Care/of review: Taking the guesswork out of supplements

Care/of review: Taking the guesswork out of supplements

I never thought I would be the type of person who gets a subscription service for vitamins and supplements. My brief foray into the biohacking community ended after encountering high prices for specially formulated supplements and no clear scientific benefit. And when I think of more traditional supplements, I think back to the perpetually empty GNC at my local mall growing up—rows of well-lit pill bottles that no one wanted to buy.

And yet, there I was, taking a quiz to figure out which supplements were best for me. Care/of is one of many companies aiming to reinvent supplements for #millennials, and it all starts with this quiz. Within five minutes, I had a month’s supply of three personally recommended pills heading to my home.

What is Care/of?

Care/of is a subscription vitamin and supplement service that sends you a personalized selection of supplements on a monthly basis. Instead of delivering your pills in bottles, each box from Care/of has thirty individual packs with your daily dose of pills. Each pack has a smiley face and the message "Made For (Your Name)" printed on it, which is a nice touch.

When you visit Care/of for the first time, you’ll be prompted to complete a quiz about your health. The quiz asks you some basic questions, such as where you live, your age and your diet, as well as more specific questions about areas that you want to focus on, like digestion, stress, or skin issues. For example, because I live well above the equator, Care/of suggested I take Vitamin D, a vitamin that the body produces with the help of sunlight.

You can pick any of their vitamins and supplements to be in your pack, however – currently, they have over thirty to choose from, but they’re aiming to expand to over 100 – and you can change your pack every month. Care/of manufactures their own supplements, and they take a lot of pride in their supply chain, which they say allows them to make some of the highest quality supplements available.

How much does Care/of cost?

Unlike other subscription services, Care/of does not have a flat cost. Instead, they charge you per supplement. Supplements start at $5/month and go up to $25/month. Most supplements are around $8/month, with some popular options like fish oil priced at $16/month.

All of this is to say: it varies. Care/of gives you free shipping once you hit $20/month total, which is probably around two to three supplements for most people.

You can view all of Care/of’s products and their prices here.

What’s good about Care/of?

Care/of is designed for the supplement skeptic. Every product page features an "honest assessment" of the supplement—a one-paragraph description that breaks down why you’d want to take a particular pill. This is especially helpful for some of the lesser-known supplements, such as Bacopa. Care/of points out that research has been done on the herb, but in smaller publications that you may not want to trust quite yet.

Each assessment is based on a library of research, which is both available in a long form summary and in a section called "Research by the numbers," where Care/of breaks down details about research that back up specific medical claims. If you’re more scientifically-minded, this is an especially useful tool for helping assess specific supplements on your own. Some products have more research, and clearer trends, than others. Fish oil, for example, has an incredible amount of research linking it to heart health.

If it turns out that a particular supplement isn’t working for you, you can easily remove it from next month’s pack. This allows you to experiment with new supplements every month, without losing a ton of money if you decide not to continue taking it. Considering many supplements come in bottles of one or two hundred, Care/of is much more cost-effective for dabbling and experimentation.

One thoughtful thing about Care/of is that they take your diet into account. If you mark that you’re a vegan or vegetarian, they’ll suggest specific vitamins and minerals that are hard to get because of your diet. They also have a fish oil alternative, Veggie Omega, that helps you get omega-3 without eating fish.

Additionally, a lot can be said about the website’s design and the package your pills come in. While looks aren’t everything, they go a long way here, especially when compared to an empty GNC or a crowded pharmacy aisle.

What’s bad about Care/of?

Care/of claims that you can save money by buying your supplements through them – which is probably true, if you buy all of your supplements in a physical store. According to math on their site, Care/of saves you about 20% per month compared to your typical health food store.

But when you make the same comparison to Amazon, the price savings doesn’t always hold up. Care/of’s fish oil, for example, comes out to about $0.27 per capsule. You can easily find fish oil on Amazon for as low as $0.05 per capsule. Granted, I can’t vouch for the quality of Amazon’s fish oil, and you have to buy hundreds of capsules at a time. If you’re a long-term fish oil user, however, you may find a cheaper deal elsewhere.

Additionally, there’s a good chance you may not need some of the supplements it recommends to you. Care/of actually points this out in some of their honest assessments – it’s pretty rare to have a Vitamin C deficiency, for example, unless you are a pirate. Many vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also be remedied by changing your diet to include more fruits and vegetables.

Should I check out Care/of?

If you’re curious about supplements, Care/of offers a great experience for first-timers. Supplements can tackle a wide variety of minor health issues, such as odd digestion, and general health of your major organs. If you made it this far in the review, I would recommend checking out Care/of’s onboarding quiz just to see what they recommend.

If you’re already deep in the supplement world, Care/of may not have much to offer you. You may be able to save some money compared to your local health food store, but if you feel comfortable buying supplements through the internet, you might as well just buy through Amazon or another online marketplace.

As with any product that affects your health, talk to your doctor before you start taking supplements. In some cases, your doctor may heartily recommend specific supplements. They can also help flag conflicts with prescription drugs or point out deficiencies in your diet. Doctors: they’re generally pretty smart.