The 4 best at-home DNA test kits for genetics, health, and ancestry, according to geneticists and genealogists

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • At-home DNA kits give insight into your ancestry and health information and can help connect you with family.
  • We spoke with six genetics experts on what to look for in an at-home DNA kit.
  • Our top pick, AncestryDNA, has the largest database and gives a detailed ethnicity report for $100.

It’s quite amazing that with a simple saliva sample or cheek swab, we can learn so much about our ancestry, family connections, and inherited health markers – all thanks to our DNA. These at-home DNA test kits provide us with all kinds of information we might not be able to learn otherwise.

“A DNA test kit can tell us our medical risks, to an extent, and who we are connected to right now in our living family,” Brianne Kirkpatrick, MS, LCGC, a genetic counselor, ancestry expert for the National Society of Genetic Counselors, and founder of Watershed DNA, told Insider. “They can also tell us about the grandparents and great grandparents we’d never have a chance to learn about otherwise. And they can be the entryway into a genealogy hobby.”

Buying a DNA test comes with a lot of questions, which is why we talked with six experts about what makes for a quality test, who should and shouldn’t take one, and how secure your genetic information is with these companies. We’ve also included answers to a variety of other FAQs based on the information shared by these experts.

Here are the best DNA test kits:

The best DNA test kit overall

ancestrydna test

The AncestryDNA Origins + Ethnicity Test gets you access to the largest customer database, which means more detailed results and more family matches. 

Pros: Largest database, built-in DNA-matching and messaging, widely available

Cons: No health testing (which experts say isn’t necessarily a bad thing), historical records cost extra

If your goal is to build your tree and meet your cousins, you want the site that has the most people and, therefore, most matches, Mica Anders, a professional genealogist who specializes in genetic genealogy, told Insider. 

AncestryDNA has the largest database with nearly 20 million purported people, which is roughly 8 million more than the next closest, 23andMe. You can opt-in to family connections and even have the ability to message potential matches. Anders did point out that people on Ancestry don’t check their messages as often as other sites geared toward more serious genealogists, like FamilyTree DNA.

The company also offers a subscription service ($25/mo and up) which grants access to a catalog of historical records like birth, death, and marriage certificates, which can be used to build your family tree.

After submitting a saliva sample to Ancestry, you’ll get a breakdown of your ethnicity estimates, ancestry matches with specific countries and regions, a map of the potential migration patterns of your ancestors, and family connections to those who match your DNA. You can even add a traits-testing service for an additional cost to find out about personal traits, such as how likely you are to have freckles or a distaste for cilantro.

Ancestry continues to update its ethnicity estimates and family connections based on new customer data, so you’ll keep getting up-to-date information as its database grows. The company also allows users to download their raw genetic data, which can be uploaded to other sites for analysis.

One of the downsides of Ancestry is that it doesn’t offer specific health information — a service it discontinued in January of 2021. But since genetic counselors recommend consulting with an expert before testing your DNA for health information, and most people use these tests for genealogical purposes, AncestryDNA still takes our top spot.

Plus, at $99 (and often less when on promotion), this test excels in its genealogical offerings while leaving room in your wallet to explore DNA health testing with a qualified expert, if that’s what you choose to do. 

The best DNA test kit for health data

23andMe DNA Tests for Health + Ancestry

If you want a DNA kit for both preliminary health information and a deeper look into your ancestry, the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service is your best bet. 

Pros: Second largest database, some of the health tests are FDA-approved, identifies haplogroups

Cons: Higher price due to health testing, health testing may bring up sensitive information 

At $199, 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service is the priciest kit on our list but you’ll get over 40 carrier status reports (which include information about whether you carry gene mutations for various inherited diseases) as well as reports on more than 10 health dispositions. This helps provide insight into your genetic risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. 

While these reports can be interesting and enlightening, it’s important to remember a positive result doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get the disease, and a negative result doesn’t mean you won’t. 

23andMe’s ancestry results provide information about your ethnicity estimate breakdown, an interactive map of the world showing where your ancestors came from and potential migration paths, and haplogroups, which look at the deep ancestry on your mother’s or father’s side of the family.

Female testers will only be able to see their maternal haplogroup, but male testers can get information on their paternal haplogroup because this test is done on the Y chromosome (which only genetic males have). 

This test also includes trait information from your DNA, such as your chances of having a cleft chin, dimples, and dandruff. One aspect of the test that’s particularly interesting is that it also provides a report on how much DNA is inherited from our Neanderthal ancestors. 

Lastly, 23andMe has a robust platform for making family connections with your DNA matches if you opt-in. You can send messages through the platform and can even see a map of where your potential family matches are located. And with more than 12 million people in their database, the chances of finding distant (or not-so-distant) relatives could be high.  

The best budget DNA test kit

MyHeritage

The MyHeritage DNA Test only costs $79 and provides most of the same information as other higher-priced ancestry tests.  

Pros: Great price, cheek swab, focus on ethnicity estimates, allows you to upload external results, database of genealogical documents

Cons: Smaller DNA test database, no health information

MyHeritage’s DNA test kit was launched in 2016, so its database, at approximately 4.5 million DNA samples, isn’t as big as the older brands. However, MyHeritage allows users to upload their raw genetic data from other sites, so even though its own sample pool is smaller, its database is quite large and you’re still likely to find family matches on the site. 

What’s more, if you believe you’re of European ancestry, MyHeritage DNA might be a better pick than others as it has more customers in Europe. 

MyHeritage has been used as a genealogy tool long before it started offering its DNA test. Because of that, the site also has an incredible database of genealogical documents like birth, death, and marriage certificates. Access requires a subscription, but you can also integrate your DNA results with its historical database and family tree-building tool. 

For $79 (and often promoted at lower prices), it has most of the same offerings as bigger names: There’s a built-in platform for connecting with new DNA family matches and a detailed ethnicity estimate breakdown. Unlike the Ancestry and 23andMe tests, MyHeritage uses a cheek swab to collect DNA, which some might find easier than having to collect their spit in a tube. 

This test doesn’t provide health or trait information, so it’s a good fit especially for those who only want to focus on their ancestry. 

The best DNA test kit for serious genealogists

FamilyTreeDNA

If you’ve already taken an autosomal DNA test like the above, FamilyTreeDNA Y-DNA and mtDNA tests provide deeper insight on your maternal and paternal lines, ideal for those looking to dig into their ancestry and build out family trees. 

Pros: More detailed information on maternal and paternal lines, more engaged user base

Cons: Pricier than other tests, not a starting point for DNA testing

Most of the ancestry DNA test kits on the market are autosomal DNA tests, which means any sex can take it to learn both sides of their family tree, Adrienne Abiodun, a professional genealogist with LegacyTree Genealogists told Insider. 

But FamilyTreeDNA offers two separate, more specific tests: Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) testing which focuses on your maternal line, answering the question, ‘who was my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother?; or, Y-DNA testing, which only biological men with their Y chromosome can use to find information about their direct paternal line. 

These types of tests are best suited to those who have already taken autosomal DNA tests (like any of the above) and are looking for deeper information on their lineage. They’re also a good fit for someone who only wants information about their maternal or paternal line — for example, a biological male who never knew their father and wants more information about their paternal line only. 

FamilyTreeDNA is a cheek swab test and allows users to upload their raw data from other test sites to get more matches — making it ideal if you’re wanting to connect with others.

“FamilyTreeDNA has a lot more serious genealogists on it, so sometimes you’ll have a better chance of getting responses from people on there,” Mica Anders said. 

The paternal ancestry test starts at $119 while the maternal ancestry test is $159. For what it’s worth, FamilyTreeDNA does offer an autosomal DNA test but both Anders and Abiodun said they usually advise clients to upload their autosomal data from other testing companies, then focus on FamilyTreeDNA’s more specialized offerings as applicable.

Paternal Y-DNA Test

Paternal Y-DNA Test (button)

Maternal mtDNA Test

What else we considered

There are quite a few niche DNA test kits available, particularly for those interested in genealogy. The experts we spoke with highly recommend taking one of the larger database brands above and, once you have confirmation of where your lineage comes from, consider a more niche test.

Two tests that experts we interviewed for this article highlighted are:

  • African Ancestry (from $299): This test is for those who can trace their ancestry back to Africa and want more details on their maternal and paternal lines in that region. In most cases, you’ll want to do another DNA test kit first to check whether this test makes sense for you, according to Abiodun, which is why it’s not included in the main test ranking.
  • LivingDNA ($79): LivingDNA is a smaller testing company but includes mtDNA and Y-DNA testing in its standard offering. Primarily, experts interviewed for this article use it for people with ancestry in Great Britain, Wales, and Ireland, as they have a large representation of reference samples from this population.

How we evaluated

We evaluated each test based on the following criteria:

Reference database size: The bigger, the better. 

Price: We looked at what information you get, and the quality of the information you get, relative to the price of the test. 

Depth and detail of data provided: We considered how well each test covered deep ancestry information (your ancestry going back hundreds and thousands of years) as well as genetic genealogy, which covers your more recent ancestry.  

Ease of family matching: We considered how easy it is to connect with any family matches you establish, and whether or not you have to pay extra to do so. “Some sites have easier communication than others,” Anders said. 

Genealogist recommendations: We spoke with two professional genealogists who walked us through how they choose which tests they use for their clients. 

What to look for in a DNA test kit

In addition to the criteria above (Reference database size, price, depth and detail provided, and ease of family matching), people looking to purchase a DNA test kit should consider: 

Whether you want ancestry, health, and/or traits information: There are pros and cons to taking a test that includes all three types of genetic information, and some people may prefer not to know whether or not they have an increased risk of disease, for example. Others might want as much information as possible about their health, family roots, and genetic traits.  

Access to raw data: If you plan to upload your genetic data to another site to maximize family matches and build your family tree, you’ll want to check whether or not you can download your raw data after getting your test results. 

Subscription fees: Some DNA test kit companies require additional subscription fees to unlock certain features, particularly around health reports and historical records used for genealogy. Before you buy a test kit, check what’s included in the test price and whether or not you’ll need any additional subscriptions to use the test as planned. 

The test company’s privacy policy: Experts agree that reading a company’s privacy policy in full is an essential step for all consumers before purchasing an at-home DNA test kit. It’s important to be sure you’re comfortable with how your data will be stored and used, and there is variation among companies on this. For instance, some test companies keep physical DNA samples unless you tell them to destroy them, while others will destroy them automatically.

Usually, the reason behind keeping your DNA sample on hand is so that your DNA can be retested if more advanced testing methods become available in the future.

A note on data privacy concerns 

There’s only so much you can control when it comes to protecting your genetic data, according to Abiodun. “For people who say, ‘I don’t want my data out there’: Your data is out there.”

If anyone you share DNA with has been tested, part of your DNA is already in the database. “The floodgates are open, and millions of people have tested. I’m not saying this to be scary, but to be realistic,” Abiodun added. 

It’s worth noting, though, that once you receive your results, you can delete your genetic data from a given database at any time. 

As far as consenting to how your data can be shared, there’s been a lot of talk in the past several years about ensuring your genetic data is kept private after using DNA test kits. Note that some major companies do sell your genetic analysis (anonymously) to places like pharmaceutical companies.

Every expert we spoke to for this article recommended reading the company’s privacy policy in full before buying a test.

“That policy will outline who it might share your data with, and what your rights are,” Brianne Kirkpatrick explained.

But note that a company can change that policy, or be acquired by a larger company with its own looser privacy policy, and it doesn’t necessarily have to alert you that your previously-tested DNA is now available for other companies to acquire. Put plainly, if you aren’t comfortable with your DNA potentially being sold, you probably shouldn’t do a DNA test.

If you’re wondering why privacy is so important, here are a few of the main issues: 

Profiting from health data: “For some of the big companies like 23andMe, it’s clear that providing health information to consumers was always a goal, but identifying a genetic connection with diseases often requires looking at DNA from a very large number of people,” Rick W. A. Smith, Ph.D, an assistant professor at George Mason University and biocultural anthropologist who studies how colonialism and imperialism in the Americas impact people’s DNA, told Insider.

We’re beginning to see genetic ancestry companies sign deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars with pharmaceutical companies, Smith added. “I think it is important that more people understand that when they pay for a genetic ancestry test and consent to certain types of research, their data can be used to generate massive profits for these companies.” 

Some people might be totally comfortable with companies using their genetic data to develop new drugs or do other types of medical research. After all, your genetic information might contribute to the “greater good” in this way. But others may not want massive corporations to profit from their DNA, which is completely understandable. 

Sharing data with law enforcement: Most DNA test kit companies will not share data with law enforcement unless forced to (and their privacy policy states their stance if this is a concern for you). But in certain high-profile cases, such as the Golden State Killer, genetic data from DNA test kits has been used to locate a suspect. In the Golden State Killer case specifically, the suspect was located because his relatives had uploaded their raw genetic data to a third-party site called GEDMatch, a genealogy research tool.

“Once a consumer uploads their data to a third-party website like this, the expectation of privacy is basically out the window,” Lauren Jeffries, DO, a geneticist at Yale Medicine, told Insider. 

Data security: Like almost any other business that stores information in a database, it’s possible that DNA testing companies could be hacked, Jeffries also pointed out. Hackers having access to your name, billing info, and genetic information is potentially a lot more worrying than having your anonymized data shared with pharmaceutical companies.

There’s no evidence that DNA testing companies are particularly vulnerable to hacking, and many mention the safeguards they have in place, but it’s a risk people should be aware of before submitting their DNA test sample. Be wary of a brand that doesn’t mention its approach to data security at all.  

