – $399.99): This is the best upgrade pick in our air fryer guide and appears to be quite similar to our best large-capacity toaster oven pick. I’m curious to see how it stacks up and if it’s worth its hefty price tag.

Calphalon Quartz Heat Countertop ($199.99): I tested this years ago but wasn’t able to put it through our current testing methodology. I’m hoping to give it another try since it performed well, has an attractive appearance, and the digital display has an impressive array of functions and precise presets.

Oster (Model TSSTTVMNDG-SHP-2 – $91.11): We think the Oster Toaster Oven has a chance to contend for the best budget model. It has convection cooking/air frying, an attractive display, easy to read and adjust buttons, and a large capacity.

FAQs

What are the benefits of using a toaster oven over a standard oven?

Roxanne Wyss, co-author of the toaster oven cookbook Toaster Oven Takeover, gives several reasons, including that it’s a green alternative. “When compared to a standard oven, the toaster oven preheats quickly,” said Wyss. “This means it is convenient to use for quick, everyday meals. It also means that it is a ‘green choice’ as there is no big oven to heat up and the toaster oven will not put a strain on the AC on a hot summer day.” 

“Newer toaster ovens on the market, with electronic controls and even heat, brown food beautifully and cook quickly,” added Wyss. “You can place a toaster oven where it is convenient to use, which means at countertop height so no bending or lifting. It also means you can place the toaster oven in the family room or on the bar so it is easy to use for appetizers and snacks when friends gather.”

Additionally, since I started testing toaster ovens more than a month ago, I have not touched my standard oven. Every meal I’ve wanted to make for my family of four, I’ve been able to make in a toaster oven.


Should you get a toaster or a toaster oven?

Wyss believes toaster ovens are superior to toasters in several ways. “The versatility of the toaster oven outshines the regular toaster,” said Wyss. “You can toast a wide variety of bread sizes and often toast the number of slices you need for a larger family. Once toasted, you can top the toast with sandwich fixings or appetizer spreads so hot sandwiches or crostini are ready to serve in minutes. The toaster oven easily toasts English muffins, bagels, rolls, and a wide range of specialty rolls, pastries and buns.”

As with the standard oven, I found my toaster gathered dust while I was testing toaster ovens. The single-purpose toaster just didn’t seem worth the counter space. And, when making BLTs, it was nice to be able to toast six or more slices of bread at once.

However, there are a few key ways in which a toaster is often superior. First, most of the toaster ovens I tested didn’t toast as evenly or as quickly as most toasters. Second, toasters tend to cost much less than toaster ovens. Lastly, they take up less countertop space.


What should you look for when shopping for a toaster oven?

Kathy Moore pointed to several tips covered in the Toaster Oven Takeover cookbook she co-authored. “Think about what you want to prepare,” said Moore. “Do you want to cook a pizza or do you know you want to broil steaks? Do you foresee casseroles or toasted sandwiches? What pans fit into the oven? If you want to cook pizza, does your 12-inch pizza pan fit? What about a 9 by 12-inch rectangle pan? Some toaster ovens accommodate larger pans while others do not. Select one that accommodates the pans you own and for the food you would like to prepare.”

She also suggests thinking about where you will put the toaster oven. “Does it fit under your upper cabinets with room to spare or is it too wide to sit securely on a cart?” added Moore. “Does the door open conveniently for you?” To help you with this, we list the interior and exterior dimensions of each unit in our guide.

Also, think about the settings that are most appealing to your cooking preferences. “If your toaster oven advertises that it has a dehydrating setting, but that is not something you will do, it is not a necessary function,” said Moore. “Many now slow cook, but if you typically use a slow cooker and enjoy taking a hot meal in a slow cooker to a gathering, you may never use your toaster oven’s slow cook setting. Many people enjoy the toasting settings for bagels while others will enjoy the air fry settings. Evaluate the array of settings offered and be willing to experiment, but do not feel obligated to purchase an oven with settings you may never use.”


What’s the difference between a toaster oven and an air fryer?

Air fryers use a fan to blow hot air over your food to produce the Maillard reaction, which gives food its distinctive browning. Prior to the rise of air fryers, blowing hot air on food was known as “convection cooking,” and it’s something that all convection toaster ovens do. “Air frying” is essentially a wildly successful marketing campaign for technology that has been around for decades. 

That said, not all toaster ovens can air fry, or convection cook, but a lot of them can these days. If this is a feature that’s important to you, look for a model that advertises that it air fries or convection cooks. In my experience, this is a useful feature. It can cut down on cooking times, give your food a nice browned exterior, and I’ve found it does an excellent job of revitalizing leftovers, especially pizza and french fries.

Check out our other buying guides for small appliances

Best microwaves 4x3
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The best mattress sales happening in June 2021 – including deals on DreamCloud, Leesa, and Casper

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

mattress deals 9

Purchasing a mattress is a tough process. Doing so while balancing a budget can make things even more difficult.

Mattress companies are no strangers to discounts – popular brands like Casper, Helix, Leesa, and Purple are offering price cuts that are hard to pass up, along with freebies to seal the deal. The summer months are some of the best times to shop for mattresses as brands offer big discounts.

Amazon’s Prime Day is running from June 21-22 and is another great opportunity for extensive mattress discounts. During Prime Day many retailers offer competitive discounts across mattresses. Check out our guide to the best Amazon Prime Day mattress sales to keep up with the best discounts.

We’ve also arranged exclusive discounts for readers with several retailers, including Leesa, Casper, and Tempur-Pedic. We put together a list of some of the biggest bargains currently available and included links to relevant mattress reviews.

Exclusive mattress sales for Insider readers:

  • Casper: Use code INSIDER to save $100 on the Original mattress or $200 on the Nova or Wave mattresses
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  • Leesa: Save an additional 20% off Hybrid and Legend mattresses with code INSIDER
  • Nectar: Use code INSIDER to save (discount increases with mattress size)
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The best mattress sales happening right now:

  • Avocado: Save $250 on the Organic Luxury Plush Mattress with code LIBERTY, Save $100 on Latex Mattresses with code SLEEPFREE, save $100 on Green and Vegan Hybrid Mattresses with code SLEEPFREE
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The best sales on mattresses we recommend:

Save up to $200 of DreamCloud Premier Hybrid: Our pick for best mattress overall

Premier Hybrid Mattress (small)

The DreamCloud Premier Hybrid is highly recommended for all sleepers in our guide to the best mattresses due to its strong support, average firmness, and its fair price point. DreamCloud also offers an impressive lifetime warranty on all mattresses and a 365-night sleep trial period. 

Save $360 on the Leesa Hybrid Mattress: Our pick for best mattress for back pain

Hybrid Mattress (Queen) (small)

If you suffer from back pain due to an uncomfortable mattress, the Leesa Hybrid Mattress will likely solve your problems. The mattress offers five layers of foam and coil support, motion isolation if you’re sharing the bed with a partner, and gentle pressure relief. In our review of the Leesa Hybrid mattress, we also noted its comfortability and other special features. It also takes home the title of “best for back pain” in our best mattress and best mattress for side sleepers guides.

Save $300 on the Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress: Our pick for best mattress for side sleepers

Nova Hybrid Mattress (Queen) (small)

For those of us that prefer to sleep on our side, the Casper Nova Hybrid mattress is our top pick for side sleepers. It took home the aforementioned title in our guide to the best mattresses, and also was named “best overall” in our side-sleeper specific guide. The mattress stood out when compared to other Casper mattresses for its softness, heat dissipation, and edge support.

Save up to $400 on the Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed: Our pick for best adjustable mattress

360 i8 Smart Bed (Queen) (small)

If you’re looking for a mattress that allows you to customize and adjust your sleep every night, the Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed should be your top choice. In our review of the mattress, we noted its standout features which include, multiple firmness levels, and an adjustable air feature that adjusts to your sleeping position while you sleep. We also named it the best adjustable option in our guides to the best mattress and best mattress for side sleepers.

Save up to $700 on the Tempur-Pedic Cloud Mattress: Our pick for best foam mattress

Cloud Mattress (Queen) (small)

Our well-seasoned home and kitchen reporter James Brains called the Tempur-Pedic Cloud Mattress the most comfortable he’d ever slept on in his review of the mattress, and also named it the best foam mattress in our guides to the best mattress and best mattress for side sleepers. The Cloud Mattress contours to your body’s shape, making it a great option regardless of your preferred sleeping position. The mattress also has outstanding motion isolation, a layered foam design, and relaxing pressure relief.

Save $200 on the Birch Mattress by Helix: Our pick for best latex mattress and best mattress for heavy people

Natural Mattress (Queen) (small)

The Birch Mattress by Helix is our best pick for heavier individuals as it offers firm support and great motion isolation. If you typically sink into your mattress instead of sitting on top of it, The Birch Mattress will offer you supportive relief.

Save $300 on Awara Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress: Our pick for best latex mattress for stomach sleepers

Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress (small)

Eco-concious brand Awara’s Organic Luxury Hybrid mattress took home the spot of “best mattress for stomach sleepers” in our guide. It’s soft, yet supportive and made of eco-friendly materials. We don’t often see discounts on this brand, so this is a rare deal. 

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The 6 best alarm clocks we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • An alarm clock should be loud enough to wake you up but not so abrupt that it’ll shock you out of bed.
  • These alarm clocks can help avoid morning grogginess so you can start your day in a better mood.
  • The Loftie features a two-phase alarm system for a gentler and healthier wake up experience.

Keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule is an important factor in maintaining healthy sleep habits. A reliable alarm clock can help us wake up at the same time regularly. Traditional alarm clocks are intended to jolt us out of sleep with irritating noise, but waking up abruptly is unnatural and can even cause health issues; a recent study found a link between harsh alarm tones and increased levels of morning grogginess. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from a quality alarm clock; in fact, the same study found that melodic alarms could improve alertness in the morning.

There are many options when it comes to alarm clocks, from the obnoxiously loud and dangerous to gentler and more practical options. Choosing an alarm clock depends on each individual’s sleep habits and needs. For this guide, we spoke with Alex Dimitriu, MD, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine who I also interviewed for our best sunrise alarm clocks guide. “Light sleepers may want as few distractions and artificial light as possible” said Dimitriu. “Deep sleepers may want an alarm that is loud, or gradually loud, possibly with light or a sunrise simulator to facilitate waking up from a deep slumber.”

As a certified sleep science consultant and sleep researcher, I always test products critically to see if they can improve sleep quality. For this guide, I tested eight alarm clocks for three days each. We evaluated them on how easy to use and reliable they were, and noted each alarms’ volume, quality, and any additional useful features. We learned that with the right alarm clock you can actually look forward to waking up.

Here are the best alarm clocks of 2021

Our testing methodology

Six alarm clocks sit in semi-darkness on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

I spoke with sleep expert Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, and also relied on my own experience as a sleep researcher and certified sleep science consultant to write this guide. Prior to writing this guide, I authored our guide to the best sunrise alarm clocks. I’ve learned an alarm clock should be reliable in waking us up, but also gentle in doing so. For this guide, I tested eight different alarm clocks and evaluated them on the following criteria: 

Setup: For each alarm clock I noted how easy or difficult it was to set up the time and alarms, and also how helpful the instructions were. 

Performance: I used each alarm clock for a minimum of three consecutive days to get used to the routine and noted how effective they were in waking me up on time with the features I selected. 

Alarm sound: I carefully assessed each alarm’s volume and sound selection, and noted whether the alarm was a gradual melodic tune and loud enough to wake up heavy sleepers. 

Extra features: I tested out any additional features of each alarm clock including Bluetooth integration, sleep timers, accompanying mobile apps, projectors, and voice control features.

Durability: I tested and noted how durable and resistant each was by knocking them off my nightstand to see if they were easily damaged.

The best alarm clock overall

A hand touching the Loftie alarm clock on a bedside table in front of a lamp and a plant as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

The Loftie is constantly updating its firmware to provide a unique and healthy wake-up experience with a growing library of pleasant melodies. 

Pros: A two-phase alarm system, multiple alarms, an ever-growing library of content, Bluetooth speaker that can play music from your device

Cons: Relies on Wi-Fi for continuous system updates

The Loftie was engineered to break the bad habit of scrolling through our phones up until bedtime or as soon as we wake up. It’s easy to use with only three buttons at the top of the device and features a built-in dimmable amber nightlight. It works as a white noise machine, Bluetooth speaker, and sleep timer.

The alarm clock is set up in two simple steps: plug into a power outlet and download the Loftie app (available for iOS or Android). Configuring the device took longer than expected — approximately 15 minutes — as it needs time to sync to reliable Wi-Fi and to catch up on the latest system updates. Loftie is constantly making updates to its device with a growing library of sounds, alarms, and new features. The time sets automatically, and multiple alarms can be set through the app or directly from the device.

What’s unique about the Loftie is the two-phase alarm system, something I haven’t seen in any other alarm clock. The first alarm is a gentle tone that helped my body and mind to slowly awaken, the second is a louder melody that gets me out of bed. This method is effective in reducing sleep inertia (morning grogginess). The Loftie did a fantastic job at waking me up on time every single day to pleasant, gradually loud tunes.

I also like that the display dims automatically as the night progresses. The warm amber glow serves as a gentle nightlight that is easily adjustable with the larger button on top. Scrolling through social media right before bed can be replaced with the wellness content that the Loftie offers. I enjoyed the breathing techniques, sound baths, and bedtime stories to fall asleep.  

Even though everything is adjustable through the device itself, downloading the Loftie app is necessary to launch the alarm clock. It’s the only way to keep up with the latest updates. Overall, the Loftie exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait to see what other updates it comes up with next.

The best alarm clock for a gentle wake up

Philips Smartsleep Connected alarm clock on a bedside table - Philips Smartsleep Connected Review

The Philips Smartsleep Connected creates a pleasant morning experience with a stunning sunrise simulation and melodic nature sounds.  

Pros: Fully customizable, uses light and sound to wake you up or help you fall asleep, built-in sensor that calculates bedroom conditions, AUX cable

Cons: Larger than most alarm clocks, not a Bluetooth speaker

The Philips Smartsleep Connected is a relatively large sunrise alarm clock that is controlled almost entirely from the SleepMapper app (available for iOS or Android). Instead of relying on harsh alarms, sunrise alarm clocks like the Philips Smartsleep use increasing light intensity and natural sounds to wake you up gradually. It features customizable “wind-down” and “wake-up” profiles, a USB port to charge your phone, and an AUX cord to play music from your device. Up to 16 alarms can be set and it has a backup battery to ensure you still wake up on time in case of power outages. 

The Philips Smartsleep was the top pick in our guide to the best sunrise alarm clocks because of its quality and unique functions. The alarm is a combination of a beautiful sunrise simulation and gradual melodic sounds that can reduce sleep inertia. The device calculates bedroom temperature, humidity, and brightness and makes recommendations for a better sleep environment. 

This alarm clock is built with many useful features but one thing it lacks is the ability to play music via Bluetooth. Although this device can’t wake you up to your favorite song, it will improve your morning routine. I’ve continued using this alarm clock since writing our sunrise alarm clock guide, and after months of waking up to its gradual sunrise and melodies, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in how I wake up. This sunrise alarm clock helps me wake up in a better mood, feeling productive and ready for the day.

Read our full review of the Philips Smartsleep Connected.

The best alarm clock for heavy sleepers

A hand touches the Emerson SmartSet alarm clock as it sits on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

The Emerson SmartSet has the best digital LED time display with easy-to-read large numbers and a beautiful cyan nightlight.   

Pros: Large easy-to-read time display, Bluetooth capabilities, convenient USB port

Cons: Time display cannot be completely shut off

The Emerson SmartSet clock radio is designed with a lovely cyan LED time display that is large, clear, and easy to read. Two alarms can be programmed to operate on weekdays only, weekends only, or all seven days of the week. A soft, cyan nightlight is conveniently turned on and off at the touch of a button on top of the device. Other features include a USB charging port, Bluetooth speaker, and FM radio. 

The time and date are set automatically after selecting the correct time zone. The buzzer is a gradual beeping alarm sound that gets loud enough to wake up even heavy sleepers. You can also wake up to your favorite FM radio station that gradually increases in volume. While it includes a Bluetooth speaker, it unfortunately doesn’t have the option to wake up to your own music. 

The cyan nightlight glow is a nice addition to this alarm clock, and it looks great in the dark. I find that it sets a very relaxing mood in the bedroom. The device is easy to navigate with the buttons located at the top of the device and the sound quality is decent for an alarm clock. 

One issue that I had with this alarm clock is not being able to change the alarm settings while listening to music via Bluetooth. To set the alarms or adjust other settings users have to stop the radio or music first. Additionally, even though the nightlight can be fully turned on or off, the time display can only be dimmed and it doesn’t shut off completely. It’s recommended that light sleepers and people with insomnia maintain a dark bedroom throughout the night. 

Overall, the Emerson Smartset is still a great device for people who like a big-time display, a beautiful cyan glow, and reliable alarm clock.

The best projector alarm clock

The Magasonic projection alarm clock sits on a bedside table and projects the time onto a white wall as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

The Magnasonic Projection-Temp-Connection alarm clock is a reliable time projector that will ensure you wake up promptly every morning. 

Pros: Easy to use, convenient time and temperature projector, AUX audio input

Cons: No Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity, only three brightness levels and one alarm sound option

The Magnasonic alarm clock is a sleek and easy to set up alarm clock with a projector for convenient viewing. It features a blue LCD display with a clear view of the time and indoor temperature. These stats can also be viewed via an adjustable projector that displays on wall or ceiling. When total darkness is needed, an auto dimmer feature turns off both the display and light projector. Two alarms can be set to wake to your favorite AM/FM radio station or the built-in buzzer. Other features include the sleep and nap functions, a backup battery, and AUX audio input to listen to your music (but you can’t wake up to AUX audio).

The time and date automatically set after the device is connected to a power outlet and the correct time zone is selected. You have the option to activate the alarms on Monday through Friday, the weekend only, or just one day. The sound is a gradual loud beeping tone that woke me up gently as the time projected on the ceiling. Looking at the time immediately after opening your eyes can be a good reminder to avoid hitting that snooze button. It encouraged me to get out of bed. 

I like that this alarm clock displays the time, indoor temperature, and day of the week; keeping track of bedroom conditions and adjusting accordingly can really impact the way we sleep. I also like that for a traditional alarm clock the sound is not abrupt and obnoxious. Instead, it’s a gradual sound that gets loud enough to wake up even heavy sleepers. For light sleepers like me, this alarm clock offers reliability without being too jarring.   

