Holiday Gift Guide: Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy and Under $30
First, I want to cover holiday gift sets, kits, palettes, and value sets specifically and exclusively. There are several more posts to come, including items from holiday color collections as well as permanent products and more. I tried to take into account the incredible input I received from readers, so the whole guide is broken down by price with special attention to different categories of products (e.g. lipgloss vs. eyeshadow), as well as I tried to provide commentary on who the gift might work for.
A Few Money-Saving Tips
- If you’re on a tight budget this year but feel you absolutely must buy something to gift, consider doling out more on a single value kit/set but then breaking it up. For instance, a kit with ten lipglosses can be split and gifted to two or three or even ten people. You can buy festive holiday ribbon at a local crafts store to tie around the gloss, or you could include a few holiday candies or homemade baked goods.
- Splitting up sets is also a great idea if you’re looking for stocking stuffers or you want to do more mixing-and-matching of gifts for your favorite pals (say a gloss, eyeliner, and lipstick).
- When it comes to getting the most for your money, pay attention to the amount of product you’re getting and compare to the full-sized version (and its price).
- Consider nail polish sets and kits; some come around for the holidays (but availability online may be difficult), there are lots of fantastic brands for $2-5 a pop, so you can get a good variety without breaking the bank.
Eyes: Snag two travel-sized eyeliners (which are usually around 0.03 oz., compared to 0.04 oz. for full size) in Oil Slick and Rockstar in Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil Duo ($14.00); there is also one in Bourbon and Ransom. Bare Escentuals Strike It Rich Prime Time Collection ($28.00) contains five miniature-sized versions of the brand’s colored primer, which I’m a fan of; the only way the kit could have been better is if they included Urban Nature!
Cheeks/Face: Trial kits like Benefit One Prime Day ($10.00) are great for personal use but also to give, because you’re giving someone the chance to try new products they might not otherwise buy, but if you’re not totally sure they’ll love them, neither of you will feel bad. I’d give this to a friend who complained about their oily skin! Something else to consider is Benefit’s Powda WOWza, which consists of three top-selling face powders (and two that I love): CORALista, Bella Bamba, and Hoola.
Lips: This is an easily one of the best places to get a lot of bank for your buck when it comes to holiday sets–there are numerous lipgloss/lipstick kits available. I love the sheer, tinted hydrating lip shines, and the Philosophy Much Mistletoeing Lip Shine Set ($20.00 for 4×0.50 oz.) is a good value (these are full-sized!) and already comes in festive packaging. Korres has a great lipgloss formula in their Cherry Oil Lipglosses, and for the holidays, they have a Cherry-Picked Cherry Oil Lipgloss Quad ($28.00 for 4×0.20o oz.) set–and don’t let the word “quad” fool you, because they’re four individually packaged glosses that are full-sized. For lip balm, you know I’m loving and have to recommend Jack Black Balm Squad Lip Quad ($25.00 for 4×0.25 oz.) includes four full-sized lip balms of my very favorite formula in four flavors (there is also a lip balm/hand cream duo for $12, and both formulas TOPS!).
Skin/Body: Badger Three Bold Balms Set ($15.99) is a fabulous balm for healing dry, cracked skin, and this set gives you one to help with sore muscles, another for everywhere, and one scented to help you sleep–a totally classic multi-purpose balm but in a cuter set for the holidays. Bliss Winter Wonder Hands ($11.00) is a duo of hand creams that are purse-sized and fit easily into stockings. It’s not my very favorite hand cream, but it’s a good one! Burt’s Bees Healthy Hands Repair Kit ($12.99) is perfect for someone who works with their hands or loves to do their nails (and is therefore meticulous about their hands!).
When it comes to body care, my favorite go-tos for gifts are Philosophy and Bath and Body Works. Philosophy has numerous gift sets available (from all categories they offer), but a few of the ones I like best are Sugar Plum Frost Set ($18.00), Candy Cane Trio ($22.00), and Fun in the Frosty Air Trio ($25.00). Similarly, Bath and Body Works has tons of various baskets and sets. Giving body products are excellent gift ideas for people who enjoy relaxing (think baths and long showers) or for those you don’t know well enough to be able to pick a specific color for. If you’re unsure about someone’s scent preferences, food-based scents tend to be most generally applicable, so long as they’re not cloyingly sweet.
Fragrance: They may be teeny-tiny, but you’ll be surprised at how many uses you’ll still get out of Tocca’s Love Yourself Collection ($18.00 for 7×0.05 oz.). Pacifica Hawaiian Ruby Guava Take Me There Set ($18.00) contains travel-sized versions of the scent’s rollerball perfume, body butter, and body wash, which would be a great layering kit, especially for someone who enjoys fruitier, tropical scents.
Do you have any suggestions for readers on the prowl for affordable holiday gifts this year that came out just in time for holiday gift-giving?
