Below are 15 universal, foolproof beauty gifts for the women in your life. These beauty items are curated to be appropriate for all relationships (mom, sister, wife, niece, etc.) along any spectrum of knowledge about makeup (novice to the beauty know-it-all).
Written a picky, hard-to-shop-for Beauty Brat <3
I promise that these gifts will be loved. I can personally attest to owning, repurchasing, and gifting each of the proceeding items.
TL;DR links here, keep reading for more explanation:
- Jo Loves Fragrance Discovery Gift Experience, $225
- Jo Malone's Memoir, $11
- Real Techniques Eye Brush Set & Face Brush Set, $10 each
- Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces book, $13
- Kevyn Aucoin's Making Faces companion makeup sets, $75 ($130 value)
- Lisa Eldridge's Face Paint: The Story of Makeup book, $18
- Scott Barnes' About Face Book, $19
- Scott Barnes' Fav Maybelline eyeliner in Velvet Black and a Lighter, $3
- Priti NYC Nail Polish Remover, $20
- Manyo Factory Galactomyces Niacin, $22
- Manyo Factory Bifidalacto Ferment Complex Serum, $31
- Missha Snail Masks, $4-$6
- Captain Blankenship Golden Waves Shimmer Spray, $28
- Chanel No. 5 Fragments D'Or, $90
- A Sephora Gift Card, $50
1. Jo Loves Fragrance Discovery Gift Experience:
As a rule, we know to avoid purchasing fragrance for someone else.
However, the below Fragrance Discovery Experience ($225) is a genius gift. The recipient gets 9 travel size perfume samples that profile Jo Loves' collection. She can try out each fragrance, choose her favorite, and redeem her credit for a full-sized perfume (included in the price of the set).
The lucky recipient therefore gets to experience several weeks of testing each perfume, with the knowledge that there's a generous part II of the gift awaiting her decision (the full size bottle of her choice).
My personal favorite scent is Pomelo, which smells like a luxurious tropical vacation. Jo Malone thought of the Pomelo fragrance while on an island in the Caribbean.
Purchase the Gift Discovery Set here.
The name "Jo" is likely familiar to you, because it's the sequel company launch of businesswoman Jo Malone. After she sold her eponymous brand to Estée Lauder, the world-famous perfumer was contractually obligated to wait 5 years before she could launch a competitive company. Which leads to the next fabulous gift idea:
2. An Inspirational Book: Jo Malone's Memoir My Story:
This is a fitting companion to the gift set above (the book itself is physically scented with the Pomelo fragrance, which is how I first became hooked).
If you know anyone in your life (especially a teenager) who would benefit from exposure to a success story of someone who was not academically inclined (Jo Malone struggles with dyslexia) this is the inspirational book they need. The story is also a must-read for all female entrepreneurs.
Jo Malone describes how she built her empire from scratch, and how she utilized her unique gifts to jump from a working class upbringing to making fragrances for royalty. It's a story of devastating setbacks (breast cancer, legal disputes within her family, business failures), and the courage required to persist.
Purchase Jo Malone's memoir on Amazon here.
3. Real Techniques Eye Brushes & Face Brushes Sets:
The following brush sets are stellar gifts for young women who are beginning their makeup collection. That said, the low price point is not at all correlated with how fantastic the brushes are, so they are the perfect gift for anyone in your life who wears makeup.
I daily reach for these brushes over my designer brand Japanese-crafted goat hair options.
The bristles are ultra soft, and have been thoughtfully designed to achieve precise makeup application. Guaranteed whomever receives these brushes will be happily surprised.
In keeping with the above theme of supporting female entrepreneurs, Real Techniques is a company founded by two makeup artist sisters, whose successful makeup channel Pixiwoo is a sensation on Youtube. They have a separate channel dedicated to tutorials utilizing their brushes, which is an awesome companion resource for the recipient.
Makeup Reference Books (written by the icons):
I take advantage of libraries as often as possible, but there are some books which provide resources that will be helpful in your life as periodic references. The following books should exist on anyone's shelf who is interested in beauty. They cover big picture concepts and minute technical references.
These are not fluffy nonsense waste-of-time airport reads. They are textbooks-meet-Bible of makeup artistry techniques written by the most talented and successful makeup artists in the world. The material in these books continue to be uniquely helpful and relevant regardless of the thousands of hours of beauty tutorials available on Youtube.
To illustrate their content meatiness, I've renamed the titles, shown below in parentheses, as though they were university courses.
4 - Kevyn Aucoin Making Faces:
5 - Kevyn Aucoin Making Faces Beauty Book Set:
I typically don't recommend purchasing makeup items that involve color for other people: it's too subjective and dependent on their specific complexions.
That said, I'm making an enthusiastic exception for this cute gift set that the Kevyn Aucoin beauty brand has launched in homage to the Making Faces book.
These contour, blush, and eye palettes are organized in "chapters" and magnetically stack like a book together.
A word of wisdom: no harm in including the return/exchange receipt with gifts like these just in case the colors don't work for her.
Purchase the gift set on Nordstrom here.
