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The Advice Smackdown Holiday Beauty Gift Guide

By Amalah

I love this time of year. It’s when all the cosmetic companies repackage up insane combinations of their best offerings and sell them at ridiculously discounted prices, all in the name of their “holiday gift collections.” This year, I SWEAR, the deals are the best I’ve ever seen. So that means it’s time for ME to repackage up everything I’ve seen in stores and catalogs and websites, all in the name of a vaguely-useful Holiday Gift Guide. Here are some possible suggestions for all the ladies on your shopping list, from best friends to teens to that coworker you barely know who still hands you a Red Lobster gift card and catches you off-guard and gift-less.
Or, you know, FOR YOURSELF. You know I would never judge.
(Yes, beauty does come at a high cost these days, but I’ve tried to offer suggestions across a variety of price points, and only one thing on this list is tops $100.)
For the (Wanna-Be) Natural Beauty
EcoTools Gift Sets, $4.99 – $16.99, ULTA
The key to looking like you’re not wearing any makeup? Is to apply your makeup with the right tools. EcoTools are affordable, quality brushes made from recycled and sustainable materials. Plus, they’re really pretty.
Smackdown_kiehls.jpgThe World of Kiehl’s Holiday Gift Set, $45, Kiehl’s
This gift would be especially awesome for your mom or mother-in-law or really, anyone who would appreciate a gentle nudge in the direction of quality, natural ingredients in their skin and haircare regimen.
Laura Mercier Flawless Face Kit (Original & Oil-Free), $65, Amazon and Sephora
I could sing the praises of this kit all day. ALL DAY. Ever since Sephora stopped carrying my beloved Sue Devitt, the Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer has been my go-to foundation. And the Undercover Pot is currently in the running for PRODUCT OF THE CENTURY — two different concealers completely erase blemishes, enlarged pores, undereye circles, redness, sunspots/melasma…while a translucent powder keeps everything looking light and natural all day. The value kit also includes all the tools you need to apply everything perfectly and stretch your product supply for as long as possible.
Philosophy Makeup Optional Set, $78, Amazon, Sephora and ULTA
The name says it all, doesn’t it? Yeah, for $78 this is a gift for someone that you really, really love. But seriously, giving the gift of Philosophy can change a life. Those of you who have made the switch know what I’m talking about, particularly those of you who have emailed me offers of your first-born children as a thank you. To which I say: No, not necessary, I simply suggest that you pay it forward by treating someone special with this set.
For the Serious Makeup Lover
smackdown_smokyeyes.pngSephora Brand Smokey Eyes Palette, $38, Sephora
Want smokey eyes but aren’t sure how to accomplish it? This is a great “for dummies” kit that makes it all but foolproof. Get it for yourself or for your favorite party girl, or your best childhood friend in thanks for all of those high school sleepover makeovers she allowed you to subject her to.
Tarte Treasure Chest, $52, Amazon and Sephora
I must admit something: I totally already bought this for me, me, me. And I would buy it again, again, again. It’s stunning. It’s amazing. It’s over $600 worth of makeup for $52. Usually I’m not a big palette lover because I end up using only a fraction of the offered colors while being baffled by the rest, even Tarte’s more dramatic shadow and lip shades go on lovely and subtle, so you can mostly experiment without fear of looking like a circus clown. I’m especially in love with the Soft Pink Luminizer — use it to freshen up that foundation that you bought in the summer and now looks too dark, or use it alone with some concealer or bronzer for a make-up free look. Bonus: Tarte cosmetics are completely free of parabens, phthalates, GMOs, and a ton of other less-than-desirable ingredients.
Sephora Brand Ultimate Blockbuster, $48, Sephora
Okay, I have to say that this kit is B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Like, it would so overwhelm me every morning that I would probably never manage to put makeup on again. The choices! The colors! The just-when-you-thought-it-couldn’t-fold-out-anymore-there’s-a-whole-other-tray! But I have to include it, because…well, it’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S. You should not be able to get this much makeup for $48, especially when you consider that Sephora’s store brand of makeup is ACTUALLY REALLY GOOD. If you want a total “wow” gift for someone this year, this could be just what you’re looking for.
For the Hair Goddess
LUSH Solid Shampoos, $9.25, LUSH
Know someone who’s just plain bored with her haircare routine? Constantly trying out the latest and greatest shampoo recommendation in search of true love? Shake things up with a LUSH solid shampoo, the little bars that are completely natural and last between 60 and 80 washes. Yeah. For real. Make your own little dream gift set by including one of LUSH’s awesome hair deep treatments ($15.95 – $19.95).
Phyto à Porter Frequent Use Collection, $12, Amazon & Sephora
