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We tried hundreds of products in 2021 — and these were the best ones

Check out our favorite products in wellness, hair, beauty and more!
TODAY Illustration / Theragun / Bandier / Amazon / KITSCH / Jillian Ortiz / Emma Stessman

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As Shop TODAY writers and editors, we’ve done our fair share of shopping over the last year. While we found many things we loved, there were some definite standouts that became essentials in our everyday routines.

As we count down to the new year, each day this week, we are revealing our favorite products of the year in beauty, hair, fashion, home and kitchen and wellness.

From a sunrise alarm clock to a luxurious mascara and much more, scroll through each category below to find out what we bought this year and can’t get enough of.

Shop TODAY's favorite wellness products of 2021

Bala The Power Ring

“As someone who dreads doing upper body workouts, incorporating the Power Ring into my regular routine has actually made me excited to work on my fitness,” Shop TODAY senior SEO editor Jess Bender said. The 10-pound ring can be used in place of kettlebells or dumbbells to up the intensity of at-home workouts. “It's also motivated me to step outside my comfort zone by inspiring me to seek out other exercises outside of my usual rotation of reps and sets," Bender added.

Dekala Sunrise Alarm Clock

Being jolted awake by a blaring alarm isn’t the most ideal way to start your morning. Instead of using a loud tone, this alarm clock simulates the sunrise, waking you up naturally with a gradual change in light. Shop TODAY associate editor Emma Stessman said that it has helped make mornings in her low-light bedroom much easier. “I’m never going back to my noisy phone alarm again,” she said.

Satin Sleep Eye Mask

Sleep masks can block out any annoying light in your room to help you get a better night’s rest — but not all masks are created equal. “The sleep masks I had weren't super soft and I felt like my skin wasn't breathing well in those fabrics,” Shop TODAY editor Alicia Tan said. “So, I opted for this satin mask, and it feels luxurious on my skin and a lot lighter.”

Theragun Mini

While we’d all love to go to the spa and get a massage every week, that’s not always possible. Instead, you can soothe any sore spots and muscles at home with this tool, which is a favorite of Shop TODAY’s editorial director Adrianna Brach. It has three speeds to suit your needs and it’s portable so you can bring it with you to the gym or on vacation.

Hum by Colgate Smart Electric Toothbrush Kit

Multiple Shop TODAY team members have raved about this smart electric toothbrush from Hum by Colgate. Shop TODAY social editor Rebecca Shinners counted it as one of her favorite products of the year and editorial assistant Jillian Ortiz previously wrote that the tool is "compact, easy to maneuver and the bright color options make me look forward to pulling out my brush and giving my teeth the love they deserve." The smart toothbrush connects to your phone, so you can track your habits and make sure you're getting proper coverage every time you brush.

Shop TODAY's favorite home and kitchen products of 2021

​​Nest Candles

What makes a home? Is it your bed? Your clothes? For Shop TODAY social editorial assistant Dani Musacchio, it’s the candles. "I've smelled a lot of candles in my lifetime, and these are seriously some of the best-smelling scented candles I've come across. The scent really fills up any space and lingers even when the candle isn't lit. People always comment on how amazing my apartment smells when I light them."

And since lighting a candle is impossible without the proper tools, self-proclaimed candle lover Musacchio has invested in a rechargeable lighter, which has changed the game for her. “You'll never have to buy a pack of matches again. The charge lasts a long time and I love the safety features on it. I always give these as gifts paired with scented candles."

Ninja BN701 Professional Plus Blender with Auto-iQ

"To be enamored by a blender might be a very 30-something-year-old thing, but I’m in love with my Ninja IQ blender,” Shop TODAY senior editor Alexandra Deabler shared. “I got it as a birthday present last July and have used it every day since. It has these presets, which really make it stand out for me. Since I also do Daily Harvest, the smoothie button is my favorite. I just drop in the frozen fruit, hit the button and then it pulses in intervals for about a minute until my smoothie is perfectly creamy. It’s great!"

Blendtec Total Classic Original Blender

Although the Ninja was a fan-favorite, there was another blender that won over Tan: The Blendtec, which she says is like a juicer and blender in one.