The Magnasonic alarm clock lacks some nice-to-have features compared to other alarm clocks, including more alarm sound options and Bluetooth connectivity. It would be nice if the display dimmer had more than three brightness levels. Overall, the Magnasonic is a reliable, easy to use and convenient device.

The best minimalist alarm clock

A close up of the JALL alarm clock as it sits on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

This alarm clock’s minimalist design won’t take up much space on your nightstand, and even though it’s small, it’s loud enough to wake up heavy sleepers. 

Pros: Simple, elegant design; displays bedroom temperature and humidity levels

Cons: Alarm sound is not gradual

The Jall Digital alarm clock is modern piece that looks great on any bedside table. Its triangular wooden design and small size are perfect for individuals who want a simple yet effective alarm clock. In addition to its stylish design, this alarm clock also features a dimmable time display with humidity and temperature indicators. Up to three alarms can be set for different times of the day or week. The brightness of the display can be adjusted by turning the scroll wheel. 

Setup is fairly simple with the easy-to-follow instructions — besides setting the time, date, and alarms, there’s not much else to do. It’s always a bonus when an alarm clock can calculate bedroom conditions — this device detects humidity levels and temperature through an integrated sensor. Having that information at hand can encourage people to strive for the best bedroom conditions for optimal sleep.

I like the elegance and simplicity of this alarm clock. The sound sensitive mode is a unique function that makes the screen display disappear and reappear by tapping it or making noise, like clapping. This is a great feature for people with sleep anxiety or insomnia who should avoid looking at the time throughout the night. It also keeps the bedroom dark. 

That said, the alarm sound on this device is not gradual like most of the others I tested. It wasn’t a jarring, unpleasant alarm, but individuals who are looking for a more natural wake up experience might want to check out something different. Overall, the Jall digital alarm clock is a great option for minimalists — you can also purchase it in brown, black, white, or yellow to match your decor. It won’t take much space on your nightstand but it’s still loud enough to wake up heavy sleepers.

The best alarm clock for waking up to music

A hand touches the iHome iBT29BC alarm clock as it sits on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

Wake up to your favorite song and a light show with the iHome iBT29BC Bluetooth Color Changing Dual Alarm Clock.

Pros: Wake up to a fun light show and favorite sounds or music, Bluetooth speaker, USB charging port 

Cons: Buttons are not easy to navigate in the dark 

The iHome BT is designed as an LED color changing sphere equipped with all the functions of an alarm clock and more. Up to two alarms can be set, it plays FM radio, and works as a Bluetooth speaker. Other features include an adjustable clock display that can be shut off for total darkness, a USB charging port, and voice control functions when paired to a smartphone. This is a great device for individuals who like to wake up to a light show and their favorite music. 

Setting up the unit was easy with the included instructions. I set the alarm to wake me up to a combination of the “sky” light mode (this mode matches the color of the sky at the current time of day) and my morning Spotify playlist. I also tested out the four different wake tones and the volume. The alarms are melodic tunes that are loud, but won’t shock you out of bed. The sleep timer feature is a nice-to-have for people who prefer to fall asleep to soothing sounds or relaxing music.

I enjoyed waking up to my favorite songs with this device; it makes getting up in the morning an easier transition. Being able to dim and completely shut off the time display is another great feature for light sleepers like me who prefer total darkness at night. The volume on this device gets loud, so it’s also a good option for heavy sleepers. 

That said, this alarm clock failed to wake me up to my music a couple times when my Wi-Fi got disconnected during the night. Fortunately, the backup battery still worked even when the device was unplugged; I just got the standard alarm sound instead of my playlist. Second, the control buttons are not easily visible in the dark and it’s hard to differentiate them. 

What else we tested

Two alarm clocks sit on a bedside table as part of testing for the best alarm clock in 2021

In addition to our top picks, we also tested several other alarm clocks that didn’t quite make the cut. 

What else we recommend and why:

iLuv Time Shaker: This alarm clock has many useful features including Bluetooth, a wireless charging platform, dual alarms, and more. The vibration shaker is supposed to be placed under the pillow to wake users without disturbing their partner (or for folks with hearing impairments who won’t wake up to an audio alarm). The shaker’s vibration level is very powerful and cannot be adjusted. It’s a very abrupt awakening when placed under the pillow. A gradual adjustable vibration option could make this device better. However, if you need an alarm that will physically alert you when it’s time to wake up, this is a decent option. 

What we don’t recommend and why:

Smartro: The Smartro alarm clock features an outdoor wireless remote sensor to calculate outdoor temperature and humidity, and a built-in sensor for indoor conditions. However, the device lacks some key features such as FM radio and Bluetooth connectivity. It’s lightweight and gets knocked over very easily when trying to hit the snooze button. The display is low quality, and the projection is only visible when directed to the ceiling (it appears upside down when directed to the wall). Overall, it was just not a practical device.

FAQs

What type of alarm clock is best for light sleepers?

One important aspect to consider when choosing an alarm clock is what type of sleeper you are. If you’re a light sleeper you might not need something very loud, and you’ll also want something with lights that can be dimmed and turned off during the night — light sleepers are typically very sensitive to ambient light in the bedroom. You may find the most benefit from a gentle alarm like a sunrise alarm clock.


What type of alarm clock is best for heavy sleepers?

Dr. Dimitriu recommends loud alarm clocks for heavy sleepers “which can be placed far from the bed stand — so they would require getting up and walking over to turn it off.” Like light sleepers, heavy sleepers can also benefit from an alarm clock that integrates light to help with the wake-up process.


Why can’t I just use my phone as an alarm?

If you’re trying to break the habit of being on your phone from the second you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, you should consider using a dedicated alarm clock. “Keeping a phone on a nightstand is a bit of a distraction and can negatively impact sleep,” said Dimitriu. “It can create too much excitement.” Similarly, if you experience sleep anxiety or insomnia, many modern alarm clocks like the Loftie or Philips Smartsleep offer meditation and slowly dimming lights to help you fall asleep faster.

Lastly, no matter what kind of sleeper you are, it’s better to wake up gently. Waking up to the blasting sound of a phone alarm is unnatural and unhealthy. “It’s important to wake up gradually, not to the sound of a four-alarm fire,” said Dimitriu. A good bedside alarm clock has an array of gentle, gradual sounds.

Check out more of our bedroom guides

smiling child laying on a mattress
Read the original article on Business Insider

The rise, fall, and comeback of Victoria’s Secret, America’s biggest lingerie retailer

victoria's secret
  • Victoria’s Secret is the largest lingerie retailer in the US, and has been for several decades.
  • It achieved explosive success in the late 1990s and 2000s but has been accused of losing relevance in recent years.
  • The company is currently overhauling its brand image, and has abandoned its Angels for activists and entrepreneurs.
  • Here’s the story of the rise, fall, and subsequent comeback of the brand.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Victoria’s Secret was founded in 1977 by American businessman Roy Raymond.

roy raymond
Roy Raymond (left).

Inspired by an uncomfortable trip to a department store to buy underwear for his wife, Raymond set out to create a place where men would feel comfortable shopping for lingerie. He wanted to create a women’s underwear shop that was targeted at men.  

He named the brand after the Victorian era in England, wanting to evoke the refinement of this period in his lingerie.

Victoria Secret vintage catalog 1982

His vision was summed up by Slate’s Naomi Barr in 2013: “Raymond imagined a Victorian boudoir, replete with dark wood, oriental rugs, and silk drapery. He chose the name ‘Victoria’ to evoke the propriety and respectability associated with the Victorian era; outwardly refined, Victoria’s ‘secrets’ were hidden beneath.”

He went on to open a handful of Victoria’s Secret stores and launched its famous catalog. 

By 1982, the company was making more than $4 million in annual sales, but according to reports, it was nearing bankruptcy at the time. It was at this point that Les Wexner swooped in.

Les Wexner
Les Wexner (center).

Wexner, who founded L Brands (formerly Limited Brands) was already making a name for himself in the retail world as he gradually built up an impressive empire.

By June 1982, Limited — which had previously acquired Express and Lane Bryant — was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. One month later, under Wexner’s leadership, the company acquired Victoria’s Secret’s six stores and its catalog for $1 million. 

Wexner turned Raymond’s vision on its head, creating a store that was focused on women rather than men.

Les Wexner

He was closely following the European lingerie market of that time and wanted to bring this aesthetic to the US. So, he set out to create a more affordable version of European upscale brand “La Perla” — lingerie that looked luxurious and expensive but was affordable.  

And it worked. By the early 1990s, Victoria’s Secret had become the largest lingerie retailer in the US, with 350 stores nationally and sales topping $1 billion.

Victoria's Secret runway show
Victoria’s Secret spring lingerie collection in New York Tuesday, February 6, 1996.

Source: The Telegraph

The brand began to cement its image over the next few years. In 1995, its famous annual fashion show was born.

Ed Razek
Ed Razek.

The show, which was run by Ed Razek (longtime chief marketing officer of L Brands), became an iconic part of the brand’s image. 

Razek and his team were responsible for hand-picking the models to walk the show. Because of this, he became one of the most important people in the modeling world, helping to launch the careers of Gisele Bündchen, Tyra Banks, and Heidi Klum.

