Diabetes Tech

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre 1 & 2: Which Is Best For You? [Full Comparison]

Written By:
Cazzy Magennis
Last Updated:
May 26, 2021

Both Dexcom & FreeStyle Libre are fantastic tools to help you better manage your blood sugar levels and get your diabetes under control. But which is best?

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I’ve had the pleasure of using both the Dexcom G6 and the FreeStyle Libre.

Not just at home, but also when travelling extensively around the world.

And since these are two super useful and popular devices in the diabetic community, I thought it would be a great idea to compare the two devices. 

I’m going to look at their functionality, their comfort, convenience and overall how they performed!

If you’re deciding between the Dexcom and FreeStyle Libre, then hopefully this post will help you make a better decision. 

So let’s get right too and compare the Dexcom G6 and FreeStyle Libre! 

What is the FreeStyle Libre?

The FreeStyle Libre Sensor is a flash monitoring system from Abbot that allows you to “scan” your blood sugar either via an app on your phone, or the FreeStyle Libre monitor. 

This means you instantly see your blood sugar levels, without needing to finger prick! 

I've found this particularly useful over the years when I've been on a night out drinking alcohol with diabetes and finger pricking isn't very convenient.

Your results will be placed on a graph alongside an arrow which will indicate whether your blood sugar is rising, falling, or seems like it’s in a stable position. 

This is achieved by wearing a small sensor on your arm. 

The FreeStyle Libre is typically the size of two stacked quarters in the USA or a 2 pence piece in the UK and they last up to 14 days! 

freestyle libre sensor
This is what the Freestyle Libre looks like!

What is Dexcom?

The Dexcom is a smart system known as a “continuous glucose monitor” and it’s a device that continuously monitors your glucose levels and shows them either on your phone, your Dexcom receiver or even a smart watch, like the Apple Watch. This reduces the need for a glucose meter. 

It also allows you the ability to set alarms so that if your blood sugar is rising or falling, it will give you an alarm notifying you of this, meaning you can “fix” the issue before it happens. 

This is all achieved by wearing a small mintor on your arm, or stomach, or basically wherever it’s comfortable for you, and it typically lasts 10 days (however, there are little hacks to make them last longer).

There are different types of the Dexcom sensor, including the G5, G6 and G7. For the purposes of this review, I will be talking about the G6 as that’s what I used. 

dexcom cgm
This is what the Dexcom looks like!

CGM vs FGM

A CGM system is a continuous glucose monitor that continuously monitors your blood sugar, and that’s what the Dexcom is. 

Whereas, because the FreeStyle Libre doens’t have the ability to set alarms, it’s not considered a CGM, but rather a FGM, which is a flash glucose monitor. 

Abbott has already developed the FreeStyle Libre 2, which has the ability to set alarms, turning it into a CGM, but it’s not widely available yet, but I now have the chance to try it and you can check out my review here.

Converting your FreeStyle Libre into a CGM

If you want to turn your FreeStyle Libre into a CGM, there are other alternatives. 

MiaoMiao

Firstly, you’ve got the MiaoMiao sensor.

This is a great device that you simply place on top of your FreeStyle Libre sensor and it provides you the ability to continuously conduct your blood glucose monitoring on a compatible app, and set alarms for the purposes of catching highs and lows. 

It’s a one-time purchase that can be reused as often as you wear your FreeStyle Libre. 

Blucon Nightrider

The other option is the Blucon Nightrider sensor, which is basically a similar device to the MiaoMiao, but they’re different sizes and some people prefer the app of the Blucon and the fact you can sync the data up to other members of the family. 

So, for example, mums and dads could monitor their child’s blood glucose from another room. 

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre: Which has the better design?

I love the design of both the FreeStyle Libre and the Dexcom, so it’s definitely hard to choose a winner out of the two from this perspective. 

With both devices, I use an app on my phone to scan or monitor my blood sugar.

I find this means there is one less extra device to carry around with me, and I always have my phone on me, so I’ll never forget it.

Both the Dexcom and FreeStyle Libre are small, but I would say that the Dexcom is more discreet. 

The reason for this being where you can place it. 

Basically the FreeStyle Libre is “approved” for use on your arms, and it’s said it may not be as accurate on other parts of your body.

