No Holds Barred: The 15-Minute Barre Workout You Can Do at Home

Dancing as a workout is nothing new — whether you’re doing Zumba or just jamming out to Beyoncé’s latest, it’s a fun way to break a sweat. And barre workouts truly take dance-inspired exercise to the next level.

From a stronger core to better posture to leaner legs, the benefits are numerous. And as more and more barre studios open across the country, more and more people flock to them, proving that this is one fitness trend that’s not going away any time soon.

girl with tattoos plays sports at home, doing squats during a barre workout header crop
Andrey Sayfutdinov/Getty Images

The downside: Classes can be pricey — we’re talking anywhere from $20 to $30 per sweat session. Yikes. That’ll make you sweaty before you even get into the studio.

The solution: This free yet seriously effective workout you can do at home from Sadie Lincoln, fitness expert and founder of Barre3.

The moves are exactly what you’d do in class, and all you need is a chair (a kitchen counter works too) — no tutus or tap shoes in sight.

Go through the warmup once, and then complete the workout, which takes about 15 minutes.

Starting small with your motion (part A) for each exercise will target the muscles and push them to fatigue, and layering on a larger range of motion (part B) will elevate your heart rate.

We’ll explain both A and B for some exercises to help you level up your workout.

The routine is killer on its own, but you can also do it twice in a row or at multiple times of the day to boost the afterburn effect.

Workout video

See it done the right way.

Warmup

Getting into the groove is important…

Sumo Cat/Cow

Barre Sumo Cat/Cow
5 reps

Sumo Cat/Cows are a great way to warm up your spine, core, and lower body and superb for kicking off a barre workout.

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip width and toes pointing to 1 and 11 o’clock.
  2. Draw hips behind you and toward the seat of an imaginary chair, keeping your weight in heels (make sure knees stay stacked over ankles).
  3. As you exhale, scoop core and round through spine.
  4. As you inhale, lift tailbone and slightly lift gaze forward.

Simple toe taps

Simple Toe Taps
60 reps (or 2 minutes)

This move warms up your muscles and gets your heart pumping while still being easy on your joints.

  1. Stand with feet wide and toes pointing to 10 and 2 o’clock.
  2. Bend your knees and hold the position, making sure spine is long, hips are square, and feet are rooted to the floor.
  3. Straighten your legs, lean to the right, and tap left toe. Bend your knees through the center, lean to the left, tap right toe, and lift arms.
  4. Continue, lowering arms as you tap left toe.

(Find out a little more about the benefits of the barre workout.)

Crescent Lunge: Scoop and reach

Crescent Lunge
5 reps per side

Nope, it’s not an analogy for ice cream consumption. This active stretch opens your hips and upper body while heating your lower body.

  1. Step right foot behind you. Bend left knee and hold the position, keeping left knee directly over ankle.
  2. Reach back through right heel and extend right leg as far as you can. Interlace fingers and lift arms over your head as you inhale.
  3. As you exhale, bend right knee toward the floor, round through your upper back, and push palms down and forward.
  4. Inhale and return to the starting position.

Flat back folder with knee pedals

Flat Back Folder
15 reps

This move opens up the backs of your legs as well as your outer hips and illotibial (IT) band.

  1. Place palms on a chair (or another waist-high surface, like a kitchen counter) and step feet back behind you.
  2. Bend knees slightly, lean your torso forward, and hold. Exhale, bend right knee, and lift left hip up toward the ceiling.
  3. Inhale through the center.
  4. Repeat on the other side to complete 1 rep.

15-minute workout

Raise the barre for yourself.

Sumo squat

Sumo Squat
A. 30 reps (or 1 minute) B. 15 reps (or 1 minute)

This move targets the fronts of your legs, your hamstrings, and your seat muscles — it’s functional training at its best.

  1. Step feet out slightly wider than hips.
  2. Reach tailbone back, as if you’re sitting in a chair. Keep belly drawn in, spine long, and shoulders wide.
  3. Hold for 5 deep breaths.

Step 4 is where you can mix it up:

  • A: Bring palms to your heart center as you lean back into heels and lower by 1 inch. Press into heels, then lift 1 inch.
  • B: Adding a larger range of motion, press into your feet and lift up to a standing position, drawing palms to your sides.

Return to squatting position and get ready for your next rep. Phew.

Narrow V

Narrow V
A. 30 reps (or 1 minute) B. 15 reps (or 1 minute)

This pose shapes your entire leg, especially your inner and outer thighs.

  1. Draw heels together and turn your legs out so toes are about 4 inches apart in a narrow “V” position.
  2. Keeping shoulders stacked over hips, bend knees into a narrow plié.
  3. Press heels firmly together as you hover them slightly off the floor, coming onto the balls of your feet.
  4. Rest one hand on the chair for balance or bring palms together in prayer position for a balance challenge.
  5. Hold for 5 deep breaths.

Here come the variations:

  • A: Keeping your range small and controlled, lower 1 inch deeper into your plié, then lift 1 inch.
  • B: Increasing your range of motion, drop your seat toward your heels, then lift all the way up and squeeze inner thighs together.

Carousel horse

Carousel Horse
A. 30 reps (or 1 minute) B. 15 reps (or 1 minute)

This simple move effectively targets a bunch of muscles in your lower body, and it’s a great balance challenge to train your core and reinforce good posture. Who cares what the neighsayers think?

  1. Stand with feet parallel and hip-width apart and place your palms on the chair.
  2. Step right foot back, bend both knees slightly into a lunge, and hold.
  3. Stack left knee directly over ankle while right knee bends toward the floor and stays under your hip.
  4. Press left foot and the ball of right foot down evenly into the floor. Keep hips level and square, core engaged, and shoulders stacked over hips.
  5. Hold for 5 deep breaths.

Aaaaaand the variations…

  • A: Drop right knee down 1 inch. Push into left heel and lift up 1 inch, making sure left knee stays stacked over ankle the entire time.
  • B: Adding on a larger range of motion, drop right knee toward the floor until you find your edge. Push into left heel and lift all the way up until legs are almost straight. Repeat entire exercise, stepping left leg back.

Here’s how to decode fitness lingo and make barre classes less confusing.

Horse Pose

Horse Pose
A. 30 reps (or 1 minute) B. 15 reps (or 1 minute)

Inspired by ballet, this graceful pose works your inner and outer thighs and outer seat muscles.

  1. Take a wide step out from the chair, pointing your toes to 2 and 10 o’clock.
  2. Bend knees and slide down an imaginary wall.
  3. Stack shoulders over hips and engage your core.
  4. Hold for 5 deep breaths.

Here, it’s time to give yourself those variations:

  • A: Lower your seat down 1 inch. Press into your feet and lift up by the same amount.
  • B: Adding on a larger range of motion, plié down, letting right arm sweep down to your side.

To complete the rep, press into left foot and rebound up, sweeping right arm over your head and lifting right leg out to the side as you lengthen through the right side of your body.

This should give you a balletic lean over the chair.

Standing seat work

Standing Seat Work
30 reps per leg

Standing seat work seems like a weird contradiction in terms, but this move helps improve your balance and shape the backs of your legs, your seat, and your core. Nice.

  1. Place your hands on the chair.
  2. Sweep right foot back behind hip, lifting it a few inches off the floor, until you feel your seat engage. Once you’re there, hold.
  3. Press into left foot, then lift up and out through right hip.
  4. Engage core and lift up through your spine.
  5. Lift your leg up 1 inch and lower it 1 inch.
  6. Repeat, lifting your left leg this time.

Sliders can do amazing things for your core (and no, we’re not talking about the mini burgers). We’ve got 31 slider exercises that prove our point.

Power leg

Power Leg
30 reps

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this posture. Your quads will feel the burn.

  1. Facing the chair, lift heels, bend knees, and hold.
  2. Pressing evenly through all 10 toes, keep knees in line with the middle of your toes. Be sure to maintain level and square hips and keep core firm.
  3. Lengthen through spine, then relax your shoulders down your back. Bend knees until you find a challenging position.
  4. Lift hips 1 inch, then lower back into the original position.

Learn about the afterburn effect of exercise.

Plank with core hold

Plank with Core Hold
30 seconds per side

Taking a traditional plank and adding a hold will heat your entire body and strengthen your core.

  1. Start in a high plank position, engaging your thighs.
  2. As you exhale, draw right knee toward chest and round your back. (Make sure you’re still pressing through your hands.)
  3. Lift your abdominals toward your lower back.
  4. Hold this position.
  5. Repeat with left leg.

Here are some more boss planks for you to try.

Boat Pose

Boat Pose
30 seconds

This posture will bring out your inner dancer while challenging your entire core.

  1. Sit tall on the floor with hands behind thighs.
  2. Draw your legs into a tabletop position. As you exhale, firm your core and reach arms out into a wide “V.” Hips should be heavy on the floor while spine stays long and lifted, and your core should be firm and pull toward your lower back, with your shoulders wide.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds.

Want to take it to the next level? Straighten and extend those legs. Sheesh.

Takeaway

Barre workouts might look simple, but tell that to the sweat running down your forehead at the end. You’re getting a deep workout of some surprising muscles.

You don’t need to shell out for an expensive in-studio barre session when you have a chair at home.

Another powerful tool for at-home workouts is the resistance band — why not check out our resistance band workouts here?

Thanks to our model, Tori Schelling, an instructor at Barre3 in New York City, and our friends at Lululemon for outfitting her!

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No Holds Barred: The 15-Minute Barre Workout You Can Do at Home

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So, You’re Interested in Sex Play (but Don’t Know Where to Start)

Compared to our swipe-right dating scene and all the totally NSFW shows on TV (looking at you, The Affair), your own sex life can seem as bland as a saltine cracker.

You’re just not quite as 4K as what’s on the screen — and that’s absolutely fine.

Two Young Women Talking In Bed After Sex Play header
Ashley Armitage / Refinery29 for Getty Images

While you should never get wild just because pop culture tells you to, there’s nothing wrong with getting creative in the bedroom.

“Research suggests that openness and spontaneity will lead to a lasting relationship,” said the late Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., a former sex therapist and the author of The Married Sex Solution. “Don’t get caught up in judgments in your own head.”

And as you get used to talking candidly with your partner(s) about what you want to do (and what you’ve already done), it only gets easier. “A lot of partners really like empowered partners,” she said. “That exchange builds communication and respect.”

So, go ahead and be adventurous. After all, it’s sex play — emphasis on play. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Bring it up casually

Trojan - Beginner's Guide to Sex Play

All the experts we spoke with agreed that if you’re having trouble broaching the subject, you can let a movie, piece of erotica literature, or even a sexy song inspire you.

Jane Greer, Ph.D., a marriage and sex therapist, and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, suggests broaching the topic with I was reading this in an article or I saw this on TV.

Or the next time you’re strolling through a drugstore (it can be a little less intimidating than a sex shop), stop by the condom section, which often contains lubes and other small toys.

“Say, ‘Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to try?’ or ‘We’ll each get to pick one thing,’” says Logan Levkoff, Ph.D., sexologist and member of the Trojan™ Sexual Health Advisory Council. “You’ll get a little variety, and you get to see what someone else wants to try.”

2. Ease in with lube

Whipped Cream - Beginner's Guide to Sex Play

One of the easiest things to incorporate is a lube. Usually water- or silicone-based, lubricants help everything feel more slippery.

“Water-based lubes are easy to clean up because the main element is water,” Levkoff says. They’re also usually cheaper than other kinds. The one drawback? Water-based lubes dry up faster than silicone-based lubes, which are thicker and tend to last longer.

“So, if you are engaging in water-based sex, such as getting it on in the shower, you’re going to want something that doesn’t wash off,” she says. “Or if you’re having anal sex, where lubricant is going to be important consistently, silicone-based lubricants can be a good option.”

Lubes come in a variety of flavors and sensations (think hot or cold), but it’s really all about personal preference.

One thing you should probably avoid? Anything with oil — including coconut oil or whatever else you’ve got in the kitchen. “I would never recommend anything genitally that isn’t designed to be used genitally,” Levkoff says.

Plus, oils erode latex (the material most condoms are made from). No bueno.

If you’ve already used lube, you’re not alone. About 65 percent of women reported that they’d used lube before,Herbenick D, et al. (2014). Women’s use and perceptions of commercial lubricants: Prevalence and characteristics in a nationally representative sample of American adults. DOI: 10.1111/jsm.12427  and roughly 70 percent of men reported that they’d used lube too Reece M, et al. (2014). Men’s use and perceptions of commercial lubricants: Prevalence and characteristics in a nationally representative sample of American adults. DOI: 10.1111/jsm.12480 — usually to make sex feel more comfortable or pleasurable.

Give Trojan™ Lubricants H20 Closer™ a shot. The advanced water-based formula enhances your experience without getting in the way — or creating a sticky mess — allowing you and your partner(s) to feel closer.

3. If you want to try a toy, start with something simple

Gwyneth Paltrow would have you believe that you need a $15,000 gold-plated vibrator (you don’t). But there are way more accessible options out there.

“If you’re in a drugstore, you can try a vibrating cock ring,” Levkoff says. Vibrating rings fit over the penis and are safe to use with condoms.

“A lot of penis-owners end up really liking [vibrating] rings,” Van Kirk said. “And because they vibrate, you’re going to have clitoral stimulation, so no matter what position you’re in, everyone’s a winner. It’s not about one person or the other.”

No penis in the mix? No problem! Vibrating rings don’t have to be used genitally — they can also double as a massager, Levkoff says. Now that’s versatile (although they may draw the line at electric toothbrush).

4. Or skip toys altogether

Trojan - Beginner's Guide to Sex Play

While it can be exciting to introduce something new, you don’t need a toy to crank up the heat.

“It doesn’t have to be about bringing things into the bedroom,” Levkoff says. “It could be about changing the location. It could be pornography or an erotic book. It could be making the greatest playlist of songs that really turn you on — and two songs in, who knows what can happen?”

One other fun idea that won’t cost a thing? Sexy talk. Though it can be a little tough to get started — what can I say that won’t sound stupid!? — there are ways around that.

“If you read erotic lit or watch porn, you might find a phrase that makes you say, ‘That’s kinda hot,’” Van Kirk said. “Put it in your phone, write it down, whatever you need so you don’t forget. Start getting a script together.”

The main thing, Van Kirk said, is “you don’t want it to get too complicated.” She suggested aiming for one or two phrases that you feel comfortable saying, and trying those out first.

If talking seems like too much, “just start verbalizing during sex,” Van Kirk said. “Groans and moans — that sound response helps to get people used to using their voices during sex.”

Bonus: It also lets your partner(s) know they’re doing a good job.

This one should hopefully be a no-brainer, but consent is key anytime you start pushing bedroom boundaries.

“If you’re into any kind of fantasy play or verbalizing play that involves saying stop, you need an option to actually stop play,” Van Kirk said. Simply put: You need a safe word. Even if you’re not into bondage or discipline, you may still need a way to let your partner(s) know it’s time to call it quits.

And if your partner(s) brings up something you’re just not into? Greer suggests saying, “I appreciate your fantasy, and I’d be willing to explore it with you by talking about it. But for now, that’s not something I’d be comfortable trying.”

By keeping it about your own discomfort, Greer says, you’re letting your partner(s) know there’s nothing wrong and no need to feel guilty or ashamed about bringing something up.

Sexual activity without consent

If a partner(s) refuses to stop when you ask them, initiates sexual contact without consent, or becomes physically or emotionally aggressive when you say no, you have experienced sexual assault.

If this happens to you, account for your physical safety first by leaving the premises, then contact 911, if that’s possible.

We’ve compiled a guide for people who’ve gone through sexual assault with the next steps you should take, organizations that can help, and crisis counseling contacts.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, it’s about what’s comfortable and pleasurable for you and your partner(s).

“There’s no way to be ‘advanced’ at having sex,” says Levkoff. “If you and a partner have sex in the same exact way every time, and it’s fun and fulfilling, then it’s kay.”

(And remember, research suggests that most couples have sex for an average of slightly more than 5 minutes — not a lot of time for boot-knocking creativity.)

Most importantly, don’t agree to try something new just to avoid a breakup.

“Whatever you’re exploring should be done in the context of enhancing your relationship — building on what you already have,” says Greer.

Relationships change over time, as well — what turns you on at the beginning may not do so at the end. So, while you might want to try new things, you shouldn’t feel undue pressure to reinvent the wheel every month.

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How to Get Rid of 14 House Bugs — the Nontoxic Way

Creepy crawlies are a homeowner’s (or renter’s) worst nightmare. They mean no harm, though — they’re just doing their thing.

Luckily, there are proven methods that prevent, discourage, and treat bug infestations in the home that don’t involve spraying the whole shebang with toxic chemicals. Because who wants to live in a poisonous fart cloud?

sign that says bug-free zone after person worked out how to get rid of bugs header crop
Per Swantesson/Stocksy

Although often effective against home invaders, artificial pest repellants, sprays, baits, and poisons can be dangerous, if not lethal, when people (not to mention pets) ingest or touch them. To be honest, when it comes to some pesticides, you’re better off with the damn bugs.

Exposure to pesticides can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system, disrupt hormones, and even contribute to the development of some cancers.

Even relatively benign pesticides can be dangerous if they’re handled or operated incorrectly.

Household chemicals have damaging side effects for the environment too. Pesticides can find their way into groundwater or a river, lake, or ocean and contaminate the water sources for people and animals.

Once in the environment, pesticides can cause damage to plants and animals, as well as unsuspecting humans.

Good thing there are alternative ways to debug a home, right?

From essential oils to nontoxic household cleaning products, we break down everything you need to know about keeping pests away in a more humane, environmentally friendly, and healthy way.

Keep ‘em out

A buggy infestation can’t ruin your life if it never happens. *taps temple* That’s science, pal.

Here are a few basic tips to deter critters of all kinds from setting up camp anywhere in your home.

Clean up

Pests love a good snack, so keep food under wraps to prevent your home from turning into the next trendy spot in the buggy club scene (if that seems like an alien concept to you, there’s a record producer purely called The Bug, so it could happen).

  • Store flour, sugar, and other dry ingredients in sealed bags or glass or plastic containers.
  • Take out the trash often, and store outdoor garbage cans (with secure lids) far from the door.
  • Don’t leave pet food out overnight.
  • Clean up spills and crumbs right away.
  • Wash dishes right after a meal, and don’t let food-encrusted plates and bowls hang out throughout the house.
  • Regularly recycle old newspaper, cardboard, and boxes. Bugs love to burrow in these warm and cozy materials.

Not only will this make your home a more pleasant place to be, but bugs will stay the eff away.

Stay dry

Mosquitoes and cockroaches are particularly drawn to bodies of water, so keep the house dry whenever possible.

  • A full sink is basically a cockroach swimming pool (come on, guys, sauna’s closing), so drain that water as soon as the dishes are done.
  • Wipe puddles or spills that form pools of water. Plus, nobody will slip and hurt themselves! No cockroaches + no ouchies = double victory.
  • Fix leaky pipes, sinks, appliances, and bathroom fixtures so they don’t drip water.

Yeah, mozzies and roaches! And stay back!

Be Mr. or Ms. Fix-It

Remember when you said you’d repair that hole in the wall or door? It’s time to make good on that promise. (Ugh, we know, we know.)

A tiny hole or rip is an open invitation for pests of all shapes and sizes to come strolling in and saunter around like they own the place.

  • Patch or replace holes in screens and walls, especially around windows and doors.
  • Get out the caulking gun and seal up cracks and openings around baseboards, windows, and pipes. You should be caulkin’ so much they start to call you Macauley. That’ll show those home invaders!
  • Store firewood and mulch piles far away from the house’s foundation. Bugs can easily travel between the two environments. Try to keep at least 30 feet between pile and house, if possible. Thank you very mulch.

Know your bugs

While every geographical region has its own pesky pests, here are 14 of the most common home invaders.

This list is arranged in alphabetical order to make browsing easy. For each pest entry, we’ve included info about:

  • what they look like
  • where they reside
  • what they eat
  • what dangers they present
  • how to get rid of them

If these simple solutions don’t work (sometimes those unwanted houseguests can be stubborn), it’s probably time to call in the professionals. But it’s 2020, and we can’t always afford the professionals. So here’s how to DIY your gigantic “f*ck off” to the little beasties in your life.

1. Ants

What they look like: They have a segmented black-brown body and three legs (plus two long antennae that can look like legs).

Typical ‘hood: Pretty much everywhere.

Home headquarters: They’re fans of nesting in soil next to or under buildings, along sidewalks, or near trees or plants. Ants also love warm, damp locations (think between walls, under floors, or near heating system components).

Fave snacks: Fruits, seeds, nuts, other insects, and sweets.

Danger zone: Some ants can bite or sting, although most home-dwelling species do not.

How to ditch ’em: First, find entry points and seal them with caulk or petroleum jelly.

Natural ant repellants include:

  • cream of tartar
  • pure cinnamon
  • coffee grinds
  • garlic (yes, they’re like vampires)
  • chili pepper
  • paprika
  • cloves
  • dried peppermint

Leave a sprinkling of one or more spice at entrances where ants enter the house to deter the critters from crossing that sacred threshold. Lemon juice and peel are also useful.

The commercial nontoxic ant repellant Orange Guard is harmless to humans and other animals, and drives ants away without harming them.

2. Bed bugs

What they look like: A bed bug has a flat oval body with six legs, about the size of an apple seed. They can be either brown or reddish brown.

Typical ‘hood: They’re found around the world, but outbreaks have centered in the United States, Canada, the UK, and other parts of Europe.

Bed bugs are found in environments where many people cycle through on a given day — this includes apartments, hostels and hotels, trains, buses, and dorm rooms (oh, we know you’ve been in that hostel or dorm room).

They can easily hide in luggage, bags, clothing, or bedding.

Home headquarters: Unsurprisingly, these pests love to hang out in and around the bed. Bed bugs’ small, flat bodies allow them to hide quite easily in seams of mattresses, bed frames, headboards, other bedroom furniture, pet beds, behind wallpaper, in clothing, or any other household clutter.

Fave snacks: Blood. Bed bugs can live for up to a year in between “meals.” This is bad news for people who like to keep their blood inside their body. So, people, then.

Danger zone: Bed bugs don’t transmit diseases and are not considered a public health hazard. However, their bites cause itching, and dealing with an infestation can cause anxiety and insomnia (and, sometimes, a rash on your butt).

In some cases, bed bug bites can trigger a serious allergic reaction, but this is fairly rare.

How to ditch ’em: Unfortunately, getting rid of these little critters is hardly a walk in the park.

  1. First, wash all surfaces where bed bugs might dwell (sheets, pillows, towels, clothing, curtains, etc.) in hot water and dried at the hottest setting for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Next, scrub the mattress with a stiff brush and vacuum it and the surrounding room thoroughly, disposing of the vacuum cleaner bags immediately.
  3. Cover the mattress in a bed bug cover (available at most home goods stores) or toss it if it’s really been infested. Be careful when trashing bed-buggy items. Wrap anything in heavy plastic and packing tape, and label it clearly so others know it contains bed bugs.
  4. Seal up peeling wallpaper and cracks in floorboards to remove future hiding spots, and clear up any household clutter around the bedroom.
  5. Pure essential oils (cinnamon, lemongrass, clove, peppermint, lavender, thyme, tea tree, and eucalyptus) can repel bed bugs from setting up shop in the first place, so spray ‘em in your suitcase before heading out on a trip and before coming home again.

3. Bees and wasps

What they look like: Bees are 1/2 inch to 1 inch in length and oval-shaped, with six legs, two sets of wings, and antennae.

They are usually golden yellow with brown or black stripes, although carpenter bees are blue-black with a yellow furry patch on their backs and usually armed with tools for sanding furniture (they’re not, but, you know).

Hornets have much larger bodies and are usually black and brown with some orange-yellow. Wasps are thinner, with long legs and jagged yellow and black stripes.

