Tuesday, November 15th, 2011


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?

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38 thoughts on “Holiday Gift Guide: Totally Holiday, Totally Gift-Worthy and Under $30

  1. Chelsea

    I am a HUGE fan of this! thank you Christine <3

  2. Carrie Ann

    Great suggestions! The only other thing I’d recommend that I don’t think you mentioned is Korres value sets at Sephora. Aside from their lip gloss set, they have great lip butter sets for $15 and value sets with body gels, body butters & lip butters. Their products are natural and I absolutely love their body and lip butters. They’re fantastic! At drugstore.com, they have soy candles by de~luxe in winter and other scents for $9.99 (often on sale for less). They smell great and the packaging is pretty.

    • I’m not a huge fan of their lip butters or body butters (they’re decent but not my favorites), so I left them out from my personal experience with them, but I’m really glad to hear you are loving them :) I haven’t tried their lip butters in a tube, because I really didn’t like the pot packaging from before!

      • Carrie Ann

        I have really dry, sensitive skin and Korres is the only brand that soothes my skin and does not irritate it at all. Plus, their fig and guava products smell like heaven to me. That’s why I’m such a big fan. :)

        • I like the scents for sure! :) I’ve been really loving Kiehl’s Creme de Corps (impulse buy during Nordstrom’s Anniversary Sale!) for body cream but there’s no awesome scent to it!

  3. Ardelia

    This might sound a little cheapo but keep the receiver in mind when you do it because it is the thought that counts! Break up gifts with purchase (because they just build up and you’ll never get to all of them) into edited gift sets combining kits and other sets full of minis to suit who ever you’re giving it too especially if you know there are plans after the holidays such a vacation, a new job, wedding, etc.

    • Cecilia

      Great idea! You can do that with samples as well. If you’re like me, there’s probably a shoe box full of samples that you “think” you will try or take with when you travel for convenience, only to realize it’s never going to get touched. You can pair your samples with the main gift. For example, if you are giving some eye shadows, throw in a sample (or two or three) of that UDPP that you have collected. Good foundation coverage starts with clean/smooth skin – throw in some of those skincare samples or primers for your recipient to try.

  4. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Cat Cat

    You really went above and beyond, this is great! I love the money-saving ideas too! Thanks Christine!

  5. Jasmine

    Lancome has a juicy tube set for $29.50 that has 6 tubes, they are a bit smaller than the “real” ones but would make great stocking stuffers, or has you said bundled with cookies!

  6. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Michelle MichelleChefNYC

    Christine – you are a ROCKSTAR for doing these holiday gift guides… I always get great gift ideas when you do these and your tips are right on point… I just have to say, my life would not be complete without your wonderful reviews and recommendations. Thank you so much for all the effort and thought you put into everything you do on this website, and for making so many of us makeup junkies very happy (and broke, lol)!

  7. Michelle

    I’m loving the list!

    In fragance you wrote about Pacifica and in my last trip I bought the Tuscan Wanderlust set:
    http://sephora.com/browse/product.jhtml?id=P299701&categoryId=RVP

    It’s $28 but contains 4 full size products: Perfume, body wash, body butter and lip tint. The smell is very sweet and wonderful!

  8. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Mandy bxboricua

    i bought the Jack Black Balm Squad during the Sephora VIB sale because you always give it rave reviews and I Love it!!!

  9. Lisa

    I love the Tarte Lipsurgence set. You get 5 for $29!

  10. Tiffany

    I love the China Glaze holiday sets! They’re already cheap and I got a good deal with my coupon for being a Sally’s Beauty Supply member.

  11. Cynthia

    Hi Christine, love the site and your dedication to your readers!I’m finally delurking but i’m a longtime reader lol.

    I’m definitively loving the idea to mix and match sets, I’m thinking the Lorac Bejeweled Lip Gloss Collection ($25), the UD 24/7 eyeliner set in Electric($32), and the Sephora Lashstash($45) with the 10 minis. That way divided by 5 everyone’s gift is about $20 but they get a lipgloss, liner, and 2 mascaras! Personally, I’d prefer that over a full size item for the same price. It’s a little more exciting to get a variety of products without having having to sacrifice quality over quantity!

    • That sounds like a great idea! :) I LOVE Sephora’s huge stashes. I just think they’re a great opportunity to try popular brands/products without spending $200 on all of them!

  12. Isabella

    I personally feel that the new NYX lip gloss set (it’s not really available online… I only found it on beautyjoint recently) and I feel like it’s a great product to gift to someone who’s just starting up with makeup or would like to expand their collection!

  13. Cynthia

    I totally forgot to add this to my previous comment, but Gilt City is running the BEST NARS deal. Buy a $50 voucher for a $80 credit to spend on the official NARS site! And if you’re a new to Gilt you get 20% off your first purchase so it only comes out to $40! That would be like 2 lipsticks and a blush, or for friends that are more advanced in makeup you could get a couple of nice brushes that would be too expensive otherwise lol. As you can tell from this and my previous comment, I’m that girl that gives everyone makeup as presents, LOL!

    The deal ends on the 23rd but I’m thinking it might run out early since the in-store voucher for the NY flasgship store is sold out

  14. Haha, you know I never thought about buying sets and breaking them up. I messes with my sense of symmetry, but when I think about it, it’s a great idea!

    Another recommendation, if I can make one, is to buy handmade products. Lots of companies like Aromaleigh, Rockeresque, Geek Chic Cosmetics, Fyrrinae, and Pretty Addictions have absolutely gorgeous products and sometimes they don’t break the bank like high-end brands can. Plus, I know that a few are creating holiday sets, which could also be fun! That way you can support a small business, get your friends something they won’t necessarily find in stores, and save a few dollars, too!

    • Thanks for the rec, Samantha! :) I haven’t tried any of those brands (I tried to keep all recommendations to products I’ve actually tried and tested or products from brands where I have tested similar products – e.g. maybe not THAT gloss but I’ve tested that formula).

      • Oh, fair enough! I was just putting the suggestion out there for those who would rather do something a little cheaper, for those who prefer handmade, or for those who are Sephora-phobic. Believe me, they do exist out there! =D

  15. Splitting up gift sets is a fantastic idea!

  16. Adrienne

    Just started my holiday list for others. I’m on a bit of a budget since I’ve been bad at sephora all year. As I was making my list I realized that I can get a lot more impressive of a gift if I didn’t go to sephora/high end. This works for me because I’m shopping for people who live in a small town who don’t know what a sephora is so I they’d probably get more use out of a large bath set from target than something tiny from a brand they don’t recognize. I think as people who are so into beauty products we may forget that not everyone will see MUFE and drool.

    • So true! One of my biggest tips is to remember to buy for the person, not for yourself – because even though we’re like OMG YES! doesn’t mean someone else would be!

  17. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Cathy Angelcat47

    Two ideas:Etsy.com sells many beauty products,including mineral makeup,skincare and bath and body(bonus….many are organic!!).

    Both QVC and HSN sell many try me or discovery kits you won’t find elsewhere and they cover all categories,including makeup,skincare,fragrance,hair and bath and body.