Like many beauty lovers, I have fond childhood memories of strolling past the beauty counters of a large, festive-yet-serene department store. Although my only beauty product at the time was probably a tin of lip balm, I loved the sense that a luxurious makeover awaited shoppers at every corner while the white holiday lights and jazzy music rounded out the seasonal magic.
While I’m still a sucker for the distinct, though unmistakably commercial glamour of Christmas, a visit to the mall is much different as an adult. It’s impossible to miss the waste that accompanies the level of gift-giving were expected to partake in. Beauty-related gifts alone are usually packaged in single-use plastic and often filled with more “goodies” than anyone wants or needs (those mega-palettes come to mind!).
Being aware of the sustainability-related obstacles doesn’t have to turn you into a Grinch, however! There are several beauty-themed gifts that are thoughtful and come with minimal or no waste. Plus, they’re truly special (no regifting here…). Finally, these are the kind of gifts that the recipient won’t age out of—classics!—so whether you’re searching for a gift for your sister, bestie, mom, or gran, this list will help you find something that’s just right.
Best Low-to-No Waste Unique Gifts for Beauty Lovers
For the Literary Beauty
Pretty Iconic: A Personal Look at the Beauty Products that Changed the World by Sali Hughes
This engaging work takes a close look at hundreds of products that made a special mark in the beauty world (from Carmex lip balm to Chanel No. 5). British beauty writer Sali Hughes shares her personal connection to each product while situating it in a particular beauty/fashion/cultural context. The writing is a once humorous, informative, and warm with just the right sprinkling of reverence and nostalgia.
The most sustainable way to gift this book is via ebook, of course, and the brief blurbs about products perfectly lend themselves to easy and enjoyable reading while riding public transportation or passing time in a waiting room. Of course, the hardcover version would look beautiful on a bedside table…
Finally, one of the best parts about reading Pretty Iconic is that it may help the reader consider his or her own relationships with the products they’ve owned and currently possess while serving as a reminder that we ought to cherish the basic staples we so often take for granted.
For the Mani-Pedi Enthusiast
Crystal Nail File
Anyone who is serious about nails will treasure a glass/crystal nail file. This simple tool is celebrated among manicurists for being far gentler than disposable emery boards. The file avoids roughing up the edge of the nail (important for preventing snags, peeling, and chipping) while also sealing the keratin layers together at the edge of the nail (or so the story goes!). Rumor has it you can even file back and forth (rather than in a single direction, which is advised for traditional emery boards) without fear of damage. These elegant files are also perfect for a zero-waste routine because they last for years and years and can easily be cleaned (with soap and water) and made like new! I’ve used a crystal file for several years and can attest that the finely milled glass is gentler on my prone-to-peeling nails.
For the DIY Expert
Violet Glass Cosmetic Jars
One of the pitfalls of using exclusively natural ingredients in your DIY products is the issue of expiry. While some natural ingredients serve as preservatives (vitamin E being one of the most common), it’s still wise to protect natural products and DIY concoctions from light, which can make them spoil pretty quickly. Fortunately, there are violet glass jars. These can be reused ad infinitum while providing serious UV protection—and importantly, they look positively glam on anyone’s vanity. (The weightiness of the glass also feels quite luxe.) I personally love violet glass jars so much that I always save them after I finish the product therein. A few cosmetic-style jars like this one are indeed gifts that keep on giving.
For the Vintage Hound or Perfume Lover
A Vintage Perfume Bottle…or a Bottle of Vintage Perfume
Do you know someone who wishes she lived in a past era and whose attention to vintage detail could compete with Dita Von Teese herself? Or perhaps someone who simply adores fragrance? An ornate vintage perfume bottle like the one pictured above (unfortunately no longer for sale–these puppies go fast!) will make their hearts swell. Alternatively, if the beauty lover in your life wears a classic fragrance, consider doing a little hunt for the vintage version of her signature scent (ebay is a great place to start, but also check out antique stores). Comparing vintage to modern formulations is like catnip for the perfume-obsessed.
The beautiful thing about vintage—in addition to the history that accompanies it—is that shopping vintage avoids creating demand for something brand new. It’s a win-win!
What are your favorite kind of gifts to give?
Related: The Vegan Skincare Products & Supplements A Beauty Editor Buys Again & Again
Stars, They’re Just Like Us. Budget-Friendly Beauty Tips From 6 A-Listers
Here’s How I Afford Luxe Cruelty-Free, Natural Beauty Products On A Tight Budget
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