Growing up, like a lot of families who celebrate Christmas, our stockings were always designated for more practical gifts—toothpaste, hair bands, face wash, etc. I’ll never forget my brother’s yearly reaction when my mom put acne spot treatment in his stocking for most of his teenage years (she did it for mine too). “Nothing says I love you like pimple cream!” he’d always joke. His feelings were never seriously hurt and it sort of just became a running joke in the family after a while, but I always thought about this reaction when giving gifts in the future. That said, after working in the beauty industry for a few years and consistently receiving free products (more than I knew what to do with), I was excited to gift them to my friends and family. I remember handing a bundle of random skincare to my mom only to have her say, “Ohh, anti-aging, anti-wrinkle—is that because I’m old?” while picking up certain products. Like my brother, she was just teasing, but her response (and my brother’s so many years earlier) taught me one lesson I still live by every holiday season: with a few exceptions, I almost never give skincare as gifts.
Don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of skincare fanatics who would be thrilled at a luxury skincare product or set, but I know many, many more people who don’t know much about skin care at all. And many, many people who may imply something from me gifting a heavy duty moisturizer (“does this mean I have flaky, dry skin?”) or skin-clearing face wash (“does everyone notice my breakout?”) or lash-growing serum (“are my lashes too short?”). Granted, not everyone overanalyzes a gift this much and not everyone is sensitive, but a lot of people are. I would never say gifting skin care is as risky as gifting, say, an unsolicited gym membership (please never do this), but it’s not totally different.
The thing is, even if you know a friend is into skincare, buying them full-sized products can be tricky unless you want to ask them exactly which products they want and let them know you’re getting them. Maybe they just bought a similar product, or they are on a new skin care regimen that doesn’t include what you’re gifting them. People are particular about their skincare, and the more people are into skincare, the more true this is. So my only (rare) exception to this rule? If the skincare is connected to a particular event or trip. My brother is moving to Alaska in the new year, so I’m giving him my favorite heavy-duty moisturizers and body lotions this holiday, knowing he wouldn’t purchase it himself. Maybe if a friend of yours is going on a long trip you can gift them a little set of travel-sized products for the journey.
As someone who likes to consider themselves a pretty excellent gift-giver, this rule has served me well so far in life. It avoids the implication of, “Hey, this will make your face look better” that skincare gifting can sometimes come with and it forces me to be a little more creative when giving beauty products to my friends and family who do love them—a win, win.