 

In 1999, the show aired for the first time online. Time described it as the “internet-breaking moment” of this era after 1.5 million viewers tried to tune in and crashed the site.

Victoria's Secret
Model Tyra Banks the Victoria’s Secret fashion show Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1999 in New York.

Source: Time

Meanwhile, the brand was also launching some of its best-known and most successful products, including its heavily padded Miracle Bra and Body by Victoria.

Body by Victoria was a “blockbuster success” and more than doubled the sales volume of any other bra that Victoria’s Secret had previously launched, Michael Silverstein wrote in his book, “Trading Up.”

Around this time (1997), the idea of the Victoria’s Secret “Angel” came into play after a commercial featuring Helena Christensen, Karen Mulder, Daniela Peštová, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks ran to promote its “Angels” underwear collection.

Victoria's Secret old

From then on, the term “Angel” become synonymous with the brand.

Throughout the ’90s and early 2000s, its commercials featured heavily made-up and scantily dressed Angels.

Victoria's Secret ad 1997

Razek hired the best photographers and television directors in the world to make commercials for the brand. 

The runway shows became more lavish. In 2000, model Gisele Bündchen walked the runway in what was then the most expensive item of lingerie ever created, a $15 million diamond-and-ruby-encrusted ‘Fantasy Bra.’

Gisele

It’s been tradition for an Angel to wear a “Fantasy Bra” at every runway show since 1996. These change each year.

In 2000, Sharen Jester Turney came on as CEO of Victoria’s Secret Direct, heading up its catalog business.

Sharen Jester Turney

According to reports at the time, Turney wanted to remove the “hooker looks” in the catalog and made the aesthetic more like Vogue than Playboy.

She became CEO of the whole brand in 2006. Under her nine-year tenure, the company thrived; sales increased by 70% to $7.7 billion.

Sharen Jester Turney and VIctoria's Secret models

Source: Business Insider

Turney abruptly stepped down in 2016 and was succeeded by Wexner as interim CEO.

Sharen Turney

Wexner made a series of quick and fast changes: killing the catalog, swimwear, and apparel to focus solely on lingerie, the core part of its business.

He also split the brand into three — Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, and Pink — and recruited a CEO for each division.

Jan Singer became CEO of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie in September 2016.

Jan Singer

Between 2015 and 2018, sales began to falter.

Victoria's Secret

Victoria’s Secret was slow to adjust to a shift from padded and push-up bras toward bralettes and sports bras, missing out on a major fashion trend. 

More body-positive underwear brands such as Aerie, ThirdLove, and Lively cropped up, taking making share.

Aerie
Aerie.

Victoria’s Secret was accused of failing to adapt to the times.

Between 2016 and 2018, its market share in the US dropped from 33% to 24%. Some shoppers complained that the quality of its underwear had slipped.

Victoria's Secret

Source: Business Insider

One of its biggest assets, teen-centric brand Pink, also began to struggle. Sales slipped, and it resorted to heavy discounting to woo shoppers.

PINK

“We believe Pink is on the precipice of collapse,” Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a note to investors in March 2018, commenting on the level of promotions in store.

Some parents complained that Pink was being brought down by Victoria’s Secret’s over-sexualized ads.

Its annual fashion show drew criticism for being outdated, and viewership slipped. In November 2018 Razek sent the internet into a frenzy after he made controversial comments about transgender and plus-size models.

Victoria's Secret

Razek said in an interview with Vogue that he didn’t think the show should feature “transsexuals” because the show is a ‘fantasy.” “It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is,” he said in the interview.

victoria's secret ed razek
Ed Razek speaks to the 2018 Victoria’s Secret runway models backstage during the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on November 8, 2018 in New York City.

Razek made a formal apology online but some of his critics called for him to step down. 

Read more: People slammed Victoria’s Secret after its marketing chief made controversial comments about transgender models, but he didn’t resign. This could be why, according to former executives.

Less than a week after Razek’s comments went viral, Singer resigned.

Jan Singer

Source: Business Insider

Singer was replaced by John Mehas, who took over the role at the start of 2019.

Victoria's Secret runway show 2018

Mehas had his work cut out for him. Same-store sales at Victoria’s Secret were down 3% in 2018, and was gradually losing market share to new companies. 

Plus, he had angry shareholders to deal with. In March 2019, activist shareholder Barington Capital sent a letter to Wexner, laying out recommendations to improve growth at Victoria’s Secret in order to “unlock substantial value.”

In the letter, Barington’s CEO, James A. Mitarotonda, called out the company’s brand image as being “outdated.”

“Victoria’s Secret’s brand image is starting to appear to many as being outdated and even a bit ‘tone deaf’ by failing to be aligned with women’s evolving attitudes towards beauty, diversity, and inclusion,” he wrote. 

Read more: An activist shareholder is urging Victoria’s Secret parent to update ‘tone-deaf’ brand image to boost sales

Barington called out the lack of diversity in its board of directors as being an issue for the brand. At the time, of the 11 board members, nine were men.

Les Wexner
Wexner and his wife Abigail both sit on the board of directors.

It seems Victoria’s Secret took this criticism to heart. After acknowledging the letter in a statement, it appointed two new female board directors — Sarah E. Nash and Anne Sheehan — and made steps to address the comments about the brand image being outdated. 

It hired a more body-inclusive model.

Barbara Palvin

While she is not a plus-size model, fans praised the company for its decision to take on Hungarian model Barbara Palvin as one of its newest Angels.

Instagrammers celebrated a post starring Palvin for being more body-inclusive, as they perceived her to be curvier than some of the brand’s other models.

“This model actually looks healthy..& I’m loving it!” one Instagram user wrote.

“At last! A real human body,” another said.

It also hired its first openly transgender model.

Valentina Sampaio

Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio, shared a photograph of herself on Instagram in August tagging the Victoria’s Secret Pink brand along with the hashtags: “campaign,” “vspink,” and “diversity.”A day later, she shared a video of herself with the caption “Never stop dreaming.”

Her agent later confirmed that she had signed a contract with Victoria’s Secret.

The same day, Wexner announced that Razek would be resigning in the middle of August in a memo sent out to employees.

leslie wexner ed razek
Les Wexner and Ed Razek pose backstage at the 2016 Fragrance Foundation Awards presented by Hearst Magazines – Show on June 7, 2016 in New York City.

Source: Business Insider

And on November 21, the company confirmed that it had officially canceled its runway fashion show that year.

VS fashion show

During a call with analysts after reporting its third-quarter earnings results, L Brands CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer responded to a question about whether the fashion show would run this holiday season. 

“We will be communicating to customers, but nothing similar in magnitude to the fashion show,” he said. 

Wexner previously told employees in May that Victoria’s Secret was “rethinking” the show. And Victoria’s Secret model Shanina Shaik — who has walked in several of its fashion shows — told The Daily Telegraph in Australia in July 2019 that the annual show was off this year. 

While these were potentially positive changes, the brand found itself caught up in a new challenge in the summer of 2019: its CEO and the company being linked to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein/Wexner
Waxner and Epstein

Epstein managed Wexner’s money for several years, and former company executives told the Wall Street Journal that he tried to meddle in Victoria’s Secret’s business, offering input on which women should be models.

Some of Epstein’s victims came forward saying that he used his connection to Victoria’s Secret to coerce them into sexual acts.

L Brands’ board of directors announced that it had hired an outside law firm to review its relationship with Epstein. In September, Wexner addressed his ties to Epstein at L Brands’ investor meeting.

“At some point in your life we are all betrayed by friends,” Wexner said. “Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed I was even close to. But that is in the past.”

Read more: Former employees reveal what the billionaire head of Victoria’s Secret is like as a boss as he faces backlash over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein

In February 2020, the company announced that Wexner would be stepping down as chairman and CEO of L Brands but would stay on as chairman emeritus and sit on the board of directors. At the same time, it announced that it was selling a 55% stake in Victoria’s Secret to private equity firm Sycamore Partners.

Les Wexner painting

In a statement to the press announcing the news, Wexner said that Sycamore has “deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success,” and that it “will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business.”

 

In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic swept across the US and Victoria’s Secret was forced to shutter its stores.

Victoria's Secret

At the end of April 2020, Sycamore filed a lawsuit to back out of the deal, alleging that Victoria’s Secret’s actions taken during the pandemic to close stores, cut back on new inventory, and not pay rent for the month of April were in violation of the agreement that the two parties had made in February.

L Brands immediately issued a statement saying that a termination of the agreement is “invalid,” and that it would “vigorously defend” the lawsuit and “pursue all legal remedies to enforce its contractual rights.”

On May 4, 2020, L Brands announced that the deal with Sycamore had officially fallen apart.

Victoria's Secret

L Brands said that it had come to a “mutual agreement” with Sycamore to “terminate” the deal.

The company also said that it had reshuffled its management team and would focus on “implementing significant cost reduction actions and performance improvements at Victoria’s Secret.”

This included permanently closing as many as 250 Victoria’s Secret and Pink stores in the US and Canada in 2020.

 

 

In the second half of 2020, the brand started to recover, boosted by more sales online.

Victoria's Secret

Jefferies analysts described Victoria’s Secret’s progress as “admirable,” after it reported strong fourth-quarter results in early 2021. 

Bloomberg later reported that L Brands had resumed discussions to sell the brand once more and was seeking a much higher valuation, in the region of $3 billion.

