- Yutong Yuan/Business Insider
- We’re not shy about advocating for products we love (see: 21 game-changing products we swear by in our everyday lives or The 36 best products we discovered in 2018, to name a couple).
- But just because we love them now doesn’t mean we initially expected to.
- We had our initial doubts about these 21 products – and you may, too – but in the end, taking the leap of faith proved to be rewarding.
For better or for worse, preconceptions are built into human nature. As product reviewers, we also fall victim to our own preconceived notions about the items we test.
Our previous experiences with the brand or with similar products can affect how we approach the latest thing we’re testing. Combine that with high standards for quality and general skepticism about a market filled with shoddy products, and we sometimes end up with experiences that surprise us in the best way possible.
If you’re feeling hesitant about trying any of these 21 products, we were once right there with you. Testing them revealed that they were actually quite useful, comfortable, or stylish. They overcame our initial expectations to become some of our favorite products.
We weren’t sure we were going to love these 21 products, but now we know we do:
A waffle maker that lets you skip a trip to the diner
I assumed that waffles were one of the few foods I would always have to order at a restaurant, but Krups proved me wrong. Its waffle maker is easy to use, simple to clean, and delivers diner-like results in about 15 minutes. I’m generally skeptical of single-use kitchen gadgets, but this one has earned its place in my small, New York City apartment. –Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks associate editor
A popular facial cleansing brush
Having tried a few different facial cleansing brushes that never made a difference on my skin, I was expecting the Foreo Luna 2 to be another to toss in the pile. But this best-selling brush really does clean and gently exfoliate your skin effectively. I use it a few times a week to keep my skin soft and glowing, and I also love that it has a long battery life. –Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter
A flask with attached tumblers
High Camp Firelight Flask 750, $99.98, available at Huckberry (currently out of stock)
Trying to make a better flask in the 21st century sort of seemed like trying to reinvent the wheel to me. The tried and true hip flask is discrete and holds just enough to get you, and maybe a friend, through a tough social function. But the HighCamp Firelight Flask looked like it would also make a great tea thermos. It comes with two double-walled mugs and holds about 750 ml of liquid; I could take it on a hike, on a kayak paddle, or to the park for a lazy afternoon.
The two tumblers fit elegantly over both ends of the “flask” and stay snug thanks to a little magnetic pull. I used it for tea couple of times, and while some heat passed through the double-walled tumblers, it worked just fine.
Then I filled it with bourbon, took it camping and realized the true beauty of the thing: It’s a decanter on the go. Apart from an O-ring in the lid, it is nothing but brushed, heavy-duty stainless steel. No more shattered bottles or spilled spirits on my adventures.
Yes, at $100 it is an investment, but if you’ve dropped and smashed half as many handles in your travels as I have, you’ll also quickly find it to be the shatterproof bottle of your dreams. –Owen Burke, Insider Picks guides reporter
A sleek electric toothbrush
For years the only factor that went into picking my toothbrush was its color – that all changed when I tried a battery-powered one from Quip. The toothbrush vibrates for two minutes with a short pause every 30 seconds so you know when to move to a different part of your mouth.
The coolest thing about Quip is that it’s part of a subscription service. Every three months, the startup will send you a new brush head, which you can attach by popping off the old one, and a battery to replace the old one. It only costs $5 per shipment, and ensures that you can use the same toothbrush for years without compromising your oral hygiene. –Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks associate editor
Soft and flexible flats
Everlane’s shoes are very hit or miss for me, so I’m always skeptical of trying new styles. But the Day Glove, which is a favorite among pretty much every woman on the Insider Picks team, was such a pleasant surprise. They’re incredibly comfortable (so much so that I recently ordered a second pair!), require zero break-in time, and they’re perfect for work. I’ve walked miles at a time in them over the weekend, and I wear them to the office all the time. Any shoe that can be worn comfortably and confidently on commutes, long walks, and to important meetings is a winner in my book. –Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks editor
Fluffy makeup towels
Towels made specifically for one thing – like removing makeup – make me think of the joke that women get sold products made laughably hyperspecific, like lotions for an elbow patch, while men get six-in-one bottles of shampoo that can also clean their car upholstery.
But, these towels are actually really nice to have, and I’ve bought them for friends since getting them myself. They’re soft, my nice towels no longer have black mascara stains, and – I’ll admit it – it’s kind of fun to have a cute set of matching face towels for my daily routine that I don’t hate leaving out. –Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
A luxury shower cap
$40 seems like a lot to pay for a shower cap, but you’ll realize how much better this premium one is after a few uses, and you’ll end up using it over and over again. The material is more durable and comfortable than one of those sad and flimsy plastic caps. Water slides right off and the cap dries quickly, and it’s held together by a secure, silicone rubber band. Another big and obvious draw is that it’s available in a variety of stylish prints. –Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter
Headphones that truly stand out among the many we’ve tried
I’ve been regularly testing headphones for over three years, which is why I’m always surprised when a pair really stands out. Sony’s WH1000XM3s not only sound excellent, but they offer world class noise-cancelling that turns my commutes, walks, and desk into a silent disco. If you love music, or travel often, this pair of headphones deserves a place in your life. –Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks associate editor
A designer clothing rental membership
- Rent the Runway Instagram
I’m wary of subscriptions (besides for Scribd, the reading app) because I never seem to get enough use out of them. However, RTR Unlimited is an exception – I shop far less, finally felt comfortable enough to throw out clothes I “might wear someday,” and have more fun trying trends I would otherwise never buy. It also makes me feel better about pretty much recycling 90% of my clothes. I’m a full 180-degree convert, though the price is a bit expensive if you’re not a frequent shopper otherwise. –Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
A custom shirt
My typical criteria for picking a shirt to wear into the office is whether or not it’s clean, but Woodies showed me there’s more to it than that. The startup’s custom-fitted shirts actually make me look (and feel) better than anything I’ve bought off the rack. The shirt’s moisture-wicking, stain-repellent material makes it a good choice for every season, and its timeless colors and patterns will never go out of style. –Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks associate editor
Custom chino pants
I had heard other people’s positive experiences with Indochino, but it wasn’t until I tried it for myself, that I really understood why the brand was so loved. I customized two pairs of chino pants and it changed my perspective on tailored menswear as being too finicky. Although you can independently measure yourself (which is made easy with a tutorial online), you can also buy your items online and then go into the store for a professional fitting.