Also, bees are vegetarian and wonderful, and wasps are spiteful assholes. But they still have uses in the environment.

Don’t bother bees, and they won’t bother you.

Typical ‘hood: Bees, wasps, and hornets dig temperate climates, although they’ve adapted to thrive in pretty much all habitats. They can be found around the world.

Home headquarters: These arthropods are creative house-hunters! Bees, wasps, and hornets often build nests underground, in trees, in empty man-made structures (barns, cars, attics, etc.), or even chimneys.

They also love sweet stuff and hang out near fruit trees and garbage cans. Mmmm, yes, that sweet, sweet garbage.

Fave snacks: Bees love to munch on pollen and nectar from flowers. Hornets and wasps are omnivorous and eat smaller flies and insects as well as fruit, sap, and human garbage.

Danger zone: Many people are allergic to bee, hornet, and wasp stings. For those with allergies, a single sting can be deadly. For those without serious allergies, the venom from stings can result in painful, itchy, and swollen areas.

How to ditch ’em: Bees, wasps, and yellowjackets are actually quite important for ecosystems (they pollinate plants and crops and manage other pests by preying on them).

It’s best to just let them bee (lol) unless they’ve completely infested a home or are a direct threat to someone with an allergy. A random bee in the room wants no trouble with you.

  1. To remove an active nest, wait for the queen to leave (she’s the big gal) and then fill the nest with dirt to discourage a new queen from setting up shop. (“Eww, this place is nasty, let’s go somewhere else.”)
  2. You can use nontoxic essential oil sprays and containment traps (with bait) to discourage all kinds of flying, stinging creatures.
  3. Fun fact: Since wasps are extremely territorial and will not set up near another nest, hanging a fake nest near your home can keep wasps from moving in nearby.
  4. Simply removing a nest or drowning it in soapy water can be effective, but can be dangerous as insects — especially wasps — don’t go down without a fight (they might just fight you anyway, for the sake of it).

4. Chiggers

What they look like: Well, they’re extremely tiny (smaller than a period at the end of a sentence) and red. Good luck spotting one of ’em on its lonesome.

Typical ‘hood: In the United States, chiggers are typically found in the Southeast or Midwest regions.

Home headquarters: Damp wooded areas or pastures and fields with lots of tall grasses. Chiggers often attach themselves to the tops of socks or waistbands.

Fave snacks: Animal blood. Chiggers are actually the larvae of harvest mites, which are vegetarian when full-grown but parasitic in this specific stage.

Danger zone: Chigger bites are extremely itchy but carry no serious health risks (except an infection derived from scratching).

How to ditch ’em:

  1. Prevent chiggers from attaching to clothing or skin by wearing long layers, using bug spray, and avoiding areas known to house chiggers.
  2. After walking in a chigger-infested area, take a hot shower with lots of soap and wash clothing with hot water.

5. Fleas

What they look like: They’re red-brown, have a narrow body about 1/8 of an inch long (or smaller), with long claws on all six long legs.

Typical ‘hood: All over the world.

Home headquarters: The hair or fur of humans or animals.

Fave snacks: Human and animal blood. To each their own.

Danger zone: Fleabites are itchy and can trigger allergic reactions. Fleas can be dangerous (in addition to simply annoying) in the house because they transmit serious diseases like typhus and tapeworms.

How to ditch ’em: Using special pet preventative medications can stop fleas from latching on in the first place. Once they’ve made it indoors, though, fleas are difficult to remove.

  1. Start by vacuuming frequently (especially in areas where pets hang out) and discard the bag after each session.
  2. Wash pets frequently with pet-friendly soap and hot (not scalding!) water.
  3. Use traps that attract bugs by emitting light and heat.
  4. Natural herbs and aromatics like lemon, citronella, wormwood, and rosemary can also deter fleas. Mix a few drops of oil with water in a spray bottle and spritz dogs every other day.

Note: Use extreme caution with essential oils and pets. While EOs can, in some instances, be used on dogs, horses, and other farm animals (with proper dosage and professional guidance), they should not be used on cats, birds, small rodents, or fish/reptiles.

6. Flies

What they look like: Dark grey or black body, six legs, wings, and an oval body about 1/4 inch long. Not as much like Jeff Goldblum as we hoped, either.

Typical ‘hood: Everywhere

Home headquarters: Where people are — homes, barns, dumps, etc.

Fave snacks: Garbage, animal poop, and rotting ickiness of all varieties.

Danger zone: Houseflies can spread bacteria and diseases like food poisoning and dysentery. Some kinds of biting flies can transmit illnesses through the spread of human blood.

How to ditch ’em:

  1. Clean up garbage, take out the trash, and mop up spills ASAP. Clean your sink drains!
  2. Put screens on windows and sliding doors to prevent bugs from getting in from outside.
  3. Fashion some homemade traps (sans harmful chemicals) to control flies inside the house. A venus fly trap plant might remove a few of the blighters from your vicinity, too.

7. Lice

What they look like: Lice are grey-white bugs the size of a sesame seed. Nits (lice eggs, which are more commonly seen than full-grown adults) appear as yellow, tan, or brown dots.

Also a fantastic series of rap records by Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman. These, however, are likely to itch less.

Typical ‘hood: All over the world.

Home headquarters: Lice usually hang out on the scalp, although some varieties can infest the rest of the body (looking at you, pubic lice).

Fave snacks: Human and animal blood.

Danger zone: Itching, insomnia, and infected sores due to itching are the worst side effects.

How to ditch ’em:

  1. Lather, rinse, repeat. The best (and most environmentally-friendly) way to ditch lice is by washing all clothes in hot water and soap. Use tea tree oil shampoo and then follow with a rinse made with equal parts vinegar and water.
  2. Use a special nit comb to go through the hair and remove nits. Spray an essential oil like peppermint or tea tree on the comb before combing and in the hair afterward.

8. Mosquitoes

What they look like: They’ve got a brown body with thin wings and six long, thin legs.

Typical ‘hood: All around the world.

Home headquarters: Mosquitoes typically lay eggs in still water (although some species have adapted past this requirement), so they’re often found near lakes, swamps, ponds, marshes, and tidal areas.

They’re especially active during spring and summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

Fave snacks: Female mosquitoes bite humans and animals and consume blood to provide nutrients for laying eggs. Adult males snack on nectar from flowers.

Danger zone: Nearly everyone’s experienced the most common mosquito side effect — a red, itchy bite. The swelling and itchiness occur as the body’s reaction to mosquito saliva.

‘Skeeters are infamous for carrying and transmitting diseases like malaria, encephalitis, West Nile virus, yellow fever, and heartworm, a serious disease for dogs.

How to ditch ’em: Yes, it is possible to manage mosquitoes without pouring on the DEET:

  1. First, make the house an inhospitable environment for the insects — keep windows closed and install screens, drain any standing water (to prevent breeding), and keep the grass short if you have a yard.
  2. Before hanging out outdoors during the spring or summer, put on long sleeves and pants and apply a natural repellant like lemon eucalyptus oil or another essential oil like lavender, peppermint, or citronella (diluted in a carrier oil or spray, of course).
  3. Since mosquitoes are weak fliers, positioning an oscillating fan in outdoor areas can keep the bugs away without using chemicals. A bug zapper in the yard or on the porch can also work wonders.

If you’re camping in summer, you might want to stock up on DEET though. They are gonna come for you.

9. Mites

What they look like: A grizzly bear — in an invisibility cloak. You might not be able to see these with the naked eye (in that you definitely won’t, because they’re too small).

Typical ‘hood: All humid environments.

Home headquarters: Where people and animals spend a lot of time — particularly in the bedroom and pet bed areas.

Fave snacks: Dust mites are omnivorous but not parasitic. They chow down on shedded human skin flakes, pollen, fungi, bacteria, and pet dander.

Danger zone: While mites themselves aren’t dangerous, many people are allergic to them. Most people allergic to “dust” are actually reacting to mite feces and body parts (brings new meaning to the phrase “I mite poop”).

How to ditch ’em: Getting rid of mites can be tricky, given that they’re invisible.

  1. Step one should be reducing humidity by grabbing a dehumidifier.
  2. After that, a little bit of elbow grease is the best way to rid a home of mites. Vacuum and mop human and pet sleeping areas often to reduce dust.
  3. Regularly wash bedding, curtains, and any other textiles in bedrooms. Consider zipping the mattress and/or pillows into bug-proof covers.
  4. Consider the mite situation before buying new stuff — choose washable or nonfabric furniture, décor, and floor coverings that make dust management easy.

10. Meal moths

What they look like: Meal moth larvae are 1/2 an inch long and off-white. Adult moths are about the same length, but grey and reddish-brown colored with long wings.

Typical ‘hood: All around the world.

Home headquarters: In cupboards and pantries, especially in and around packages of grains, pet food, candy, and dried fruit.

Fave snacks: The list is pretty extensive — meal moths certainly live up to their name:

To be honest, you should try recommending the keto diet to a meal moth. It’ll be gone in a flash.

Danger zone: Bugs’ waste and secretions contaminate food, and some people experience allergic reactions as a result. In humid climates, food bugs can secrete compounds that are carcinogenic.

How to ditch ’em: Luckily, pantry and meal bugs are fairly easy to get rid of.

  1. Once you pick up on an infestation, put on the rubber gloves and start cleaning.
  2. Toss any packages with bugs and carefully inspect even unopened packages for larvae or adult bugs — meal moths are more than willing to chew through cardboard or aluminum foil to get to the goodies.
  3. After everything’s been cleared, vacuum the crevices of cabinets and wash them with hot, soapy water.
  4. If bugs are a recurring problem in your kitchen, consider storing nonperishables in the refrigerator or in glass, metal, or plastic canisters.
  5. Clean the kitchen regularly to prevent future infestations.

11. Spiders

What they look like: You know the drill: eight dang legs, with bodies that can be brown, black, gray, yellow, or beige.

Typical ‘hood: All over the world.

Home headquarters: Spiders live pretty much everywhere, so it’s hard to generalize. Spiders in houses tend to hang out in nooks and crannies, in cupboards, closets, chests, woodpiles, and under furniture.

Fave snacks: Other insects, smaller spiders, and various tiny invertebrates. Spiders are carnivores, but their teeny-tiny mouths can’t harm humans or other large mammals — unless they’re poisonous, but this is rare.

Danger zone: Although many people are afraid of spiders, they’re usually largely beneficial.

The creepy-crawly arachnids eat other insects, including other spiders, roaches, earwigs, flies, moths, and mosquitoes.

Black widow spiders and brown recluse spiders are the only poisonous species in the U.S. and the others are mostly chipping in to help your pest problem.

How to ditch ’em: Most of the time, spiders keep to themselves and can actually reduce populations of other pests. Even if you’ve got arachnophobia, see if you can leave them alone.

However:

  1. If you’re concerned about poisonous spiders, call a local pest control organization, since they can be dangerous when disturbed.
  2. Clear away clutter in the house, trim long grass or vegetation outside, and get into the habit of cleaning and vacuuming storage areas regularly.
  3. Discourage regular spider populations from getting out of hand by spraying nests with saline solution.
  4. A spray made with crushed chestnuts or essential oils can also be effective in getting rid of arachnids.

12. Cockroaches

What they look like: 0.5 to 1.5 inches long, with six legs and long antennae. Roaches are brown with light-colored or black markings on the back of the head (depending on which specific species it is).

Typical ‘hood: All over the world, particularly in densely populated cities.

Home headquarters: They set up base in warm, humid areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and basements, as well as heating pipes and drains.

Fave snacks: Pretty much everything, but they particularly love to chow down on starches and will eat paper, cardboard, boxes, and any food scraps.

Danger zone: Roach saliva, feces, and body parts can cause allergic reactions, particularly in children. People with asthma are especially susceptible to cockroach allergies.

The creepy-crawlies can also transmit bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, parasitic worms, and other pathogens.

How to ditch ’em: Since roaches are largely nocturnal, they often crawl around unseen — spotting one roach, unfortunately, usually means that its buddies are hiding around somewhere.

They’re stubborn (it takes some chutzpah to survive nuclear war, after all), but not impossible to get rid of.