Bliss Fabulous Skin-Reviving Rubberizing Mask
Want to jump on the DIY trend and recreate the Bliss Spa experience at home? ‘Mask’ and you shall receive! Snag a spa-worthy experience from the comfort of your own bathroom and put your best face forward with Bliss’ NEW fabulous skin-reviving rubberizing mask.
Designed to temporarily envelop the skin’s surface, this unique rubberizing mask absorbs into the skin, peeling back to reveal purged pores and renewed skin. The brightening formula is packed with powerful nutrients and antioxidants(vitamin c + bilberry to name a few!), refreshing the skin for a vibrant, even look.
Not only does the mask help you say goodbye to dull, tired skin, but the fun application is also perfect for a blog photo or video demo!
- Empty the packet into a mixing bowl, add a scoop of water and mix with enclosed spatula into a smooth paste
- Paint the paste onto your face and neck with the spatula
- Allow mask to rubberize for 15-20 minutes (and paint your nail while you wait!)
- Peel mask off in one swoop
- Ta-da – a true at-home spa experience!
availability: bliss fabulous skin-reviving rubberizing masks contains six masks and are available in July for $38.00 at bliss spas, blissworld.com, bliss catalog (888 243 8825), and Sephora and Ulta retailers.
Anyone else curious about what a rubberized mask feels like? Hmm…
Bliss Lemon + Sage Body Scrub
Bliss Lemon + Sage Body Scrub ($36.00 for 12 oz.) is touted as both a body scrub and skin polish, though the two terms mean different things to me. A body scrub is a coarser product designed to help slough off dead skin cells on the skin that covers your body (which essentially excludes your face, possibly your neck), while a skin polish is a grainier, finer product that buffs and just tends to be gentler overall. Do they mean the same thing to you? I’m more curious than anything. We all have our own expectations/ideas depending on products and how they’re marketed!
The body scrub has a fresh lemony scent that’s light and not synthetic, and it’s really not a scent that will last and last post-shower. It has rather fine, grainy particles that will get the job done, but if you’re looking for a coarser scrub like your typical salt/sugar scrub, I don’t think this will be vigorous enough for you. However, if you prefer something smoother, finer, and altogether gentler (particularly if you have sensitive skin), the consistency of this product is more up your alley. Bliss calls the exfoliating piece “circular scrubbing grains,” which is good, because their spherical nature will avoid tearing the skin.
Ingredients: Water, Myreth-3 Myristate, Octyl Stearate, Polyethylene, Butylene Glycol, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-20 Methyl Glucose Distearate, Dimethicone, Propolis Extract, Dimethicone Copolyol, Beeswax, Gylcereth-7 Hydroxystearate/IPDI Copolymer, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Palmitate, Triethanolamine, Hops Extract, Horsetail Extract, Beeswax, Stearamidopropyl Phosphatidyl PG-Dimonium Chloride, Cetyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea.
I like that my legs feel rejuvenated and more moisturized after using this product. Not all scrubs impart moisture, and I can always appreciate one that multi-tasks (though if you suffer from drier, scalier legs like me, you don’t get to skip the body butter). Depending on your budget and what you like to splurge on, Bliss’ body scrub isn’t for everyone–it can seem pricey. Personally, it takes me ten years (exaggeration!) to get through a jar of body scrub, so if it does the job I like, smells good, etc., I’m not overly concerned whether it’s $10 or $40, since I know I’m going to get plenty of use out of it. If, on the other hand, I was going through a jar a month, I’d be more wary.
If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ!
- Product: 27/30
- Value: 7/10
- Ease of Use: 4/5
- Packaging: 4/5
RECOMMENDATION: If you prefer gentler exfoliating products for your body, consider Bliss’ Lemon + Sage Body Scrub, which uses very fine, grain-like particles to get rid of dry skin.
AVAILABILITY: bliss, Sephora
Happy Feet with Bliss Softening Socks
Bliss Softening Socks ($48.00) are a real treat for dry, cracked, and tired feet. These are an indulgence, not a necessity, but those with brutally dry or cracked heels will find these a nice way to get a little at-home spa treatment.
The socks can be worn as they’re bought, or you can lotion up your feet with any shea butter-based product (I used Bliss’ Lemon & Sage Body Butter) and then slip on the socks. The socks are lined with a “self-activating gel lining,” which is supposed to release olive oil, jojoba seed oil, grape seed oil, and vitamin E for hydration. On my foot, the gel lining goes up to my ankle, while the sock itself extends up a few more inches (but I have big feet–size 10). The gel kind of clings to your feet, and to be honest, the feeling is weird (not bad, but it is an odd feeling!) at first, but once your feet have warmed up the gel inside, they’re pretty comfortable.