Who should get a DNA test?

1. People trying to build their family tree.

Whether you’re a hobby genealogist or an adoptee trying to find your birth parent, one of the biggest benefits of DNA testing is that it can reestablish lost family connections.

“These tests are invaluable if you’re of unknown parentage because they are the main tool we can use to really dig back when there are very few paper records, if any,” Mica Anders said.

Even if you don’t have family mysteries you’re trying to uncover, these tests can still be helpful, Anders said, if you want to answer questions like: Who am I? Where do I come from? Who’s my family?  

2. Those who want to know more about their ethnicity makeup.

Most of the DNA test kits available on the market today provide an ethnicity estimate, which gives a breakdown of different regions of the world your ancestors likely came from. This is enough of a curiosity on its own for many people to try a test.

Anders added, “I know a lot of people give test kits as Christmas presents to each other just for the ethnicity estimate, and they never look at their results again.” 

3. People who are curious about their genetic traits.

“Some of these kits uncover fun and interesting traits, such as one’s taste or distaste for cilantro,” Jeffries said. Jeffries added that she considers ancestry and non-health-related trait testing to be “curiosity genetics,” which can be entertaining. 

Who shouldn’t?

1. Those who would be devastated by a surprise family connection (or lack thereof)

Sometimes, people uncover unexpected information about their family via a DNA test kit. Perhaps they find out their dad isn’t actually their biological parent or that they have a sibling they didn’t know about before. Most people won’t get a shocking or surprising result — but according to Brianne Kirkpatrick, many people will.

“I’ve learned that even if there’s a warning label on the box and on the website that you might get an unexpected result that you aren’t prepared for, no one really thinks it’ll happen to them. Or they think they won’t react that strongly if it does,” Kirkpatrick said. 

It’s different for everyone who goes through this experience but it’s important to remember you don’t always react the way you think you will to the news. Moreover, there’s support available if this happens to you.

However, if you’re interested in taking a DNA test purely for curiosity, it’s important to think if that is worth any potential surprise revelations. 

2. People looking to assess their genetic health risks.

While it’s hugely popular to use an at-home DNA test to learn your genetic risks, the tests don’t actually cover everything in your DNA. Therefore, it doesn’t give you a complete risk profile.

For example, 23andMe looks at three markers within BRCA1 and BRCA2, two genes known to increase the risk of breast cancer. Kirkpatrick pointed out that in reality, those genes are thousands of DNA letters long. This means that you could get a negative result on the 23andMe test but still have an increased genetic risk for breast cancer from non-tested genes. 

For your complete risk analysis, you’d need a clinical DNA test. If you’re concerned about genetic health risks, you’re better off seeing a provider like a genetic counselor, Sara Riordan, MS, LCGC, president of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, told Insider. 

Interpreting what your genetic health test results mean (and what they don’t mean) should be done with the help of a genetic counselor. At the very least, speak to your health care provider. That way, you’ll know if you need further testing, or if any of your family members need to be tested. 

Can at-home DNA tests be wrong?

When it comes to health information, at-home DNA test kits aren’t as accurate as the tests a doctor or a genetic counselor would order — as explained above.  

For ethnicity estimates and ancestry matching, major companies like 23andMe or Ancestry are considered accurate at the continental level, Abiodun explained. That means if you take tests from multiple companies, you’d see pretty consistently that you’re 100% European, or 65% African American and 35% European, or 25% European and 75% Asian. 

However, the exact makeup of where your ancestors came from within those regions may differ between DNA testing companies. 

That’s because each company has its own database of DNA to compares yours with. The ethnicity and ancestry results you get from a company are entirely dependent on who that company’s tested before. If more people of Korean descent use one brand, that brand’s database and results will be more accurate and detailed for other people of Korean descent, for example. 

This is one reason that, in some cases, big-box testing brands may be less accurate for some populations.

“Historically, a lot of the genetic data gathered has been on white populations,” Kirkpatrick said. That means when non-white people submit samples to certain DNA test kit companies, there may be fewer similar samples to compare yours to. Ultimately, that may mean you get less detailed information in your results. 

In these situations, region-specific tests such as African Ancestry (Africa) or 23Mofang (China) can be helpful. These companies have a more well-developed database in specific regions, which means it may provide more insight into your ancestry from that region. 

If you’re looking for the most detailed and accurate ethnicity information, Kirkpatrick said your best approach is to do a broader test first and then follow up with a region-specific test once you know for sure that part of your family comes from Africa or from China, for example.  

That said, databases at major DNA testing companies are continually growing and becoming more diverse. And the larger a company’s database, the more accurate the estimates are, which is why the big names you know like 23andMe really are top choices. 

Other FAQs

I’m of non-European ancestry, and I’m not sure which test is right for me. 

“If you’re looking especially for ancestry information, the first place to start is the DNA test company’s website and find what’s called their white paper,” Kirkpatrick said. There might be information in that document that addresses different population groups.

Another strategy is to join genealogy groups on Facebook or other online genealogy communities.

“For example, there’s a Facebook group specifically for Korean American adoptees and they discuss which DNA tests they’ve done and which have been most helpful,” Kirkpatrick explained. “So, for some minority populations that are underrepresented in the large DNA company databases, I recommend seeking out groups specific to their background, and getting information from those who have been there before.”


What should I do if I get an unexpected ancestry result?

Sometimes, DNA test kits reveal shocking family information. “The main message I try to have everyone hear when they first make a discovery is to make sure they’re not misinterpreting the results,” Kirkpatrick said.

This means making sure you’ve ruled out other reasons for a surprise discovery before jumping to a conclusion about who a person is and how they’re related to you. 

Often, DNA testing companies report more distant relationships incorrectly, according to Kirkpatrick. For example, a half-sibling and a first cousin both share about the same amount of DNA as you.

“So, if the DNA company makes assumptions about how you and a DNA match are related, it might tell you it’s the wrong relationship,” Kirkpatrick explained. The only relationships that can’t be erroneously reported like that are parent-child relationships.


My ethnicity report says some of my DNA comes from an Indigenous group. What does that mean? 

“I think one of the biggest sources of confusion about these tests is that genetic ancestry results do not easily translate to group belonging,” Rick W.A. Smith said. He added that this is most often seen if people find out they have ties to Indigenous Americans.

“Pretty much everyone would understand that having Irish ancestors does not make a person an Irish citizen. But when it comes to Indigenous peoples, non-Indigenous consumers often make the mistake of thinking that sharing some DNA in common with Indigenous peoples makes them Indigenous also.” 

Indigenous peoples are not distinct genetic groups, Smith added, and only Indigenous peoples can decide who their members are. Genetic ancestry tests are not enough. 


I have an increased risk of a health condition. What do I do now?

Just because your genetic report shows you have an increased risk of getting a disease doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get it.

“It is seldom that the markers these at-home test kits report have a 1-to-1 relationship with disease,” Lauren Jeffries explained.

For example, genetic variants indicating an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease are very common in the general population, Jeffries added, but Alzheimer’s is not a purely genetic disorder. Lifestyle factors play an important role in the development of dementia, too.

Our experts

During the research process for this article, we spoke with a variety of experts in the fields of ancestry, genetic testing, and genetic genealogy, including:

  • Brianne Kirkpatrick, MS, is a licensed clinical genetic counselor (LCGC) and ancestry expert for the National Society of Genetic Counselors. She is also the founder of Watershed DNA, an organization that provides support for those who find out unexpected information after using a genetic ancestry test. 
  • Sara Riordan, MS, is a licensed clinical genetic counselor (LCGC) and president of National Society of Genetic Counselors. Riordan works at OncoCyte Corporation as the Director of Medical Education. 
  • Mica Anders is a professional genealogist and founder of Anders Genealogical Services. She offers genealogical DNA analysis and investigation to her clients. 
  • Adrienne Abiodun is a professional genealogist who works on the DNA ancestry team at LegacyTree Genealogists. Full disclosure: 23andMe does refer people to LegacyTree for genealogical help after they’ve paid for and completed a test. But Abiodun uses a variety of different brands with her clients, not just the 23andMe test kit. 
  • Rick W. A. Smith, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Women and Gender Studies at George Mason University. Smith is a biocultural anthropologist studying how colonialism and imperialism in the Americas impact people’s DNA.
  • Lauren Jeffries, DO, is a fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics, a pediatrician, and a medical geneticist at Yale Medicine for the Pediatric Genomics Discovery Program (PGDP), where she provides genetic counseling to patients and their families.

Other helpful sources: 

The International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki is jam-packed with information on the different DNA testing companies, and how different types of tests work.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best mineral sunscreens for all skin tones, backed by dermatologists

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Mineral sunscreens are ideal for sensitive skin types and protect the skin against UV rays.
  • We talked with two dermatologists about what to look for in an effective mineral sunscreens.
  • CeraVe is a standout skin-sensitive brand, and its Hydrating Sunscreen Face Lotion is our top pick.

Sunscreen is a must anytime you’re going to be in the sun, but it’s important to pick the right type for your skin and your lifestyle. While most traditional bottles are chemical-based sunscreens, these can sometimes irritate sensitive skin. Enter mineral sunscreen – a safe and effective alternative to typical tubes that is especially recommended for this skin type.

Mineral sunscreens physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin, while chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays, Marisa Garshick, MD, an NYC-based board-certified dermatologist told Insider.

Jeanine Downie, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey, pointed out that mineral sunscreens aren’t necessarily “healthier” for your skin than chemical sunscreens – if you choose a chemical option with gentle ingredients, it shouldn’t irritate sensitive skin and you won’t deal with any white residue. But some people do prefer an always-gentle mineral sunscreen or want to err on the side of caution until we understand exactly how the chemical ingredients absorbed into our bloodstream interact with human hormones.

Mineral sunscreen’s biggest downside is that it’s traditionally been hard to rub in, leaving your arms and legs with a white sheen. But newer formulas rub in just as well as chemical sunscreens, and many brands have formulated options specifically for those with a darker skin tone.

Whichever sunscreen you’re using, it’s important to always use SPF 30 or above and to reapply the formula every two hours if you’re in the Northeast, every hour if you’re closer to the equator, Dr. Downie said. You should apply sunscreen more often if you have fairer skin, too.

With dermatologist-backed perspectives, research, and testing, we rounded up the best mineral sunscreens – and a complementary FAQ on sunscreen use and efficacy – below.

Here are the best mineral sunscreens of 2021:

The best mineral sunscreen overall

CeraVe slide

CeraVe’s Hydrating Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 is lightweight, developed by dermatologists, and contains niacinamide, a known ingredient to brighten and hydrate the skin.

Pros: Developed by dermatologists; contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide; oil-free, recognized by the National Eczema Association and the Skin Cancer Foundation; contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide; won’t clog pores; fragrance- and paraben-free; allergen-tested

Cons: May be slightly chalky on darker skin tones

Recommended use: Apply a small amount to one part of your body at a time, preferably 15 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours, or less than that if you have fairer skin.

CeraVe is a brand well known for its use on sensitive skin, and its Hydrating Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 50 is no different. Containing both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to protect your skin from UVA and UVB rays, it’s also oil-free, was awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance and the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Daily Use Seal of Approval.

CeraVe was developed by dermatologists to contain three essential ceramides, a type of lipid that locks in moisture and protects your skin’s barrier from the elements. The moisture-retaining ingredient hyaluronic acid, along with niacinamide, is also found in the formula. These two ingredients, according to NYC-based dermatologist Marina Peredo, MD, brightens and hydrates your skin, which she explained in our best eye creams and serums guide. 

This formula does leave a slight chalky residue, but it rubs in well enough for the majority of lighter skin tones; however, it is probably not ideal for darker skin if you don’t want that white overlay (see our specific pick below).

What’s more, CeraVe is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores. It’s also fragrance- and paraben-free and allergen-tested. You can use it on your body, too.

The best budget mineral sunscreen

Neutrogena slide

For budget-friendly skin protection, Neutrogena’s Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is a wonderful and accessible option.

Pros: Made with 100% zinc oxide, water-resistant, hypoallergenic, affordable

Cons: Doesn’t contain titanium dioxide

Recommended use: Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure, reapply two hours after (or 80 minutes after swimming or sweating), and immediately after towel drying

The Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 is made with 100% zinc oxide and is water-resistant, so it’s great for water activities in the pool or at the beach.

It’s also hypoallergenic and, according to Dr. Peredo, this distinction means it’s likely void of parabens and fragrances. For an option you can swing at a drugstore at an affordable price, it’s a quality mineral sunscreen to stow away in your beach tote.

The best spray-on mineral sunscreen

Sun Bum slide

The Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray is a hassle-free sun protectant that’s dermatologist-tested and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Pros: Easy application, water-resistant, dermatologist-tested, lightweight, vegan, gluten- and paraben-free

Cons: Doesn’t contain titanium dioxide

Recommended use: Hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray until your skin glistens. Then, rub it in thoroughly. Also, note that this 6 oz. bottle contains six applications, according to spray sunscreen guidance from the American Academy of Dermatology.

Sometimes, applying lotion-based sunscreen can take too long, especially when you’re in a hurry to hit the beach or jump in the water. The Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray allows you to quickly and evenly apply your much-needed protectant, which contains zinc oxide as its active ingredient.

The vegan spray-on sunscreen is also gluten- and paraben-free. Though the spray comes out white, it applies more transparently.

The best mineral sunscreen for darker skin

skinmedia slide

SkinMedica’s Total Defense Repair SPF 34 Tinted Sunscreen is truly a blessing, as its sheer coverage doesn’t leave a white paste that’s noticeable on darker skin tones.