  1. Prevent an infestation by keeping counters clean (wipe ‘em down with white vinegar), draining sinks, and storing food in the fridge or in sealed glass or metal containers.
  2. Seal any big gaps in walls and floors with caulk and plug up sinks with drains.
  3. Roaches hate boric acid, so use borax to thinly line the perimeters of rooms and existing cracks.
  4. Whole bay leaves can also deter cockroaches.

13. Ticks

What they look like: They’ve got eight legs with a small, round, reddish-brown body. Ticks measure between 1/4 inch and 1 inch long.

Typical ‘hood: All around the world. In the U.S., they’re particularly prevalent throughout the East Coast and California.

Home headquarters: Ticks can’t fly but are great jumpers, so they hang out on shrubs and in tall grasses, where they can hop onto passing mammalian hosts. They usually live in wooded areas with plenty of grass and natural debris on the ground.

Fave snacks: Human and animal blood.

Danger zone: Ticks are infamous carriers of numerous serious diseases, from Lyme disease to various fevers and even encephalitis. Lyme disease can become chronic, which is especially nasty.

How to ditch ’em: Ticks can’t get into a house without jumping onto a host, so the best way to get rid of them is to prevent them from entering in the first place.

  1. When walking through areas known to have ticks (forests, fields, etc.), wear long pants tucked into tall, light-colored socks.
  2. Avoid yard ticks by keeping grass and shrubs trimmed.
  3. After outdoor activities, do a thorough tick check (and be sure to check children and pets, too!) and carefully remove any little suckers.

14. Termites

What they look like: They’re between 1/2 and 3/8 inches long, with four long wings and a brown, black, or yellow body. Termites are often confused for ants because they look quite similar.

Typical ‘hood: The United States, South America, Africa, Australia, and Southern Asia.

Drywood termites live in climates where the ground doesn’t freeze in winter, but subterranean termites can survive pretty much anywhere.

Home headquarters: Piles of mulch, decomposing trees, stumps, and houses or other wooden buildings. Mmm, rotting wood, nom nom nom.

Fave snacks: Dead wood, stumps, roots, and mulch. Also, log homes and any untreated siding.

Danger zone: While they don’t carry any diseases, termites are voracious eaters. In the U.S., termite prevention and treatment cost about $2 billion per year.

How to ditch ’em:

  1. Prevent termites by keeping mulch piles and woodpiles far from a house’s foundation (30 feet if possible).
  2. Try to avoid building wooden structures against the foundation or near a crawl space, and keep plant material to a minimum.
  3. Borax, orange oil, and neem oil are effective but nontoxic (to humans and pets, at least) treatments.
  4. Introducing a harmless predatory species, like nematodes, to your yard can also keep termite populations in check.

Essential oils that repel bugs

If you don’t want to use pesticides, you can try using essential oils to help keep bugs out of your home. Essential oils are complex combinations of plant substances that researchers have found to effectively repel a variety of pests.

To use essential oils as a bug repellent, add 10 to 20 drops of each oil to 2 ounces of distilled water and 2 ounces of white vinegar in a glass spray bottle. Shake it gently and spritz it wherever bugs can enter your home, like around windows and doorways

You can also add a few drops of essential oil to cotton balls and put them in these same areas.

Although essential oils are generally safe for people and the environment, be careful not to use them where your pets can reach them, since they can be toxic for cats and dogs if they’re ingested.

These are some of the essential oils that can help keep creepy crawlers out of your home:

  • Catnip oil: This contains the chemical compound nepetalactone, which researchers have found repels mosquitoes 10 times more effectively than DEET.Peterson CJ, et al. (2011). Catnip Essential Oil and Its Nepetalactone Isomers as Repellents for Mosquitoes. DOI: 10.1021/bk-2011-1090.ch004
  • Cinnamon oil: This can kill mosquito eggs and repel adult mosquitoes.Cheng SS, et al. (2004). Chemical composition and mosquito larvicidal activity of essential oils from leaves of different Cinnamomum osmophloeum provenances. DOI: 10.1021/jf0497152
  • Cedarwood oil: This repels ants, fleas, ticks, bedbugs, and other creepy crawlers.Eller FJ, et al. (2014). Bioactivity of cedarwood oil and cedrol against arthropod pests. DOI: 10.1603/EN13270
  • Citronella oil: An ingredient in many mosquito repellents, this oil is made from different varieties of lemongrass. Researchers discovered that combining it with vanillin oil can keep mosquitoes away for up to 3 hours.Konkaew C, et al. (2011). Effectiveness of citronella preparations in preventing mosquito bites: Systematic review of controlled laboratory experimental studies. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3156.2011.02781.x
  • Lavender oil: Although it may be calming for humans, the smell repels ants, moths, bedbugs, and other pests.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE): This was approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an effective and long-lasting mosquito repellent. Olé!
  • Peppermint oil: This can kill mosquito eggs and keep away adult mosquitoes, flies, ants, and other bugs that hate its minty smell.Kumar S, et al. (2011). Bioefficacy of Mentha piperita essential oil against dengue fever mosquito Aedes aegypti L. DOI: 10.1016%2FS2221-1691(11)60001-4
  • Tea tree oil: Used since ancient times in its native Australia, this can repel and kill a wide variety of pests, including flies, lice, fleas, ticks, and bedbugs.Klauck V, et al. (2014). Insecticidal and repellent effects of tea tree and andiroba oils on flies associated with livestock. DOI: 10.1111/mve.12078

Disadvantages of essential oils for bug control

Essential oils are often touted as a cure-all alternative in any situation, but it’s always best to exercise caution.

While these essential oils have been found to be effective at keeping bugs away, their effects won’t last as long as chemicals like DEET or picaridin, so they may need to be frequently reapplied.

It’s important to be aware that unlike pesticides, the government doesn’t regulate essential oils. Their strength may vary, and not all essential oils are of equal quality. Plus some can be quite irritating or even dangerous when applied incorrectly.

Manufacturers of pesticides must provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with evidence that the product is effective and will last for a certain amount of time.

With essential oils, you’ll need to do your research on safety and efficacy before committing to a product.

Best home bug spray

Bug sprays are available that repel a variety of bugs or target specific pests.

You should look for sprays containing safe ingredients that have been registered with the EPA and approved by the CDC. These ingredients include:

  • DEET
  • picaridin
  • IR3535 (ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate) (no, you don’t have to memorize that)

The spray should also be free of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), components of aerosol sprays that can deplete the ozone layer. Fortunately, CFCs have been banned in most countries.

Here are some indoor bug sprays that have positive online reviews:

Pet-friendly bug spray

Most organic bug sprays are safe to use around your pets because they contain essential oils instead of chemicals like DEET.

DEET, on the other hand, is a common ingredient in pest repellents that can be very dangerous for dogs, causing problems ranging from conjunctivitis to seizures.

Although these products are safe, you should still keep your pets away while you’re spraying them and until the sprayed surfaces are dry.

These are a few highly rated, pet-friendly bug sprays:

Takeaway

Not all bugs have it in for you, but some are pretty dangerous. Others are just annoying and unhygienic.

Each one requires different methods of repellant and removal, but it’s worth taking the steps to do so. However, some, such as spiders, are helping you remove other bugs. So it’s worth working out if you really need to go Rambo on your arthro-pals.

Plenty of products are available, linked throughout the article, that can help you remove pests without harming the environment or your pets.

Here’s a guide to bites, stings, and relieving them.

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How to Get Rid of 14 House Bugs — the Nontoxic Way

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7 Pumpkin Spice Latte Alternatives That Will Pick Your Fall Right Up

Pumpkin spice latte — the one thing that can make you forget about the biting wind, driving rain, and hard-to-judge weather patterns. (Do you wear a coat? A sweater? A coat and a sweater? Which way is up anymore?)

But we know better than anyone just how overwhelming the pumpkin spice onslaught can be. Yes, it’s delicious. Just because the leaves are about to turn orange doesn’t mean your coffee order should follow suit.

Disposable coffee cup crushed on tile floor because it is a pumpkin spice latte, studio shot, header crop
Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

Sometimes, you just need a break.

From creamy tahini and chocolate to spicy honey and ginger, these seven mug-friendly drinks taste just as awesome (if not more so!) than the infamous PSL.

Without further ado, here are some nom-worthy alternatives to the mighty pumpkin spice latte.

1. Tahini hot chocolate

Not PSL: Tahini Hot Chocolate
Photo: My Name Is Yeh

Kiss the watery cocoa of your childhood good-bye. Mix powder with water or milk? Pah.

Rich tahini, coconut milk, and cocoa powder blend into this nutty drink you’ll want every night.

Sweeten with a spoonful or two of honey (bring out the sweetener even more with a pinch of sea salt) (trust us) and serve with your desired cocoa fixin’s.

2. Mulled cranberry-apple cider

Not PSL: cranberry cider
Photo: The Inspired Room

Classic mulled cider gets some extra drip for this tart drink.

Mix cranberry juice (not the sugar-heavy cranberry cocktail — actual cranberry juice) and fresh apple cider with orange slices, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and whole cloves. Apple cider makes everything better.

Though the juices are naturally super sweet, add a sprinkle or two of brown sugar if you’d like. Boil the mixture, then serve, possibly spiked with a three-second pour of bourbon.

3. Almond milk chai latte

Not PSL: Chai Latte
Photo: The Foodie Teen

Before settling for a $5 chai at the café around the corner, try making your own. It’s easier than you think. Grab a few chai tea bags to steep in hot almond milk.

Add some fall spices, vanilla extract, and a touch of maple syrup.

The secret to achieving that frothy, barista-quality latte yourself? Give it a quick blitz in the blender.

4. Vegan Mayan drinking chocolate

Not PSL: Mayan Drinking Chocolate
Photo: Minimalist Baker

This is no ordinary hot cocoa. Melt chopped dark chocolate with non-dairy milk, then sprinkle in cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.

Take this drink to the next level by shaking in spicy cayenne and a pinch of sea salt.

One sip and you’ll wonder why you ever thought that opening a package of powdered cocoa was a good idea.

5. Honey miso latte

Not PSL: Honey and Miso Latte
Photo: Golubka Kitchen

This spicy and sweet drink is a caffeine-free alternative to tea and coffee, with all the joy of gulping down a warm latte. And that is so much joy, in case you didn’t know.

You may be more familiar with miso paste (made from fermented soybeans) in your soup at a Japanese-inspired restaurant, but this funky spread is just as good on toast, in dressings, and in lattes.

Miso paste is available in most grocery stores, but you can sub in a teaspoon of tahini if you’re not a fan of that distinct miso flavor.

6. Lemon, ginger, and honey tonic

Not PSL: Lemon, Ginger, and Honey Tonic
Photo: Simple Green Smoothies

Not only is this tart drink an immunity booster, it’s the perfect solution for those days when you reach for a tea bag, only to realize you drank the last cup yesterday (goshdangit).

Instead of heading to the store to stock up on chamomile, slice up a lemon or two and a big piece of ginger, then cram into a large jar.

Pour honey until it fills the open spaces of the jar. Then, seal it tightly and store in the fridge.

To make a cup: Scoop honey mixture into a mug, then pour boiling water over. Let it stand for a few minutes, then inhale. Job done.

7. Coconut latte

Not PSL: coconut latte
Photo: How Sweet It Is

If you’re one of those “extra pumps of syrup” kind of coffee-drinkers, try your luck with this latte. While coconut isn’t quite as… pumpkin spicey as your favorite PSL, it’s still one heck of a fall/winter warmer.

A better-for-you syrup of coconut sugar, milk, and extract will do the trick.

Pour into a piping hot espresso and top with steamed milk and toasted coconut shavings. What is pumpkin spice anyway?

Takeaway

We know you’ll end up defaulting back to pumpkin spice lattes anyway. We’re all human, and no-one’s judging.

It’s just nice to know that there are other options out there, isn’t it?

If you’re in more of a party mood, when lattes aren’t quite going to cut it, why not have a peek at our fall cocktails?

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7 Pumpkin Spice Latte Alternatives That Will Pick Your Fall Right Up

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Whoa, There’s *This* Much Sugar In A Few Squirts of Your Fave Condiments?