Whereas the Dexcom can be placed on your arms, stomach and legs. This means it’s easier to “hide” or “cover up” if that’s what you desire. 

They are both prone to getting stuck on doors, and I’ve almost ripped them both out because of this. 

But that’s why you invest in strong covers for them, which thankfully are widely available and accessible nowadays (check out these ones here).

Get 10% off JustAPatch with the code cazzy10

So, just in terms of discreetness, I’m going to let Dexcom win this round! 

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre: How easy are they to insert?

Both the FreeStyle Libre and Dexcom come with insertion devices which basically help you insert the sensor into your arm. 

When I first used both of them, I was scared, so I can’t say I enjoyed the process (but you do get used to it after the first time!).

I think the Dexcom looks a little more intimidating than the FreeStyle Libre. 

That being said, I never felt pain from either of them, so it’s a painless process from both devices. 

I would have to say the FreeStyle Libre wins this round, because the insertion device is a little smaller and less bulky. 

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre: How accurate are they?

In terms of accuracy, I thought both devices performed quite well. 

But as always, before you totally rely on your new device, it’s important to still continue to test your blood sugar, alongside the scanning or CGM nature. 

This means you can test the accurate nature of the device. And this is especially true if you are going to be taking insulin for meals. 

With both devices, I think that they’re not entirely accurate for the first 24 hours, but I simply put this down to the device adjusting. 

However, I would feel comfortable relying on them both for data to make decisions regarding my blood sugar levels. 

Both FreeStyle Libre & Dexcom win here because they are awesome at what they do.
freestyle libre reader

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre: What are the bonus functions?

One of the big features that the Dexcom has over the FreeStyle Libre is the fact that with the Dexcom, you can set alarms. 

These can be alarms that let you know if your blood sugar is rising or falling (before it actually happens), this allows you the ability to catch those sugars before they happen, thus helping to prevent rapid swings in blood sugar levels. 

The FreeStyle Libre 1 does not allow this, but the FreeStyle Libre 2 does (I've got a new review on it). 

I actually found the Dexcom to be very overwhelming. I don’t know if it’s because my settings were wrong, but I just felt like I was constantly getting beeped at and alarmed at, and sometimes it wasn’t even right. 

So it quietly started to drive me a little bit crazy. BUT, this was in the first couple of weeks when I wasn’t used to it, and I hadn’t got the settings adjusted accurately enough yet. 

So what I will say is that if you find that when you’re using the Dexcom, that it’s a little too much, give it some time to let yourself adjust to it. 

Both the devices allow you to download data from your device which will allow you to see patterns of blood sugar. 

This data helps you make adjustments and they both can give you a predicted HBa1C level based on the data it’s taken from you.

Another cool thing about the Dexcom is that it can be synced up to a smart watch, and I think this is a really cool and useful way to see your data without any fuss or need to carry extra devices. 

Dexcom wins pretty hands down in terms of additional functions that allow you to customise your experience.

Freestyle Libre 2 VS Dexcom

As mentioned above, one of the brilliant bonus features of the Dexcom was the ability to add optional alarms.

Well, the Freestyle Libre 2 allows you to do the same thing! I've been using the Freestyle Libre 2 for a couple of months now and the alarm system is very very convenient and works very well, and the fact that I get the Freestyle Libre 2 on the NHS (I don't have to pay for it), means it's now a handsdown winner for me.

I've written a full guide on the Freestyle Libre 2 sensor, that you can check out for more information.

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre: Which lasts the longest?

The FreeStyle Libre lasts 14 days. In some areas, they still only have a 7 day sensor lifetime, but in general, the standard time of the Libre is 2 weeks. 

Once it’s done, there is no way to restart it (that I am aware of). 

The Dexcom lasts 10 days, however, lots of people have discovered ways to “restart” their Dexcom sensor, meaning it can last longer. 

I’ve never done this personally and there are some issues over whether it’s still as reliable and accurate, but I know of quite a few diabetics who successfully extend their Dexcom (it’s pretty darn expensive!) 

You can check out this article here about restarting a Dexcom G6 for some advice and insight. 

The FreeStyle Libre lasts for 4 days longer than the Dexcom, so wins here.

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre: How easy are they to remove? 