Pros: Doesn’t leave a noticeable white cast, contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, helps treat signs of aging with antioxidants

Cons: None

Recommended use: Apply to face, neck, and body and reapply after sweating, swimming, and towel drying.

As a BIPOC expert, Dr. Downie isn’t a big fan of mineral sunscreens because they often leave a white tint on dark skin. That said, she recommends the SkinMedica Total Defense Repair SPF 34 Tinted Sunscreen, which absorbs well, contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and even helps to treat signs of aging with its antioxidant ingredient blend.

“We, as human beings, react to indoor and outdoor lighting and the blue light from the phone, computer, and tablets,” Dr. Downie said. “Therefore, all races need protection from sunlight and indoor light daily with reapplication.”

For a sunscreen that will protect against UVA and UVB rays, helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and works well for dark skin, SkinMedia is dermatologist-approved.

The best water-resistant mineral sunscreen

EltaMD slide

The EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion is wonderfully formulated for an active lifestyle because it’s oil-free and water-resistant, so it won’t drip off when you sweat.

Pros: Contains zinc oxide, oil-free, water-resistant, won’t clog pores, contains antioxidants for protecting against aging and sun damage

Cons: Doesn’t contain titanium dioxide

Recommended use: Apply 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every two hours.

With the EltaMD UV Sport Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion, you won’t have to worry about your sun protectant sliding off. It’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and oil-free, so it won’t rinse off in water or clog your pores.

“Surfers, swimmers, and anyone partaking in water activities should read the sunscreen label which will indicate if the product is water-resistant and if so, for how long — generally 40 to 80 minutes,” Dr. Garshick said. “Those who partake in water activities should also be encouraged to wear UPF clothing for additional protection.”

You’ll also be protected from UVA and UVB rays since it contains zinc oxide and, with antioxidant protection, its SPF formula will help protect against aging and skin damage.

The best mineral sunscreen for your face

La Roche slide

The La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50 won’t make you look shiny and can conveniently be applied with or without makeup.

Pros: Contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, tested on sensitive skin, fragrance-free, water-resistant, dermatologist-tested

Cons: Isn’t water-resistant for more than one hour, like some of our other picks

Recommended use: Shake well and apply 15 minutes before sun exposure and 40 minutes after water activity.

Sunscreen isn’t just for your body — you have to apply some on your face, too. This will ensure protection from UVA and UVB rays to prevent sun damage.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Tinted Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50 will effectively blend into your skin and can be applied with or without makeup. It contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, too, so it will properly protect against the sun’s rays. It’s also our top pick in our best facial sunscreens guide.

What’s more, its antioxidant complex — called senna alata — will help to protect against environmental damage. If you’re nervous about applying facial products on delicate skin, it was dermatologist-tested specifically for sensitive skin and is also fragrance-free. 

La Roche-Posay’s water resistance will last for up to 40 minutes. And, if tinted sunscreens aren’t your thing, the brand has a non-tinted version that has a thicker consistency.

FAQs on sunscreen

GettyImages 1218394610

Below, our dermatologist experts answered some common questions on sunscreen use and ingredients to look for, based on your skin type.

What is the difference between mineral and chemical sunscreen?

“Mineral sunscreens typically contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and physically block UV rays by reflecting them away from the skin, while chemical sunscreens, containing ingredients such as avobenzone, octisalate, and octocrylene, work by absorbing UV rays, converting them into heat, and then releasing the heat from the skin,” Dr. Garshick explained.

But both are considered safe and effective options for protecting the skin against UV rays, she added.

The other major difference between the two is that chemical sunscreens can be absorbed into the bloodstream. However, it does not necessarily mean these ingredients are unsafe or that the absorbed quantity is enough to cause any problems or concerns, Dr. Garshick pointed out. The FDA is continuing to look into this, but until we have research that shows these ingredients in this amount are harmful to humans, the FDA (and all our experts here) still recommend using whichever type of sunscreen you like most.

What consistency is best for a mineral sunscreen?

“The best sunscreen consistency is the one that feels good on your skin,” Dr. Garshick said. “Those with oily or acne-prone skin may opt for a gel consistency, while those with dry or sensitive skin may prefer a lotion or cream. Those with darker skin types may prefer a lightweight lotion that absorbs easily without leaving a white cast.”

How do I know if a sunscreen is “reef safe?”

According to the National Ocean Service, some sunscreen chemicals threaten marine life, ocean reefs, and the overall ecosystem, simply because humans engage in water-related activities. 

“The term reef-safe doesn’t actually have an agreed-upon definition and more research and formal testing requirements would be needed to truly determine what is considered reef safe,” Dr. Garshick said. 

Typically, sunscreens formulated without oxybenzone or octinoxate are labeled as reef-safe, she added.

How do I know if sunscreen is vegan?

“Vegan sunscreens refer to sunscreens that don’t contain animal products and aren’t tested on animals,” Dr. Garshick said. “Some ingredients that may be found in non-vegan sunscreens include beeswax, lanolin, stearic acid, and more.”

What sunscreen should I look for if I have acne-prone skin?

Dr. Garshick recommends looking for a non-comedogenic sunscreen to ensure that the formula won’t clog your pores, thus worsening the condition.

Sensitive Skin Liquid Face Sunscreen – SPF 50 (small)

Can I use mineral sunscreen with prescribed acne or facial medications?

“It is especially important for those with acne to wear sunscreen,” Dr. Garshick said. Some acne treatments can make you more sensitive to the sun, plus sunscreen can help to prevent and reduce the dark marks or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that can go along with breakouts, she added.

Moreover, some sunscreens may also be formulated with calming or soothing ingredients, like niacinamide which can help to reduce redness and blemishes.

What sunscreen should I look for if I have dry skin?

For dry skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for hyaluronic acid, an ingredient known for its hydrating properties. This will nourish and protect your skin from the sun.

Sunforgettable Total Protection Face Shield SPF 50 (small)

What sunscreen should I look for if I have oily skin?

For oily skin, Dr. Garshick recommends looking for an oil-skin sunscreen to prevent clogged pores.

Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen SPF 50 (small)
Our experts

Jeanine Downie, MD is a board-certified dermatologist licensed in California, New Jersey, and New York. Currently, she practices at Image Dermatology P.C. in New Jersey and specializes in cosmetic dermatology, laser and dermatologic surgery, and laser treatments, among other areas.

Marisa Garshick, MD is an NYC-based, board-certified dermatologist who practices at MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery. She specializes in cosmetic and medical procedures, including treatments for acne, eczema, and skin cancer. She’s also an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell-New York Presbyterian Medical Center.

Marina Peredo, MD is an NYC-based, board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Skinfluence, a practice offering a customized approach to cosmetic surgery. Previously, she served as a primary investigator in several FDA clinical trials.

Check out our other summer guides

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The 5 best first aid kits of 2021 to keep at home or take with you on the go

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  • The best first aid kits should have items like bandages, wraps, antibiotic ointment, and pain relievers.
  • It’s smart to routinely check your first aid kit to be sure nothing is expired, low on stock, or needs updating.
  • Our top pick, the First Aid Only First Aid Kit, is compact, carefully curated with essentials, and costs under $25.

As a frequent camper and hiker, I know that having a first aid kit isn’t only a good idea, it’s a necessity. When you’re a three-day hike from the nearest hospital, you’d better be able to count on your own supplies in the event of injury or illness – so long as those supplies cover the basics.

When buying your own kit, it should have at least some assortment of the following: Bandages, antiseptic wipes, medical tape, anti-itch cream, burn relief gels, gauze, and antibiotic ointment, among others. It’s also important to choose a first aid kit that best suits the people and the situations in which they’ll be used. If you need just a small first aid kit for your home, there’s no need to splurge on a larger, disaster preparedness-style kit.

It’s also smart to opt for pre-packed kits whenever possible, especially if you’re relatively new to buying first aid kits, or aren’t entirely sure what all it should have. Piecing together your own is an option but should only be done by those that are experienced, or who have someone experienced helping them.

To help you find the best pre-packaged first aid kits available, I tested a number of options designed for a variety of use cases. No matter if you’re on a budget or just want a small kit for your home office, I have you covered. I’ve also included some insight into how to shop for a first aid kit at the end of this guide.

Here are the best first aid kits:

The best overall

first aid only

The First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit comes with all the basic medical supplies you need for quick diagnostics and the treatments of many ailments. 

Pros: Compact but comprehensive, great low price, well organized

Cons: Limited shelf life, included tape is not as adhesive as it could be

The First Aid Only All-Purpose First Aid Kit packs 299 doctor-recommended supplies into a soft-sided case measuring just 9.25 by 7.5 inches on its sides and about three inches deep. It’s about the size of a hardcover book but within this kit, you will find the tools needed to assess and treat everything from a scraped finger and heavily bleeding gash to a mild headache or high fever.

This kit comes with comprehensive wound cleaning and closure supplies, including multiple butterfly strips, gauze rolls and pads, and several types of bandages, not to mention the various alcohol, antiseptic, and antibiotic wipes and ointments. It’s the perfect triage kit for a variety of common injuries.

The kit also comes with an array of supplies invaluable to the person administering first aid, such as sterile vinyl gloves, a single-use thermometer, tweezers, and nickel-plated scissors. For all that, it still costs less than a nice meal — and certainly less than a trip to the ER.

The plastic partition pockets keep everything well-sorted and easy to find in a snap, so you won’t be fumbling for the right gear when time is of the essence, either. 

WebMD suggests you should replace your first aid kit once a year and replace any missing or expired items. At its affordable cost, you could replace the entire kit once a year without breaking the bank, maintaining a nice peace of mind in your home or workplace.

The best budget

coleman first aid

The Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit costs less than a fancy cup of coffee but it helps treat all sorts of minor scrapes, scratches, bug bites, and more.

Pros: Very affordable, lightweight and compact, perfect for travel

Cons: Not at all comprehensive

If you need to treat a compound fracture, you’re probably going to need a more advanced medical kit than this option from Coleman. More often than not, the damage we endure is often along the lines of minor cuts and scrapes, burns and bites, and the occasional puncture wound. For those everyday injuries, the Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit is the ideal choice.

It costs so little that there’s really no excuse not to buy one, and given the diminutive size of this kit, you can (and should) bring one along whenever your travels might lead you away from ready access to medical treatment.

Into a charming little tin, Coleman packed several antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, sting relief wipes, and a total of sixteen bandages in five different size and shape varieties. There’s also a razor blade for cutting away clothing or trimming medical tape, as well as a pair of safety pins.

The best portable

VSSL

VSSL’s First Aid is the perfect portable kit that’s great for camping, backpacking, or even just keeping around in your car or office, and includes 15 unique items all stored in a waterproof, aluminum container.

Pros: Compact and highly portable, has 15 unique pieces and 46 total items, comes in an aluminum carrying tube that’s waterproof

Cons: Not a comprehensive enough kit for large groups

Ingenuity and convenience are the main calling cards of VSSL’s first aid kit called, aptly, First Aid. Featuring 15 different items (and 46 total essentials) in an aluminum, waterproof carrying case, the First Aid is a highly useful and portable kit that can go just about anywhere. It’s perfect for the campground and the backcountry but also functions well at the job site or in the office. 

As the photo above shows, the First Aid is a tube-shaped kit that has everything packed neatly inside. Contents include a flashlight, compass, variety of bandages, adventure tape, and Steri-Strips, to name a few. It also has some antiseptic towelettes, medical face masks, and antibiotic cream. 

The entire contents of the kit store into a sleeve that conveniently folds up to slide inside the tube. The sleeve itself features hooks on either side so that it can be hung up for easy access, too. 

At just 14 ounces in weight, the First Aid weighs less than a pound and can be easily stashed in a backpack, glove box of a car, or in a desk. As mentioned, the entire thing is waterproof, so you can rest assured nothing will get ruined if it gets submerged in water or you’re trying to use it in the pouring rain. 

I’ve had my own First Aid (and replaced it a few times) for the last several years, and never leave home on a camping or backpacking trip without it. It’s highly convenient, has enough first aid supplies to adequately support one to two people, and is useful in more ways than just administering first aid. — Rick Stella, fitness and health editor

The best for the office

be smart first aid

The Be Smart Get Prepared 250 Piece First Aid Kit is OSHA and ANSI compliant and covers the first aid needs of up to 50 people, making it perfect for the office.

Pros: Great choice for the workplace, comes with a selection of medicines, hard plastic shell protects components

Cons: Case is bulky and not water-resistant, latch is prone to failure

The Be Smart Get Prepared Kit is a large, comprehensive first aid kit designed to meet the needs of several dozen people. It’s a great choice for businesses, retail locations, schools, churches, and even for the home, though it’s not a good choice for travel due to its bulky hard case.

The case helps keep the components organized and protected but it’s not watertight or resistant to moisture or temperature fluctuations which can affect some of the components. Because of this, it should be stored in a temperate indoor environment.

The Be Smart Get Prepared 250 Piece First Aid Kit has all the wound care components you would expect, from alcohol prep pads and antiseptic towelettes to multiple bandages in varied sizes.

What sets this kit apart from the others in terms of suitability for use in the office or at a school are the medicines it comes with. You’d likely already have access to many of these medicines at home — like pain and anti-inflammatory tablets and antacids — but it’s not always a given at work, school, or at other such locations.

It also includes cold packs, another handy feature for use when ice might not be nearby.