Ever picked teriyaki chicken over General Tso’s and prided yourself on resisting the fried option?

Nixed the oil-based vinaigrette on your salad for a “lite” poppyseed dressing?

Liberally spread your sandwiches with honey mustard instead of mayo?

Generic sugary condiments on a blue background header crop
Paperclip/Stocksy

Before patting yourself on the back for choosing what you think is the healthier condiment, take a minute to consider that the alternative may have saved you grams of fat, but it filled that void with another ingredient: sugar, and lots of it.

So many bottled condiments are loaded with sugar. Going by many pseudonyms — such as high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, and cane syrup — sugar sneaks into the most unexpected dipping sauces, spreads, and dressings.

It’s high time to get savvier about the sugar we’ve unknowingly been adding to our food. We broke down nine condiments that pack a surprising amount of the sweet stuff.

Since we think there’s a difference between the suggested serving size and how much we’re really layering on, we broke it down by comparing suggested servings versus reality.

We also rounded up from the figures in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) FoodData Central sugar measurement for food. We can’t account for all brands, but where we could, we used data from the generic product and rounded up to the nearest whole number. (Given how processed many store-bought condiments can be, it’s safe to assume any product is more sugary than you suspected.)

And don’t miss our tips for keeping your consumption in check so your condiments aren’t hampering your eat-less-sugar goals.

A handy visual guide

infographic showing how much sugar is in popular condiments

1. Ketchup

A standard ketchup bottle will tell you one serving is a tablespoon and packs 4 grams of sugar (the USDA lists generic ketchup as having 3.19 grams of sugar per tablespoon).

But who really consumes a measly tablespoon with their basket of fries or grilled cheese? That’s right — literally nobody.

We’re all easily putting away at least two servings of the stuff each time we use it, so if we’re being realistic, we’re eating a minimum of 2 tablespoons — that’s about 8 grams of sugar.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tbsp = 4 g sugar
Reality: 2 tbsp = 8 g sugar

2. Sriracha

Finding out sugar is listed second on the ingredient list behind that iconic rooster logo is a heartbreaking moment. Why couldn’t sriracha be saved? We thought it had our backs, then bam! Right in the betrayal.

The USDA lists sriracha as having 0.982 grams of sugar per teaspoon (so let’s call it 1 gram). But who was the last hot sauce lover you saw using a teaspoon to measure out their serving? Come on.

So yeah, that’s not realistic either.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tsp = 1 g sugar
Reality: 3 tsp = 3 g sugar

3. Barbecue sauce

Sugar content in barbecue sauce varies based on the brand. But no matter what kind you’re using, it’s a pretty good bet that it’ll have at least 4.65 grams of the sweet stuff per 1-tablespoon (about 14-gram) serving in the form of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and/or molasses.

(We’re calling that 5 grams of sugar, and to be honest, many brands of barbecue sauce have at least 6 grams.)

But when did you last use less than 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce to baste a chicken breast, marinate a steak, or slow-cook pulled pork? We’ll wait. That basting takes a lot of tablespoons — and a lot of sugar.

Hot diggity dang, is it tasty, though.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tbsp = 5 g sugar
Reality: 2 tbsp = 10 g sugar

4. Mayonnaise

Most mayos proudly claim they contain zero grams of sugar per serving, but the ingredients clearly show sugar is involved. What gives?!

Annoyingly enough, according to food-labeling laws, a product can be advertised as having no sugar if it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. Um… that’s still sugar, folks. Sorry to break it to you.

Regardless, if you’re adding regular mayonnaise, sugar isn’t the problem so much as fat content. The “light” varieties substitute sugars for fats to retain flavor, so they have more stealth sugars.

(The USDA lists one 15.6-ounce tablespoon of light mayonnaise as having 0.55 grams of sugars, which is definitely more than 0.5 grams. Step up your mayonnaise labeling game, world.)

While mayo manufacturers aren’t technically breaking the rules, they’re still being sorta sneaky, especially for anyone who’s avoiding all the sugars.

So if you’re adding more than a tablespoon (chicken salad, anyone?), you’re adding at least 1 gram of sugar (unless you’re using these recipes). No, it’s not the end of the world, but it can sneak up on you.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tbsp = 0 g sugar
Reality: 2 tbsp = 1 g sugar

5. Sweet relish

Given its name, it’s no surprise sweet relish is a sugar-laden condiment.

A 1-tablespoon serving comes with a hefty 4.37 grams of it, according to the USDA (we’ll call that 5 grams for the sake of helping you cut sugars).

This is often due to high fructose corn syrup — something to consider before you start dolloping generous spoonfuls of relish onto your hot dog.

Then again, if you’re eating a hot dog, you probably aren’t in prime “tracking added sugars and processed ingredients” mode.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tbsp = 5 g sugar
Reality: 2 tbsp = 10 g sugar

6. Honey mustard

Many people choose honey mustard as a lower-fat alternative to mayo and think it’s perfectly healthy because, you know, there are antioxidants in honey.Alvarez-Suarez JM, et al. (2013). Honey as a source of dietary antioxidants: Structures, bioavailability and evidence of protective effects against human chronic diseases. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23298140

So it might come as a shock that in most commercial brands, honey is listed way down on the ingredient list, well after both high fructose corn syrup and sugar. 😱 Egads!

Sugar counts can creep up to 3 grams per tablespoon (the USDA says 2.47 grams for generic honey mustard), meaning this condiment easily packs at least 6 grams of sugar when you smother your meal with the sweet stuff.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tbsp = 3 g sugar
Reality: 2 tbsp = 6 g sugar

7. Light or fat-free dressing

Many light or fat-free dressings pile on the sugar (plus other hard-to-pronounce ingredients) in an effort to replace the flavor and consistency that the missing fat would offer.

Light or fat-free dressings can have 3 (ranch), 5 (raspberry vinaigrette, poppyseed), or even 6 (Thousand Island) grams of sugar per 2-tablespoon serving.

Reality dictates that you can easily double or triple that when you’re drizzling it onto your salad or sandwich — especially if the dressing comes pre-poured on a restaurant dish.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 2 tbsp = 6 g sugar
Reality: 4 tbsp = 12 g sugar

8. Teriyaki sauce

Bottled teriyaki sauces use plain sugar, cane syrup, or high fructose corn syrup to get that sweet flavor that cuts the saltiness from the soy.

Depending on which brand you use, you could be putting away 2 to 7 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Yikes. The USDA puts the sugar content of an 18-gram tablespoon of generic, ready-to-serve teriyaki sauce at 2.54 grams. We’ll call it 3 grams, but that’s conservative — some brands of teriyaki sauce can be a lot more sugary.

If your local takeout restaurant is using bottled sauce to make your favorite teriyaki dinner, you can bet it’s using more than a tablespoon at a time (that’s why it tastes so good).

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tbsp = 3 g sugar
Reality: 2 tbsp = 6 g sugar

9. Hoisin sauce

A popular condiment for meat and stir-fries, hoisin sauce is also a land mine when it comes to sugar content.

Sugar appears first or second on most bottled versions’ ingredient lists, which explains why a single tablespoon can easily contain 9 or 10 grams. Yikes.

The USDA lists a 1-tablespoon serving of hoisin as having 4.91 grams of sugar, so we’ll let hoisin off with 5 grams per tablespoon. But just know that many brands hit a higher mark.

Sugar per serving

Suggested: 1 tbsp = 5 g sugar
Reality: 2 tbsp = 10 g sugar

Control those condiments

Now that you’re clued in to how much sugar could be hiding in those bottles, rest assured that you don’t necessarily have to eliminate these condiments entirely (that would be a sad, sad existence). We’d never ask that of you.

Instead, just being aware of the contents of your condiments can be enough to make you choosier about when you use them.

For example, if you’re enjoying a rare afternoon at a ball game and want a burger with relish, go for it. But you may want to think twice about that sizable “drizzle” of ranch on your daily salad.

You can also choose healthier alternatives that keep sugar to a minimum.

Here are some more tips for keeping those sugary condiments to a reasonable minimum.

1. Keep an eye on quantity

Most condiments have a serving size of 1 or 2 tablespoons. If you don’t want to give them up, try sticking to those portions.

Eyeballing serving sizes can be one way to keep yourself in check. Think of a tablespoon as roughly the size of your thumb tip and use that as a guide when squeezing out your condiment of choice.

It takes a bit of practice, but it’s better (and more realistic) than toting around a measuring spoon for every meal.

2. Find less-sweet swaps

Explore other ways to flavor your food that replace or at least cut down on the sugar-laden condiments. Some recommendations, for starters:

  • Dijon mustard has a nice kick that you’ll never get from honey mustard.
  • Salsa (check the ingredients for added sugar) can be a fun way to top salads.
  • Slather your sandwich with hummus instead of mayo.
  • Herbs and spices, such as cinnamon, can provide subtle, complex natural sweetness without any sugar at all.

There are plenty of no-sugar alternatives out there, and experimenting with them can make you feel more like you’re adding to your options instead of taking away from them.

3. DIY it!

If you’re feeling crafty, make your own lower-sugar versions of your favorite condiments — especially if you know you’re going to be using more than a single serving at a time.

Most homemade condiment recipes are actually pretty simple, use whole-food ingredients, and contain little to no added sugar.

For example, try this roasted red pepper dip that literally takes 5 minutes.

Takeaway

You don’t have to punish yourself or make food bland and lifeless by skipping the sauce.

Instead, just think about how much sugar condiments might be adding to your food and either use less or make your own. That way, you can keep tabs on the sugar.

Here’s how to make 37 healthy dressings, marinades, and spreads, so you can up your homemade condiment game and add flavor to your food.

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Sugar’s Up. Vitamin A Is Out. The Deets on the New FDA Nutrition Label

One of the easiest ways to know what’s *actually* in your favorite store-bought foods — the heat-and-eat tamales, instant udon, or that strawberry granola you can’t live without — is to check out the nutrition facts label located on the back of the package.

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If you’re a regular label looker, you may have noticed it now seems a bit different — and that’s because it recently got a much-needed makeover. The nutrition facts label hadn’t had a major update in 20 years, and yeah, a lot’s changed in the last 2 decades.

A few essential changes were needed to make it more current and useful when it comes to decoding what’s in the stuff that you’re putting in your bod.

Let’s take a closer look at the brand spankin’ new FDA nutrition facts label and why these long overdue changes are good news.

Food for thought…

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency in charge of food safety and protecting public health, determines what goes on the label.

The agency decided to make changes based on new nutrition research findings and feedback from health professionals and consumers.

A bolder, better label

In a nutshell, the new and improved nutrition facts label makes it easier for you to recognize and understand the basics about the food products you buy. 

Some info on the new label is highlighted while other parts were changed or added, making it harder for food companies to be shady AF when it comes to the serving sizes and ingredients used in their products.

Serving sizes get sized up 

If you’ve ever wondered, “Seriously, who decided a measly half-cup of ice cream is a serving?” you’re not alone.

Serving sizes are based on the amount of food people typically consume, not how much they should consume. In other words: You should not use a serving size as a guideline of how much to eat.

We know, it’s confusing. 

Here’s the thing — the FDA realized they were underestimating how much of certain foods and beverages people usually consume. For those of us who typically eat more than a half-cup of double chocolate ice cream, this makes total sense.

To adjust, the FDA updated some serving sizes on the new label, including the serving size for soft drinks, to more accurately reflect what the average American consumes today. 

Another change: The serving size font is larger and in bold so it’s harder to miss the portions contained in a particular food or drink. Keep in mind that most beverages and snack foods contain multiple servings, even ones sold in teeny packages or gulp-size bottles.

So, you may be guzzling 2 to 3 servings of soda or juice without even realizing it. 

Calories you can’t miss 

Perhaps the most loved (or hated?) part of the new nutrition label is — calories. On the old label, they were listed in plain text, making them easier to overlook when quickly scanning the back of a package. 

On the new version, the calories are larger and in bold, making them stand out. This is a plus for anyone wanting to watch their intake especially from highly processed, calorie-dense foods. 

