I’ve never regularly taken a vitamin or supplement. Every once in awhile I’ll take swig of a probiotic juice if I’ve been especially bad to my body, but that’s about it. So when I came across Care/of, a vitamin and supplement company, I wasn’t intrigued so much by what they are selling as by how they were selling it. Care/of is digitally based; this fact contributed to my already existing skepticism, one shared by lots of us who have read at least one of the many "vitamins-are-useless" articles that have been cropping up all over the internet. Still, when I ended up on Care/of’s website I stuck around—in large part because of how dynamic, clean, and fun the site is.
Soon enough, I found myself completing Care/of's survey, which asks everything from your health goals to how long you spend staring at a screen every day. At the end of their quiz I ordered the personalized daily vitamin and supplement pack they had created and recommended for me (one Astaxanthin, three Calcium Plus, and two Fish Oil). When it all arrived a week later, I was thrilled. Not least because the packaging is amazing and each of my daily vitamin packs had been printed with “Made for Tamim” accompanied by a smiley face.
Cute and personalized packaging is the way to my (and many millennials') heart, but I was still unsure of the actual vitamins themselves, so I hopped on the phone with Care/of’s CEO and Founder Craig Elbert to figure out what exactly sets them apart. When Elbert picked up, he was actually at Care/of’s factory in New Jersey, where they make all of their own vitamins and supplements, the same ones in my cute daily packs. I immediately brought up all the vitamin-debunking articles I've read, but Elbert was prepared. He told me, “You see a lot of these reports out there, [saying] vitamins and supplements might not do anything. The reality is that a lot of the larger articles tend to be about the multivitamin, which is kind of this one size fits all solution that has a little bit less research behind it.”
As Elbert explained it to me, vitamin deficiencies and imbalances are real, and that’s where supplements can help. The important thing is to understand that what vitamins to take differs from person to person based on a number of things. Elbert said, "There is good evidence, for instance, that if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’re not getting enough B12, because it’s naturally only found in animal products. Or, if you live in a certain region of the country you probably don’t get enough vitamin D.”
By giving personalized recommendations, Care/of is also taking all of the guesswork out of figuring out how much fish oil is too much fish oil. Every recommendation they make is backed up by a ton of research, as well as hundreds of studies, all of which are readily and easily available to the Care/of consumer through a couple of clicks.
The Care/of experience reminded me of Glossier, Warby Parker, and other direct to consumer brands that have thrived by offering simple and transparent solutions to overly saturated and difficult-to-navigate markets, packaged in clean and fun design. Similarly to Glossier, Care/of’s ethos revolves around trusting the customer with as much information as possible. It’s a democratization of information and process that is only possible through a digital platform. Elbert said, “There is research out there, it’s just nuanced and it’s easier to communicate the nuance with a digital platform then a brick and mortar experience. It’s difficult to figure out what’s right for you, and technology can play a great role in helping people sort through all that information.”
It wasn’t that hard for Elbert to get me all hyped up, but ultimately the proof is in the pudding (i.e. my health). The most drastic difference I noticed after taking my supplement pack for a month was that my energy levels were much higher. I stopped taking my regularly scheduled catnaps and didn’t even compensate by ramping up my caffeine consumption. The other area I noticed a change in was eye fatigue. Not only do I already wear glasses but, like most people, I spend all day looking at a computer screen. The change isn’t drastic, it won’t ever cure me of being four-eyed, but I have noticed less eye twitching and a better eye focus even after 12-hour days. While it’s always difficult to tell if these things are simply a placebo effect or if they're working as proscribed, Care/of has at the very least managed to make one of the most boring and dull aspects of health and wellness seem fun and interesting.