The best for disaster prep

Lightning X first aid kit

If you’re cut off from emergency services following a natural disaster or in times of civil unrest, you’ll be glad you have the Lightning X First Responder First Aid Kit.

Pros: Comprehensive supplies, features advanced medical gear, comes with backpack

Cons: Pricier than other options, many components not needed for basic first aid

If you foresee a time where there won’t be anyone on the other end of a 9-1-1 call, or you just like to be prepared for anything, the Lightning X First Responder First Aid Kit is the way to go. This kit certainly borders on overkill for most households but it’s likely the last kit you’d ever need to buy (not counting the items that merit periodic replacement, like alcohol wipes).

Anyone in need of first aid or preparing to administer it will appreciate the many bandages, the rolls and pads of gauze, the antiseptic wipes, the ointments, the tapes, and more. Anyone with actual medical training will also like the included stethoscope, sphygmomanometer, airway kit, and other more advanced medical tools. In the right hands, this kit is essentially a mobile trauma center while also having all your basic and intermediate first aid needs covered.

This comprehensive first aid kit comes loaded in a lightweight, ergonomic backpack with padded straps and reflective stripes, allowing it to be easily taken on the go — it’s even comfortable to carry and highly visible. While it’s a great choice for a well-prepared home, this kit was designed for emergency response professionals to use in the field.

How to shop for a first aid kit

A reliable first aid kit isn’t exactly a mobile trauma center but it does provide the basic supplies you need to mitigate the ill effects of an accident, injury, or sudden illness. Remember, it’s first aid, not final, comprehensive aid.

When choosing a first aid kit, you need to think about who might depend on it (in terms of the sheer number of people and the age and disposition of the user), where it will be stored and/or carried, and in what situations the likely users might endure an injury or illness.

Any first aid kit worth considering should have supplies capable of treating minor cuts, punctures, burns, and other such common injuries. Beyond that, the suitability of a given kit depends on careful consideration of factors ranging from weight to packaging to redundancy of the supplies included.

Check out our guide to the best emergency kits

emergency preparedness supply kit shutterstock_222250729

The best emergency kits

An emergency kit is something you should have around, in case an unexpected dangerous event happens. You can make your own, or purchase a pre-assembled kit that has everything you may need. We’ve rounded up the best emergency kits you can find pre-assembled.

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The 5 best bathroom scales for weighing yourself at home

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  • Bathroom scales can be helpful for those trying to achieve certain health or fitness goals.
  • The best should be highly accurate and reliable, come with useful added features, and have good value-for-cost.
  • Our top pick, the Amazfit Smart Scale, was one of the most accurate and consistent scales we tested.

Most of us grew up with a scale in the house. And while society has (thankfully) begun to move away from the idea that weight equals health, some people do need to take note of their weight – namely, older adults who need to avoid losing weight unintentionally or those under specific directives from their doctors to monitor it for medical conditions. Other groups, like athletes and bodybuilders, may need or just want to track their weight for professional reasons, as well.

Laura Iu, a New York-based registered dietician nutritionist who specializes in intuitive eating and disordered eating recovery, told Insider that the average person is probably better off not weighing themselves regularly. That’s because the number is not an indicator of health and research shows focusing on your weight can cause more harm than good to your mental state and healthy behaviors.

That being said, if you are in the market for a scale, it’s important to invest in one that’s accurate – which doesn’t always mean the most expensive or the one with the most features. For this guide, I tested several models for accuracy and reliability and took note of accessibility features, weight capacity, and “smart” features like body fat percentage, muscle mass, and hydration levels, to name a few.

At the end of this guide, I’ve also included some insight into the testing methodology I used, what to look for when shopping for a bathroom scale, as well as the other models I considered and answers to common FAQs.

Here are the best bathroom scales:

The best overall

AmazFit Smart Scale

The Amazfit Smart Scale offers accuracy, consistency, and smart features at a fair price.

Pros: Accurate and reliable, attractive design, easy to use, larger surface area, under $50

Cons: Smart features are generally overrated, some kinks in its corresponding app

Our tests found the Amazfit to be one of the most accurate and consistent scales in our consideration. What’s more, no other scale we tried offered both high accuracy and smart features, particularly at this price point. Additionally, its platform is relatively large, making it comfortable to use for those with bigger feet, and its subtle gradient design makes it an attractive bathroom fixture.

Though the accuracy of “smart” scales overall is strongly doubted by experts (see FAQs), users may still be curious to see additional body metrics like heart rate and body fat percentage. Those two stats appear on the display after your weight reading, and you can use the corresponding app — now called Zepp  — to see other details and store your data. Otherwise, the app is only necessary if you want to change the units of measurement from kilograms to pounds.

The app itself, which syncs with the scale via Bluetooth, has a few small issues (mostly pertaining to incomplete translation from Japanese to English) but overall is intuitive, user-friendly, and provides detailed explanations of each metric it provides.

The best budget

Etekcity digital scale

The Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale is an accurate, no-fuss scale at a low price.

Pros: Accuracy, reliability, price

Cons: 400-pound limit

If you’re looking for a simple, trustworthy bathroom scale just to weigh yourself, the Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale has you covered. At just $20, the Etekcity beat out other budget-friendly options in our trials for accuracy and reliability. 

It displays your weight to the second decimal place, the LCD screen is bright and easy to read, and the scale itself feels sturdy and comfortable on which to stand. It’s little wonder this scale is a time-tested hit with Amazon reviewers as well as our reviewers.

The best smart scale

FitTrack Dara scale

The FitTrack Dara scale pairs with a slick phone app to give you a detailed body profile.

Pros: Highly accurate weight readings, easy to use, user-friendly app

Cons: Smart features are generally overrated, expensive, smaller platform

The FitTrack Dara is a sleek device that feels high-tech and easy to use. It works as a basic bodyweight scale of course, and our trials found it to be accurate and reliable. The scale itself only displays a weight reading, but many more metrics are included in the smartphone app, which syncs with the scale via Bluetooth. 

Experts warn to be wary of smart scales in general as it’s not actually possible to accurately measure body fat percentage, hydration, muscle mass, and other traits with this kind of device — it merely provides an estimate based on the other physical data you input like age and height. Regardless, we liked using this scale and its corresponding app, which automatically keeps a record of your weight and other metrics with a clean, user-friendly interface that is easy to use and intuitive to understand.

The best for the visually impaired

Taylor Electronics talking bathroom scale

The Taylor Talking Bathroom Scale is sturdy, reasonably priced, and reads the weight aloud.

Pros: Audible reading, sturdy, simple to use

Cons: Reliability in question

For those with visual impairments, a display-only scale is inconvenient at best and fully unusable at worst, hence the creation of talking scales to give audible readings. Additionally, typical small bathroom scales can be too unsteady for people with balance or mobility issues.

This Taylor Talking Bathroom Scale is well-rated on Amazon by folks with visual impairments: In addition to its LCD display, an automated voice reads the measurement aloud in five different languages (English, Spanish, Greek, German, and Croatian). It’s also made of glass and stainless steel, so its weight makes it sturdy, ideal for those with balance issues. Additionally, its design is simple and easy to use.

Some users do report reduced accuracy as the product ages, though we were not able to test this one ourselves. Still, at $38, it’s still good value for all of its accessible features.

The best high-weight capacity

MyWeigh XL550

The MyWeigh XL-550 is reliable, accurate, and is designed to measure and hold up to 550 pounds.

Pros: Accommodates bodies up to 550 lbs, wide platform

Cons: Expensive, limited availability

Most scales on the market max out around 300 or 400 pounds and tend to have accuracy issues for folks weighing 250lbs or more. But the MyWeigh XL-550 is designed for large bodies, able to accommodate up to 550 lbs in weight. It has a large, sturdy platform — 14.7″ x 12.5″ — to comfortably accommodate people with wide stances. The scale talks (in four languages) to tell users when it’s ready and what their reading is, though this feature is optional and can be turned off. 

Note that if you need a larger platform or higher weight capacity, the same brand makes the XL700, which has a  20″ x 12″ platform and theoretically reads higher weights more accurately (up to 700 pounds); however, it’s much harder to get a hold of and costs over $100. For this reason, we recommend the XL-550 for the vast majority of people as it’s well-reviewed across the board by consumers and professionals alike.

My testing methodology

To test the accuracy and reliability of each scale, I weighed myself using each device and recorded each reading, then reset the scales and weighed myself again. I noted which scales produced dramatically different results between the two trials. I then calculated the standard deviation of the data set to identify statistically significant outliers.

I also weighed a standard 10-pound barbell plate on all but one of the scales (the Amazfit would not produce a reading for an inanimate object) as an additional accuracy test.

Scale Tester bodyweight – Test 1 Tester bodyweight – Test 2 Standardized 10lb weight
Amazfit Smart Scale 112.9 112.8 unable to read
FitTrack Dara Smart Scale 113.1 112.7 10.1
Renpho Smart Scale 114 112.8 10.2
Eufy Smart Scale C1 113.7 112.6 10.1
Etekcity Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale 112.7 112.7 10.3
EatSmart Products Digital Bathroom Scale 114 113 10.4
Ozeri Precision Bath Scale 114.7 113 10

While using each scale I also paid attention to the user experience, noting how simple and intuitive each device was to use, as well as any issues a customer might want to know about.

I also tested the accuracy of two smart scales. The experts I spoke with for this piece warned that a scale’s report of your body fat, muscle mass, BMR, and more is unreliable since it’s calculating those numbers on your body weight and height, not measuring your actual fat and muscle masses.

It was unsurprising, then, that the two smart scales left me with wildly different readings. While they tested accurately for actual weight (see chart above), I can’t claim either to be accurate for smart readings.

  Body fat Muscle mass Water Bone mass Basal Metabolic rate (BMR) Protein rate Visceral fat index
Dara 20.2% 43.2 lbs 54.8% 5.5lbs 1253 kcal 19.4% 2
Amazfit 29.3% 77.6 lbs 50.2% 4.61 lbs 1176 kcal 12.3% 3

What to look for in a bathroom scale

Accuracy and reliability are the two main factors you want in a bathroom scale, no matter the type. A trustworthy scale will give you correct and consistent readings that accurately reflect changes in your body, and you won’t be misled by too-high or too-low readings. Since there’s no way of knowing from the box whether or not a scale is as accurate as it claims to be, we recommend one of the scales we’ve tested for accuracy.

Smart scales are all the rage, telling users not only their weight but also their body fat percentage and other metrics. Experts warn, however, that these readings are gross estimations and may be much higher or lower than the reality. (Case in point, the Dara and Amazfit gave me two completely different body composition profiles.)

Therefore, it may not be worth it for the average shopper to dole out top dollar for these extra features, but curious-minded folks might enjoy seeing the estimations anyway. 

When evaluating products, value-for-cost is always a factor. There are scales available at every price point, starting at under $20 and going up to over $100. You want the price you’re paying to justify the features promised, and be comparable to similarly-priced competing products in terms of accuracy, reliability, and usability. 

Lastly, consider what specific traits you might need, personally, in a bathroom scale. Talking scales, which read the measurement aloud, may be helpful for people who are blind or visually impaired. For folks in large bodies, you’ll want a scale with a higher weight capacity and potentially a larger platform to accommodate a wider stance.

What else I considered

What else we recommend

  • Renpho Smart Scale ($29.99): The Renpho was slightly less accurate than some of the other scales we tried, but it’s a hit with Amazon reviewers, boasting over 160,000 ratings and a 4.5-star average. 
  • EatSmart Digital Bathroom Scale ($22.40): The EatSmart had some consistency issues in our trial, but it’s sturdy, attractive, and competitively priced.
  • Weight Guru Bluetooth smart scale ($48): We weren’t able to include this scale in our trials, but it’s very highly rated by both Amazon reviewers and our own. Some have reported issues with accommodating large bodies even when well under the weight capacity, but overall users rave about this scale and its Bluetooth integration with smartphones and FitBits.

What we don’t recommend

  • Eufy C1 Smart Scale ($29.99): Our trials found this scale to be less consistent than the others, though not dramatically — it fluctuated just over one pound between readings.
  • Ozeri Precision Bath Scale ($15.95): The Ozeri is a temptingly low price, but our tests and numerous customer reviews determined that the Ozeri was somewhat inconsistent in its readings.
  • MyWeigh XL-550 Talking Scale ($44.39): If you need a scale that can accommodate heavier bodies with wider stances, but doesn’t need the full capacity of the XL700, this MyWeigh model has a capacity of 550 lbs and a larger-than-average platform on which to stand. Not to mention, it’s about half the price.

FAQs

When is the best time to weigh myself?

Family medicine physician Dr. Abisola Olulade, who is based in San Diego, recommended that you weigh yourself first thing in the morning before eating or drinking anything for the most accurate evaluation.


How accurate are scales, in general?

Research has shown that both personal and medical-grade scales can be quite imprecise, but ultimately good enough for public use as long as they are regularly calibrated.

Most people weighing themselves don’t really need down-to-the-ounce precision so much as a general idea of how their bodies are changing. For this reason, Dr. Olulade encourages patients to use one scale consistently — even if it’s not the most accurate device, you’ll be better able to track changes using a single controlled device.


Do “smart scales,” which claim to measure other traits like body fat percentage, hydration, and bone density, really work?

Sort of, but they’re not as precise as you might hope. The only way to get a truly accurate picture of body composition is with an air displacement chamber or MRI, which are expensive and generally only used by specialists and researchers.