DVs got updated

Daily Values (DVs) help consumers figure out how much of a particular nutrient food contains in relation to the recommended daily intake.

The Daily Value percentage (%DV) lets you know whether a food or beverage is a good source of vitamins and minerals.

It also gives you an estimate of how much protein, total fat, total carbs, cholesterol, fiber, and sodium the food or drink will contribute to your total daily intake. 

FYI, this percentage is based on a 2,000 calorie diet. The DVs for certain nutrients have changed, so the labels have been updated accordingly.  

What’s missing 

Total fat and the percentages of vitamins A and C have been removed from the updated nutrition facts label. This removal is based on findings from research studies suggesting that it’s the type of fat, not the amount, that really impacts health. 

Vitamins A and C were removed from the label because deficiencies in these vitamins are rare in the U.S. But food companies can still list vitamins A and C on their nutrition labels if they choose.

Hey, sugar: Sweet new additions to the label

One BIG change: It’s now required for products that contain added sugars to list the total amount of added sugar on the label. It’s about time! 

Before this update, companies could lump all sugars — whether added or natural — under “Total Sugars.” This pretty much made it impossible to know how much added sugar was in a food. 

This is one of the most welcome changes on the nutrition facts label since we’ve all become smarter about sugar.

We understand the difference between natural and added sugars and there’s plenty of research saying that consuming too much added sugar isn’t good for your health. 

Now, you can see exactly how much added sugar is in your favorite breakfast cereal or flavored coffee drink, which TBH is probably a lot, so brace yourself!

When your morning snack of strawberry yogurt contains 13 grams (3.25 tsps) of added sugar and your daily matcha latte contains 19 grams (4.75 tsps), this can add up pretty quickly. 

Sugar smarts

Wondering how to measure the sugar you see on a label? For reference, 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. 

The American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugar to 6 teaspoons per day and men limit to 9 teaspoons per day. 

In addition to added sugars, vitamin D and potassium are also required to be listed on the new nutrition facts label. Many Americans don’t get enough of these nutrients, which can harm health in a number of ways. 

Takeaways

The new nutrition facts label has been updated with some really vital info for health-conscious consumers, including a call-out for added sugars, potassium, and vitamin D, along with new serving sizes and DVs.

Plus, calories and serving sizes are now printed in in-your-face bold text, so they’re harder to miss.  

The changes are designed to empower consumers to be more informed and in charge of what they’re buying, eating, and drinking. Cheers!

Jillian Kubala is a registered dietitian based in Westhampton, NY. Jillian holds a master’s degree in nutrition from Stony Brook University School of Medicine as well as an undergraduate degree in nutrition science. She runs a private practice based on the east end of Long Island, NY, where she helps her clients achieve optimal wellness through nutritional and lifestyle changes.

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What Exactly Is Retin-A? What Can It Do? And Everything Else You Need to Know

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If there’s one skin care ingredient that’s gotten a ton of hype over the last decade, it’s retinoids — the group of vitamin A derivatives that provide countless skin benefits, including treating acne, increasing cell turnover, boosting collagen production, and smoothing out fine lines and wrinkles

Underneath the umbrella of retinoids, there are a slew of other terms you may have heard of, including retinol, trentinoin, and Retin-A. So, what’s the difference between them? Are they the same thing? Well, sort of, but not exactly. We’ve got the deets on what’s what and how to use them.

Vocab: Vitamin A derivatives

  • Retinoids: Prescription-strength vitamin A derivatives
  • Tretinoin: One type of prescription retinoid
  • Retin-A: A brand name for prescription tretinoin
  • Retinols: Weaker, over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin A products

Retinoids vs. retinols

“Dermatologists refer to retinoids as the prescription-strength vitamin A derivatives of which there are many,” explains Blair Murphy, M.D., dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology Manhattan and Hampton Bays and Clinical Assistant Professor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Cornell.

Among the most commonly known retinoids are: tretinoin, tazarotene, and adapalene.

Retinols are a weaker vitamin A derivative that can be purchased OTC without a prescription. They’re gentler on the skin than retinoids, but also don’t deliver the same dramatic results.

Retin-A is a brand name

Retin-A is a specific brand of topical retinoid products that contain the active ingredient tretinoin.

Retin-A requires a prescription from your dermatologist. It comes in both cream and gel formations and in varying strengths, ranging from a concentration of 0.01% to 0.1%. 

How does Retin-A work?

“All vitamin A derivatives, including Retin-A, work by binding to receptors in the skin which speeds up skin cell turnover leaving fresher, smoother, ‘newer’ skin at the surface,” explains Dr. Murphy.

“They also decrease sebum and oil production, which is what makes them so great at fighting acne, and stimulate the production of collagen to help treat and prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging.” 

Since all Retin-A can range to higher concentrations than retinol, which is available OTC, it’s not as well-tolerated by all skin types.

Retinol is less likely to cause skin irritation because it’s at a lower concentration than prescription Retin-A, or tretinoin. Because these higher concentrations are more potent, they can produce better results, but cause more irritation in the process.

The benefits of using Retin-A

Let’s put it this way: There are few things Retin-A can’t do for your skin. “It’s a gold-standard topical product for treatment and prevention of aging skin and acne, as well as other skin conditions and even some precancerous lesions,” says Dr. Murphy.

“Retin-A helps build collagen, supports healthy skin cell turnover, increases elasticity, treats fine lines, improves texture and tone, minimizes the appearance of pores, decreases oil and sebum production, and improves discoloration.” 

Reduces acne: A 1995 study showed that Retin-A is useful in not only treating acne, but also reducing the appearance of acne scars.

Acne therapy “regulates oil or sebum production, assists in exfoliation of the skin and accelerates the improvement of pigmentation from acne evening the skin tone,” explains Erum Ilyas, M.D., a dermatologist at Montgomery Dermatology in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Treats hyperpigmentation: If you’re one of the many people who live with hyperpigmentation (aka uneven skin tone) Retin-A can help by improving the thickness of your skin and accelerating cell turnover, notes Dr. Ilyas.

“When combined with hydroquinone and a mild steroid, referred to as Kligman’s formula, Retin-A can improve discoloration from a skin condition known as melasma in as little as 8 weeks.”

Reduces fine lines: This is perhaps the benefit that Retin-A has become best known and admired for. A 2012 research review supports its ability.

“Because of its ability to stimulate collagen production and thicken the skin, Retin-A can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” notes Eva M. Volf, M.D., a dermatologist in Swampscott, Massachusetts. 

Who should use Retin-A?

Most dermatologists would agree that anyone can stand to benefit from using a topical retinol to help treat one or more of their skin conditions. But there are some exceptions that are important to note. Retinoids of any kind are not safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding.

In addition, the FDA advises against children under 12 years old using Retin-A for acne, notes Dr. Volf. “This year, however, the FDA approved trifarotene cream 0.005 percent (synthetic retinoid) for children older than 9 for facial and truncal acne.”  

What side effects can one expect when using Retin-A?

Because Retin-A is stronger in concentration than retinol, its side effects tend to be worse, including redness or discoloration, dryness, swelling, burning, and even peeling.

If you experience these symptoms when using Retin-A, it’s not an immediate cause for concern — this is just how the medication works. “The skin is rapidly turning over leading to the potential for significant irritation when first starting,” says Dr. Ilyas.

But if these symptoms don’t resolve within a few weeks, she recommends discussing them with your dermatologist who can alter your regimen or change the strength of your prescription.

How to get a Retin-A prescription

If you ask for one, most doctors or healthcare providers can write a prescription for Retin-A. But it’s best that you see a board certified dermatologist since they are the most familiar with this class of medications, notes Dr. Volf.

“Prescription retinoids are usually covered by health insurance for acne, but for photoaging, expect to pay out of pocket,” she says. Your dermatologist will likely recommend starting at a low dose, between 0.01% to 0.05% (Retin-A comes in numerous strengths ranging from 0.01% to 0.1%).

“For acne, starting with a 0.025 percent concentration is common with gradual increase in the strength based on skin tolerance and clearance of acne,” says Dr Ilyas.

“For anti-aging, the 0.01 percent concentration is a common starting strength with the potential to increase in strength over time.” 

What to expect when starting Retin-A

It’s most likely that you will experience at least some redness or discoloration, irritation, and dryness when first introducing Retin-A to your skin care routine. But these symptoms usually resolve within the first few weeks of use.

Remember: Results will take time. “In the first few months, one can expect to see changes in the epidermis (top layer of skin) and will see improvement in fine and coarse wrinkling, hyperpigmentation, and sallowness,” says Dr. Volf.

“Improvements in the dermis (deep layer of skin), new formation of collagen, and reduction in collagen breakdown do not occur until after 12 months of use.”  

How to apply Retin-A

The best way to start any Retin-A-containing product is slowly — once or twice a week at most and increasing that use over time. “Start with a lower dose and increase or decrease your use accordingly with the ultimate goal of maintaining compliance with use,” says Dr. Volf.

“Retin-A is unstable in sunlight. So, I recommend that my patients apply it at bedtime, 30 minutes after they have washed their face with a gentle cleanser.” Remember that a little Retin-A goes a long way.

All you need is a pea-sized amount for your entire face. Dr. Murphy recommends sparing your eyelids and the corners of the nose and lips where more product can accumulate and cause excess irritation. 

The scoop on sunscreen and Retin-A

While sunscreen is always recommended, it’s essential when using Retin-A, since retinoids greatly increase sensitivity to sunlight. So, load up on the SPF!

Retin-A takeaway

Retin-A, as well as any retinoid, can make a great addition to your skin care routine, but there’s a reason it has to be prescribed by a medical professional. It’s strong and more concentrated than retinol, which you can purchase OTC.

If you are experiencing any unpleasant symptoms while using it, don’t hesitate to reach out to your medical professional who can tweak your dosage or recommend less frequent use.

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Why Niacinamide Should Be Part of Your Skin Care Routine — And Diet

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Niacinamide is “in”amide. As a skin care ingredient, it’s gaining popularity super fast because of a long list of reported benefits. You may even already have some products in your skin care arsenal that contain it.

So here’s the scoop on exactly what it is, what it can do for your skin, and a few ways to add it to your daily routine, along with some of our top picks for niacinamide supplements and skin care products.

What exactly is niacinamide?

Niacinamide, sometimes called nicotinamide (no relation to the addictive substance found in tobacco), is the active form of niacin (vitamin B-3). It’s the form most commonly found in niacin supplements or skin care products.

Niacin is a vitamin every single tissue in your body needs a constant supply of to continue producing energy to power your cells. It helps your body harness the energy in food you eat and transform it into something you can use. (Read: It’s pretty darn important.)

Additionally, niacin has a number of positive effects on your skin. Even better, you can get many of these benefits by consuming niacin orally OR by using niacinamide-containing skin care products.

And hey, why not both?

Skin-boosting benefits on niacinamide

If you need proof that niacinamide is pure skin food, here it is.

Many of these benefits are results of niacinamide’s potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on your skin, which allow it to protect your cells from damage.

Protects against sun damage and certain skin cancers

A high quality 2015 study of more than 300 people found that high-dose niacinamide supplementation resulted in a 23 percent decrease in the development of new nonmelanoma skin cancers compared to a placebo.

While protecting skin cells from damage caused by UV rays, niacinamide also helps rebuild healthy skin cells.

Has antibacterial properties

One animal study in 2017 found that a leave-on niacinamide formulation boosted antimicrobial peptide (AMP) activity on the skin, providing more protection against potentially harmful bacteria.

Reduces hyperpigmentation

One of the main benefits of topical niacinamide is that helps prevent hyperpigmentation, the development of discolored patches on your skin.

In a 2010 study of 101 women, those who used moisturizers containing niacinamide for 10 weeks had greater reductions in hyperpigmentation than those who used products without niacinamide.

According to a 2011 study, niacinamide seems to promote a more even skin tone by slightly decreasing melanin production without compromising the health of melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin.

Boosts skin integrity

Topical niacinamide may also increase the thickness of the stratum corneum, the top layer of your skin.