But in May, L Brands put an end to speculation and said that it was no longer looking for a buyer and would split the company in two and spin-off Victoria’s Secret to become a standalone company.

 

 

 

Since then, it has been working hard to execute a turnaround under new leadership.

Victoria's Secret

Read more: Victoria’s Secret is experiencing a major comeback after years of declining sales — and Wall Street is salivating

It has also taken steps to overhaul the brand image. Most recently, swapping its Angels for a new group of activists and entrepreneurial women to be the face of the brand.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 9 best women’s loafers that will become instant classics in your wardrobe

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Best loafers for women 4x3
  • Loafers are a classic shoe with endless variations.
  • Below are 9 of our all-time favorite pairs, from brands like Everlane and M.Gemi.
  • For other shoe styles, check out our guides to the best flats and best white sneakers.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Loafers, like a great pair of flats, are rare in their sheer versatility and practicality. You can wear them with trousers and workwear, jeans and tees, dresses, shorts, and everything in-between. And, with the right pair, your feet won’t hate you after a long day out.

From classic leather pairs that can be dressed up for work, to chunky lug-sole styles made for bolder looks, you’ll find our picks for the best women’s loafers below.

And a quick note on pricing: We think it’s worth spending a bit more money for high-quality loafers that won’t give you those horrible back-of-the-heel blisters. They are, after all, a timeless shoe, which means the extra cost won’t go wasted on a fleeting trend.

Here are 9 of the best loafers you can shop:

Everlane The Modern Loafer

Everlane Modern Loafer

Everlane recently reintroduced its Modern Loafer with an updated look and fit, and the new version is definitely better than the old. The toe is slightly more rounded so your toes have more room to wiggle, and the leather is a bit more flexible. I haven’t gotten a blister yet from wearing them, which is more than I can say for the old pair. A stacked wood heel gives them a casual vibe, and the rubberized sole prevents slipping and sliding on slick floors. 

For sizing, these come in whole and half sizes. I always order a size 8 at Everlane even though I’m often a 7.5 in other brands. If you’re usually in between sizes, go a half size up for the best fit. 

Read our full review of the Everlane Modern Loafer here.

Women’s Modern Loafer (small)
Bass Whitney Weejuns

Bass Whitney Weejuns

There are several versions of the Whitney Weejuns (a super chunky lug-sole pair, a ’90s-inspired platform pair, a croc-effect pair, the list goes on), but nothing can beat the classic version. Though they take a bit of time to break in, especially at the heel, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how comfy and supportive the insole is. Plus, the traditional penny loafer look will never go out of style. 

In terms of sizing, these come in whole and half sizes, and I recommend going true to your usual size. If you’re in between, you’ll want to size up, especially if you plan on wearing them with socks.

Whitney Weejuns’ (small)
Gucci Brixton Horsebit Convertible Loafer

Gucci Brixton Loafers

If you’ve thought long and hard, and you know that designer loafers are what your heart desires, get the Gucci Brixton Horsebit Convertible Loafers. They’re pricey, sure, but these classic loafers will last you a lifetime. Our senior style and beauty editor, Maria Del Russo, has had her pair of Brixtons for five years and says they’re the most versatile shoe she owns. She credits this to the fold-down heel that lets you wear them like mules, so you’re essentially getting two shoes in one. The workmanship is apparent the longer you wear them, too. Maria has gotten these loafers re-soled twice, but the leather and hardware have both stood the test of time.

The one drawback to the Brixtons is that after many years, the fold-down heels have turned a slightly more faded shade of black than the rest of the heel.

As for sizing, these come in whole and half sizes, but be careful to check the sizing chart since they’re usually listed in Italian sizing, which is different from European sizing. We recommend going up if you’re in between sizes. 

Brixton Convertible Loafer (small)
Birdies Heron Slippers

Birdies the Starling Black Velvet

Birdies makes indoor-outdoor loafers that are as comfy as a regular pair of slippers. Several members of our team are big fans of Birdies — our travel editor Hannah and our senior home and kitchen reporter Connie both have multiple pairs. “For each pair, I had a brief break-in period of a week or so where the back of the shoe rubbed up against my heel, but since then, it’s molded well to my feet. I prefer to wear them on cooler days because as comfortable as the cushioned insoles are, they can make my feet sweat on hot days,” Connie said. 

Both Hannah and Connie say to order a half size up for the right fit, especially if you’re usually in between sizes. 

Read our full review of the Birdies Heron Slippers here.

Heron Slippers (small)
M.Gemi The Felize

M.Gemi The Felize Suede

The M.Gemi Felize loafers are some of the most versatile and well-made shoes that our senior reporter, Mara Leighton, owns. After a year of wearing them multiple times per week, she says they’ve held up well (no wrinkles along the top, minimal wear along the underside of the toes and heel). However, she notes that sizing isn’t perfect. “I ordered my true size, and they’ve grown looser and more custom-fit as moccasins do over time. But, even so, the top is still snug; I couldn’t layer anything thicker than a light sock with my pair.” She notes that if you’re in between sizes, or if you’ve ever had to size up in shoes, you should go at least a half size up in these.

To get the right fit, these are available in whole and half sizes, but we suggest you go a half size up.

Read our full review of the M.Gemi Felize Loafer here

Felize Suede Loafer (small)
Clea Loafers

Naturalizer Clea Loafers

For a dressy loafer on a budget, Naturalizer’s Clea style is a great buy. The leather is flexible and not too stiff, so they’re comfy for long days. Plus, you can almost always find this pair on sale in various colors, but beware that sizes sell out quickly every time they get marked down. After testing the classic black leather pair, we found the size chart to be a little off for — you’ll want to go down a half size, as they tend to run a bit large. Overall, though, this is a comfortable pair with good traction that you’ll get a lot of mileage from. 

For sizing, this loafer is available in whole and half sizes with narrow, medium, and wide widths. It’s best to size down at least a half size, as they run large.

Clea Loafer Flat (small)
Rothy’s The Loafer

Rothy’s Indigo Cloud Loafers

Rothy’s is known for making sustainable shoes out of repurposed plastic water bottles, and its loafers, which come in nearly 20 colors, are no exception. Like all of Rothy’s flats, the loafers use its proprietary thread for the upper and bio-based algae for sections of its insoles. The company’s processes also help offset carbon emissions throughout its supply chain. 

The seamless knit is breathable, stays cool, and flexes comfortably with your foot while you move. The shoes are also machine washable, so don’t worry about ordering a light color that’s prone to get dirty. The material shouldn’t stretch much over time, so make sure they’re not too snug when you first receive them. If you have wide feet, we recommend sizing up.

This loafer is available in whole and half sizes, but we recommend sizing up a half size if you’re in between sizes or have wide feet. You can hear more about why we like this loafer in our review of Rothy’s flats

The Loafer (small)
M.Gemi The Sacca Donna

M.Gemi Sacca Donna Loafer

We tested these loafers in a snakeskin pattern when they first became available, but now you’ll find several suede styles that are even chicer and more versatile. The material itself is relatively thin, but that makes them buttery soft and flexible. They really do bend with the foot and they don’t cause blisters. But, it’s worth noting that the soles are thin enough that you won’t be too comfortable walking on uneven surfaces like cobblestone (so maybe don’t take these on vacation to Europe).

You can find this loafer in whole and half sizes, but we recommend sizing up a half size if you’re in between sizes. Otherwise, go true to size. 

Read our full review of the M.Gemi Sacca Donna Loafers here.

Sacca Donna (Suede) (small)
Margaux Penny Loafer

Margaux Penny Loafer

I’m a big fan of Margaux’s flats, and these loafers are just as comfortable. The suede is soft and easy to break in, and there’s a bit of cushioning on the insole that makes them comfortable for long days out. The construction is also better than most other suede loafers I’ve tried, so points to Margaux for quality! 

I wouldn’t recommend wearing them on a super long walk, but they’re otherwise comfy for work, weekends, errands, and the like. You can expect the suede to crease across the foot pretty quickly, but that’s the case for literally any loafer made from this material. You’ll see it more in the colorful pairs but it’s barely noticeable on the black pair I have.

The sizing with Margaux shoes is actually kind of hard to get right in my experience, so heed this advice: Opting for a half size down but a wider size is likely to get you the best fit, unless you have particularly narrow feet. I am usually between a 7.5 and 8 with pretty average width, but I got the 7.5 Wide pair and they fit like a glove. The 8 would have been too big, and the regular 7.5 would have been too tight. 

This loafer comes in whole and half sizes with narrow, medium, and wide fits. Margaux is also known for its extensive size range, with this pair coming in sizes 3-14.

The Penny Loafer (small)

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The 4 best whitening toothpastes of 2021, according to dentists

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Whitening toothpaste helps remove surface stains from teeth.
  • We spoke to 4 dentists on what to look for in a whitening toothpaste that won’t hurt your teeth or gums.
  • Our top choice, Colgate Total SF, is effective, ADA-approved, and budget-friendly.

Whether you’re a coffee addict, ex-smoker, or just want to polish your smile a little brighter, virtually everyone wants whiter teeth. There are all kinds of intensive options available, from whitening strips to in-office dental treatments. But for most of us, the easiest way is to switch up our toothpaste and ask it to do more than just fight plaque and cavities.