Smart scales estimate body composition by sending a weak electrical current up into your body and measuring the resistance with which it’s met. This result is compared to other info your scale already has about you, such as age and gender, to come up with a body composition estimate. In one Consumer Reports trial, even the most accurate smart scales were found to be off by up to 21% in body fat percentage readings.

Despite inaccuracies, some shoppers might want to see those estimations just for fun or out of curiosity. Smart scales are safe to use, so recreational use is fine — just don’t plan to use it as a serious health management tool.

Expert sources

Laura Iu, RD, CDN, CNSC, RYT is a registered dietitian, nutrition therapist, and certified intuitive eating counselor who practices privately in New York City. Iu has worked in hospitals including NYU Langone and Mount Sinai, and is affiliated with The Greater New York Dietetic Association, The International Association of Eating Disorders Professionals, and The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH).

Abisola Olulade, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in San Diego. She is also affiliated with Atrium Health’s Carolinas Medical Center in North Carolina.

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The 4 best heating pads for pain relief in 2021

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  • Whether you’re looking for pain relief, relaxation, or a bit of both, you need a quality heating pad.
  • The best ones are easy to use, comfortable, and have different temperature controls.
  • The Sunbeam XpressHeat Heating Pad heats up fast, has several functions, and is affordably priced.

Heating pads are effective for soothing different types of pain and can provide relief within minutes. Some uses for heating pads include relieving aches from sports injuries, gym workouts, mild arthritis, menstrual cramps, and general tightness from sitting in front of a desk for prolonged periods.

A common concern is that you’ll fall asleep with the heating pad on, increasing your risk of burns or skin irritation. To combat this, most heating pads automatically shut off, though you can sometimes override this feature. In addition, many have a variety of temperature settings to choose from.

If you’re concerned about pain relief, you’ll want to look at heating pads that provide moist and dry heat therapy. According to a 2015 BioMed Central study, heat therapy helps with blood flow and metabolism, helps to decrease muscle tension, and helps to improve range of motion.

Some heating pads qualify as eligible flex spending account (FSA) expenses, so if you have funds to use up, a heating pad is an option to consider.

Here are the best heating pads of 2021

The best heating pad overall

Sunbeam heating pad

The Sunbeam XpressHeat Heating Pad heats up in just 30 seconds, is budget-friendly, and has easy-to-use LED temperature controls. 

Pros: Comes in two sizes, useful for dry or moist heat, auto shut-off feature, specifically alleviates pain from sore joints and muscles, easy-to-use LED temperature controls

Cons: The cord can get in the way

Warranty: Five-year limited warranty

When you’re in pain or want to soothe aches right away, you don’t want to wait around for your heating pad to warm up. The Sunbeam XpressHeat Heating Pad heats up in just 30 seconds for fast relief from aches and pains. You’ll know when it’s ready to use with the pad’s built-in heat meter, which grows brighter as the 180 watt-powered heat increases. Sunbeam specifically recommends it for use on sore and achy joints and muscles. What’s more, this heating pad comes in large and extra-large sizes, so you’ll have enough to cover your spine or place it across your shoulders.

An LED controller makes it simple to set temperatures, keep track of the current temperature, and regulate time settings. You can also use the controller to switch between the six different heat settings and to power off the heating pad, which features an auto shut-off option. 

For cleaning, remove the fabric pad and throw it in the washing machine. 

The best budget heating pad

Up&Up heating pad

If you’re looking for an affordable heating pad that covers all the basics, consider the Up & Up King Heating Pad.

Pros: Useful for moist and dry heat therapy; large enough for use on the back, legs, arms, and shoulders; auto shut-off; four heat settings; machine-safe cover

Cons: May not be as strong as our other picks

Warranty: Three-year limited warranty

The Up & Up King Heating Pad has four heat settings, is flexible, and comes with a remote controller to make your pain relief customizable and consistent for moist and dry heat therapy.

It lives up to its name as being king-sized and can contour around the small of your back, your legs, arms, and shoulders. It has an auto shut-off after two hours, too, so you don’t have to worry about leaving it on if you fall asleep on the couch.

When you’re not using it, you can wash the cover in your washing machine, too. 

The best for neck and shoulder pain relief

Pure Enrichment heating pad

The Pure Enrichment PureRelief Neck and Shoulder Heating Pad is specifically contoured for your upper body and is aligned with plush micro-mink material. 

Pros: Contoured for neck and shoulders, useful for dry or moist heat therapy, soft micro-mink material, four heat settings, long cord, auto shut-off, machine washable

Cons: None

Warranty: Five-year warranty on defective parts

If you’re feeling achy in your shoulder and neck area — likely from working at a desk for most of the day — you want a long, strip heating pad that will stay on your shoulders rather than the standard rectangle. The Pure Enrichment PureRelief Neck and Shoulder Heating Pad is specifically contoured for use around both upper body areas.

 You can drape the heating pad around your shoulders and then securely fasten it around your neck to treat two problem areas at once. Built-in magnetic closures hold each end firmly in place, too.

There are four heat settings — ranging from 110 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit — all of which can be selected using the LED controller. It also has an auto shut-off feature after two hours of use and the fabric cover is machine-washable on the delicate cycle. 

The best non-electric heating pad

ohuhu slide

If you lose power, or want the convenience of bringing a heating pad on the go, the Ohuhu XL Reusable Gel Pack for Hot & Cold Therapy is your best bet.

Pros: No power source needed; easy to use; portable; adjustable straps; great for those experiencing mild arthritis, sprains, and menstrual cramps

Cons: May not be as high-powered as our other picks

Warranty: None

Electric cords can sometimes be annoying and keep you within a few feet of a power outlet. To really relax (and maybe even walk around your home), the Ohuhu XL Reusable Gel Pack for Hot & Cold Therapy provides the customization you need to alleviate sore muscles and joints — all without a plug-and-heat system.

It’s essentially a nylon ice pack that you can either pop into the refrigerator for two hours or heat up in the microwave for 30 seconds. The pad has adjustable elastic straps that effectively hug your body to target the root of the pain. This grab-and-go pain reliever is ideal for those suffering from mild arthritis, sprains, and menstrual cramps, too. And, it’s leak-proof, so it will last you for years. 

Check out our other pain relief guides

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The 6 best disposable gloves of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Whether you’re caring for someone who’s sick or cleaning your home, disposable gloves add protection.
  • Nitrile gloves are especially great because they are stronger than latex, plastic, or vinyl.
  • We found the best disposable glove options for food prepping, industrial work, cleaning, and more.

Though we tend to lean more toward “reusable” than “disposable” these days, having disposable gloves on hand is a safe and recommended practice to follow. The CDC recommends wearing gloves for cleaning, caring for someone who’s sick, and for manufacturing, public service, and transportation industries and occupations. And if you do any industrial work where you may encounter potentially hazardous materials, wearing heavy-duty gloves is recommended by Environmental Health and Safety programs for safety.

Even just around the house, disposable gloves are great for everything from deep cleaning to handling food for backyard barbecues. We found options from standard nitrile gloves to heavy-duty options. Our picks are also all latex-free to avoid potential allergic reactions.

Here are the best disposable gloves of 2021

The best nitrile gloves

Best disposable gloves - Hand E Touch Disposable Nitrile Gloves
These gloves are strong but thin for easy movement.

The Hand E-Touch Disposable Nitrile Gloves are stronger than other materials, highly stretchable, and reliable for many uses.

What we like: Easy-to-grip tactile fingertips, rip-proof, elegant sky blue design

Box count: 100

Nitrile gloves are one of the best materials for disposable gloves because they protect against most chemicals and infectious agents. The Hand E-Touch Disposable Nitrile Gloves allow for precise control with textured tips and can be used for medical situations, cleaning, salon work, food prep, and more. These gloves are a top pick because they are thick enough to provide protection, yet lightweight and stretchy for comfortable wear. 

The best for food handling

Best disposable gloves - Kleen Chef Disposable Food Handling Long Cuff Poly Gloves
These gloves are breathable and easy to see through when handling food.

The Kleen Chef Disposable Food Handling Long Cuff Poly Gloves are compliant with FDA standards and are extra long for when you’re cleaning uncooked or unwashed foods.

What we like: Ambidextrous hand orientation, durable HDPE material, covers wrists, FDA compliant

Box count: 525

These clear gloves are simple, easy to slip on, and are constructed with high-density polyethylene. The fact that they feature a long cuff design to prevent water from seeping into your sleeves and are compliant with FDA standards make them especially fit for food handling.

Keep in mind that though Kleen Chef’s Disposable Food Handling Long Cuff Poly Gloves serve as a nice barrier to avoid cross-contamination, they aren’t a substitute for thorough handwashing before and after food preparation. 

The best for industrial use

Best disposable gloves - Gloveworks Heavy Duty Industrial Nitrile Gloves with Diamond Grip Box
These heavy-duty gloves are puncture- and chemical-resistant.

When working in factories, mechanic workshops, or elsewhere with exposure to hazardous chemicals, the Gloveworks Heavy-Duty Industrial Nitrile Gloves with Diamond Grip Box is essential to keep on hand.

What we love: All-around textured protection, chemical- and puncture-resistant, repel dirt and grime

Box count: 100

When working with high-intensity tools or toxic chemicals, protective gloves are vital to protect against exposure via skin contact. Gloveworks’ Heavy-Duty Industrial Nitrile Gloves with Diamond Grip Box is fit for industrial use because of their thick and textured protection that makes for a heavier duty glove that’s especially resistant to ripping.

These gloves also offer good elasticity and are puncture- and chemical-resistant. These high-grade nitrile gloves are especially good for automotive, janitorial, painting, and plumbing uses. 

The best for household cleaning

Best diposable gloves - Mr. Clean Nitrile Solvent Resistant Gloves
A beaded cuff ensures these gloves won’t slide down when cleaning.

When deep cleaning your home, Mr. Clean’s Nitrile Solvent-Resistant Gloves are specifically designed for hassle-free, protective scrubbing.

What we love: Beaded cuff, great for sensitive skin, solvent-resistant

Box count: 40

Mr. Clean is one of the most well-known faces in the cleaning aisle, but that’s not the only reason the brand’s nitrile solvent-resistant gloves are fit for ridding household messes and grime. True to the name, the gloves are well-designed to block residue from soaking onto your fingers or palms — a must for when you’re ready to tackle kitchen countertops, sink faucets, or wiping down furniture.

The gloves are also great for sensitive skin and come with a beaded cuff so they stay intact better while cleaning.

The best on a budget

Best disposable gloves - Medpride Medical Vinyl Examination Gloves

For basic, single-use gloves, the Medpride Medical Vinyl Examination Gloves are affordable but effective.

What we love: Thick PVC material, comes in various sizes, ambidextrous hand orientation

Box count: 100

For one-time-use gloves, you may not want to spend much. Medpride’s Medical Vinyl Examination Gloves are an affordable option that aren’t quite as thick as nitrile gloves but are still a step up from cheaply-made plastic gloves prone to tears. They come in small, medium, large, and extra-large size options to ensure a good fit.

These gloves are fit to be used by medical workers and home or hospice care workers, but they are also an affordable solution if you just want to keep some disposable gloves on hand around the house. 

The best in bulk

Best disposable gloves - Dre Health Powder Free Disposable Gloves
With 1,000 gloves per box, these gloves are a good value.

If you run a business and need a large supply of disposable gloves on hand at all times, the Dre Health Powder-Free Disposable Gloves are your best bet.

What we love: Highly stretchable, come in various sizes, huge number of gloves per box

Box count: 1,000 

Dre Health’s Powder-Free Disposable Gloves are made of a strong nitrile blend that offers good grip and ideal stretch. An especially good option for those who need to supply employees with gloves or who work in an industry where they need constant disposable gloves at the ready, this bulk option offers serious value.

These gloves can be used for everything from medical exams to gardening and the beaded cuffs prevent them from slipping. They also come in four sizes to ensure a good fit.

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The 7 best compression socks for runners, seniors, and anyone looking to improve circulation

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Compression socks help speed muscle recovery and potentially improve athletic performance.
  • The garments also improve blood flow for venous or lymphatic issues for pregnant women or the elderly.
  • Our top pick, CEP’s Progressive+ Compression Socks, are incredibly comfortable and won’t sag through the day.

Compression socks are one of those garments that seem gimmicky, but science actually backs up their biggest claimed benefit: Improving your circulation.

“Compression socks help the vascular system move blood and other fluids, which can help manage swelling and inflammation,” Jenelle Deatherage, a physical therapist at the UW Health Sports Rehabilitation Clinic, told Insider.

At its foundation, the garment works by squeezing the walls of the veins and leg tissues to help blood work its way against gravity to the heart. The compression also helps the flow of lymph fluid, which helps remove cellular waste and circulates bacteria-fighting white blood cells throughout your body.

Deatherage added that several categories of people may benefit from wearing compression socks, including athletes who could look to enhance their workouts. This is especially true for runners.

“There’s not great research on performance, which is what a lot of patients look for, but the good news is that there is some research that shows [compression socks] might help with muscle fatigue and reduce soreness if you wear them during a workout,” she explained.

Because of those inherent benefits, compression socks have become quite popular in recent years – and that popularity has brought with it a surplus of options. To help narrow down what’s available, we tested dozens of styles across brands like Swiftwick, CEP, and Sockwell. Our guide features socks that provide great comfort, are relatively durable, and are fit to wear in a variety of situations.

At the end of this guide, we’ve also included some insight into who Detherage says may benefit most from compression socks, tips on how to shop for them, and the best methods for how to use and wear them.

Here are the best compression socks:

The best overall

compression socks

Whether you are a runner or just someone who wants to relieve lower leg ailments, the CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 provides all-day comfort.