This mini set of luxury hair products is formulated for all hair types, but Phyto also offers more specialized sets for dry and colored hair.
smackdown_carols.pngCarol’s Daughter Tui Hair Holiday Set, $37, Amazon & Sephora
Sumptuous packaging and sumptuous moisture for the driest hair out there. If your hair waves, curls, frizzes, breaks and bends, these products can help tame it back to soft and manageable. (And did I mention how darned PRETTY the set is?)
Ojon Winter Shine & Protect Ritual Kit, $44, Amazon & Sephora
This is one of those “a $100 value!” sets being sold at half price in hopes of suckering you into the brand. Feel free to cackle evil-y at the cash register because it’s really just giving YOU the chance to give someone an eyebrow-raising, expensive-looking gift for under fifty bucks. Give it to someone with tangly, flyaway-prone hair and prepare to hear nothing but raves about your awesome gift-giving skillz all winter long.
For the Teen Who Wants Everything
smackdown_erbandecay%20.pngUrban Decay Apocalyptic Nail Kit, $26, Amazon & Sephora
My mom would NEVER approve of these punky polish colors, which is exactly why I’ve always been fond of giving them to my niece. You know, for her toes! No harm in a little Fbomb as long as it stays in your shoes, right? I still say it’s more appropriate than Britney Spears’ perfumes, at any rate.
Sephora Favorites My First Makeup Kit Deluxe Sampler, $32, Amazon & Sephora
Honestly, if you can ignore the “My First” bit of the name, this kit is a GREAT sampler for pretty much anyone looking to treat themselves to some new makeup and move beyond the Maybelline. If you’ve got a friend who is always complaining about her makeup or goes completely deer-in-the-headlights at Sephora, consider getting her this fun grab-bag of reliable little best-sellers.
smackdown_sephora_fagrancesampler.pngSephora Deluxe Fragrance Sampler For Her, $50, Amazon & Sephora
Wait, hear me out: while $50 seems ridiculous for a box of itty bitty perfume samples, there’s more to this set than meets the eye. It’s part gift set, part gift card, as the recipient can choose her favorite from one of the 12 samples and redeem an enclosed voucher for a FULL-SIZED BOTTLE. All of which retail at $50 or more, easily. Brilliant.
Ultra CHI Holiday Flat Iron, $119.95, ULTA
Look, if a teenage girl wants to flat-iron her hair, she’s going to flat-iron her hair. At least make sure she’s not doing it with a $19.99 metal monstrosity she bought with her babysitting money. Treat her to one of these fantastic ceramic CHI irons in six super-cute colors and patterns. These are usually $150, and for a limited time Ulta will include a coordinating nail polish. (Which: okaaaay, but hey! It’s a $16 value!)
For the Furbabies
Pampered Pooch Collection, $44, Kiehl’s
Sorry. Couldn’t resist. If you’ve got a friend or family member who’s delightfully insane about their dog, show them you understand with this gift — tie a little homemade dog biscuit onto the package and prove that you’re just as adorably pet-crazy as they are.
For the Secret Santa/Kids’ Teachers/Holiday Hostess/Oops I Didn’t Know We Were Exchanging Gifts This Year/Oops I Burned the Christmas Cookies
Burt’s Bees Bee Keeper Tin Gift Set, $9.99, ULTA (or wherever BB is sold)
I probably own a good four or five tubes of Burt’s Bees lip balm, but they are currently pretty useless as I cannot find A SINGLE ONE. They vanish in purses, into the bottom of my nightstand drawer, under the couch. Who would have thought that a brightly-colored lip-balm storage solution would be so…practical? Available in classic beeswax or an assortment, and a mini-purse version.
smackdown_lush%20.pngLUSH Little Gestures Gift Sets, $14.95 -$22.95, LUSH
I could have honestly included these in a bunch of categories — who doesn’t love LUSH’s handmade soaps and bath fizzies? As always, LUSH has a ton of fun themed boxes and products for that tough-to-shop-for person. Got a non-Christmas-specific gifting need? Check out the more holiday neutral Snow Fairy and You Shall Go To The Ball, or Hannukah fave Better Than a Blintz.
Philosophy ‘Twas the Night Before, $20, Amazon & Sephora
It’s milk and cookies! Get it? GEDDIT? Okay, you get it. Got it. It’s also shower gel and bubble bath, and one of those perfect gifts to have around in case of a holiday gifting emergency, from a last-minute hostess gift to the announcement that your brother is bringing his brand-new girlfriend of five whole minutes to Christmas this year.
ULTA 5 for $5 Mix & Match (only available in stores, sorry)
If you’re still in need of some handy stocking stuffers or last-minute gifts and have already blown through your shopping budget, visit an actual ULTA store for their “5 for $5” display. It’s exactly what it sounds like: grab any five products — mani/pedi essentials, bath & body products, mini makeup selections, hair& makeup brushes — and pay five bucks.
ALSO! Sephora just launched SephoraClaus today where they will be granting one beauty wish per day (up to $150), until December 18. Get thee there!


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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