This Is How to Become an Expert Shopper of Presents

gift ideas - assorted Nars products

When it comes to shopping for loved ones, do you find you get stuck for gift ideas? Trust us—it’s not uncommon. It’s one of the reasons careers are made out of personal shopping and why all good department stores have a concierge. When it comes to beauty-related gifts, there are some easy tricks you can employ to ensure you snap up the perfect thing, whether you’re buying for the mum who has everything or the sister with completely different tastes to your own. We called on two shopping experts—Mia Collins, head of beauty at Harrods, and Fran Mayller, beauty concierge at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge—to reveal the gift ideas that will ensure you always get it right.


Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. Buying a fragrance for someone is a tricky task, but it’s not impossible. “Fragrance is such a special gift,” says Collins, so it’s best reserved for your nearest and dearest. “A fragrance consultant will often find a description of someone: Their likes, dislikes, and character are insightful and useful in deciphering which fragrance to recommend,” she adds.

Mayller recommends doing a little friendly spying to find out what your recipient currently wears. “Have a think, too, about what sort of fragrances they prefer: Are they into fresh, sweet, woody, musky or peppery scents?” Mayller asks. “Are they more interested in niche perfumes or well-known scents? Would they prefer a daytime or evening fragrance?” Do your homework and buying perfume will be a doddle.

I personally love the L’Occitane Terre De Lumiére Eau de Toilette ($70) as its a musky and fresh floral that’s inspired by the first break of sunlight at dawn. Dreamy. 

L'Occitane Terre de Lumière L’Eau $70


When it comes to buying someone makeup, a bold palette may seem fun, but don’t overlook the products we actually use every day. “A great eyeliner (I’m a particular fan of Christian Louboutin Oeil Vinyle Luminous Ink Liner, $75) or failsafe mascara (I can’t live without Guerlain Cils d’Enfer Maxi Lash Mascara, $24) can bring joy and a touch of luxury to someone’s morning makeup routine—truly the gift that keeps on giving!” says Collins.

Christian Louboutin Oeil Vinyle Luminous Ink Liner $58
Guerlain Cils d'Enfer Maxi Lash Mascara $24

To ensure the sales assistant can help you, it’s worth going armed with details like eye color, skin tone, and hair color. Not sure you can describe it? “We would recommend taking in a picture of the person you are looking to purchase a gift of makeup for, this will help the sales assistant advise on what will suit your giftee,” suggests Mayller.

Also, Mayller suggests answering yourself these questions before you head out: Do they wear makeup on a daily basis or just occasionally? Do they favor a more natural finish or a more defined look? “If they’re a fan of color, consider brands such as Urban Decay, Fenty Beauty by Rihanna, Nars or MAC,” she advises. “If they prefer a natural look, we’d recommend trying Laura Mercier, Trish McEvoy or Chanel. If they love glamour, how about Tom Ford, Hourglass or Charlotte Tilbury?”


Skincare may seem like a gifting no-no, as there are so many variables to consider, but Collins disagrees, “Skincare is a great gift. Who doesn’t love trying a new lotion or potion? If you wish to avoid questions regarding skin type, I would recommend opting for something everyone can benefit from and enjoy, such as a mask,” suggests Collins. “A face mask is such a decadent ritual; I think everyone should be gifted one. It’s a mini spa experience for the home. I adore the Fresh Rose Face Mask ($26—it looks sublimely pretty, too, and Shangpree’s Gold Premium Modelling Mask ($19).”

Fresh Rose Face Mask $25
Shangpree Gold Premium Modeling Mask $98

If you’re not sure about their skin concerns or ethos (they may only use vegan products, for instance) then how about gifting a beauty treatment? It feels more thoughtful than a generic gift voucher. At Harvey Nichols you can gift your loved ones vouchers for the light-based facials at The Light Salon, or illuminating facials with Debbie Thomas, Mayller tells me.

“You can also buy packages—The Full Works will help a loved one relax,” Mayller notes. “It includes The Light Salon Express LED Rejuvenation Facial, a Nails Inc. manicure and pedicure, a Blink Brow Bar full set of lashes and brow shape, and a Hershesons blowdry.” If you don’t live near a Harvey Nichols, you will find that most spas and treatment rooms offer treatment vouchers, as do hair salons.

The Fail-Safe Gift

Still not sure what to buy? Don’t panic. “Candles make a fantastic gift option, as even when they’re not lit, they act as an object for the home. During the holidays, my home is always scented with Jo Malone Pine and Eucalyptus and throughout the rest of the year, Diptyque Feu de Bois or Baies ($57 each) and Byredo Tree House ($70), which always recall cozy and fun-filled memories,” says Collins.

Diptyque Baies Candle $68
Byredo Tree House Candle $85

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