Pros: Incredibly comfortable, thinner, won’t sag over the course of the day

Cons: Expensive, sizing can be tricky so be sure to measure before ordering

The CEP Progressive+ Compression Run Socks 2.0 (available in men’s and women’s sizes) stand out from the other socks on our list due in large part to the fact they offer unparalleled comfort — and should be considered by anyone, despite a steep price tag. 

The brand’s parent company, Medi, has been producing medical compression products for over 70 years. The founder of CEP, who is an Ironman competitor, leveraged Medi’s technical knowledge and designs for athletes.

Made of polyamide and nylon (60%), elastane (25%), and polypropylene (15%), CEP’s socks offer precise 20-30mmHg graduated and consistent compression so they won’t sag as the day goes on.

The Progressive+ 2.0 Socks also feature a halo top band that lands right below the knee. This keeps your socks in place and the front ribbing allows air to flow through to cool your skin’s surface. Per CEP’s website, the company offers a six-month guarantee that covers wearing the socks up to 150 times before the compression lessens. 

These socks are recommended for anyone who suffers from shin splints, Achilles issues, or plantar fasciitis. They’re also great for runners looking to rehab their leg after a long run or workout. 

The best on a budget

compression socks

The SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are the least expensive pair in our guide, yet they stay up and provide reliable comfort.

Pros: Inexpensive, relatively durable, snug fit

Cons: Available in just two sizes

Though the SB Sox Lite Compression Socks are about one-fifth the price of our top pick, they rival it in performance. These socks have a graduated compression rating of 15-20mmHg, which is slightly less than the CEP socks but still supplies sufficient compression for blood circulation.

The socks are made of breathable and lightweight spandex and nylon, which helps to wick away sweat and moisture from your feet. SB Sox come in 11 different colors and two sizes: S/M and L/XL.

Though they seem thinner and lighter than other picks on this list, SB Sox socks hold up well through numerous wears and washes. Plus, they provide a snug fit that doesn’t feel too constricting. More sizing options would be welcome, though.

The best for circulation

sockwell

If you experience circulation problems due to chronic health issues, the Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks may be your best bet for achieving leg comfort.

Pros: Lightweight, maintain their snugness all day long

Cons: The top of the sock might warp over time, only comes in two sizes

For people with venous or lymphatic issues in their legs, compression therapy can help move blood through the veins and tissue better, which in turn promotes healing and prevents ulcers and other issues. Compression stockings are one of the easier options to put on and less cumbersome than medical bandages, says a 2014 study in CMAJ.

The Sockwell Elevation Graduated Compression Socks (available in men’s and women’s sizes) are made in the United States using bamboo rayon (31%), merino wool (31%), stretch nylon (30%), and spandex (8%). This combination helps with moisture management, thermoregulation, and odor control.

What’s more, these are one of the firmer pairs from Sockwell offering compression of 20-30mmHg. A 2019 study analysis in BMC Geriatrics found elderly folks with chronic blood flow issues (venous insufficiency) and swollen legs who wore class 2 compression stockings (pressure between 20 and 30 mmHg) regularly were less likely to have leg ulcers come back compared to wearing lower compression class 1 stockings (pressure below 20 mmHg).

These Sockwell socks have four zones of graduated compression beginning at the ankles and moving up. Since the compression starts at the ankles, the toes remain comfortable. There are four colors for men to choose from and eight in the women’s style.

The best for post-workout

compression socks 1

After running countless miles, slipping on a pair of Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks can decrease soreness and help your muscles recover.

Pros: Great for easing muscle soreness, cushioned bottom, durable, 4 sizes, 14 colors

Cons: Might not be tight enough for everyone’s needs, long drying time

The Zensah Tech+ Compression Socks come in four sizes, which is helpful for ensuring you get the right fit — the appropriate sock size gives you the appropriate level of pressure. Constructed of 82% polyamide and 18% elastane, these socks feature ultra-zone ribbing which targets ankle and arch stabilization, which is ideal for runners with weaknesses in these areas.

The 200 needle count construction is designed to make the socks denser, durable, and reduce stretching over time. They’re sweat-wicking, too, but don’t tend to dry out very quicky, so are best worn in cooler weather. Zensah offers the socks in 14 colors, including Black, Heather Grey, and Neon Pink. 

The best for runners

Aspire Socks

Swiftwick’s Aspire Twelve help relieve muscle soreness and prevent or relieve shin splints — something any runner can appreciate.

Pros: Offers comfortable compression for runners, promotes blood flow, helps relieve shin splints, and wicks away moisture

Cons: Can be difficult to put on

Swiftwick’s compression socks run the gamut of everything from knee-high versions for those looking for full leg relief to no-show options for golfers. For runners, its Aspire Twelve socks are an excellent option to help relieve muscle soreness, prevent or care for shin splints, and provide stability and comfort. 

Comprised of a blend of 43% nylon, 11% spandex, and 46% olefin, the Aspire Twelves don’t just offer the benefits of compression but also help wick away moisture to keep your feet dry. They work well to keep on even after your run as you’ll continue to reap the benefits of compression as you recover. 

The best for standing all-day

compression socks

If your job requires you to be on your feet for most of the day, give your lower legs a break with Sockwell’s Circulator Graduated Compression Socks.

Pros: Good for reducing foot and ankle swelling, incredibly comfortable, inexpensive

Cons: Concerns about durability, socks may only come up to mid-calf in taller people

The Sockwell Circulator Graduated Compression Socks have a lot of the same features as our pick for best circulation, the Sockwell Elevation socks. They both have four zones of graduated compression from the ankle on up, which keeps the toes feeling comfortable, and each is made of a combination of spandex, bamboo rayon, stretch nylon, and merino wool.

But the main differences are that the Circulator socks have moderate compression (15-20mmHg) and cost a bit less ($30 per pair).

The Circulator socks only come in two sizes. but there are nine colors to choose from, including Black Stripe, Charcoal, Black Solid, and Port. Regardless of the size, the socks aren’t very long, so they’re best used for people with shorter builds. 

The best patterned

Vim Vigr socks

Vim & Vigr combines form and function with its fashion-forward compression socks that you’ll just love to be seen in.

Pros: Stylish, comfortable, available for both men and women

Cons: Can get expensive

First and foremost, Vim & Vigr compression socks work. After all, no amount of aesthetic creativity would be able to make up for compression socks that don’t do much by way of compressing. Luckily, that’s not the case with these.

I’m particularly fond of Vim & Vigr’s medical-grade compression level, which are designed with a Gradient Knitting Technology to help promote circulation in your calves. The socks feature a structured leg but a flexible toe and heel so that you’re supported where you need it but still able to move. These socks offer moderate to firm compression, with somewhere between 20 and 30 mmHg depending on the style.

Regardless of your selection, however, you’ll find that Vim & Vigr helps to prevent swelling in your legs, and alleviates pain and achiness. I found that these socks were just as helpful during runs as they were during HIIT workouts — especially as the weather gets colder and circulation becomes increasingly important.

What sets Vim & Vigr apart are its fun, unique designs. Not only is there a wide range of colors to choose from but the brand also offers several interesting patterns. I’m a fan of the color block options, as well as a Rugby Stripe pattern for men.

Vim & Vigr offers wide calf versions of all their socks for both men and women, so you don’t have to be uncomfortable even when donning a tight pair of socks. If you don’t need medical-grade compression, you can always opt for the brand’s moisture-wicking nylon material, or the remarkably warm merino wool composition. You could also check out Vim & Vigr sleeves, which compress your calves without encasing your feet.

Who should wear compression socks?

Anyone can wear compression socks but they do figure to benefit some groups more than others. This predominantly includes athletes, pregnant women, and elderly people, though anyone who sits or stands for long periods of time at work should consider them as well.

Deatherage suggested that if you work out in the morning before sitting at a desk or standing all day, where your calves and ankles stay at the bottom of the gravity chain, it’s smart to wear compression socks post-workout. This helps with swelling and gets blood back to the heart.

Conversely, if you sit all day and prefer to work out at night, wearing compression socks while exercising after work may allow for less fatigue in the lower legs and can help enhance circulation.

Athletes

Concerning the exact impact of compression socks on athletes, Deatherage told Insider that their effectiveness is still somewhat undecided. There is some research that confirms that wearing compression garments helps improve running endurance or cycling sprints, while others say it doesn’t change a thing.

A recently-published analysis in the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine looked at 21 studies and found that a small number do show that wearing compression socks during exercise improved performance. Mostly, though, the studies showed wearing the special socks during a grueling workout helped fit folks feel like their leg muscles were firing better, fatiguing less, and, after the workout, less sore.

Even if it’s just a placebo effect, those training hard, particularly for long endurance events like a marathon, wearing compression socks during workouts and after for recovery may help make training easier.

“When looking at the cost-benefit ratio and considering what research is out there, it’s not a bad idea,” Deatherage said. “And it’s an easy thing to do.”

Pregnant women

Besides runners, Deatherage says pregnant women may benefit from compression socks, as they’re more prone to swelling. Venous issues are also particularly high for pregnant women as they have a larger volume of blood pumping through their bodies. 

Some 40% of pregnant women develop varicose veins, while the risk for venous thromboembolism (VTE) is four- to five-fold higher for moms-to-be compared to non-pregnant women. Wearing compression socks or stockings during pregnancy can potentially help reduce swelling and discomfort, improve circulation, and minimize varicose veins.

Seniors

Elderly people with deep vein thrombosis, those who just had surgery on their legs, or anyone trying to minimize varicose veins or blood clot concerns, might also benefit from compression socks. The catch is here is that these more serious vascular issues, including varicose veins, would benefit more from medical grade compression socks, Deatherage added, which requires a doctor prescription and are often more expensive.

How to shop for compression socks

If you’re simply looking for workout recovery or want relief from more minor issues of swelling or soreness, say on long flights or during long work shifts on your feet (like nurses), you may see advantages from more moderate compression socks, Deatherage said. This includes socks with ratings of about 10-20mmHg, which stands for millimeters of mercury (a measurement of pressure).

When shopping around for compression socks, Deatherage said that besides a sock’s mmHg rating, the most important thing to look for is comfort, saying that “compression socks only work if you wear them.”

Look for a pair in which the material feels comfortable against your skin, and a set that feels snug but not too tight — you don’t want to restrict your movement. If you can find a pair that offers customization for your size, that’s even better.

Compression sock ratings

As noted above, the compression in the stockings is measured in mm Hg. Specifically, compression socks are rated based on blood pressure. The majority of compression socks either have a moderate pressure rating of 10 to 20 mmHg or a firm rating of 20 to 30 mmHg.

None of the socks we reviewed have a rating above 30 mm Hg, but there are specialty shops where you can find these if needed. Graduated compression socks, the most common type, are tighter near the ankle than at the calf to avoid cutting off circulation.

Fabrics used

Most compression socks are made from a blend of synthetic fabrics that provide a snug and stretchy fit. In the reviews that follow, we let you know what materials are used in the construction of the socks but unless you have an issue with a specific material, you should let performance be your main guide in choosing the best compression socks.

How best to use compression socks

There is a bit of a paradox associated with wearing compression socks. You may have purchased them to deal with leg swelling. Yet, this same swelling makes it hard for you to put them on. So, what can you do? There are countless resources on the web to help you out, plus we’ve compiled a few tips here, as well: 

  • Apply talcum powder or cornstarch to your feet before putting your socks on.
  • Wear dishwashing gloves to get a better grip.
  • Roll the socks before you put them on so you can just roll them up your legs.
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3 safer ways to remove ear wax than using cotton swabs or Q-tips – according to doctors

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Many doctors recommend not sticking anything in your ears, especially Q-tips or metal tools.
  • Some recommend drops or irrigation systems for loosening hard wax.
  • Keep in mind that wax is a normal substance made for a reason by your body.

Ear wax is the natural safeguard for your ear canal, acting as protection against sand, bugs, and dirt getting in and damaging your canal or eardrum. But if ear wax builds up too much, it can impair your hearing – everything sounds muffled, and it can give you that feeling like you are underwater. Instead of reaching for a cotton swab or Q-tip, which experts say aren’t safe because they can puncture your eardrum and do other damage, try one of these products instead.

According to Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist (ENT) and laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, irrigation systems are “perfectly fine as long as there’s not too much pressure and as long as it’s comfortable.” He says to avoid using cold water in the ear, which can cause vertigo or dizziness. Irrigation systems are one of the tools ENTs would use in the office if a patient came in with excessive ear wax, and is a home remedy you can try without doing harm.

In addition, if people have an uncomfortable amount of ear wax clogging the ear, it can help to liquefy the wax with drops, which Dr. Mehdizadeh says are usually composed of peroxide, which fizzes in the ear. “It’s okay for one to two weeks max, but not on a regular basis because it can cause irritation.”

Here are the best ear wax removal tools

The best water irrigator

 Elephant Ear Washer Bottle System by Doctor Easy
This system comes with three disposable tips.

The Elephant Ear Washer Bottle System by Doctor Easy is a simple and straightforward solution that won’t damage ears. 

What we like: No ball syringe, simple mechanism, gentle

This irrigation system is ideal because it offers a simplistic mechanism involving a spray bottle with three disposable tips. It doesn’t have a lot of extra bells, whistles, and complicated parts that make ear wax removal intimidating. Some systems have the ball syringe to suck out the remaining fluid and wax, but this one doesn’t, which means it can be considered safer than other products that are supposed to be inserted into the ear. In fact, ball syringe options fall in the category of things Dr. Mehdizadeh thinks may be dangerous to insert in your ear.