This can help your skin better hold on to moisture and improve your skin barrier function, which plays a huge role in immune health. (Remember: Your skin is your body’s biggest immune organ!)

Reduces acne

According to a 2018 study, topical niacinamide may be able to reduce the number of acne spots on your skin by 40 to 60 percent, so ummmm… sign us up!

Even for severe acne, research indicates that niacinamide may be helpful.

Reduces the appearance of wrinkles

Another win: A 2010 study found that over-the-counter creams containing niacinamide and retinyl propionate have comparable wrinkle-reducing effects to prescription tretinoin creams, with fewer side effects.

Improves skin texture

Looking to combat redness or blotchiness? Niacinamide to the rescue! It’s been shown to reduce inflammation, which in turn can help ease redness from acne, eczema, and other skin woes. Niacinamide may also help reduce pore size over time — bonus!

Moisturizes

Surprisingly, oral niacinamide intake may also help protect against water losses through the skin, leaving your skin more hydrated.

In science speak: Niacinamide helps your skin develop a ceramide (lipid) barrier which, in turn, helps retain moisture. Hello, impossibly dewy glow!

How to add niacinamide to your routine

As you can see, your skin may seriously benefit from oral or topical niacinamide. Here’s how to add it to your daily routine.

Food

Niacin is mostly found in animal foods like beef, chicken, and fish, but you can also get it from nuts, seeds, and beans. Most grain products are enriched with some niacin too. (So no worries, plant-based eaters!)

The niacin found in food is usually just plain ol’ niacin, but it’s quickly converted into niacinamide once you digest it. Your body can actually convert tryptophan (an amino acid that’s used to build proteins) into niacinamide too.

Snackin’ on B-3

Eat up! You can get some of the benefits of niacinamide from noshing on these nutrient-rich foods that contain B-3:

  • green veggies
  • beans
  • fish
  • eggs
  • milk

Most adults need at least 14 milligrams of niacin or niacin equivalents (NE) like tryptophan daily, but men and folks who are pregnant or breastfeeding have slightly higher needs.

Niacin deficiency can lead to a disease called pellagra, which has pretty much been eradicated in most developed countries.

You may want to consider supplementing if you have liver damage or an eating disorder or if you currently have or previously had an alcohol use disorder. This is def a conversation to have with your healthcare provider, though.

Supplements

Most of the benefits of oral niacin intake found in studies were based on niacinamide supplements rather than intake of niacin-containing foods. But taking sky-high doses like the ones used in some studies can result in less-than-pleasant side effects.

Taking too much niacin can cause something called niacin flush, which includes uncomfortable skin redness and irritation and some potentially more serious complications like elevated body temp or blood pressure changes.

Niacinamide is naturally “flush-free,” so you can safely take higher doses without these pesky side effects. Just another reason niacinamide is ab-fab (absolutely fabulous).

Your healthcare provider can help you navigate high-dose niacin supplementation. For instance, you may want to take a higher dose if you have an increased risk of skin cancer. Definitely consult a professional before you start taking a high dose all willy-nilly, though.

Topical products

Finally, we’ve reached topical niacinamide. Most standalone niacinamide products are formulated as lightweight serums. Niacinamide is also added to other skin care products, such as creams, which may also contain other active ingredients.

Topical niacinamide products may cause some mild irritation when you start using them. No worries, though — this effect will go away over time.

Niacinamide Serums: What to look for

You may see niacinamide listed as “niacin” and “nicotinamide” on labels.

Most formulations are 5 percent or less. Reports suggest 5 percent is effective in treating sun damage and hyperpigmentation.

If you have sensitive skin, start with a lower concentration like 2 percent.

Our fave niacinamide products

Here are our top picks for niacinamide supplements and topical products.

Skin care products

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum

With nearly 4,000 glowing Amazon reviews, this niacinamide serum is definitely a favorite. It’s got some added zinc and is vegan and cruelty-free.

Paula’s Choice BOOST 10% Niacinamide Booster

Paula’s Choice is a cult favorite for skin care enthusiasts everywhere, and this niacinamide serum does not disappoint. It’s got added antioxidants and licorice extract to boost its soothing, skin-nourishing activity.

InstaNatural Niacinamide Serum

This serum from InstaNatural is made with squeaky-clean ingredients like rosemary extract and avocado oil, but the star (of course) is the moisturizing, pore-minimizing niacinamide.

Oral supplements

Thorne Research Niacinamide

This supplement comes from a brand that healthcare professionals trust and is totally free of unnecessary ingredients. It provides 500 milligrams of extended-release, flush-free niacinamide per serving.

Nature’s Way Niacinamide

This high quality, natural niacinamide supplement is non-flushing and contains 500 milligrams per serving. It’s also vegan and gluten-free.

Jarrow Formulas Niacinamide

Jarrow Formulas is another favorite brand among healthcare providers. This niacinamide supplement is flush-free and provides 250 milligrams per serving.

Key points about niacinamide

  • Niacinamide is the active form of niacin, a vitamin your body needs to produce energy.
  • It has some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which means it has TONS of skin benefits when taken orally OR applied directly to the skin.
  • You can get niacin from food, take niacin supplements, or use topical products that contain niacinamide.
  • Talk to your doc about taking high-dose niacin supplements, because they may cause flushing. (Niacinamide supplements are flush-free!)

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A Starter Guide to Lactic Acid for Skin: Everything You Need to Know

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Lactic acid is an bonafide MVP in the glowy skin game, earning loyal followers because of its ability to gently yet effectively make skin feel brand spankin’ new.

A member of the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family, lactic acid is touted for its ability to refresh and revive even the dullest skin.

People also love its variety, affordability, and general tolerance among multiple skin types, making it a perfect introductory skin care product for those who want to move beyond the basics.

But before you join in on the buzz surrounding lactic acid, there are a few important things to consider, including whether it’s the right product for you, and whether it’s something you’ll get noticeable results with.

To help you find the right lactic acid product for your needs and budget, in this guide we’ll cover:

  • what lactic acid is
  • why it’s so beneficial to the skin
  • how to use lactic acid
  • 8 of the best lactic acid products for different skin needs
  • the best lactic acid at prices from $7 to $91

What is lactic acid?

Lactic acid is a term you’ll hear in several different realms. In the fitness world, it’s commonly associated with strenuous exercise since it builds up in your muscles during intense workouts (hello, sore abs!).

In the world of noms, lactic acid is also found in certain foods you eat like milk, beets, and sourdough bread.

In the beauty world, lactic acid is part of the family of products for mature skin called alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) which are applied topically to exfoliate old dead cells and reveal glowy #NoFilter new skin.

What does lactic acid do for skin?

Used over time, lactic acid has the ability to significantly improve the appearance of skin. Along with treating fine lines, wrinkles, and skin discoloration (age spots, hyperpigmentation), lactic acid can greatly brighten the skin and reduce pore size.

Working as an exfoliant for the skin, lactic acid is effective but mild. It’s generally tolerable among those with sensitive skin, which isn’t something that can be said of all AHAs (glycolic acid, we’re looking at you).

You’ll experience some tingling or redness upon application (since it’s busting those dead cells), but beyond that, side effects are typically very minimal.

That said, those with pre-existing skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and rosacea shouldn’t use lactic acid without first consulting a trusted medical professional.

Additionally, if you’re using lactic acid along with other AHAs or skin care products, you may want to consult a dermatologist. Not all products work well together, and it’s especially recommended that you don’t combine lactic acid with other retinol-based products.

How do you use lactic acid in skin care?

The form or method of your lactic acid application comes down to personal preference. There are lots of lotions, face creams, cleansers, and serums to choose from (read on for our picks).

It’s advised that you gradually introduce lactic acid into your daily routine. As keen as you are to get your glow on, you’ll want to hold off on daily use at first.

And while most lactic acid products are suggested for use before bed, you should always carefully read the instructions and labels. If you’ve got sensitive or tricky skin, do a patch test with the product before going all the way.

Since AHAs, including lactic acid, work to peel away and soften the top layer of your epidermis, there’s always a risk that your skin can be more exposed to the elements, including sun.

It’s advised that you pair your lactic acid use with a sunscreen or a SPF-containing product… but of course, sunscreen always!

What strength is best?

At-home lactic acid products should generally be 10 percent or less, at least to start with (you can find OTC version at 50 percent and above). You can also get a professional-grade lactic acid peel from a dermatologist, though the deeper peel can also mean more recovery time (up to 2 weeks).

8 products featuring lactic acid

We chose these products based on their effective ingredients and rave reviews from customers. While they range in price, most of the lactic acid products on this list are less than $40.

Pricing guide

$ = under $10
$$ = $10–$35
$$$ = over $40

Best lactic acid pick if you’re on a budget: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA

At less than $7, this lactic acid serum is one of the most affordable options on the market. Formulated alongside Tasmanian pepperberry, which reduces possible irritation associated with exfoliation, the serum is gentle enough for daily use.

Online reviewers with sensitive skin have left positive marks, and said the product was helpful in smoothing out their skin. It comes in both a 5 percent and 10 percent strength.

Key ingredients: lactic acid, Tasmannia lanceolata fruit/leaf extract (as Tasmanaian pepperberry)

Price: $

Buy The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA

Best lactic acid pick if you want to splurge: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment

The Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid treatment is a favorite among shoppers, earning more than 3,000 positive reviews on Sephora.

It’s the treatment’s ability to treat multiple skin care woes — including discoloration, redness, and dark spots — that customers are drawn toward, and some noted results within a week, writing, “The results are glowing skin and invisible pores.”

Not everyone has seen splurge-worthy success, though, as some wrote that they noticed no difference in their skin.

Key ingredients: lactic acid, Cymbopogon schoenanthus (lemongrass) oil, Glycyrrhiza glabra root extract (licorice root)

Price: $$$

Buy Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment

Best lactic acid pick for beginners: CeraVE SA Cream For Rough & Bumpy Skin

CeraVE is a popular drugstore brand that frequently amasses rave reviews from customers for its affordability and its ease of use. This skin cream is no exception, earning nearly 5,000 positive reviews on Amazon.

Its gentle formulation, and power-packed ingredient list, is generally well tolerated, and as you need only apply to impacted areas of skin, there’s no secret application learning curving.

Providing moisture for an estimated 24 hours, the cream is a favorite among many, but as is the case with introducing any new skin care item to your routine, some did report irritation.

Key ingredients: lactic acid, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid

Price: $$

Buy CeraVE SA Cream For Rough & Bumpy Skin

Best lactic acid pick for sensitive skin: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash

The inclusion of pineapple, pumpkin, and papaya enzymes make this cleanser gentle enough for twice-daily use. The glycolic and lactic acid exfoliate, while the fruit enzymes add some much-needed moisture to the mix.

The wash has generally favorable reviews, especially among those with sensitive skin. “A lot of cleansers dry me out but this one is gentle enough and still helped with my hormonal acne especially,” one reviewer wrote.

Some did suspect that the cleanser caused breakouts, while others didn’t see the results they hoped for.

Key ingredients: lactic acid, glycolic acid, Lactobacillus/pumpkin fruit ferment filtrate (as pumpkin enzyme)

Price: $$

Buy Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash

Best lactic acid pick for lotion lovers: Mario Badescu Buttermilk Moisturizer

This moisturizers features an infusion of lactic acid for exfoliation, along with thyme and chamomile for smooth, soft skin. Earning mostly positive reviews, the buttermilk product comes in a cream formula, and customers report that it doesn’t feel heavy on the skin. “This is a perfect lotion for the winter months when your skin feels like it needs extra moisture, ” one reviewer wrote.

Key ingredients: lactic acid, Tymus vulgaris (as thyme leaf extract), Chamomilla cecutita (matricaria) flower extract (as chamomile extract)

Price: $$

Buy Mario Badescu Buttermilk Moisturizer

Best lactic acid for face mask fans: Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque

For those that prefer reaping the benefits of a skin care product, this face mask is the perfect option. Free of artificial fragrances and dyes, it’s intended for weekly use, and can be applied to the skin for up to 15 minutes.

