If You Have to Buy a Gift Set, Make It a Good One

Giving someone a skin care or cosmetics "gift set" as a Christmas present can be awesome, or not so awesome, depending entirely on the quality of the gifts within the set. While these handy, pre-packaged sets make life easier for the giver, things get a little trickier for the recipient, who may not want to smell like whatever Bath & Body Works' Cashmere Glow smells like for an entire year.

So the question is: To gift set, or not to gift set, our loved ones this holiday season?

A Few Rules

One of the biggest problems with giving someone a pre-packaged "gift set" is that it kind of screams, "I gave this absolutely no thought at all, other than remembering I had to get you a gift as I walked by this thing at the mall." So remember:

1. Brand loyalty is important: Your sister is a huge fan of Laura Mercier, but Sephora ran out of its gift sets so whatever, just get her one from Urban Decay, right? WRONG. Go to another Sephora, order online, or visit the counter at a department store. Someone already put this set together, and wrapped it for you, so don't be a Grinch. 2. It doesn't matter what you would like, it matters what they would like: No one cares that you would love to receive the Starbucks Holiday Mug Gift Set, especially not the friend you gave it to ... who only drinks tea. 3. If the packaging is cheap, RE-WRAP IT: Even the most expensive gift sets can just look ... well, they can look shitty. There, I said it. Cheap, loud, crinkly cellophane and crumbling cardboard boxes do not make a great impression, no matter how lovely the products inside; be a sport, re-wrap the thing if it looks like holy hell.

A Few Sets

There are so many great sets this year, guys! Just about every brand is putting together something special, so there really is something for almost everyone.

Clarisonic Mia2 Amethyst Radiance Collection: A Clarisonic, PLUS products from Dr. Dennis Gross, Peter Thomas Roth, and Ole Henriksen, all for $150 at Sephora online. Great for women or men. (And maybe you--what a great price.) • LUSH Season's Tweetings Set: UK-based company LUSH specializes in (mostly) natural products, and doesn't sell any products that have been tested on animals. This $60 set comes in a box wrapped in gorgeous, hand-made paper that itself is made from recycled T-shirts, and includes some of the line's best-sellers like tofu soap and their "Buffy Body Butter." • Bobbi Brown 'Old Hollywood' Mini Brush Set: Although I'm generally wary of brush sets--you always end up with one, or more, you never use--this $70 travel set is an incredible value, as Bobbi Brown brushes are top-of-the-line. Here, she gives us four of her top-sellers in travel sizes: face blender, eye sweep, smoky eyeliner/angle eyeshadow, and eyebrow brush. The regular-sized Eye Sweep brush alone is $32. • Tom Ford Grey Vetiver Gift Set: Like all Tom Ford fragrances, this masculine scent is so very, wearable-y unisex, that you could give it to a man or a woman, OR you could buy it for your man, and wear it yourself--at least the cologne. $120 for cologne and aftershave balm (macys.com). CategoryID=30088#fn=BRAND%3DTom%20Ford%26SHOW%20ONLY%3DGift%20and%20Value%20Sets%26sp%3D1%26spc%3D5%26ruleId%3D57%26slotId%3D1 • Mason Pearson Brush & Detangling Comb Set: The most famous name in hairbrushes (yes, there is such a thing) this Mason Pearson set is a steal at $170 (neimanmarcus.com), considering that's the regular price of the brush alone! Mason Pearson brushes are quite famous, and last for years and years; further, the boar bristles famously distribute scalp oils evenly, to protect and make hair healthier. A great set for a man, or a woman; also perfect for a young woman who is just starting a quality cosmetics collection (she'll probably take this brush to college, and use it on her wedding day).

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