28 Wellness Gifts for Better Health and Self-Care

One minute, you have all the time in the world to find perfect presents for your partner, the colleague you picked for Secret Santa and your mother-in-law; the next, it is Dec. 23 and you’re browsing gift cards at the drugstore. The Well desk is here to help you find great affordable gifts (and a few luxurious splurges). Our editors and reporters have picked their favorite items for living well — from skin care and self care to fitness and better rest — so you can stay calm now, and your loved ones can feel happy and healthy all year long.

(Prices were accurate as of Nov. 18, 2022.)

Every year for the holidays, I give Heritage Store Rosewater Spray to my mother and sisters. How can a mist with only two ingredients — water and delicately fragrant European Damask Rose oil — be so delightful? This spray is a godsend for nighttime hot flashes (and doesn’t look hideous on your night stand, thanks to its pleasing pink hue). It also works as an all-natural, post-workout spritz. Perhaps best of all, it’s an instant mood lifter during the cold, dark winter months: one pump, and you’re in a rose garden in Provence.

Jancee Dunn, Columnist

Cost: $4.69 to $11.19

Sheet masks are a fun, easy and relaxing way to wind down while delivering moisture to your skin. As a Korean, and a skin care loyalist, I always have at least a few handy. With so many options on the market, choosing which sheet masks to use can be overwhelming, but that abundance can also be fun. I like these ones from Nature Republic or just popping into a K-Beauty store (physically or online) to try out new sheet masks every so often. There have been no bad choices (so far).

Hannah Seo, Reporting fellow

Cost: $2.90

During an epic Etsy trawl, I fell for the soap and shampoo bars made by a small Indigenous-owned (Lakota/Dakota) brand based in Washington State called Haipazaza Phezuta, which means “medicine soaps” in Lakota. They’re crafted in small batches using local ingredients and sustainable packaging and infused with evocative scents such as Sweet Prairie, Bear Root and Smoked Cedar. This year, I’ll be passing out their bath bombs.

Jancee Dunn, Columnist

Cost: $9.00 / $4.00

I’m always on the lookout for skin care and wellness products that use a few simple ingredients, avoid plastics and petroleum derivatives and are good for everyone in the family. This balm checks all those marks. You can use it for your kids or on yourself. And it is especially great for dry, chapped skin in the winter.

Knvul Sheikh, Reporter

Cost: $13.99

Warning: This one involves some skin sloughing. These booties contain a cocktail of exfoliating fruit enzymes to marinate your feet for an hour while they work magic on cracked heels, calluses and dry patches. You may wash it off and think nothing’s changed. But three to four days later, unsightly sheets of skin will start peeling offt.You’ll shed for up to seven days (like a baby boa constrictor), but I think it’s worth it for the long-lasting, super smooth results. They make a great stocking stuffer for your pedicure-shy loved ones, but should not be used too often.

—Deanna Donegan, Senior visual editor

Cost: $20 per pair

If you’re looking to splurge, this night cream will make your giftee feel especially pampered. I use it at night and I wake up feeling extra-moisturized. It has also done wonders for my rosacea.

Tiffanie Graham, Photo editor

Cost: $136.00

These electrolyte tablets save me from dehydration headaches. They’re little tablets you drop into water for hydration. They contain electrolytes but very little sugar, which I like, and they’re still tasty. I drink these when I exercise, when I realize I haven’t been hydrating enough — such as after running errands — and after I have more than one alcoholic drink. They come in a variety of flavors, and my 11-year-old loves to drink them during sports practices, too.

Melinda Wenner Moyer, Contributor

Cost: $7.49

I have poor limb circulation, especially in my legs. That means my feet are always cold and I’m prone to things like muscle cramping, numbness, stiffness and swelling. These compression socks have been so helpful, especially on days when I’m doing a lot of sitting. (Wirecutter recommends more brands, some at lower price points.) They look just like regular knee-high socks — and there are a bunch of cute design options online.

Hannah Seo, Reporting fellow

Cost: $28.00

An acupuncture mat is a shortcut for a full on massage — each little stab of a plastic spike supposedly soothes stress. I got mine in the thick of 2020 pandemic times, and it helped me stay in the present — or at least try to not spiral. I put on a podcast, attempt to take deep breaths and let the mat work its magic.

