6 Health Products That May Be a Waste of Money

From mouthwash to eyedrops, consider rethinking these medicine cabinet mainstays.

View as Slideshow


If you brush, floss, and get regular pro cleanings, mouthwash is probably not necessary for your oral health, according to many dentists on ShareCare.com. “Most mouthwashes are only effective at the very surface,” noted Dante Gonzalez, DMD. "If plaque and bacteria are allowed to build up on the teeth and tissues, the mouthwash is not very effective at penetrating into the plaque.” Thomas Connelly, DDS, who said he is not crazy about mouthwash, also said that they do kill bacteria, but the effects don’t last very long. Also, the alcohol dries out your mouth, which can actually increase bacterial growth. If you do want to swish, pick a product that’s right for you—those with cavity-fighting fluoride, for example, aren’t great if you have gum disease. RealSimple.com offers a helpful primer if you need.

Vitamin C

Vitamin CPhoto Inc/Getty Images
Think megadoses of C will keep the common cold at bay? Mark Levine, MD, a researcher at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, told Reader’s Digest earlier this year that popping C supplements will basically just give you expensive urine. To get the health benefits of protection from cancer, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration, and more come, the best evidence comes from studies where people consume vitamin C naturally in their diets, not through supplements. Also important: “The body works very hard to absorb low amounts of vitamin C,” Dr. Levine says. “But as the dose goes up, you absorb much less, and you excrete the extra vitamin C through your urine in a matter of hours.”

Expensive Sunscreen

Expensive Sunscreenmediaphotos/Getty Images
When it comes to protection against UV rays (responsible for skin cancer and wrinkles), you don’t always get what you pay for. In its 2013 review of sunscreens, Consumer Reports found that the least effective sunscreens were also the priciest. Of the top-rated sunscreens, three were generic store brands from Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, each costing less than $1.67 per ounce. Nearly all dermatologists acknowledge that we are not good at applying sunscreen properly, which greatly diminishes its protective abilities. That might change if you buy sunscreen that you can afford to apply liberally and often—ideally every two or three hours during a day at the beach.

Cotton Swabs for Ears

Cotton Swabs for EarsImage Source/Getty Images
“Buy Q-Tips if you want to make your ear doctor rich,” Stephen Rothstein, MD, a clinical associate professor at NYU in the department of otolaryngology, said his grandmother used to tell him. Wax may look and feel nasty, but resist the urge to scoop it out with a swab. For one thing, your body makes the wax for a reason: It works as a lubricant, defends against foreign objects, and even has antimicrobial properties. Cotton swabs can push the wax too far into the ear canal, where it can harden and create a blockage—and that may affect your hearing.

Content continues below ad

Eyedrops for Redness

Eyedrops for RednessSelectStock/Getty Images
You may turn to these when you wake up looking like a zombie, but experts advise against using eyedrops regularly. Mark Melrose, an emergency physician and owner of Urgent Care Manhattan, told USNews.com that they can mask a more serious underlying problem, like dry eye, allergies, or irritation from contact lenses. Eyedrops can even make matters worse, triggering persistent redness because your eyes can get used to them. If your eyes look bloodshot and irritated, first see a doctor to figure out if there’s an underlying issue, Melrose advised.

Facial Toner

Facial Toner Hemera/Thinkstock
There’s something satisfying about the squeaky-clean feeling you get after you swipe on toner, but it’s probably an unnecessary step in your beauty routine, dermatologist Doris Day, MD, told WomansDay.com. Newer soaps don’t leave the residue that toner was invented to remove, the article explains.

Want to stay smart and healthy?

Get our weekly Health Reads newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.

From clientsfromhell.net

Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.