Whitening toothpaste generally works by using enamel-safe abrasives to physically remove surface stains. Many also contain other active ingredients, like peroxide, to dissolve stains and bleach teeth. Some even contain a chemical called blue covarine, which makes teeth appear whiter instantly by canceling out yellow tones – sort of an optical illusion.

But since not every ingredient is equal and some teeth whitening products notoriously cause tooth sensitivity, we spoke to four board-certified dentists to learn which whitening toothpaste really works. They shared the top brands they recommend to patients, as well as some tips for what to look for when shopping. We also personally tested several toothpastes to get a feel for texture, taste, and anything else a consumer might want to know.

Here are the best whitening toothpaste options:

The best whitening toothpaste overall

A box of Colgate Total SF Whitening Toothpaste on a white background

Colgate Total SF Whitening Gel is a top pick among our dentists as it’s a budget-friendly and effective way to whiten and protect the overall health of your teeth.

Pros: Inexpensive, American Dental Association (ADA) approved, provides sensitivity relief

Cons: Taste is questionable to some

Two of our expert sources, Ben El Chami, DMD, a NYC-based dentist and co-founder/chief dental officer of dntlbar and Chris Salierno, DDS, a Melville, NY-based dental practitioner and chief dental officer of Tend, independently named Colgate Total Whitening as a top option they’d recommend to patients looking for a daily whitening boost. It also bears the ADA seal of acceptance, meaning the professional organization support that its efficacy and safety claims are sufficiently backed up by clinical research

It’s a clear winner in the eyes of the pros because, in addition to whitening power, it has antibacterial properties that help defend against gum disease and tooth decay. These effects come from the active ingredient, stannous fluoride, which also helps offset the increased sensitivity some people experience when using whitening toothpastes. 

The minty taste is subtle and not-too-strong without any unpleasant aftertaste. And compared to other toothpaste packaging, we love that Colgate Total has a flat flip-cap for easier access and the option to stand the tube up straight on your sink.

The best natural whitening toothpaste

Tom's of Main Simply White Toothpaste on a white background

From trustworthy natural personal-care-products brand, Tom’s of Maine Simply White Clean Mint Toothpaste delivers on its whitening promises without any harsh chemicals.

Pros: ADA-approved, no artificial flavorings or colorings, brand prioritizes sustainability and ethics

Cons: Some users dislike the taste, some complain that it’s less effective than traditional toothpastes in keeping breath fresh, price

Tom’s of Maine Simply White is one of very few toothpaste brands in the “natural” sector to earn ADA approval with proven whitening effects. If you prefer to steer clear of traditional toothpastes because of their ingredients, production process, or simply personal preference, Tom’s Simply White is the best bet for whiter teeth, vouched for by dentists and customers. 

Like most whitening toothpastes, Tom’s Simply White uses abrasives — in this case naturally-derived silicas — to scrub off surface stains. It’s flavored with peppermint oil which delivers a mild, not overpowering fresh flavor. The tube is recyclable, which we love, and it has a smaller cap and opening which, in our experience, makes for less of a mess but also means you can’t store it upright on your bathroom counter.

Tom’s also contains fluoride. There are oft-debated but largely unproven or debunked arguments against the naturally-occurring mineral, but it’s an ingredient the ADA and every dentist we spoke with strongly encourage people to look for in their toothpaste thanks to decades-long body of evidence that make it the gold standard in cavity prevention.

The best whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth

A box of Crest Pro-Health Gum and Sensitivity Sensitive Toothpaste Gentle Whitening on a white background

Crest Pro Health Gum and Sensitivity Gentle Whitening is a science-backed plaque remover and a rare combination of sensitivity relief and whitening power.

Pros: ADA-approved, relieves sensitivity

Cons: Some users dislike taste and texture, not enough relief for extremely sensitive users, whitening effects are subtle

There aren’t too many whitening toothpastes on the market that specifically cater to those with sensitive teeth. Crest Pro Health Gum and Sensitivity Gentle Whitening, however, does and it’s the only ADA-approved toothpaste that offers both sensitivity relief and whitening effects. The stain removal is provided by hydrated silica, which acts as a gentle abrasive. This isn’t as extreme as some other products, both in terms of removing stains and causing sensitivity, so it’s a real trade off. But it’s the best-researched option out there for sensitivity sufferers looking for stain removal action.

The minty-sweet taste is mild but pleasant, and users say that, compared to other leading brands of sensitive toothpaste, it both tastes better and relieves sensitivity better. Like the Colgate Total SF Whitening Gel, we like that this tube has a flat flip cap for easy closure and the ability to stand vertical on a countertop to save space.

The best intensive whitening toothpaste

A tube of Colgate Optic White Advanced Sparkling White toothpaste on a white background

Colgate Optic White Advanced Sparkling White is formulated with hydrogen peroxide and abrasives to provide a double-whammy whitening effect.

Pros: ADA-approved, extra-strength whitening ability

Cons: May leave a filmy mouthfeel after using

Colgate Optic White Advanced, like the other products on our list, contains gentle abrasives to scrub stains and polish teeth. But it also uses hydrogen peroxide for its natural lightening properties, giving you a one-two punch of whitening techniques – sort of like washing your white laundry with not just a strong detergent, but bleach too. 

It’s the only bleaching toothpaste (not merely stain-removing) that the ADA has granted approval to, and like all ADA-approved pastes, it includes fluoride for cavity prevention. Despite its powerful whitening ability, Optic White is safe for enamel and many people report less sensitivity and irritation than with other whitening toothpastes.

The toothpaste works by creating a sort of film on the surface of your teeth so that the hydrogen peroxide can continue to work for more than just the two minutes you spend brushing. As a result, some people don’t like the feeling it leaves after you brush.

How I tested

A pink toothbrush over a bathroom sink with toothpaste on it

In researching this piece, I consulted four dental professionals (see Expert Sources, below)  as well as several published, peer-reviewed articles testing the efficacy and safety of various whitening toothpaste and active ingredients. 

I also personally tried several kinds of toothpaste to take note of:

  • Taste: Toothpaste is toothpaste, not candy, so we don’t want to oversell the flavor of any of the products as “delicious” – but some pastes have strange, chemical, or overly-powerful flavors and aftertastes. Most of the pastes I tried had a simple, fresh taste that contributes to the overall clean feeling you want after brushing, but a few tasted mildly metallic or just plain unusual due to non-traditional flavoring ingredients.
  • Texture:  Generally, toothpaste is either a gel or a paste and is pretty thick. I paid mind to see if any felt chalky, runny, or gritty, as well as how well they lather and spread around the mouth. Items that didn’t make the cut usually felt weird in one of these ways.
  • Packaging/ease of use – It’s not terribly common, but some toothpaste tubes are somewhat difficult to use because of poorly-designed packaging. For example: one of the toothpastes I don’t recommend, the Plus Ultra, is in a metal tube similar to what artists’ paint comes in and was kind of a pain to squeeze. Conversely, all our picks have easy-to-open or -close caps.

What to look for in whitening toothpaste

There are two major categories of whitening ingredients in toothpaste: abrasives and bleaching agents. Most whitening toothpastes rely on gentle, enamel-safe abrasives that work to scrub off stains caused by eating and drinking. Technically, they’re not changing the color of your teeth, just cleaning off any gunk that might make them appear more yellow. This is going to be the vast majority of whitening toothpastes available, and is why most people need to use at-home whitening kits to see a truly brighter smile.

Bleaching agents (like peroxide), on the other hand, can actually lift the color in the outermost layers of your enamel. However, they’re less common in toothpastes because they usually need more than two minutes of contact to really work (hence, why whitening strips work – they hold the bleaching agent on your teeth for several minutes). Additionally, bleaching agents can be irritating and cause sensitivity for some. The only bleaching toothpaste that made our top picks, Colgate Optic White, actually creates a film that sits on your teeth, keeping them in contact with the hydrogen peroxide for longer than the few minutes you spend brushing.

According to Drs. El Chami, Hain, and Springs, the number one thing to look for when shopping for new products is the ADA seal of acceptance. Brands can choose to submit their products to the American Dental Association, a non-profit advocating for safe dental practices, for review to obtain its seal which signals that the dental community agrees there is enough research to substantiate that a product is safe and effective. This is especially important when it comes to whitening toothpastes, as they tend to use abrasives like silica (the same stuff that makes up most of sand) to scrub off stains. The ADA review ensures those abrasives aren’t doing more harm to your enamel than good. 

The other thing you need to look for is fluoride, a mineral that strengthens enamel and helps prevent cavities. The naturally-occurring mineral has been demonized by phony science, but the ADA, all our experts, and a whole body of research deem it not only safe in your toothpaste, but also necessary for preventing cavities. Learn more in our FAQs.

The only ingredients dentists recommend you avoid are sugars, which improve the flavor of toothpaste but can cause adverse effects including tooth decay. Fortunately, the majority of toothpastes utilize tooth-safe sugar alternatives like xylitol or stevia.