You’ll be happy to hear that when it comes to removal, both the Dexcom and the FreeStyle Libre are super easy. 

Let’s start off with Dexcom. To remove the sensor with the transmitter still attached, peel off the sensor pod like an adhesive bandage. This will pull out your sensor. If your sensor seems stuck, then I would dab some warm water around it.

After removing the sensor pod from your body, remove the transmitter from the sensor to keep for your next sensor.

The FreeStyle Libre is a similar process. You just remove the sensor by pulling it off. I suggest you grab and pull in one fast motion, so it doesn’t half stick. A bit like ripping off a bandaid. 

If it feels stuck, then ask someone else to remove it for you. 

When you remove either device, you might be left with some stickiness and markings of the device. You can easily remove this with some hot water and soap. 

No winner here as each has a similar process.

Dexcom VS FreeStyle Libre: How much do they cost?

In the UK: Both the Dexcom and the FreeStyle Libre can be funded via the NHS. Admittedly, it seems the FreeStyle Libre is easier to get than the Dexcom. 

In the USA: I know they’re both available under certain insurance policies, but since I’m not american I don’t know what those are. So if you do, then please do pop some information below in the comments section. 

In the UK, USA and worldwide the Dexcom and FreeStyle Libre sensor can be self-funded.

The costs in UK pounds are as follows.

Dexcom Costs: UK Pricing (Total with VAT )

These prices were correct as of 2018, more accurate prices aren’t published on their website; instead you have to give them a phone call. 

They don’t include the G6, but it will give you an idea of what to expect price wise. You can also get a VAT exemption form to avoid 20% VAT on medical products which will lower the price too. So, with that in mind, below is the cost of a Dexcom cgm.

  • Dexcom G4 PLATINUM Receiver Kit £420.00
  • Dexcom G5 Mobile Receiver Kit £330.00
  • Dexcom G4 PLATINUM/G5 Sensor-1 Pack £61.50
  • Dexcom G4 PLATINUM/G5 Sensor-4 Pack £246.00
  • Dexcom G4 PLATINUM Transmitter Kit £312.00
  • Dexcom G5 Mobile Transmitter Kit £240.00

FreeStyle Libre costs around the world 

  • USA: Starting at $36 at Walmart 
  • UK: £57.95 including VAT (which you can claim back) per sensor and it is now available on the NHS if you qualify.
  • Australia: $92.50 for a sensor/ $95.00 for the reader.
  • Canada: CAD $49.00 for the reader / CAD $89.00 for sensor
  • Ireland: Starter pack: €169.90, Sensor: €59.90, Reader: €59.90

If you can’t purchase them yourself, maybe someone could get you one as a diabetes gift for your birthday or Christmas …

The FreeStyle Libre is the clear winner with regards to pricing

The final verdict

So there you have it! My guide on the Dexcom VS The FreeStyle Libre! Overall I think investing in either of these options is a great choice if you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes and you’re looking for hopeful solutions to managing your blood sugars and diabetes care.

Each one can do wonders for your blood sugar management and helping you to avoid diabetes burnout.

Personally for me, at this stage in my life, I prefer the FreeStyle Libre.

It offers all of the necessary information I need, and it’s a massive bonus that it is free for me under the NHS. Plus, when combining it with my MiaoMiao, it becomes a makeshift CGM which is perfect for my needs.

That being said, one of the massive advantages the Dexcom offers is the ability to create a closed loop system.

Only certain insulin pumps allow this, and the essential idea is that the insulin pump and sensor communicate with each other to automatically release and restrict insulin at all hours of the day.

If I go down this route in the years to come then I will update this post.

I hope you’ve found this most useful and helpful. Now over to you!

What do you think of the FreeStyle Libre or Dexcom? Do you have a clear favourite?

Or maybe you’re yet to try both. If so, which one are you leaning towards?

I would love to hear your thoughts, so drop a comment below ...

Don't forget you can get 10% off covers for your Freestyle Libre & Dexcom with NotJustAPatch with the code Cazzy10

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Cazzy Magennis

Living with type 1 diabetes for over 10 years has given me a lot of life experience, challenges and opportunities. I’ve had ups and downs, but I’m proud that I can live out my dreams whilst managing t1d. I hope my stories can help your daily life with diabetes too!