Dani Blum, Associate writer

Cost: $28.13

It’s definitely pricey, but I gave a Theragun, which is a top of the line personal massage device, to my mom a couple years ago to use when her legs and feet hurt. I knew she really liked it when she packed it for an overseas trip this year.

Hang Do Thi Duc, Graphics/multimedia editor

Cost: $199.00 to $499.00

I keep this compact journal on my night stand, and write down a few lines about my day every night before I turn in. It’s a five-year journal and I love that I can look back on the memorable (and mundane) moments from the years before too.

Lori Leibovich, Editor

Cost: $16.95

The Hinoki Fantôme candle by Boy Smells is not cheap, but the price tag is worth it if you’re looking for luxury under $50. The smell is so intoxicating — “cypress smoke with sides of warm amber, sweet vanilla, florals and fresh moss,” as Wirecutter described it — that the recipient will feel as if they were transported to a remote spa in the redwoods.

Julia Calderone, Senior staff editor

Cost: $36.00

Having a bird-feeder outside your window is a thing of joy. Mine is a simple tray suspended by wires that delights me every day by bringing nuthatches, chickadees and even the odd grosbeak to my window. There are many clever devices designed to keep your birdfeeder for the birds (instead of squirrels who like the raid the seeds), but Droll Yankees has some of the best offerings.

Erik Vance, Staff editor

Cost: $33.00 to $130.00

I’m big on finding short, simple strategies for self-care, so I take this waterproof (and surprisingly powerful) little speaker into the shower to make it more of an event. If I’m in need of a pick-me-up, I’ll play something upbeat and sing along — much to the chagrin of my family. Or, if it has been a long, stressful day, I’ll decompress with a steamy shower and some relaxing tunes.

Catherine Pearson, Reporter, family and relationships

Cost: $99.00 to $120.00

After we wrote about a simple piece of equipment that can elevate your workout back in January, I promptly bought a few jump ropes. I hadn’t used one since elementary school and was surprised at how good of a workout you can get. I tried them out in my backyard, and within 10 to 15 minutes I was sweating and my heart was racing. The best part was I didn’t have to go anywhere, and it was a great way to jump start my day.

Sarah Williamson, Visual editor

Cost: $11.99

On dark evenings, when I have to drag myself out of the house for my dog’s post-work walk, this light-up collar makes it just a little bit easier. For one thing, I’m less worried about us getting hit by a car or her getting lost if there’s a squirrel sighting and all hell breaks loose. For another, dressing my dog up like she’s going to a puppy rave always makes me smile — and my neighbors too. I’m frequently stopped and asked about the collar. (If they don’t have a dog, well, there’s another gift idea. The health benefits are clear!)

Dana G. Smith, Reporter, mental health

Cost: $11.99

These versatile strength training tools are a terrific gift for anyone who might be interested in working out at home. (They’re also great for vacation and work trips.) My colleagues at Wirecutter recommend the Bodylastics Stackable Tube Resistance Bands, but I suspect on some level the brand hardly matters. What you want are round ones that come in resistance “weights” of 20 to 50 pounds, and that have handles and a door anchor. Many brands include exercise manuals with the bands. Better to alert your gift-getter to the pleasures of finding resistance band workouts on YouTube — a new one every few weeks, for variety.

Sam Sifton, Assistant managing editor, Culture and Lifestyle

Cost: $49.95

I got these “hooded gloves,” a.k.a. mittens, from my Secret Santa last year, and they helped motivate me to keep running outside even in the cold weather. There’s a lot that’s great about them — they’re lightweight, smartphone-friendly and stylish. But as someone with very small hands, my favorite part is that they come in a range of sizes and the extra-small fit me like … a glove.

Farah Miller, Editorial director

Cost: $52.00

This is the new version of my husband’s beloved headlamp, which he thinks is the best one for runners. The light on the front is super thin, lightweight and bright. The battery pack on the back is rechargeable and has a red safety light, so people can see you from behind. It’s bright enough for trail running, and it doesn’t bounce even when you’re blasting down a mountain. I’m not a runner myself, but I’ve frequently stolen it when walking our dog in the dark.