“I never thought I’d spend so much on a blender, but I’ve never looked back. The main reason I got it is because the juice function liquefies fruits and veggies so well and allows me to keep all the fiber that is lost with some juicers. I also use it for smoothies, sauces, vegan queso and more. My roommates throughout the years have liked it so much that they’ve used it any chance they could for batters, soups and beyond.”

Stardrops The Pink Stuff

Sure, no one’s favorite pastime is cleaning — but this product still made it on Stessman’s list. The viral Pink Stuff sold out for a brief period after making its TikTok debut, and Stessman understands why.

“Cleaning can be pretty tedious, but The Pink Stuff makes the process a lot easier. It’s made with ingredients like quartz, baking soda and soap, which give it a gritty quality, making it tougher on stains and dirt than other cleaners that I’ve used. I’ve used the paste to clean almost everything in my apartment, from my shoes to the walls, and it’s worked on everything I’ve tried it on. It even got the years-old grease stains out of my pots and pans.”

Cosori Smart Gooseneck Kettle

Tea and coffee drinkers have something in common: They want the perfect cup. “Since I got this programmable tea kettle, I won’t stop talking about it,” Deabler said. “It has five presets, which, as established by my love of the Ninja Blender IQ, I really appreciate. Each of the presets correlates to the perfect temperature for either a tea — green, white, oolong and black — or coffee. I actually loved it so much I bought it for my dad for Father’s Day. And then he loved it so much, he requested another one for Christmas. It’s also pretty chic in my kitchen with my matte black, if I do say so myself.”

Project 62 Artificial Monstera Arrangement

​​Whether you were a pandemic gardener, or have always been a fan of greenery, one thing is for sure — it’s been the year of the plant. However, some of us struggled a bit with it. “I have managed to kill every plant I’ve ever had — as well as some other people’s plants,” Deabler shared, along with her newfound hack.

“So instead of embarking on the continuous cycle of buy, water, bury, I went the artificial route. But before you start scrolling — hear me out: These are great! They’re so realistic that both real-life visitors and coworkers on Zoom have complimented my green thumb.

The pots are minimalist and stylish, and the plants themselves give me that happy feeling when I wake up and see my room full of green leaves.”

Shop TODAY's favorite fashion products of 2021

Equick Slippers

Everyone needs a good pair of house shoes — which is why Stessman originally purchased these. However, they quickly became her go-to errand shoes. “They ended up being so comfy (and surprisingly supportive) that I now wear them everywhere, from grocery runs to quick walks around my neighborhood,” she shared. “For a shoe that many people might consider ‘ugly,’ I have gotten a surprising number of compliments from strangers that I pass on the street or in the store.”

Aerie OFFLINE High Waisted Crossover Flare Legging

As many fashionistas (or TikTok enthusiasts) know, the early aughts are back. Which means flared leggings are back in style. “When 'flared leggings' started gaining popularity, I never thought I'd try the trend,” Shinners said. "But this Aerie pair convinced me otherwise.”

“It features the brand's flattering crossover design, but what I love most about them is how comfortable they are. The flare bottom means they aren't as tight on your legs as traditional leggings. They're comfortable enough to wear all day when I'm working from home, and when I venture outside in them, I feel more dressed up than I would in leggings."

Lululemon Everywhere Belt Bag

In addition to the flared leggings of the 2000s, fanny packs of the '90s are back in vogue — but with a trendy new name: belt bags. And this one, in particular, won over Shinners. "I've owned a few belt bags before this one, and what sets it apart is that it manages to have a ton of storage without feeling bulky."

Charter Club V-Neck Cashmere Sweater

Having a good cashmere sweater is a staple. However, cashmere can feel a bit out of reach for some of us. That's why Deabler swears by this affordable option. “It is soft and cozy, and the perfect weight for work — especially with a nice button-up thrown under for some extra office-friendly punch. Plus, it has a really fashionable V-neck that’s great for going out.”

Madewell Perfect Vintage Jean

“I struggle to find jeans that actually fit,” Stessman said, sharing a woe that many of us can relate to. “Especially because I’m short, ones that fit comfortably on my waist and thighs are usually way too long, and the ones that are the right length tend to be pretty tight. But these jeans from Madewell fit me perfectly. I have the petite size, and they hit right at my ankles (this is the only pair of jeans that I own that I don’t have to cuff). They also hug my waist and thighs, but still have a comfortable amount of stretch.” (These jeans have been a Shop TODAY favorite for a while, earning a spot in our best mom jeans roundup.)