Sephora customers report the product cleared up rosace and acne, and many loved the way their skin looked after use, but multiple shoppers reported an off-putting fragrance to the product, and others did not notice a change in skin.

Key ingredients: lactic acid, concentrated vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and vitamin F

Price: $$$

Buy Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque

Best lactic acid toner: PCA Skin Nutrient Toner

Paraben-free and fragrance-free, this pumpkin-scented combo of lactic acid, enzymes, vitamins, and amino acids feeds and refreshes skin.

5-star reviews abound with devotees raving about everything from its ability to reduce breakouts to its hydrating powers. The smell mostly gets huge thumbs up, but some reviewers found it overpowering.

Key ingredients: lactic acid, pumpkin ferment extract, Eugenia caryophyllus (clove) leaf oil, Cinnamomum cassia leaf oil, Zingiber officinale (ginger) root oil

Price: $$$

Buy PCA Skin Nutrient Toner

Best lactic acid multitasker: Dr. Dennis Gross AlphaBeta Universal Daily Peel

These ready-to-use pads are a two-step process (thus the two separate jars). Step one is a tingly peel that you wipe over your face and leave on for 2 minutes. Step two is a neutralizer that finishes everything off.

While you can feel it working, reviewers with rosacea say it’s gentle enough for their skin. The power-packed physician-created formula contains multiple AHAs (lactic, malic, glycolic), along with antioxidant A, C and E, green tea extract to protect against free radicals, and salicylic acid to help unclog pores.

One of the few downsides: some reviewers comment that it’s too pricey.

Key ingredients: malic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, retinol, green tea, salicylic acid

Price: $$$

Buy Dr. Dennis Gross AlphaBeta Universal Daily Peel

Summary: Lactic acid for skin

  • Lactic acid is included in the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) category, which exfoliates, improves, and treats the skin.
  • When used as a skin care ingredient, lactic acid brightens the skin, treats discoloration, and leaves users with a more glowing complexion.
  • Lactic acid is generally tolerable, even among those with sensitive skin. It’s normal to experience a tingling sensation when applying, but more serious side effects may warrant a call to the dermatologist.
  • Lactic acid is found in numerous beauty products — including cleansers, shampoo, face creams, and more — making it easy to incorporate in your beauty routine.
  • When using lactic acid, always follow product instructions, avoid mixing the product with other retinol-based items, and always wear sunscreen.

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A Starter Guide to Lactic Acid for Skin: Everything You Need to Know

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Nip Nipple Pain in the Bud

When Steve Carrell screamed “NIPPLE F*CK” we all screamed “NIPPLE F*CK.” But getting waxed isn’t the only road to sore nipples. 

Possible reasons why your nipples hurt, include…

  • infections
  • pregnancy
  • breast cancer
  • breastfeeding
  • Paget’s disease of the breast
  • skin conditions like dermatitis
  • friction from poorly fitted clothes
  • hormonal fluctuations (e.g., PMS or when you have your period)

This is everything you need to know about nipple pain.

Causes and treatments of nipple pain and sensitivity

Young woman with star stickers on her breasts over a tank top
Stocksy

Like boobs, nipple pain comes in all shapes and sizes. Most of the time, the issue is just wearing a bad bra. Other times it could be something serious.

Here’s a deep dive into the causes of nipple pain and how to treat them.

Freakin’ friction

Friction is the number one suspect on the Nipple’s Most Wanted list. A tight shirt or loose bra can be a one-way ticket to nipple mayhem.

‘Jogger nipple’ is also a legit thing. One study showed that nipple fissures are more common in long-distance runners. The constant collision of sweaty skin and fabric can be super irritating.

Symptoms include:

  • soreness
  • bleeding
  • pain or discomfort
  • dry, red or discolored, scabby, or crusty nips

Treatment

The best solution is to reduce the risk of friction. You can:

  • Wear sweat-wicking shirts.
  • Apply nipple balm or petroleum jelly.
  • Surf? Wear a tight-fitting wetsuit or rash guard.
  • Use waterproof tape on your boobs before a workout.
  • If you wear bras, make sure they fit properly. It’s all about support and breathability.

Skin conditions

Cranky nipples are often linked to skin conditions. One common culprit is dermatitis (AKA eczema). 

Dermatitis is pretty common (about 16.5 million peeps in the United States have it). It’s triggered when your skin’s immune cells overreact, creating inflammation. Dermatitis can also be set off by harsh soaps and fragrances.

Symptoms include:

  • itching
  • blisters
  • bleeding
  • pain or discomfort
  • crusty, flaking nipples

Treatment

The best way to treat dermatitis is to keep your nipples hydrated. You can:

  • Apply soothing lotion.
  • Switch to paraben- and fragrance-free soaps and creams.
  • Don’t scrub the area too hard when you’re in the shower.

If these remedies don’t work for you, your doctor may prescribe a steroid cream or another topical solution.

Period probs

As if the cramps weren’t bad enough. Ugh. Periods can also cause an array of other less-than-pleasant symptoms. Sorry nipples. These symptoms include you too.

Discomfort tends to flare up right before your period — But it can pop up during Aunt Flo’s visit as well. It happens because of fluctuations in your hormone levels.

Symptoms include:

  • pain or discomfort
  • increased sensitivity
  • tender breasts and nipples

Treatment

Sometimes you just have to ride the crimson wave out. But there are some ways to reduce your discomfort. You can:

  • Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain killer like ibuprofen (Advil) oracetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Try a hormonal birth control (e.g. the pill). This might help reduce your PMS and period symptoms.

Pregnancy

Baby on board? A lot happens to your body when you’re pregnant. That means swollen ankles, morning sickness, and (yes) sore nipples. In fact, breast soreness is one of the first signs that an eggo is preggo.

This is caused by fluctuating hormones — And also because your breasts are getting ready to become lactation stations.

Other signs your pregnant include:

  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • missed periods
  • peeing more than usual

You might also see changes to your nipples like discoloration and small bumps around the areolas.

Treatment

Breast and nipple soreness should get better the further along you get. But that’s not the case for everyone. To ease discomfort you can:

  • Try a cold compress.
  • Wear a more supportive bra.
  • Take a warm bath or shower.
  • Use a calming nipple cream.

You can also opt for an OTC pain reliever. But be sure to ask your doctor first. They can give you a list of safe options for you and your baby.

Breastfeeding

Nip pain can happen in early breastfeeding. This is usually because your baby is not latched deep enough. Your nipple should be at the back of your baby’s throat, not being scraped by their hard palate.

Seek help from a lactation consultant to improve your baby’s latch. Your hospital can help you find one.

Symptoms include:

  • cracks
  • blisters
  • bleeding
  • pain during feeding
  • pain after feeding

Treatment

Nursing-related nipple soreness usually improves over time. In the meantime, here are some ways to enhance your breastfeeding experience:

  • Do not latch your baby until their mouth is wide open. If you feel pain, remove your baby and try to latch again, deeper.
  • Try breastfeeding in a new position so your baby’s hard palate isn’t on the same spot.
  • Seek help from a lactation consultant if you’re unable to get your baby to take enough breast tissue in their mouth.
  • Use creams or ointments.
  • Let your nips air dry after feeding.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and body washes.
  • Apply a cool compress after breastfeeding.

Pump PSA: If you’re using a breast pump, make sure the shield is positioned correctly and that the suction isn’t on too high.

Infections

Nips can get sick, just like the rest of your body. Two common nipple infections are mastitis and thrush. They happen the most if you nurse.

Mastitis can occur when milk gets stuck in a duct, which causes bacteria to grow. When your duct becomes plugged, it will feel like a lump near your nipple.

Massage that area during breastfeeding. If it doesn’t resolve and you begin feeling ill and feverish, it has moved to mastitis, and infection of your tissue around that area. If left untreated, mastitis can lead to pain and pus.

More symptoms include:

  • fever
  • oozing
  • swelling
  • warm breasts
  • pain while nursing

Your vajayjay isn’t the only body part that has to deal with yeasty business. Thrush — a yeast infection — can occur if your nipples crack or get dried out.

If you’re breastfeeding, your baby can also get thrush inside their mouth. It’ll show up as white patches on the sides of their mouth, gums, or tongue.

Your symptoms can include:

  • rash
  • tiny blisters
  • itchy, flaky, shiny, red or discolored nipples
  • cracked skin on or around your nips
  • sharp pain on your nipples or breasts

Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of the infection. It can sometimes be treated with an OTC option. But you’ll need to chat with your doctor if it’s more serious. If you are running a fever, do not delay seeing your doctor. They can prescribe:

  • oral antibiotics
  • antifungal creams

Keep it clean. Bacteria can linger on surfaces. So, be sure to totally sanitize your bottles, breast pumps, and pacifiers (or anything else your baby puts in their mouth on the reg).

Breast cancer

Nipple pain can be an early indicator of breast cancer. In addition to pain you may have:

  • a lump in your breast
  • changes in the shape or size of your breasts
  • nipple changes (e.g. scaling, discoloration, or redness)
  • discharge (this doesn’t include breast milk if you’re nursing)

PSA: The only way to know for sure that you have breast cancer is to be diagnosed by a doctor.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the type and stage of the cancer along with other factors. Some treatment options include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • hormone therapy
  • targeted drug therapies
  • surgery to remove your lump
  • a mastectomy (when one or both breasts are removed)

Paget’s disease of the breast

Paget’s disease is a rare form of breast cancer. The exact cause is unknown but one popular theory is that your cells from a tumor transfer through your milk ducts to your nipple. Keep in mind, not all people with Paget’s have breast tumors. Since it’s rare, a correct diagnosis is often delayed.

Symptoms include:

  • pain
  • itching
  • soreness
  • thickened skin
  • flattening of the nipple
  • increased breast sensitivity
  • bloody or yellow-y discharge
  • flaking, scaling, or crusting on or around the nipple

Treatment

Like other forms of breast cancer, treatment depends on a variety of factors, which include the stage and status of the disease.

Treatment may be a combo of:

  • a mastectomy
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • hormone therapy
  • surgery to remove the affected area

When to see a doctor

Nipple pain — though usually harmless — can be a symptom of something serious. So, don’t dismiss your pain. Your doctor can help you get to the root of the problem.

Call your doctor if:

  • pain lingers after you nurse
  • breastfeeding pain is chronic
  • you feel a lump in your breast
  • you have a fever or swollen breasts
  • your nipples are scaling, flaking, or cracking
  • there’s a red or discolored, bumpy rash on or around your nipples
  • pus, blood, or yellow discharge is coming out of your nipples

Prevention

There are lots of ways to kick your nipple pain to the curb. It all depends on what’s causing the issue.

If it’s a friction issue:

  • Avoid tight clothing. Let your nips breathe!
  • Moisturize. Use nipple creams and ointments on the daily.
  • Cover up. Wear gauze pads or pasties over your nips if you’re going for a run.
  • The right bra goes a long way. Make sure your bra fits properly and offers a good amount of support.

If it’s period related:

  • Stay active. Exercise can help you get rid of excess fluid.
  • Avoid caffeine (maybe). Some folks think your morning cup o’ joe and other caffeinated drinks can affect breast tissue. But more evidence is needed in this area.
  • Limit the salty snacks. Salt can lead to water retention. This can cause swollen, tender breasts.
  • Consider the pill. Hormonal birth control methods can help alleviate PMS and period symptoms.

If it’s because you’re breastfeeding:

  • Try to get your baby’s latch deeper with a wider grasp of your breast. Reach out for help from a lactation consultant. They may recommend a nipple shield or other treatment.
  • Make sure you dry your nipples after each nursing sesh.
  • Use a bottle if needed. There is absolutely no shame in swapping to formula for a bit (or for good). You can also use a breast pump which might be easier on your nips than nursing.
  • Swap sides if one nipple is sorer than the other. Also, be sure to change your baby’s position frequently.
  • Avoid harsh chemicals. A lot of soaps and lotions have parabens and fragrances that can dry your nips out in a flash.

Bottom line

Nipple pain is the pits. The good news: It’s usually harmless. But in certain cases, it could be a sign of something serious. Def call a doctor if you think something feels or looks off.

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Nip Nipple Pain in the Bud

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