What else we considered

an open box of toothpaste products sitting on a bed

Relatively few products on the market bear the ADA approval seal, which our sources overwhelmingly told us was the best way to know a product’s claims have been substantiated by research and thus the ones we can recommend to you most confidently. That said, a product without the seal isn’t necessarily ineffectual or bad — it just likely didn’t undergo the organization’s optional review process (which does cost money, so is difficult for smaller companies to obtain). Here are some other, non-ADA-approved products that came up in our research:

What else we recommend

  • BURST Fluoride ($10): This brand’s fluoridated toothpaste also boasts a lack of sodium lauryl sulfate, along with parabens and artificial flavors and colors, but it tastes and feels perfectly normal. 
  • Smile Direct Club Premium Fluoride Whitening ($5): The brand you probably know from their subway ads also sells a whitening toothpaste, and it happens to be relatively inexpensive compared to other new-wave brands. It also tastes really good, in this writer’s opinion. 
  • Spotlight Oral Care Toothpaste for Whitening Teeth ($10): This dentist-designed product contains fluoride for healthy teeth, as well as hydrogen peroxide for a quick kick of whitening. 
  • Sensodyne Pronamel Mineral Boost with Gentle Whitening Action ($6): While not currently bearing the ADA seal, this new product could be a helpful whitening option for those with sensitive teeth. It purports to help your teeth better absorb minerals such as calcium and phosphate, thus strengthening your enamel. 

What we don’t recommend

  • PLUS ULTRA Mint Toothpaste ($10): This toothpaste takes “natural” to another level, starting with its unique leafy green appearance. It doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate, and its plant-derived ingredients are organic — but it also lacks fluoride, so we can’t recommend it. 
  • Huppy Peppermint Toothpaste Tablets ($12): Frequent travelers may appreciate that this paste comes in the form of tablets, complete with a little storage tin. Fluoride is left out, instead including a substance called nano-hydroxyapatite. But these tablets also contain charcoal, the safety of which is still hotly contested among dentists.
  • Luster Premium White Pearl Paste ($7): This paste doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate or parabens, but it does contain fluoride (important) and one other notable ingredient: pearl extracts, which purportedly work as abrasives to buff off surface stains. There’s no published clinical research on pearl as a tooth whitening agent, but telling people you brush your teeth with pearls will make you sound very fancy.

FAQs

Do whitening toothpastes actually work?

Yes — just maybe not as well as you might hope. Dr. Salierno explained to Insider that over-the-counter whitening toothpastes are best at removing surface stains, but for a more dramatic whitening effect, professional methods are your best bet

“The true whitening effect that patients are typically after is the result of the removal of intrinsic stain, or stain that is more deeply embedded in the tooth surface,” Salierno said. “In order to get a great whitening result, patients would do well to have a professional cleaning first, and then use a prescription-strength whitening agent as directed by their dental team.”

Bottom line: Whitening toothpastes are safe and can be effective at removing surface stains — just don’t expect a dramatic transformation from over-the-counter toothpaste alone.


Is charcoal toothpaste safe to whiten teeth?

Glad you asked. Charcoal is a trendy ingredient right now, making its way into food, cosmetics, and yes, toothpaste. The idea is that charcoal is able to absorb impurities and thus whiten teeth, but the clinical evidence isn’t great: Reviews of laboratory studies suggest that charcoal isn’t particularly effective as a whitening agent, despite its mildly abrasive properties.  What’s more, it has the potential to damage your enamel, discolor it permanently, and damage your gums, according to a 2019 study in the British Dental Journal. 

More recent research supports the safety of charcoal toothpastes, but dentists and researchers caution consumers that the charcoal actually runs the risk of scratching enamel or getting stuck in the gums and other crevices. Those with fillings should especially steer clear.


Is whitening toothpaste safe for my teeth?

For the most part, yes. While many whitening toothpastes use abrasive agents to scrub away stains, dentists and researchers generally find them safe and non-damaging to the enamel of your teeth. There are a few exceptions — see about charcoal, above — but for most people, whitening toothpastes don’t pose a threat to dental health. Dr. El Chami does caution, however, that those with sensitive teeth may want to avoid whitening toothpastes in favor of something gentler. 

Paul Springs, DMD, a prosthodontist who practices in Queens, New York, elaborated, adding, “Some brands contain grit particles that are too large, which irreversibly wears down tooth enamel. This is often an issue with charcoal or baking soda toothpastes made by unrecognizable brands, so I strongly recommend patients only use toothpastes with the ADA seal of approval to avoid that issue.”

Just because a product doesn’t bear the ADA seal doesn’t mean it’s unsafe, but lesser-known brands may use questionable ingredients (or even questionable forms of ingredients that are generally considered tooth-safe) that are too gritty and can wear down your enamel. The ADA seal is your confirmation that everything in the tube is safe for at-home use.


What’s the big deal about the ADA Seal of Acceptance?

As we mentioned earlier, the ADA seal program is an optional review process in which companies may choose to submit a product to the professional organization for independent review to determine if there is sufficient research backing up the safety and efficacy of the product. 

Because the review process is optional and potentially cost-prohibitive to smaller companies, there are many toothpastes and other dental products on the market that don’t bear the ADA seal. This doesn’t necessarily mean the products aren’t up to snuff — but the dentists we consulted with highly recommend sticking to ADA-approved products to ensure you’re getting a product that actually works and is safe. 

As Dr. Springs put it, “Not having the seal isn’t enough to condemn a product, but there is enough that [damage enamel] that I wouldn’t risk chancing it.”


Is fluoride really safe?

Fluoride has been demonized by oversimplified health information and conspiracy theories for decades for supposedly causing dental staining and even cancer. While this is technically true of the chemical, it would need to be ingested in very large quantities to have these severe negative effects, far more than fluoridated water and toothpaste are likely to provide. 

The dental community is at a consensus that not only is fluoridated toothpaste safe, it’s strongly recommended for the purpose of preventing cavities and strengthening enamel throughout your life. In fact, the ADA will not grant its seal of acceptance to any toothpaste which does not include fluoride. This goes for standard as well as whitening toothpastes — ideally fluoride is going to be included in any toothpaste you use daily.

Expert sources

Dr. Ben El Chami, DMD is a dentist and the co-founder and chief dental officer of dntlbar, a family of Manhattan dental practices. 

Dr. Chris Salierno, DDS is a dentist and the chief dental officer of Tend, a family of dental practices with locations in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C.

Dr. Courtney Hain, DDS is a dentist who owns and operates her own practice, Smile San Francisco.

Dr. Paul Springs, DMD, is a prosthodontist who practices with Dr. Mondshine and Associates, a dental practice in Forest Hills, Queens, NY.

Check out our other oral health buying guides

oral b 1

The best toothpaste you can buy

Nobody likes going to the dentist, but if you take good care of your teeth between visits, the cleaning will go easier. We researched and tested many kinds of toothpaste to find the best ones you can buy.


The best natural toothpaste you can buy

Natural toothpaste formulas don’t have to be lacking in powerful ingredients or great flavor.


The best toothpaste for sensitive teeth you can buy

Don’t let tooth sensitivity make that hot cup of coffee or cold glass of water a misery to drink. You can treat your pain with a great toothpaste for sensitive teeth.


The best electric toothbrush you can buy

We want you to keep your teeth healthy and strong for a lifetime. That’s why we’ve done the research to bring you five electric toothbrushes that we feel are the best choices for the most people.

We visited the top consumer websites, listened to actual product owners, and considered advice from dentists and dental hygienists when making our decisions. So go ahead and break out your favorite toothpaste. Healthy, clean white teeth are on their way.


The best toothbrush you can buy

There’s plenty to be said for the classic manual toothbrush: It can’t run out of batteries and it’s compact, lightweight, and portable.

We chose a wide array of manual toothbrushes, from the low-cost disposable brush you keep on hand for guests to the Cadillac-level manual toothbrush that the classic oral hygiene aficionado will appreciate to unique options, like charcoal-infused toothbrushes that might just help bring out your brightest, whitest smile ever.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best 4K TVs in 2021 for sharp, colorful images and reliable streaming

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • 4K TVs are available at many price points and performance levels.
  • The best 4K TVs balance picture and smart features for stunning images and reliable streaming.
  • With its sharp OLED panel and next-gen gaming support, LG’s CX is our pick for best 4K TV overall.

4K Ultra HD (UHD) TVs have become the norm for any buyer looking to purchase a new display in 2021. However, while all 4K TVs offer a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, picture quality and smart connectivity can vary wildly between different models.

Some 4K TVs include advanced high dynamic range (HDR) for enhanced contrast and colors. Certain LCD models are able to achieve higher brightness than others, which makes them a better fit for rooms with a lot of ambient light. Other displays use OLED panels for perfect black levels that make their images pop when watching movies in a dark home theater.

Of course, picture quality is far from the only factor you should consider when buying a new display. Smart TV functionality, app selection, voice assistant support, and overall design can all make or break a 4K TV purchase. After all, what’s the point of a pretty picture if you can’t easily navigate through the TV’s menus to actually watch something?

With those factors in mind, we’ve selected the best 4K TVs on the market based on hands-on testing with a variety of models. Our picks represent a range of price points, but each of the displays we’ve selected is good enough to offer capable HDR playback and streaming app support. Since 65 inches is the standard flagship size for manufacturers, all of our selections fall into that category. That said, many of the models listed below are also available in smaller and larger sizes.

Here are the best 4K TVs you can buy:

The best 4K TV overall

LG 2020 OLED CX 4K TV

The LG CX OLED presents the best balance between picture performance, smart connectivity, design, and value of any 4K TV you can buy. 

Pros: OLED panel with infinite contrast, HDMI 2.1 ports, voice remote, several sizes to choose from

Cons: Can’t get as bright as an LCD TV, HBO Max app is missing, a little pricey

When it comes to balancing stunning picture performance and reliable smart features, the CX is the best 4K TV you can buy. Though LG released a 2021 successor to the CX, called the C1, the CX remains a better value since it costs less and offers very similar specs. 

