5 Holiday Gifts NOT To Give

Consider this the definitive anti-gift guide.
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Publish date:
November 17, 2014
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perfumes, gifts, doctor who, Make Up For Ever, gift guide, bad gifts, bath beads, the anti-gift guide

Though the itchy holiday sweater has (thankfully) gone out of vogue, there are LOTS of gifts--especially beauty gifts--destined to be returned.

Getting someone a really misguided present just to get them something is like saying, “Hey, I got you this store credit AND an errand AND time spent waiting in line at customer service.” I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have the so-impersonal gift card.

Often the question isn't so much what to buy (xoVain has that covered), but what to avoid. So here are some beauty gifts that you should NEVER buy your loved ones, along with some suggestions for what to get instead.

1. A Big Ol’ Bottle of Perfume

Unless the person has told you, explicitly, the name of the fragrance that they want, skip it. There is literally NO WAY TO KNOW how a perfume is going to hit another person. I’ve gotten fragrances that unexpectedly smell like ex-boyfriends and make me retch, contain notes that give me a headache, or that meet my body chemistry and turn into something resembling pure formaldehyde.

INSTEAD: Why not get a bunch of little testers from Luckyscent? My friend Suzan once sent me a bunch of beach-themed perfumes to cheer me up in the midst of last year’s Polar Vortex, and it was one of the best presents I’ve ever gotten.

2. Skin Care

Skin is so hard, guys. You can do all the research in the world and still not know what is going to work for someone else’s face. The product you love might break your best friend out. The spinny brush that you swear by might be way too much exfoliation for someone else. That acne treatment system might make a bad skin situation even worse. Unless someone specifically tells you what to buy them, skip this category altogether.

INSTEAD: Try a great body lotion or an awesome sunscreen. Everyone in the Northern Hemisphere needs help keeping their skin protected from the ravages of winter, and everyone in the Southern Hemisphere wants an amazing SPF that doesn’t make them look like a ghost. (Just remember to double-check any known sensitivities with your giftee ahead of time).

3. Anything Calling Anyone Fat

Fat Girl Slim, I’m especially looking at you. I also include diet pills and potions in this, along with shame-y books, “cleanses,” or any kind of gadget that promises crazy weight loss results with little effort. It’s insulting, self-loathing, predatory bullshit, and it has no place being wrapped up with a bow. Being fit, however you define that, is a worthy goal. Telling yourself or someone else what an unworthy turd they are unless they’re SKINNY!! is not.

INSTEAD: Have some more potatoes and eat them right in front of the person who feels the need to comment on your weight, all while making a disturbing amount of eye contact. 'Tis the season!

4. Tinted Powder, Foundation Or Concealer

There are too many variables when you’re trying to match someone’s skin to a product from memory. What shade are they? What undertones do they have? Do they want full coverage or light? Is it too drying or oily? Does it work with the rest of their skin care routine? If you don’t SPECIFICALLY KNOW what shade, brand, and formula the person uses, getting this right by guessing is like trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet whilst blindfolded and riding a horse. And thank you, Scotty, for the analogy.

INSTEAD: If you’re itching to get someone something pretty for their makeup bag, why not buy them a really beautiful compact mirror? Those are always useful.

5. Bath Beads

There is a subset of elderly relatives that looooooove to give bath beads as presents. I get the appeal: they’re pretty, they smell good (or at least they have A smell), they encourage you to relax in the tub. But they’re also goo of questionable provenance trapped inside a gelatinous shell. I don’t know if you’ve ever stepped on one of those half-dissolved bath bead skins, but it is REVOLTING: like what I imagine stepping on a frog to be like. Do you want to sit in melted frog-water? I DON’T THINK SO.

INSTEAD: Buy the person literally anything else. Seriously. Bath bombs are awesome if you’re really hung up on the tub time theme. You can even make them yourself and hide little trinkets inside. Double presents!

  • Now tell me: what's the worst gift you've ever gotten?
  • What about the best (let's be positive here)?
  • What presents do you think should be banished forever! Tell me more, tell me more!