I usually will slip these on when I know I’m going to be at my desk for awhile, because I feel like you probably shouldn’t walk a mile in these, though nothing indicates you couldn’t (but it feels funny, ha!). I will wear them for about thirty minutes or so, and my feet come out feeling soft and smooth. For reference, though, I don’t have the most beat up feet. I have baby feet in the sense that I pad around the house in socks on the regular, so walking on pavement makes my poor feet cry.
You can use these without lotioning up and still get a nice softness after twenty to thirty minutes of use, which is nice for those days where a thick body butter just won’t do. Those who just want an indulgence and general softening will find that enough, but for those with cracked heels, I definitely recommend using a body butter or Bliss’ Sock Salve to really treat your feet.
For those who can’t afford these socks, I recommend using a body butter (if you want to stick with bliss, I like Bliss’ Lemon & Sage Body Butter) to slather on your soles and then slip into a pair of thick socks and leave on for an hour (or overnight) for softened feet.
If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ!
- Product: 26/30
- Value: 7/10
- Ease of Use: 4/5
- Packaging: 4/5
Recommendation: With the price tag of these socks, they are definitely a luxury to own. They’re good for those who want to make the softness of a pedicure last and last or for those with extremely dry heels and toes. If you have fairly happy feet, you may want to try moisturizing with Bliss Sock Salve ($28.00) and slip on a pair of thick socks as a less expensive alternative.
Bliss Lemon + Sage Body Butter ($35.00) This is one of my favorite body moisturizers! The scent is this great herbal-laced lemony fragrance that isn’t overwhelming, nor perfume-y. It’s incredibly thick and hydrating, which makes it ideal for the winter time.
Bliss Softening Socks ($48.00) Talk about a luxe gift! These soft gel socks slowly release jojoba, olive oil, and vitamin E while they keep your feet warm. I just love these for curing dry heels and tough feet–I do admit I wish they weren’t so pricey!
Bliss Triple Oxygen Instant Energizing Mask ($52.00) This is my go-to when I haven’t slept well. This helps to instantly refresh my face, so at least I don’t look half as tired as I feel. A little goes a long way, and I don’t use it every day or anything, which means the product itself earns its keep by lasting forever. (Okay, not quite forever, but long enough.)
Bliss ‘Thinny Thin Chin™’ ($48.00) Have you been remiss on slathering your neck in sunscreen and moisturizer?Keep your neck looking youthful with this product. I think this may be the only product on the market (at least mainstream) that’s designed for your neck/under your chin.
The Best Of… series is designed to introduce some of the best products offered by the brand. If you’ve ever wanted to try the brand, these are products worth meeting for the first time.
In a world of technology, and being a bit of a product geek myself, when bliss/philips sent over Bikini Perfect (Deluxe Spa Edition) ($59.99), I admired it first in awe, because it looked sleek and practical. Then I admired it because it looked like it could quite easily be a modern day torture device. Seriously, some of those attachments will leave the less hair removal savvy running!
The Bikini Perfect is an at-home grooming system. It features a cordless, rechargeable, shower-friendly trimmer with six attachments. The kit also comes with trial sizes of their body butter & an ingrown-hair exfoliating pad.
- Precision Trimmer: grooms bikini ilne
- Precision Comb: ensures even grooming results (5 length settings)
- Eyebrow Comb: trims entire eyebrow to a uniform length
- Micro Trimmer: shapes/defines/removes brows or a single hair
- Micro Shaver: extra smooth and safe shaver
- Epilator: removes hair by the root
So what did I do? Being the not-so-hair-down-there savvy (hey, I don’t mind the disposable razor technique–gives me the results I want and keeps me bump free!), I went straight for the Epilator attachment. Now, let me tell you that I imagine the epilator attachment is the most painful of the six, because let’s face it, it’s plucking hair entirely, not just trimming or shaving it.
When you first turn the device on, the speed it is spinning/whirring at is downright frightening. I was like, “OH GOD!” when I turned it on, and I looked at myself in the mirror thinking, “Can I really do this? Aww, what the hell!” For as daunting as it seemed, it wasn’t that bad when I was going around the bikini line and whatnot. This is not to say that it was painless. I think my pain tolerance is decent for down there, so the epilator and I got along fine. However, there were a few hairs that got pulled out that made me go, “GOOD GOD!” The pain is akin to plucking out the hair with tweezers–just not as painstakingly slow. I’m trying to build up some courage to try the eyebrow comb, but we’ll see!
For the pricetag, this is a worth-it purchase if you’re into at-home shaving. If you’re a little terrified of having someone else see (or muck around with) your naughty bits, this is a less embarrassing method. If you’re into Brazilians, you’re probably better off getting a wax, since it’s faster (and the pain is probably about the same as with the epilator in THOSE areas). But for those who just want to trim, neaten, and take care of the bikini line–this does a fine job of keeping you looking your swimsuit best!
Learn more about the kit at blissworld.com.