The price is reasonable, and you can buy replacement tips if you plan on using it more than three times. One downside of this design is that it doesn’t come with instructions, but there are instructional videos on the purchase site that can help.

The best ear drops

Debrox Detox Earwax Removal Aid
These drops use a doctor-recommended active ingredient.

Detox Earwax Removal Aid is a non-irritating formula that can loosen tough wax.

What we like: Non-irritating formula, super easy to use, loosens wax

This popular and affordable alternative to a pricey doctor’s visit can help loosen the toughest ear wax. The active ingredient is the doctor-recommended carbamide peroxide, and users can expect a foaming, cracking, fizzing sound and feeling when they try it. This simply means it’s working well and should not be alarming. The formula claims to be non-irritating, and it’s one of the easiest-use processes for ear wax removal.

The best water irrigator for kids

Earwax MD for Kids, Ear Wax Removal Kit and Ear Cleaning Tool
This option made just for young kids has miniature tips that won’t damage small ears.

Earwax MD for Kids, Ear Wax Removal Kit and Ear Cleaning Tool is specifically designed for kids with a smaller bottle and tip.

What we like: Gentle, small parts for kids

Dr. Mehdizadeh says the only way parents should be trying to clean ear wax out of their kids’ ears without a medical professional is with an irrigation system such as this one. The small bottle and miniature tip make this a more manageable option for a young child, as opposed to the adult irrigators.

Parents can simply have a child lay down, with a towel handy, and slowly fill the ear canal one drop at a time, then set a 15-minute timer and wait. Afterward, you can use the bulb to rinse the ear or allow it to drain naturally. 

Should you remove ear wax?

Ear wax is an oil secreted by the ear canal, which Dr. Mehdizadeh explains as a collection of oil, skin, debris, and dirt. While it seems gross with its light yellow to dark brown color, he says it has a protective effect: it’s moisturizing and antibacterial and is protecting your eardrum and ear canal.

So, there’s no real reason to try to remove ear wax unless it’s impairing your hearing or causing discomfort. Still addicted to those cotton swabs? Be aware that they are “pushing the wax in deeper,” and that nothing should go into the ear to the point that you can’t see it or you risk painful injuries such as eardrum perforation. If the above products don’t work, or you are unsure how to use them correctly, consult your primary care physician or an ENT.

 

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The 4 best teeth whitening kits for a brighter smile and minimal irritation

  • The best teeth whitening kits are easy to use and cause minimal irritation to your gums or teeth.
  • Our top overall pick, Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips kit, is effective, simple, and fairly affordable.
  • We interviewed four dentists to inform our choices and explain the ingredients and efficacy of each pick.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Dr. André V. Ritter, DDS, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the NYU College of Dentistry.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Some of the most delicious and beloved foods – red wine, coffee, soda – are not the best for keeping your pearly whites spotless. And that’s exactly why teeth whitening is a $3.2 billion worldwide industry. Consequently, there are thousands of options out there, including expensive services at your dentist’s office.

If you’re interested in whitening your teeth at home but don’t want to drop serious cash, there are several effective at-home teeth whitening kits. (You can also try a whitening toothpaste.) Below, we rank a few of the best options on the market with insight from four dentists: Dr. Ania Mohelicki DDS, Dr. Ira Handschuh DDS, Dr. Patrick Campbell DDS, and Dr. Charles Sutera DDS, FAGD.

Experts say that whitening kits are safe when used as directed. However, gum irritation and tooth sensitivity are common side effects even when you follow the directions. For more input on how to whiten sensitive teeth, see the FAQ section at the end.

We undertook hours of research combing through both consumer and expert reviews and ratings and did personal testing before settling on the whitening kits we’ve included in this guide. Each of the teeth whitening kits below are effective, easy to use, and less likely to irritate your teeth or gums.

Here are the best teeth whitening kits you can buy:

Best teeth whitening strips overall

crest whitening kit

If resting a tray on your teeth doesn’t sound appealing, Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips are an effective, dentist-recommended way to get whiter teeth.

Pros: Produces results in four or five uses, recommended by dentists, low peroxide levels

Cons: May irritate the gums

The Crest 3D White Professional Effects Whitestrips kit comes with 40 strips for 20 treatments (each treatment consists of a strip on the upper teeth and one on the lower teeth.) You are supposed to wear the strips for half an hour once per day.

Crest’s “Advanced Seal Technology” offers a no-slip grip, which allows you to drink water and talk while wearing the strips. Crest claims that after the 20 daily treatments, you can remove 14 years of tooth stains. Hydrogen peroxide is one of the active ingredients in the Whitestrips.

The Reviews team interviewed Dr. Hadaegh DDS to get his recommendations for the best whitening products. He recommended Crest’s strips because the hydrogen peroxide levels are relatively low yet still effective.

But, one drawback of using strips is that they don’t offer the custom fit of trays, which means you may notice some increased sensitivity if your gums come in contact with the whitening strips.

Best for sensitive gums

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If you’re looking for more precision in your application to avoid gum sensitivity, your best bet is combining teeth whitening gel with mouth trays or guards like in the Opalescence Go 15% kit.

Pros: Effective, greater control over application, potentially less gum sensitivity

Cons: Expensive

The benefit of using a mouth tray or mouth guard with gel is that, unlike white strips, you aren’t as likely to miss spots on the teeth or irritate your gums. 

If you don’t have whitening trays and want as close to professional results as possible, Dr. Hadaegh DDS has recommended Opalescence Go 15% to Business Insider in the past. “Like Crest 3D Whitestrips, the whitening gel comes in ready-made trays that adapt to your teeth all the way to your molars,” he wrote. “They have 15% hydrogen peroxide, which means you only need to wear them for 15 to 20 minutes a day for five to 10 days. It also contains potassium nitrate and fluoride to help reduce sensitivity while strengthening enamel.” Because the concentration of hydrogen peroxide is so high, there’s a chance you may still experience some sensitivity, in which case it’s best to switch to a less concentrated alternative like Crest Whitestrips.

The prefilled trays can be worn right out of the package, but the kit is more expensive than other reusable options on this list. It’s convenient, but you could save yourself money by buying reusable trays (or asking your dentist’s office to make you some) and replenishing your whitening pens when they run out. 

Best LED kit

best teeth whitening kit

If you don’t want to use strips and are determined to use an LED light, the SmileDirectClub Teeth Whitening Kit is the way to go.

Pros: Few reports of sensitivity issues, more precise application of whitening gel, reusable mouth guard

Cons: Expensive, dentists agree the LED light will not make a noticeable difference 

SmileDirectClub, like many of the more expensive direct-to-consumer teeth whitening kits on the market, includes a mouthguard with an LED light inside that’s meant to act as a catalyst for the hydrogen peroxide that whitens teeth — ideally, giving you professional results faster than other options. It also only requires 10 minutes of use each day.

However, studies don’t seem to agree with the marketing claims that LED lights make teeth whitening more effective, and most of the dentists we interviewed agreed that they don’t speed up the process. Dr. Campbell DDS put it succinctly: “Frankly, these products are not worth the money.” But, they do come with whitening pens that allow you a bit more control in terms of the application so you can avoid your gums and any increased sensitivity. There’s also the option to buy only the whitening pens and invest in whitening trays for safe and precise application.

If you don’t want to deal with whitening strips or buying gel and trays separately, or you’re committed to trying the LED light system, then SmileDirectClub’s Teeth Whitening Kit is one of the most convenient choices. 

It’s built to last you through one full year of treatments and includes nine whitening pens (enough for two full treatments, according to the company’s estimates, plus one bonus pen) and the LED light mouthguard. Unlike most LED options that need to be plugged in overnight before you can use them, SmileDirectClub’s version can plug right into your smartphone (Android or iPhone) and requires minimal battery power. 

The company recommends using the device for five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening every day for a week, once every six months. I tested the device and found the company’s estimates to be conservative — I got more than double the use out of the pens than expected. 

SmileDirectClub’s Teeth Whitening Kit is $74 for the LED Light and an estimated 12-month supply of whitening pens, and $40 for the LED Light and 6-month pen supply. You can find them all here

Best natural kit

teeth whitening

The Miswak Club Natural Teeth Whitening Kit is your best alternative if you’re looking for a natural, chemical-free approach to whitening your teeth.

Pros: Inexpensive, easy to use, no added chemicals

Cons: Takes some getting used to, smells weird

Teeth-cleaning sticks known as Miswak have been used for thousands of years in what is now Pakistan, India, many African countries, and other parts of the world. And, a meta-analysis in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine found that the Miswak was just as effective for oral hygiene as the toothbrush and toothpaste used by Western cultures.

The Miswak Club Natural Teeth Whitening Kit features two Miswak root sticks with two carrying cases. Each stick will last for three weeks of daily use. Miswak comes from the Arak tree, and this product contains no pesticides or chemicals. Miswak Club offers a 120-day money-back guarantee if you do not have noticeably whiter teeth after using their kit.

Several expert sites reviewed the Miswak Club kit because of the novelty of it. Bustle liked that it comes with two sticks in the kit, doesn’t make a mess, and is easy to bring along when traveling. Subaholic found that the root works great, but thought the taste was terrible. And, Apartment Therapy was put off by the “sweetly musky” smell of the root but found that when you soak it in water with some peppermint oil, it is much more bearable.

Some reviewers have noted that it may take a few weeks of daily use to notice effects and that the smell may be a bit off-putting.

What else we considered

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  • GLO Teeth Whitening Kit: Glo Science sells a similar device to SmileDirectClub; both use an LED mouthpiece to reportedly act as a catalyst for hydrogen peroxide. But SmileDirectClub is a better value at half the cost. We still recommend strips over gel and mouth trays over LED light options, though.

FAQs about whitening your teeth

What types of teeth whitening products exist?

There are essentially two types of kits: ones that bleach your teeth to take stains off and ones that physically scrape off the stains. Whitening trays and strips have been the standard for decades and generally rely on carbamide or hydrogen peroxide. Activated charcoal powders had a spike in popularity recently, but the dentists we interviewed would tell you to nix the powders. Dr. Handschuh and Dr. Mohelicki told Business Insider that they don’t recommend these because they can be abrasive and only remove surface stains. 

There is a third type of teeth whitening product that simply blasts your teeth with LED light, which typically claims to speed up the process and achieve more intense results. However, most of the dentists we interviewed agreed that any gains from this treatment are short-lived or nonexistent. “Most studies show some difference detected by computers, but no visual difference detected by the human eye. For the studies conducted in actual patients (in vivo), most found no added benefit for light-activated systems,” says Dr. Sutera.

Only the SmileDirectClub system in our guide uses this technology, but it is used in conjunction with a whitening gel and a mouthguard that may offer better control over your placement and avoid increased gum sensitivity in comparison to strips. 

Which teeth whitening products are most effective?

“Shopping for teeth whitening products is very simple.” Dr. Sutera explained. “There is only one active ingredient in all teeth whitening products: hydrogen peroxide. It’s the same agent whether it’s prescription use or over the counter. Any other ingredients in the product are inactive fillers needed to create the right consistency of the product.” If you see carbamide peroxide on your ingredient list, it’s just a derivative of hydrogen peroxide. 

“The key is to understand that whitening can be effective at any percentage, but what differs is the time of use. A high percentage of hydrogen peroxide typically is only kept on the teeth for 20 minutes maximum, while a lower percentage can be worn for 6 hours or overnight.” Dr. Sutera explains. “Much of the selection comes down to personal preference. If you have a tendency to develop tooth sensitivity or if you want to minimize the risks of irritating your gums, that’s when you’d select a lower concentration.”

A few warnings about teeth whitening kits

Peroxide is effective, but it comes with several warnings. Pregnant or nursing women may want to stop using peroxide-based whitening products. It also isn’t suitable for children under 14 years old. And, you should not use peroxide for longer than two weeks of daily use without the supervision of a dentist.

The FDA does not recommend using any whitening gels with a peroxide concentration of higher than 18%. Two of the kits we recommend use peroxide (Crest Whitestrips and SmileDirectClub) but they should be safe for most people.

Again, you should always consult with your dentist before starting a course of treatment. For instance, if your darkened teeth are due to the natural thinning of tooth enamel that comes with aging, whitening kits will not help you. Also, they cannot whiten fillings, dentures, veneers, crowns, or caps.

Most importantly, Dr. Mohelicki says the biggest concern is wearing whitening kits for the right amount of time. “Over-the-counter options are inexpensive when compared to in-office whitening, but they offer no gum protection. With no gum protection, users can experience increased sensitivity and even burns in severe cases.” 

How to use teeth whitening kits effectively

Before using a teeth whitening kit, brush your teeth so your whitening agent can make contact with the surface of your teeth to improve efficacy, and so it doesn’t accidentally create an uneven white. “Any buildup of plaque or food debris will not allow for the whitening agent to contact the tooth and therefore not allow the whitening agent to do its job,” Dr. Campbell explained. “You could end up with a speckled, uneven whitened appearance.” 

And, after you’ve whitened, try to avoid food and drinks that stain your teeth.”I recommend that my patients stick to a ‘colorless diet’ just after whitening,” Dr. Handschuh told Business Insider. “Meaning, avoid highly-staining food and drink such as coffee, red wine, tea, sauces, etc.” But, if you really want to, he recommends using a straw to bypass your teeth a bit. 

As Dr. Sutera explained, whitening your teeth and then having a glass of red wine is like “two people in a canoe paddling in different directions. The whitening products open the pores and clean them out. If you have coffee, tea, or red wine within 72 hours of whitening your teeth, your teeth are more likely to absorb dark stains and adversely impact your whitening results.”

