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Holiday Gift Guide: Girly Stuff Edition

Yes, video games and electronics and cookbooks are all coming, but this was relatively popular this year, and frankly, the holiday season is the time when I want to break out the bubble bath and the sparkly eyeshadow.  My enthusiasm bubbles over.  Plus, the women on this blog--at least the ones who wear makeup--deserve one post a year where they get to dominate.


I'll just rehearse the advice I gave last year:  fragrance is intensely personal.  Not merely because different people like different scents, but because different scents react differently on different people.  The chemicals in your skin make some fragrances smell divine, others smell like old socks.  So unless your lady has a favorite line of perfumes to which she is already loyal (I pretty much love anything from Ralph Lauren), now is not a good time to be plunking down $65 on a bottle of perfume on the grounds that "that smells nice".

Luckily, Sephora has brought back its fragrance samplers.  The idea is brilliant:  they give you a bunch of little samples, and a voucher that you can bring in that's good for one bottle of any of the scents.  So she can try out a bunch of different perfumes, and buy the one she likes.

They have three this year:

  • Collectors Edition:  DKNY, Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Dior.  Last year this was my favorite of the bunch, but this year, I find it less interesting.  It's also more expensive than the other two kits.  But if you're shopping for someone who tends towards classics, this is probably the set for her.
  • Best sellers: Givenchy, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Stella McCartney.  These fragrances are mostly light and easy to wear; this set is probably what I'd pick for myself.
  • Deluxe Edition:  Don't ask me how they title these things; most of the fragrances in all three sets are pretty deluxe.  These are a little bolder and sexier, from brands like Versace, Dolce & Gabana, and Prada. 

This year, they also have a Collector's Edition and a Deluxe sampler for men, which I think is new.  On a side note, I'd advise women to go try it on in the store, but if you like L'Occitane en Provence, I've become a huge fan of their Cedar perfume, which is part of a line of let us say, less traditional scents with fragrances like Neroli and Myrtle.

If you already know what your giftee likes, those box sets are a little trite, but it's actually a nice way to do fragrance--building up the scent with several products makes it last longer.  And very few women will buy one for themselves, so I'm still a fan of them.


This is probably the area I know most about, and no, not because I slather it on with a trowel every day; I just think makeup is fun.  (Yes, yes, I'm sure I need it.)

Foundation:  Not all makeup is worth spending much money on.  But foundation is one of those things that is hard to get reliable quality from in drugstore brands. I remain a fan of the Bare Escentuals starter kit for most women--it gives a beautiful porcelain finish on most types of skin.  This is actually an easy buy as a gift, because the kits only come in four colors--each contains two foundations, so you can figure out what works for you.  Even the least detail-oriented boyfriend can figure out whether his girlfriend's skin is very fair, medium, or dark.

I, however, am afflicted with hideously dry skin, which can make makeup cake no matter how you moisturize.  Thus, this year I've switched to Lorac Natural Performance Foundation, which has the added bonus of coming in a very cleverly designed bottle, where the top twists to make the pump spout come up, and twists back to make it shrink back into the lid.  No more worries about what happens to my foundation in a packed suitcase. 

ConcealerLorac Double Feature, hands down--one tube contains a concealer on one end, a highlighter on the other. (Particularly effective in the inner corners of your eyes) 

Eyeshadow:  Eyeshadow is one of those things it is not necessarily worth spending a lot of money on--you can get very good results with the stuff from the drugstore.  But people don't usually give a $5.99 Maybelline Duo to adults.   If you want to give eyeshadow, I recommend the Bare Escentuals set of nine eyeshadows, which they do every Christmas.  It has a nice breadth of colors, all of which are beautiful. 

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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