Shop TODAY's favorite hair products of 2021

It's A 10 Miracle Leave-In

As someone who is prone to split ends, Musacchio said that the It’s a 10 Miracle Leave-In conditioning treatment has been “a total game-changer” for preventing them. “I love to run it through my damp hair before blow-drying,” she said. “My hair always comes out much shinier with fewer fly-aways."

Made with amino acids, aloe vera and green tea leaf extract, according to the company, the formula can be used on dry or wet hair to tame frizz, add shine, stop breakage and more.

Redken Deep Clean Dry Shampoo

“I heard about the Redken Dry Shampoo because my friend wrote about it and said it saved her the week that her shower wasn't working,” Tan said. “On a no-wash day, I tried it, and she was right. It hid the oil and grease in my dark hair without leaving the white residue I usually get from other products. It's hard to find products I can be loyal to and this one passes the test.”

Kérastase Nutritive 8H Magic Night Serum Hydrating Treatment

This Kérastase serum is made to be applied before bed, working overnight to make your hair feel softer and more hydrated. Although Shinners said that it also works as an instant de-frizzer when you’re in a rush. “One small pump leaves my hair looking noticeably smoother and shinier,” she said. “It's perfect for when I'm rushing out the door without time to fully do my hair."

HEETA Hair Shampoo Brush

This scalp massager has more than 77,000 five-star ratings from people who have said it has helped them with a range of hair issues, from dandruff to an oily scalp. Stessman said that after using it for a month, her scalp and hair, “have never felt cleaner or healthier.” It has soft bristles, which allow you to get a deeper clean and lightly scrub away dirt, dead skin and oil from your scalp.

RobeCurls Curl Scarf

Shop TODAY associate editor Danielle Murphy’s “lazy ponytail days” might forever be behind her, thanks to this TikTok-famous headband. It makes it easy to get perfectly curled hair without going through the effort of styling with a hot tool. All you have to do is wrap your hair around the headband (there’s a video tutorial that you can follow along with) and leave it in for a few hours. It looks like a normal headband, so you can run errands or go on a walk while your hair sets.

Shop TODAY's favorite beauty products of 2021

Bio-Oil Skincare Oil

Bio-Oil's nourishing skin care oil is a favorite of both TikTokers and Amazon shoppers thanks to its ability to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and uneven skin tone. Shop TODAY associate social editor Kara Quill also counts herself as one of the product’s many fans. “I know putting on Bio-Oil is good for my skin and it also feels good,” she said. “I feel clean, refreshed and super moisturized after using it."

E.l.f. Cosmetics 16-Hour Camo Concealer

Camo’s internet-famous $6 concealer is also “a must-have,” according to Quill. "Putting on this concealer instantly solves my dark under-eye problem," she said. "It helps to hide small imperfections while also helping to even out my skin tone.” Jess Sims, a Shop TODAY writer, also loves the "thick, creamy and luxurious texture" of the budget find.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

Tan said that she has tried just about every chapstick out there (and some lip sheet masks as well), but nothing shows consistent next-day results quite like this Lip Sleeping Mask from Laneige. “I put it on before bed when I have extremely cracked lips or even if I feel like it's about to happen, and I wake up with soothed, softer lips,” she said. “If I forget to put it on before I go to sleep, I'll even swipe it on while I'm getting ready to go out and take it off before I walk out the door. It works for me even when I'm desperate for a quick fix."

Urban Decay Perversion Volumizing Mascara

Love the look of false lashes but hate putting them on? Bender said that she gets the same look with just two coats of this mascara. The creamy, volumizing formula is made with nourishing ingredients like Hairdensyl, honey extract and marine collagen, which are said to nourish and protect lashes and help encourage growth. Shinners is also a huge fan of the mascara. "I have naturally long, curly eyelashes so it’s hard to find a mascara that works but I can actually see a difference with this one," she said.

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer

During the colder months, it’s important to have a hydrating moisturizer on hand to keep dry skin at bay. This one is made with hyaluronic acid and Pentavitin, an ingredient that the brand says can provide up to 72 hours of hydration. Shinners said that it’s a great option to add moisture to dry skin and it “feels refreshing to apply.”

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