6 - Lisa Eldridge's Face Paint: The Story of Makeup
(From Deadly to Desirable: A Sociopolitical History of Makeup)
A fascinating read which covers the evolution of aesthetics throughout history. With gorgeous photographs throughout, this is as good a coffee table book as it is a World History of Makeup 101 course.
Purchase the book on Amazon here.
Lisa Eldridge visually previews her book here:
7 - Scott Barnes' book About Face
(Light, Contrast, and Shadow: How to Master The Optics of Beauty)
The King of Contour, aka J.Lo's longterm makeup artist Scott Barnes, teaches the fundamental techniques involved in turning ordinary into screen worthy.
Purchase the book on Amazon here.
8 - Scott Barnes' Favorite Eye Duo: Maybelline Eyeliner & a lighter, $3
In most professional technique makeup books (including Kevyn Aucoin's), the artists do not go into product detail. No brands are usually mentioned. The idea is that it's not the products that count, it's the application.
Scott Barnes makes an exception in his multiple books to repeatedly sing the praises of his career-long favorite eyeliner: Maybelline's Velvet Black $3 two-per-package set.
Similar to raw meat (why can't I think of a more elegant analogy right now?), this eyeliner exclusively demonstrates its true potential when combined with a flame.
Teenage goth girls got it right: you have to quickly hold your eyeliner over fire to warm up the product so that it applies smoothly with deeper pigment. (I've been using the above combo daily and love the results.)
Watch Scott Barnes talk about the eyeliner and demonstrate his technique here:
9. Non-Toxic Nail Polish Remover by Priti NYC, $20:This is probably the most important beauty product that I discovered in 2017. Priti NYC has redefined what nail polish remover can be. Instead of potent, smelly chemicals, they've created a non-toxic, effective, and lovely product that smells like lemongrass and hydrates cuticles while removing polish. It's not only an amazing stocking stuffer, it's also a signifier that you're thinking about your loved one's health.
10. Manyo Factory Galactomyces Niacin Special Treatment, $22:
As someone who is already predisposed to dry skin, I become semi-hysterical as the winter progresses and humidity drops. Manyo Factory is an organic Korean brand that makes no-nonsense, scientifically-driven skincare.
I was first introduced to the Galactomyces Niacin Special Treatment by one my favorite Korean Beauty bloggers, Gothamista. She recommends the serum in many videos, including the below.
My skin drinks this serum up and feels remarkably hydrated for a long time after application. And I love that there's no fragrance or other ingredients that can cause irritation. For all of the above reasons, this is a lovely, and seasonally well-timed gift.
Purchase the serum on Amazon here.
Ingredients: Galactomyces Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate.
11. Manyo Factory Bifidalacto Complex, $31:
Korean beauty philosophy separates two concepts: hydration and moisturization. The idea is that you need to hydrate your skin with an essence or serum, and then lock the moisture in with a thicker cream. A cream alone will not properly hydrate your skin because its role is to prevent moisture loss rather than aid moisture saturation.
Since incorporating hydrating serums into my skincare routine, I've felt tremendous relief in my dry skin, and noticed a nice glowy dewiness. I use Manyo Factory's Bifidalacto Complex after applying the above Galactomyces Niacin Special Treatment. I've never found a more effective hydration system than this 1-2 punch.
Purchase on Amazon here.
Ingredients: Bifida Ferment Lysate, Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Fruit Ferment Filtrate, Niacinamide, Butylene Glycol, Copper Tripeptide-1, Aureobasidium Pullulans Ferment, Panax Ginseng Callus Culture Extract, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Glycerin, Physalis Alkekengi Fruit Extract, Caffeine, Hydrolyzed Algin, Red Ginseng Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Adenosine, Methyl Gluceth-20, Epigallocatechin Gallate.
12. Missha Snail Masks, $3.60/each (on sale for Cyber Monday):
Another staple for winter, these individual sheet masks are as hydrating as masks get. Missha is currently offering 40% off all products for Cyber Monday, so I've stockpiled these for the months ahead.
Masks are an excellent stocking stuffer :) Purchase at Missha here.
It's a sea salt spray that gives your hair mermaid waves, it smells like rosewater, and it has flecks of gold shimmer throughout. The bottle itself is so pretty that it becomes shelf decor. Perfection.
Purchase on Sephora here.
14. Chanel No. 5 Fragments D'or, $90
Another exception to the Don't Buy Someone Else Fragrance rule is Chanel's Limited Edition holiday release of their No.5 fragrance in a gel form. Not to be confused with shower gel, this is a thick liquid with golden shimmer that you can apply to your wrists and collar bone.
Purchase at Chanel here.
15. A Sephora Gift Card, $50
All the above beauty gifts would be lovely presents to unwrap, but I have to advocate for gift cards as well. In addition to giving your loved one the freedom to purchase what she's secretly wanting the most, if you purchase a minimum $50 gift card, she will also receive a 45 minute makeover/consultation with a makeup artist in a Sephora store.
Purchase the gift card on Sephora here.
Hope all was helpful, & Happy Happy Holidays!