Does teeth-whitening damage your enamel?

“Most studies show that whitening does not damage enamel,” Dr. Sutera said. Though, there has been recent research that shows teeth whitening can affect proteins deeper in the tooth, though researchers are not currently sure if the damage is temporary or permanent, according to Dr. Sutera.

How can you prevent tooth sensitivity?

“It is common for the majority of people to experience increased tooth sensitivity after having teeth whitening done.” Dr. Mohelicki says. “However, for those who already have sensitive teeth, I recommend starting out by trying a whitening toothpaste. This takes significantly longer than trying an over-the-counter product or having teeth bleached in-office, but it can be significantly less painful.”

For whitening toothpaste, Dr. Sutera recommends patients with sensitive teeth use a toothpaste with potassium nitrate and fluoride and also use a fluoride mouth rinse. According to Dr. Sutera, potassium nitrate is the primary ingredient that helps with sensitive teeth, and fluoride a secondary option that has also been shown to help.  

If you have sensitive teeth and want to use a teeth whitening agent, you may just want to avoid higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. “The suggestion I would make is to use a lower concentration of whitening agent to get their desired whitening outcome while minimizing the risk of tooth sensitivity.” Dr. Campbell said. “Although anecdotal, I’ve found that brushing with Sensodyne toothpaste before and after whitening has helped me avoid sensitivity.”  

Why do you feel increased sensitivity after you whiten?

The bleaching temporarily weakens your enamel so the bleach can pass through it and further lift those stains, explained Dr. Mohelicki. “When [our enamel] is weakened during the bleaching treatment, many patients find that it can be hard to consume hot beverages, ice-cold beverages, or even eat certain foods. This typically wears off within 72 hours of ending treatment.” 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best women’s multivitamins in 2021, backed by medical experts

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Taking a multivitamin has always been common practice in my household – I grew up taking (and still do) every morning, but I never really stopped to think about why. After researching how some offer 100% of the US Daily Value (DV) for essential nutrients like iodine, vitamin D, and calcium, I realized multivitamins aren’t just a mundane part of my morning routine; they actually offer a sort of safety net to certain individuals, ensuring they meet recommended nutrient intakes.

Multivitamins are a bit of a hot topic. That’s because, while there are certain categories of people who can benefit from taking one every day, there is also a massive group of people who don’t necessarily need one. A 2020 study in BMJ Open found that people who take a multivitamin don’t have lower rates of illness or disease compared to those who don’t. However, people who take one daily said they feel healthier on a regular basis and, even if it’s a placebo effect, that counts for something toward wellbeing and adhering to healthier habits

Also, that study didn’t measure actual nutrient levels, so we can’t say the multivitamin had no real benefit. What’s more, the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2020-25 say about three out of four people don’t eat enough dairy, fruits, or vegetables. 

Julie Garden-Robinson, PhD, RD, Nutrition and Food Safety Professor at North Dakota State University, told Insider multivitamins can be the “nutrition insurance” if you’re not following an adequate diet. She advises aiming for a healthful diet first, as food contains a “complex array of nutrients and phytochemicals (‘plant chemicals’) that help fight disease.”

That said, there are certain groups of Americans who do need to have their vitamin and mineral levels supplemented.

What is the best multivitamin for women?

Supplement Safety Graphic_Health & Wellness

Once you know you need a multivitamin, you have to breach the next big hurdle: picking the right one. It seems like this should be an easy task, but multivitamins (like all supplements) are not regulated by the FDA, which means there’s no governing body confirming (1) what’s included on the label is in the supplement or (2) if it’s actually safe. What’s more, with how important it is to understand your body’s needs and how highly personal multivitamins are, it’s difficult to recommend just one that works for everyone. 

We talked to a nutritional psychiatrist, a pharmacist, and a registered dietitian to help narrow down what’s available and hone in on the top multivitamins for women at different stages of their lives. At the end of this guide, we go into more detail about who needs a multivitamin and how to choose the right one

Here are the best women’s multivitamins of 2021:

Best women’s multivitamin overall

Best women's multivitamins Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women 4x3

The Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women is an all-in-one choice packed with the essential daily nutrients, probiotics, and enzymes to aid with digestion.

Pros: Vegetarian, gluten-free, contains probiotics, optimal for women during reproductive years, no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners

Cons: Pills are large, must take four daily

The thing that makes Garden of Life’s women’s multivitamin rise above other brands is that it’s void of synthetic materials and contains the ingredients they claim — which you may think is a given, but a recent analysis by Consumer Labs found that 44% of multivitamins it tested didn’t actually contain the amounts of nutrients the label claimed. 

Not only is the formula certified organic by the USDA, but Garden of Life’s Vitamin Code for Women covers all the basics: The capsule is gluten-free and the formula includes folate, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, C, D3, E, and B-Complex, and the raw formula also reinforces breast health.

A vegetarian vitamin, Garden of Life Vitamin Code for Women is made without binders or fillers and contains probiotics and enzymes to help with digestion. Vitamin Code for Women met all purity standards set forth by Labdoor and was given a B score. 

The two drawbacks of this multivitamin are that each pill is quite large, about the size of a mini binder clip, and you have to take four daily. So those who have trouble swallowing big pills should probably opt for another supplement.

Best for active women

Best women's multivitamins Optimum Nutrition Opti Women 4x3

Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women offers a tailored distribution of nutrients designed for a more active lifestyle.

Pros: Provides immune support, includes 23 essential nutrients and 17 specialty minerals

Cons: Not for people under 18 years of age

Regular physical activity can affect your vitamin and mineral levels — which in turn can affect your athletic performance.

Physically-active women, especially those who do aerobic exercises like running and biking, are more likely to be iron deficient, according to researchers at Cornell University. What’s more, a 2017 study from the National Institutes of Health found that some women (in general, not just athletes) are deficient in folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, three vital pathways used during exercise. If your B vitamins and folate levels, in particular, aren’t up to par, it can impair your athletic performance and increase fatigue, risk of injury, and ability to concentrate, the study adds. Your doctor can test your levels, and if he or she confirms yours are low, you would be well-served to opt for a multivitamin designed for an active lifestyle.

The Optimum Nutrition Opti-Women multivitamin is formulated to help women with an avid fitness routine score enough nutrients to keep their active bodies healthy and strong. It’s curated with 100% DV of B vitamins, folate, and iron. In addition, the multivitamin provides 17 other specialized minerals, one being calcium phosphate which aids in vitamin D absorption to keep muscles healthy

Though Consumer Labs has not reviewed this specific multivitamin, when they surveyed more than 9,700 respondents on “overall customer satisfaction” in February 2020, Optimum Nutrition was named a top-rated vitamin and supplement brand. The Opti-Women formula did receive a C grade from Labdoor, namely because the amount of vitamins in the tested formula differed from the label. However, the biggest discrepancies (vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc slightly lower than the label; vitamin D and B-complex slightly higher) aren’t at harmful levels, Véronique Taché, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis Health, confirmed during medical review. Plus, the formula met all purity standards.

Best on a budget

Best women's multivitamins Nature Made Multi for Her 4x3

Nature Made Multi for Her gives a boost of calcium, folic acid, iron, and vitamin D for less than $30.

Pros: Great value, 23 nutrients, contains the daily recommended amount of iron and calcium, great folic acid count for prenatal or pregnant women, more vitamins per bottle; only need to take one tablet daily

Cons: Some may find pills to be large and may be hard to swallow for some

Vitamins can be expensive. If you’re looking to cut the cost without eliminating the essential nutrients, Nature Made Multi for Her comes at a great value: 300 capsules for less than $30.

The multivitamin contains all the major nutrients vital to women’s health (23 total), including the daily recommended amounts of iron, calcium, and D3. It also contains more than 100% of the Daily Value (DV) of folic acid, a key nutrient for those who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. C. Michael White, PharmD, department head of University of Connecticut’s pharmacy practice and dietary supplement researcher, told Insider adequate levels of folate help to reduce the risk of having neural tube defects as babies are growing. 

While this multivitamin is catered toward females, it still contains sufficient vitamin levels essential for both men and women. Uma Naidoo, MD, director of Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital told Insider the 13 essential vitamins, including A, B, C, and D, play an important role in the body and are essential for healthy vision, skin, and bones for both men and women.

This multivitamin met all Labdoor’s purity standards, but inconsistencies in the formula earned it a C grade overall. The biggest formula-to-label discrepancies include slightly less vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as slightly more vitamin B-6, folic acid, and vitamin D3, but still within safe ingesting levels, Dr. Taché confirmed. Though this is its worst offense, nutritional value and safety outweigh this satisfactory rank, making it a top pick still.

Best vegan

Best women's multivitamins Ritual Essential for Women 4x3

Ritual Essential for Women is vegan, gluten, and major-allergen-free, focusing on brain health, bone health, blood-building, and antioxidant support.

Pros: Vegan, subscription model with free shipping for easy refills, free of gluten and major allergens, no artificial colorants or synthetic fillers, good for brain and bone health, infused with mint for freshness 

Cons: Not found in stores

Because people who follow a vegan diet don’t eat animal products, they are usually deficient in key nutrients abundantly found in meat, dairy, and seafood. A 2016 study in the Journal of Osteopathic Association found vegans are often deficient in vitamin B12, iron, calcium, vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. 

Ritual Essential for Women is completely vegan and outlines a visible supply chain of ingredients so you know what you’re intaking. Ritual’s brand mission is to “bring foundational health into focus,” and its supplements are designed to boost brain and bone health, promote red blood cell formation, and provide antioxidant support with vitamin E

Ritual’s vitamins are vegan, gluten-free, and allergen-free. Ritual also operates on a unique direct-to-door subscription model, automatically sending a fresh bottle to you each month so you’ll never run out.

Vegan multivitamins tend to include plant-based ingredients, like calcium. While some calcium supplements are oyster-shell based, Ritual uses vegan-certified ingredients, like vitamin D, to rid worries of consuming a multivitamin using shellfish in the manufacturing process.

If you aren’t vegan but like the convenience of a multivitamin that will be automatically refilled and delivered, you can certainly take Ritual’s vegan multivitamin, but you should opt for their water-soluble option if you don’t have a specific deficiency. Dr. Naidoo told Insider that if you take a fat-soluble vitamin and are already getting sufficient amounts of those nutrients from your diet, your body will store the excess in your liver and fatty tissue which can accumulate to toxic levels. With a water-soluble vitamin, though, the excess is just excreted through urine. Ritual features both options to help fill gaps in your diet and support nutrient levels.

Though Ritual was not yet tested by Consumer Labs, it’s USP-verified, confirming that it contains what it lists on the label, contains safe nutrient levels, is void of harmful substances like heavy metals and pesticides, and can be broken down and released into the body as intended.

Best for women over 40

Best women's multivitamins Garden of Life women's multi 40 plus 4x3

Garden of Life myKind Organic Women’s 40+ Multi is specially formulated to address the changing nutritional needs of women as they age, with 16 nutrients at levels greater than 100% DV.

Pros:  Certified USDA organic, vegan, gluten-free, contains 16 nutrients over the 100% Daily Value (DV)

Cons: Pills are large

Though not a hard-and-fast number, when females hit 40, their body and hormones typically begin to change as they are maturing past childbearing years into perimenopause and menopause. Because of this, Dr. Naidoo says you may need less folate and iron, and more: 

  • Calcium: This helps to prevent and slow bone loss
  • Vitamin D: This is essential for bone and skin health
  • Vitamin B12: This is key for brain health
  • More water: This is important as kidneys tend to become less efficient in detoxifying the body

The Garden of Life myKind Organic Women’s 40+ Multi is our top pick due to its precise amount of nutrients of concern for middle-aged women. And, it’s the only brand on the market that is dual-certified as both USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified, meeting purity standards and void of genetic engineering in the manufacturing process. Though pricier than other options, the vitamin is optimal for middle-aged women and provides an extra boost to a balanced diet.

Garden of Life’s formulation is made exclusively from whole foods, which may lower rates of heart disease, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes.

Though this multivitamin has not yet been tested by Consumer Labs or Labdoor, myKind is one of Consumer Labs’ approved brands based on product quality, appropriateness of dosage, formulation, and value. 

Who should consider a multivitamin

Generally, people who are pregnant, underweight, elderly, who don’t get enough sun exposure, or who have a chronic medical condition [like heart disease, certain cancers, and individuals who had bypass surgery] should consider taking a multivitamin, Uma Naidoo, MD, director of Nutritional & Lifestyle Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital told Insider. Those who follow a stricter diet, too, like vegans and vegetarians, should take special caution; low intake of B vitamins, as well as iron and possibly zinc, will likely lead to a deficiency.

If you know or you’re wondering whether you fall into the category of nutritional deficiency, it’s important to get your levels checked by your doctor. Though others may not need one, Dr. Naidoo advised reviewing your daily nutrition with your doctor to see if you need a multivitamin as well.

A daily multivitamin may holistically bring benefits, but Garden-Robinson notes there can be risks with oversupplementation. She and Dr. Naidoo said excess calcium may increase the risk for urinary stone formation in some people, while oversupplementation of vitamin A may promote birth defects and liver damage. An abundance of vitamin C can cause cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. That said, be sure to check out the DV for guidance on how much of each nutrient you daily need.

What to look for & other FAQs

If you’re wondering what to look for in a multivitamin and how to shop for one, check out our very detailed multivitamin FAQ page.

Check out our other vitamin guides

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