Melinda Wenner Moyer, Contributor

Cost: $59.95

For years as a young man I looked down on using trekking poles while hiking. “Real men hike with just their legs — and sprain their ankles a lot,” I thought. But I was missing out. Not only does a good pair of poles protect your ankles and make it easier to cross streams and snow, they are a wonderful way to get a little upper body training while hiking. There are lots of good brands out there, but Black Diamond’s version is moderately priced and has the easiest and most reliable system I’ve found for adjusting length.

Erik Vance, Staff editor

Cost: $109.95

At-home exercise felt like a series of accommodations, settling for less than I could get at the gym, until I acquired a high-quality exercise mat. I know what you’re thinking: no yoga mat is as amazing as that springy room made of mats at the gym. And while you may be right, there is a world in which your living-room mat can be easy on your knees and back, slip-proof and actually cushiony. That world is not the one in which you’re using a thin, nearly tearable yoga mat on which your hands and feet leave indentations.You need a 6-mm-thick yoga mat with tread on the bottom. I have this one. It’s not cheap, but it costs less than a gym membership.

Melissa Kirsch, Assistant editor, Culture and Lifestyle

Cost: $129.00

If you know a person who leaps with joy at the idea of receiving cleaning products as gifts (that would be me), this is the one to get. The All-Purpose Cleaning Spray with Marseille Soap from French eco-brand Fer a Cheval, the oldest soap factory in Marseille, is scented with Provençal olive, made with 99 percent natural ingredients — and, crucially, cleans more effectively than many of the earth-friendly brands I’ve tried. Every time I pull out this elegant bottle, I get a hit of dopamine, which is especially welcome when my elderly cat has knocked over his food bowl yet again.

Jancee Dunn, Columnist

Cost: $18.00

I won’t stop talking about this filtering water bottle. It’s perfect for anyone who considers hydration a love language (though reminding them that they don’t need to guzzle eight glasses of water each day is an act of service, too). It’s dishwasher safe, made of B.P.A.-free plastic and, according to Brita, the company that makes it, it filters out chlorine and particles. I use this bottle at home, and it has definitely made staying hydrated easier.

Patia Braithwaite, Senior staff editor

Cost: 23.99

I’ve used this alarm clock for two years now as a way to make sure I don’t look at my phone until I fall asleep or look at it first thing in the morning. I charge my phone away from my bed and use this instead; it comes with a nice night light and doubles as a white noise machine with some guided meditation and breathing, too.

Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Reporter

Cost: $140

I received a white noise machine as a gift last year and it’s made all the difference for me in getting a good night’s rest. If you’re shopping for a light sleeper, these make a great present — and they come at a variety of price ranges. You can also check out more top white noise machine picks from Wirecutter.

Nicole Stock, Associate audience editor

Cost: $52.99

After years of buying Hanna Andersson pajamas for my sons, I bought myself a pair of the adult P.J.s, and now they’re all I wear to bed. They’re breathable, come in a range of cute patterns and are seemingly indestructible. I’ve had mine for years and they do not pill. My kids have absolutely no interest in doing the whole matching family set thing, but I’m hopeful.

Catherine Pearson, Reporter, family and relationships

Cost: $24.00 on sale

I have a smart lightbulb in the lamp on my night stand that I have scheduled to gradually fade in just before my alarm rings every morning. It’s like simulating the sunrise, which is a much more pleasing way to wake up than just being jolted awake by a loud noise. I got the starter kit from Philips, but there are plenty of other brands to check out.

Hang Do Thi Duc, Graphics/multimedia editor

Cost: $69.00 – $199.00

While there are many silk pillowcases and eye masks that I’m sure are perfectly fine, the ones from Brooklinen feel luxe to me, down to the gift-worthy packaging. The matching “celestial” pattern soothes my brain and indulges my inner-child that longs for those plastic glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars. The pillowcase is always cool and smooth, and keeps my hair and skin happy and crease-free; while the eye mask blocks out any invasion of morning light when I need that extra hour of undisturbed sleep. The silk is machine-washable, and if you’re not into the stars, there are six other designs and colors to mix and match.

—Deanna Donegan, Senior visual editor

Cost: $29.00 (mask) and $59.00 (pillowcase)

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