Unlike LCD TVs, including those branded as LED and QLED, the CX provides pixel-level contrast thanks to its OLED panel. This enables perfect black levels and precise highlights, which makes this an ideal TV for people who love to watch movies in a dark room. 4K HDR Blu-ray discs and streaming titles are especially stunning on this set, fully showing off what high dynamic range is all about.

Peak brightness is also solid for an OLED panel, with a max of around 700 to 800 nits. That should be more than enough for most living rooms, but buyers who watch TV with a ton of sunlight creeping into the room may need to opt for a brighter LCD model. 

The CX is also a great fit for video games, including next-gen consoles like the PS5 and Xbox Series X. The panel offers low input lag and supports Variable Refresh Rate, Nvidia G-Sync, and 120Hz high frame rate. Gaming performance is so strong we actually think the 48-inch model is a perfect alternative to a traditional monitor.

When it comes to smart TV features, the TV uses LG’s webOS and ThinQ platforms for robust streaming app support and voice control. The magic remote also features a unique pointer function which allows you to navigate through menus with a virtual cursor you aim at the screen.

The best budget 4K TV

Vizio P Series Quantum 2021

With performance that rivals more expensive sets from the competition, the affordable Vizio P-Series Quantum is the best 4K TV in its price range.

Pros: Full-array local dimming with 200 zones, quantum dot color technology, 120Hz panel, HDMI 2.1 ports, competitive pricing

Cons: On-screen app selection is limited, no voice remote, viewing angles are mediocre, some software glitches 

The Vizio P-Series Quantum manages to pack in a lot of the same features you’d find on pricier TVs, but for less. There are some trade-offs, but if you want solid 4K HDR and streaming performance without breaking the bank, the P-Series Quantum is one of the best options out there.

While you won’t get OLED-quality contrast, the P-Series Quantum’s LCD panel does feature full-array local dimming. This tech enables the TV to dim and brighten in specific zones across the screen. As a result, the display can produce better black levels and more precise highlights than LCDs without dimming. Max brightness can hit 1,100 nits, which is fantastic for a display in this price range. HDR support is extensive as well, and the TV’s quantum dot technology enables a full spectrum of colors. 

HDMI 2.1 ports and a 120Hz panel make the P-Series Quantum a good choice for gamers. That said, I did encounter some HDMI glitches early on, but these signal problems have been mostly corrected through firmware updates. The display is compatible with separate Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices as well, but the TV’s included remote does not feature a microphone for integrated voice control.  

On the downside, like a lot of LCD TVs, viewing angles aren’t great. This means colors and contrast get washed out when you sit off to the side. And, while improvements have been made, Vizio’s SmartCast OS is still a bit lacking compared to other platforms. You can cast plenty of apps to the display from a mobile device, but the on-screen selection is currently limited. 

The best QLED 4K TV

Samsung Q90T 4K TV

Samsung’s Q90T offers some of the best overall picture of any 4K TV model. 

Pros: Bright screen with HDR10+ support, full-array local dimming, quantum dot color, wider viewing angles than typical LCDs, voice remote, HDMI 2.1

Cons: Lacks Dolby Vision support, contrast can’t quite match an OLED   

Though brands like Vizio, TCL, and Hisense have done a great job bringing quantum dot color technology to their value-priced TV models, Samsung’s Q90T QLED TV remains a good buy for enthusiasts thanks to some key performance and style perks.     

The TV features full-array local dimming for deep blacks and impressive HDR contrast thanks to its bright panel. The display can hit a peak of around 1,400 nits when in Filmmaker Mode (the most accurate). This allows the brightest highlights to really shine in ways they can’t on TVs with lower specs.  

Samsung’s display also makes use of a special filter combined with unique light output techniques to enable wider viewing angles than most competing QLED sets. As a result, the Q90T has some of the best viewing angles I’ve seen on a TV of this type. Buyers who can’t sit right in front of the display shouldn’t worry too much about distorted colors. 

Voice control is enabled via the included remote and you can choose between Samsung’s Bixby, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant. Samsung’s Smart Hub platform, powered by the Tizen OS, provides responsive navigation with on-screen support for a big selection of apps.

One HDMI 2.1 port is included as well, enabling next-gen gaming features when hooked up to a PS5, Xbox Series X, or compatible PC. 

It should be noted, however, that Samsung recently released the 2021 successor to the Q90T, dubbed the QN90A Neo QLED 4K TV. The new model uses mini LED technology which could improve contrast and black level performance. That said, it costs quite a bit more than the Q90T. We’ll be testing the 2021 model soon for consideration in our guide.

The best high-end 4K TV

Sony A80J OLED 4K TV on a TV stand.

Sony’s A80J is the premium TV champ when it comes to image accuracy, but it’s a bit pricey.

Pros: OLED panel with infinite contrast, advanced processing for superior image accuracy, acoustic surface audio technology, HDMI 2.1

Cons: Can’t get as bright as LCD TVs, no VRR support yet (coming in future firmware)

Sony’s brand-new A80J OLED (2021) serves as the successor to its highly rated A8H (2020). Though most people will be satisfied with the older model, both TVs are currently available for the same price and the A80J features a few key upgrades that help it clinch this spot.

Most notably, the new 2021 model adds HDMI 2.1 ports, enabling next-gen gaming features like 4K/120Hz. It also uses Sony’s new image tech which relies on cognitive processing to cross-analyze picture elements at the same time rather than individually. It’s hard to say how big of an improvement this upgrade makes without a side-by-side comparison with the A8H, but the A80J certainly looks stunning in person.

During annual TV competitions, Sony’s OLEDs consistently come the closest to matching the look of professional broadcast monitors and we expect the A80J to be no different. This means, when calibrated, the A80J has the potential to present movies closer to how directors intend for them to look than most competing displays.

Unlike traditional TVs, the A80J also features a unique audio system with acoustic surface technology. Instead of typical speakers, this process uses actuators behind the panel to create sound from the screen itself. This allows dialogue to sound as if it’s truly coming from the mouths of people on screen. 

The A80J is also one of the first TVs to launch with the new Google TV platform rather than the older Android TV system. The new interface has a stylish look and emphasizes content rather than apps. It works well, but I’ve run into a few glitches here and there that forced me to reboot the display. Google TV has a lot of potential but some kinks still need to be worked out via firmware updates. 

The best deals on 4K TVs from this guide

Every week we see discounts on dozens of TVs, however, it can be difficult to know what you’re buying. There are hundreds of options floating around and some retailers offer different models, which makes it hard to compare. As you might expect, the best time to buy a TV is during events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day. If you can hold out for one of these sales, you might be able to snag one of our TV picks for over $100 less. 

Below, we’ve gathered the best deals we found on the sets we actually recommend, so you’ll be absolutely sure that you’ll get a great value.

Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.

What to look for in a 4K TV

The best OLED TVs LG CX

There are some key specifications that you should look for when choosing which TV is the best fit for your needs.

HDR support

If you’re buying a new display with image performance as a top priority, you’ll want to make note of a TV’s high-dynamic-range (HDR) capabilities. Even more so than resolution, HDR has become the defining factor for picture quality in modern TVs. This feature allows a TV to offer enhanced contrast and colors when playing specially graded HDR shows and movies on many streaming apps and 4K Blu-ray discs.

There are a few competing HDR formats, including HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. HDR10 is the default and it’s supported on all HDR TVs. Dolby Vision and HDR10+ offer more advanced capabilities, but Dolby Vision content is more common than HDR10+. 

OLED vs. LCD

Brightness capabilities (measured in nits), black levels, contrast ratio, color gamut, and viewing angles are all major factors that help contribute to a TV’s overall picture performance. Panel type then plays a large role in determining how well a display can handle all of these elements. 

There are currently two main types of 4K TV panels: OLED and LCD (the latter is often branded as QLED or LED). Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. OLEDs excel at black levels, contrast, and viewing angles. LCDs excel at brightness, which can make them better for rooms that let in a lot of light. LCD models also tend to be less expensive than OLED models and they present no risk for burn-in

HDMI 2.1 ports

HDMI 2.1 support is another feature that buyers should keep in mind. The latest HDMI spec enables next-gen gaming features like 4K/120Hz and VRR, which could be important for people who plan to buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X.  

Smart TV features

Smart TV connectivity is essential as well, and each manufacturer either uses their own specific operating system or a third-party system like Roku TV, Google TV, or Fire TV. All of these platforms have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to app selection and performance, but most will get the job done just fine for basic streaming needs. 

If you’re unhappy with your TV’s built-in system, we recommend buying a separate streaming stick or box. These devices typically offer the best streaming app support, and entry-level models with 4K playback are frequently on sale from Roku for as little as $30.

Check out our other TV buying guides

VIZIO M Series Quantum

The best cheap TVs

Though flagship TVs can get pricey, there are plenty of budget-friendly displays out there with solid performance. There are even models with genuine HDR support for surprisingly affordable prices. 


The best OLED TVs

OLED TVs offer some key performance benefits compared to traditional LCD displays, including better black levels and uniformity. While all OLED TVs tend to be very similar when it comes to picture quality, certain models feature premium design upgrades that make them a bit more expensive.

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