It’s easy to lose sight of the fun part of holiday shopping. One day, your heart is filled with cheer by Bergdorf's windows, the next, you realize it’s three days before Christmas/Hanukkah/etc, you spent all your money at the Chelsea Flea market (on yourself), it’s really too cold to wander around to stores, and you’re thinking of making everyone you know collages out of your old magazines. Nothing spells out the holidays like glue sticks and papercuts, right? Not really.
Before you break out those scissors intending to get all crafty, remember: not all of us are Martha Stewart (I wish we were—I love Martha Stewart), and DIY is usually so much better in theory than practice. So, steer back from the precipice! Don’t fret! Let’s make a plan. I’m here to help, because I love you. The holidays are all about love, right? Love and smart shopping. Which is why, when online hall-of-wonders Taigan asked me to cull a list of beauty-inspired giftables for their annual holiday guide, I couldn't resist. Keeping that old maxim in mind—“Only buy for others what you would want to receive yourself”—I had a field day. So, naughty or nice, the only coal in anyone's stocking as far as I’m concerned is going to be kohl, and it’s going to look great smudged around your eyes à la Bardot. You with me? Let's go:
The perfect hostess gift : Royal Jelly Set of Two Bee Soaps. I don’t care what you say, guest soaps are a great thing to get. I love the idea of dressing up a bathroom for company, everyone appreciates the gesture, and royal jelly is one of those ingredients that if you didn’t know better, you’d think was invented by Roald Dahl, because it’s a bee secretion that anoints queens in the hive(I mean, come on!). Also the soaps smell delicious and the box is equally good-looking.
The fail-safe fragrance : I am normally loath to recommend a scent to anybody flat-out, because I have no idea what you smell like, or what you want to smell like, and buying someone a fragrance as a gift has the potential to backfire faster than you can say “J.Lo Glow.” Santa Maria Novella’s Eau de Cologne is a rare exception. It’s handmade in Florence, unisex, fresh and earthy, with subtle floral notes and a hint of musk and spices. And speaking of queens, it was purportedly made for Catherine de Medici upon her wedding to Henry II. If it’s good enough for Catherine, it’s good enough for you and yours. Also, the bottle is so attractive it makes me want to have a neater medicine cabinet and a friend nosy enough to go through it.
The gift for your friend who deserves some 'Me Time' : Molton Brown’s warming Eucalyptus and Ginger Body Scrub may seem like a whatever present, but let me tell you, that stuff tingles, warms, clarifies, and makes you feel happy all over. Get for anybody on your list who likes to luxuriate in the tub.
Let Them Eat Luxury Lip Balm : La Mer The Lip Balm. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: it feels like velvet, tastes like mint and honey, and leaves your lips smooth and soft. Merry Christmas.
For the gadget-minded/tech-savvy/ skin-possessing : The Clarisonic Mia. “But, Alessandra, isn’t it weird to buy someone a face-washing tool? Won’t that imply that they need to do something about their skin?” Well, yes, friend, it is a little weird, but you know what? They do need to do something about their skin. They need to get a Clarisonic. It's a game-changer. Everyone says so. I’m talking glowy, happy, well-circulated, woken-up, ‘Thank you, Santa!’ skin.
For your jet set friends: Speaking of holidays—is someone on your list going someplace sunny? They need La Roche Posay Anthelios 15 Water Resistant Sunscreen. It’s UVA and UVB protection, non-comedogenic, non-whitening, fast-absorbing, doesn’t smell like a teenager in Cabo, and means you truly care about the recipient because you don’t want them to get wrinkles and sun spots. Neil George’s Detangling Nourishing Spray is also a good gift for somebody beach-bound (the sun fries out hair like nobody’s business), but is equally thoughtful considering what one’s tresses are put through in the colder months (scarves, high collars, frizz, etc).
For your not-so-jet-set friends : Armani’s Sheer Bronzer provides a honey-colored faux-bronze glow that will have everyone guessing where you snuck away to. (Pro tip? The best vacation lie is vague and something they can’t double-check. Like, Mustique, accompanied by a friend nobody’s met before. “You know, you’ll practically get your arm and camera broken if you take photos there.” Not that I would ever do that... Truth and Beauty, people. That’s ITG.)
The party girl present : Bobbi Brown’s Longwear Gel Eyeliner in Black Ink is scary-easy to use, smudge and crease-proof, and packs a major wallop. It makes anybody look like they’ve got Pat McGrath on speed dial, and will last through the ball-drop on New Year’s Eve (or however late your caroling goes, you crazy kids). 29 Cosmetics’ Reserves Lipstick in Call Me A Cab is a bright, true, glossy red that's fortified with SPF 20 (what will they think of next?!), as well as a whole mess of moisturizing, protective agents. It takes ‘Sealed With A Kiss’ to a whole ‘nother level.
The done-partying present : Branche Belle de Nuit Eye Mask. Non-bleached, non-dyed silk carresses your face and blocks out light. Sure, it’s a little princess-y, but you know what kind of people get a lot of sleep and generally look amazing? Princesses.
The 'I always knew you thought we were closer than we are' gift: There is always the potential for being caught with your pants down, when it comes to gift-giving. I mean, of course, you've received a gift from someone you weren’t expecting one from and felt like the meanest grinch in Seuss history for being empty-handed. My advice? Invest in a few bottles of something everybody likes—I'm talking nail polish, speficically Deborah Lippmann's Bad Romance (though, truth be told, liquor usually works, too—it's just less easy to carry around with you). It works for the ladies, the outré or metrosexual menfolk, and anybody with a thing for Gaga or a thing for being on trend as far as dark, chic winter nails go. Burnt-purple glitter? Non-denominational party fun, praise be to the Kwanzaa gods!
Alessandra (and her gifts) photographed by Emily Weiss in New York.
Big ups to the folks over at Taigan for sponsoring this post, spreading holiday cheer with their Gift Guide, and for holding a killer competition over on Pinterest: create a board entitled “Taigan Holiday Wish List' with at least 15 items (all tagged #taiganholiday) and be entered to win a $500 gift card. There'll be one lucky winner selected in early January, which is just in time to feel very happy about the New Year.