I chose to do the in-store measurements and was met with great attention to detail and the best-fitting chinos I have in my closet. And the best part is that they’re cheaper than most brands that sell off-the-shelf apparel. –Amir Ismael, Insider Picks reporter
A memory foam pillow infused with essential oils
I was never really looking for a scented pillow, but this green tea infused pillow from Blu Sleep has definitely helped improve the way I sleep. While the scent was intimidatingly strong when I first opened the pillow, it has dissipated to a point that I hardly notice it anymore. Overall, the true benefit of the pillow isn’t its smell, but the water-expanded memory foam that perfectly cushions your head and gently cradles you into a night of deep sleep. –Danny Bakst, Insider Picks content producer
An insulated coffee mug
I often get so deeply entrenched in checking emails in the morning that I forget to drink my coffee quickly. This mug has saved me from so many cups of lukewarm coffee I can’t even count! It keeps my drinks hot for hours, and I like that it’s shaped like a normal mug instead of a travel tumbler – it gives me a sense of separation from my morning commute when I carry an insulated thermos to drink from on the train. –Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks editor
Sunscreen spray that contains natural fruit essences
Hint is best known for its healthy fruit-infused waters, which is why I was slightly confused and skeptical when it started making sunscreen sprays. The sunscreen turned out to be highly effective, and it smelled great, too, because it’s also infused with natural fruit essences like pineapple and grapefruit. Even better, it’s oxybenzone- and paraben-free and uses an environmentally friendly spray method. –Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter
Sneakers that mimic what it’s like to be barefoot
I didn’t expect to like anything about shoes built to mimic the natural shape of your foot – the idea was too close to the sort of running foot gloves that suburban dads are always whipping past in.
But, having said that, the Kannas totally won me over. They’re stylish, impossibly lightweight, and roll up to the size of a pair of socks so they’re pretty effortless to travel with. Now, I rely on them for hot summer days when the idea of shoes is oppressive, for occasional runs, and for travel. AT $125, they became a great buy. –Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
A piece of tech that will solve all your Internet connectivity problems
Mesh Wi-Fi routers have been popular for a few years now, but Plume’s SuperPods take performance to the next level. In my tests, they’ve been able to create a Wi-Fi network that offers consistent speeds in a medium sized multi-floor home without breaking a sweat. If you’ve been suffering with internet dead zones, have lots of devices, or haven’t been getting the internet speed you’re paying for, I can’t think of a better home tech upgrade. –Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks associate editor
A warm sweater
I used to not really understand why people loved Patagonia so much. But once I tried this sweater, I got it, and now you can count me in among their cult following. This pullover is incredibly soft and warm, and it’s so cozy that I bought one for my partner, too, which also turned her into a believer. I have a feeling we’ll both be wearing ours for the next … forever. –Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks editor
A personalized pillow
- Pluto Pillow Instagram
I’m always skeptical about products that claim to be personalized, but aren’t visibly unique – and the Pluto Pillow is the perfect example of that. The brand uses a short quiz to create custom pillows for your comfort and sleep preferences. I worried that the pillows would end up just feeling like a generic soft or hard option, but much to my surprise, the pillow I received met all of my specific requirements. It’s been about seven months since I first got it and it’s not worn out and flat like many of the other pillows I’ve gone through. –Amir Ismael, Insider Picks reporter
Shampoo that doesn’t come in traditional bottles
I have rebellious, dry, reconstruction-of-a-cave-woman hair, and I didn’t think eco-friendly bar shampoo and conditioner would stand a chance of hydrating and smoothing it satisfactorily. Plus, we often buy into the idea that “green” products – especially beauty products – require us to look worse in order to feel better about ourselves.
This is not the case. These shampoo bars work well and they last far longer than bottles of shampoo that includes water as one of its ingredients (these are super concentrated). It also doesn’t hurt that it’s founded by a woman scientist. My only tip is to use less than you think you need – it doesn’t lather, so most beginners overdo it. –Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
A silk memory foam pillow that won’t mess up your hair
I’ve tried many pillows (at one point they consumed 60% of my bed), but my favorite, to my surprise, has been this memory foam one encased in a silk pillowcase. At $150, it’s not cheap, but here’s why it’s worth it: the proprietary, machine-washable TriSilk material keeps your hair smooth and shiny and your face clean while you sleep, the black color won’t reflect light back into your eyes, the memory foam is light but supportive, and it has a three year warranty. –Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter
An affordable clay mask
This hyped-up $11 mask with over 10,000 five-star reviews that’s everywhere from the Sephora beauty blog to vlogs with 1 million plus views is the real deal, but it’s definitely a labor of love. What I mean by that is that while the clay mask acts like a vacuum for your pores in the 5-15 minutes that it’s on, it also might feel like your face is going to fall off in the duration.
You can find my full review here, but basically, I use it because it noticeably helps the clarity of my skin rather than because it’s just a fun addition to a girls’ night in. In fact, it really isn’t fun to wear – but it works. And the fact that it’s $11 and so long lasting that it might outlive me is also a bonus. Pro tip: it’s usually a few dollars less if you buy it on Thrive Market (currently $6.59). -Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter