What Parents Need to Know About Choosing Alternative Wellness Brands

Asian woman and child crouching down at the drugstore examining medicine.

Images By Tang Ming Tung / Getty Images

The drugstore has been a health staple since at least the early 1900s. (Walgreens was founded in 1901!) Like anything, though, as times have changed, so have the offerings. The modern drugstore is not only a one-stop shop for health, but destination for basically everything else, from paper towels to pencils to emergency pacifiers.

Big box and neighborhood drugstores like Target, RiteAid, CVS, and Walgreens are now paying attention to changing wants and needs of customers, particularly wellness.

Wellness is a big business, with new brands looking to disrupt household names when treating the common colds, the flu, and more. These independent, alternative brands were traditionally only available at smaller retailers or online. Now, big box stores are expanding their offerings to include these new options. It is a clear sign that parents today want options beyond what previous generations had to choose from. 

As the drugstore continues to evolve, here is what you need to know about these new wellness brands and how this could impact decision-making for you and your family. 

How Brands Are Shaking Things Up

A trip down any drugstore aisle reveals a new, alternative offering. These disruptive brands are looking to capitalize on the wellness trends that currently fascinate consumers.

More and more families are beginning to explore natural remedies, which does not surprise David Johnson, the co-founder of Genexa, an over-the-counter brand offering both medical and homeopathic remedies for adults and children. “Consumers are more aware of the ingredients in their consumable products than ever before,” he says.

David Johnson, co-founder, Genexa

Consumers are more aware of the ingredients in their consumable products than ever before.

— David Johnson, co-founder, Genexa

To that end, Genexa has replaced some chemicals that are in common medications with alternative ingredients. For example, red dye 40 is an inactive ingredient in some acetaminophen. Genexa uses inactive ingredients like beetroot powder and citrus extract for flavor and color, instead.

Another popular brand is Zarbee's, founded by parent and pediatrician Zack Zarbock, MD. He was inspired to create chemical-free treatments specifically for parents. Zarbee's uses ingredients like dark honey, elderberry, and African geranium root in its kids' and adult cough treatments, saline sprays, and more.

Then there's first aid brand Welly. Tom Mondragon, the CEO, set out to shake up a wellness category that had not really seen a change in the last 100 years.

Tom Mondragon, CEO, Welly

The [first aid] area had not had much innovation since Band-Aid was born a hundred years ago.

— Tom Mondragon, CEO, Welly

"The [first aid] area had not had much innovation since Band-Aid was born a hundred years ago," Mondragon explains. "Existing first aid brands were either non-inclusive with a bland idea of what a 'skin tone' bandage was, or were solely geared towards children."

Welly offers bandages in bold colors and designs that are (hopefully) more fun to wear, aiming to turn the idea of covering a scrape or bruise on its head. 

Those are not the only brands offering alternative remedies and solutions. There is Hilma, which focuses on clinically-backed, natural remedies for issues like upset stomachs and tension relief. Everyone for Every Body offers plant-based soaps and shampoos with sustainably farmed ingredients. Little Remedies, a homeopathic brand for infant-related issues, has products for coughs, colds, noses, fevers, and tummies.

There are also countless vitamin and supplement brands like Olly, Friska, R3Set, Goli, and more, all available in the same aisles as more traditional offerings. 

What Real Parents Think

Real parents turn to alternative brands mainly because of the ingredients. “I do my best to steer clear of artificial flavors and dyes in the products I use for my family,” says Leigh Ellen Hubbard, a mother of two from Athens, Georgia. “I want to know the ingredients that go into the products we use.” Her favorite brands include Mary Ruth’s Organics, Little Remedies, and Genexa.

Leigh Ellen Hubbard, Athens, Georgia

I want to know the ingredients that go into the products we use.

— Leigh Ellen Hubbard, Athens, Georgia

Jamie Jerome, a mom of two who is based in Miami, is a fan of Little Remedies, Wellements, and Genexa because of the ingredients. "I try to give my kids the healthiest options in life, and medicine should be no different," she says.

These alternative products make use of recognizable ingredients, which is important to Jean Wool, a Lexington, Kentucky-based mom. “I like that there is no risk that I will find out 15 years from now that something I used on my baby has been recalled due to health issues,” she says. Wool prefers brands like Babyganics, Earth Mama, and Water Wipes. 

Lauren Isenhour, a Nashville, Tennesse-based mom of two, also looks for brands that are made and sourced in the U.S., if possible. "Products should be made responsibly," she says. She likes brands like Zarbee's, Think Baby sunscreen, and Hello toothpaste.

Lauren Isenhour, Nashville, Tennesse

Products should be made responsibly.

— Lauren Isenhour, Nashville, Tennesse

Besides the straightforward ingredients, parents agree that the convenience of buying alternative brands at big box stores is a large draw. "As a mom, I have very little time for errands, so being able to multitask is a must," Hubbard says. "And the hours of drugstores and big box stores are very helpful."

What to Consider When Looking at Alternative Medicines 

Lon Jones, DO is a Texas-based certified osteopathic family physician. He often recommends homeopathic remedies or alternative treatments to his patients because they are devoid of artificial ingredients and preservatives.

Dr. Jones suggests always searching for the product’s active ingredients to clue you in to how the remedy will work. “Some ingredients, like vitamins, work to benefit your health over time, but might not work to treat an illness on contact,” he says.

He gives the example of xylitol, a naturally occurring alcohol that has been shown to help treat colds. He says it can be used to flush out the nasal cavity and help with stuffiness from allergies, colds, and the flu. It is a product he often recommends to patients.

"Vitamin C, [by comparison], will not offer immediate relief, even though it has amazing health benefits," he says. "Rather, [it will] boost your immune system if taken over time.

Evaluating what exactly the product's ingredients do will help you determine if it is the right choice for your family.

A Word From Verywell

These wellness brands illustrate the fact that there are many options to treat your family's aches and ills, and the options are expanding all the time.

If you are ever unsure what to try, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you determine the best course of action for your family, and which treatments make sense for your children.

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3 Sources
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