Luxurious bath products at low prices are lamentably hard to find, but I can soak in this stuff for hours. It’s a rich, creamy, moisturising creme that gives a satisfying number of bubbles, and scents the whole house with honey and vanilla. Wonderful.
An impressive standby present for unexpected visitors – or better still, for you when they don’t turn up. A luxury tree bauble filled with sparkling elderflower and citrus shower gel that doubles up just as well as a fragrant, skin softening bath soak.
The ever popular hand wash and hand cream – perfect for teachers, mums, aunts and surprise guests – in gorgeous bright, blowsy floral bottles, for a fair price. The formulas are soft and non-drying, the scent is absolutely lovely (I keep sniffing my hands) and I don’t think I’ve seen more beautiful packaging than this all year.
If you’ve no idea where to start in buying a new perfume for someone other than yourself, then a light, wearable scent in a very beautiful bottle is as safe a place as any. Bright, white flowers and subtle rose make this an easy, feminine choice, and the cool turquoise and scarlett flacon is stunning.
The perfume that single-handedly converted me to rose after a lifetime of avoidance. Soft, with a little sourness to cut through the sweet, highly sophisticated and not at all old fashioned, this extravagant blend smells exactly like a wet, dewy rose garden.
Posh-looking candles can cost a fortune, but this is as stylish as it is thrifty. It has the added bonus of being personalised and ready gift-wrapped, too. An impressive pressie for the price. For extra-special recipients, buy a few and spell out a favourite word.
Iconic British beauty brand Barry M is known for bold colour and fun glitters, but this palette of neutrals is an unexpected treasure. Six nude shadows and one blush, averaging at less than a quid each. Bargainous.
If I had to choose my all-time favourite products from Kiehl’s, every one of these would make the cut. The heavy-duty hand cream is among the best I’ve found for seriously dry hands, and the Creme de Corps body lotion can handle the roughest, flakiest winter skins. Great value.
Benefit does gifting extremely well. This kit contains High Beam highlighter and its hero product, Benetint lip and cheek stain (normally £20 each), as well as a brightening face powder and neutral lipgloss, all packed in a recipient-ready gift box.
Just one beautiful lipstick can make a beauty-lover’s day, and I don’t think Christmas 2015 has a better one on offer than this. A bold, bright kiss-print embossed bullet of enduring lip colour, packaged in a luxury gold tube. The orange is my favourite, but there are no duds in the four-strong collection. If money’s no object, the accompanying face, eye and lip palette is breathtakingly lovely.
It’s remarkable how few beauty brands make brushes worth a damn, but makeup artist Laura Mercier is a notable exception. Six fine-quality brushes for creating almost any look, stored in a sleek wallet for travel. A significant investment, but one that should last a lifetime.
Nars makes probably the best powder blushers in the world. This, the latest of its annual blush palettes (five blushers, one bronzer and a highlighter, to be more specific), is bound to sell out as fast as its predecessors, so best not dawdle.
The icons are always a reliable choice, which is why Chanel has themed its entire Christmas colour collection around this legendary black-cherry nail polish (as famously worn by Pulp Fiction’s Mrs Mia Wallace). There’s a matching lipstick and even eyeshadow for the bold-hearted, but the nail colour’s a safe bet for anyone.
If the beauty nerd in your life is heartbroken to have missed out on uber makeup artist Pat McGrath’s 01 Gold pigment (it sold out on day one), then this is a close as you’ll get elsewhere. Glistening gold leaf to stroke on lids or along lashlines. It’s much easier than it looks and is spectacular for brown and hazel eyes.
Non-lipstick-wearers shouldn’t miss out on the glamour. This luxury, lip-softening balm has just enough pretty colour to brighten the face and dial up the dress code, while remaining casual and easy for a novice to apply (you’ll need your finger and no mirror).
If your wallet can take the hit, any of these makes a show-stopping gift for an extra special person. The scents are thoughtfully conceived, carefully blended and unidentifiable to a non-expert. The bottles are so beautiful that they’ll remain on show long after they’re dry.
I love Laura Mercier’s scented bath and body collection (the Honey Bath is my annual Christmas gift to myself). This includes four hand and body creams – tarte au citron, almond coconut milk, creme brulee and ambre vanilla – all in cute handbag-sized tubes, at a not-too-painful price tag.
Jo Malone has given Britain’s most maligned Christmas gift a luxury makeover. What used to be cheap, nasty smellies, or homemade jam jars of soda crystals stirred with cheap scent and colourant, is now a beautifully fragrant bath soak that fills the entire house with a sparkling, lingering pear fragrance. Any bather will love them.
I adore Welsh designer Garland’s unique vintage-inspired lip balm and mirror compacts. This features a calendula balm in festive design, and comes with a warming ginger aromatherapy roll on and pretty vintage handkerchief for the inevitable January cold.
Pear is everywhere this year but, as in any other, you’d be wise to stick with Korres. This Greek brand is of reliably good quality, broad in its appeal and always fairly priced. This pear-scented shower gel and body milk adds citrusy bergamot to the mix for a more zingy, less nana feel.
Clinique’s 2015 gift offering is more interesting than in previous years. This clever palette contains four fashionable mattes, four easy shines and four empty wells for mixing shades and formulations to suit.
Steam Cream’s cheery, whimsical tins make great gifts, but also useful ones. The multipurpose moisturiser inside is British-made, great quality, cruelty-free and without any nasties. Suitable for hands, face and body on all skin types.
A perfect teacher present if booze is deemed inappropriate, this pretty cracker contains two of my favourite products from Cowshed. The lip balm is good, no-nonsense and enjoyed by men and women alike, and the hand cream has the wonderful clean, herbal scent of the Cowshed spa. For an extra-special someone, try the Spoilt Cow Bath Creme, £36.
A superior budget skincare range that is unisex and packaged in simple, minimalist bottles that look elegant on the bathroom shelf. I especially like the Mild Cleansing Cream, a gentle, moist cleanser ideal for morning use with a hot flannel (after removing makeup thoroughly the night before, of course).
I discovered these on a European flight and am baffled as to why they’re so hard to find here. They brilliantly solve the age-old problem of headbands either staying on and hurting, or constantly slipping off and getting lost. There are heaps of nice designs to match all outfits, but they are particularly appreciated by runners and gym-goers.
I’m a sucker for traditional soaps – not just for washing but, more often, for sticking in clothes drawers to scent fabric and hopefully discourage moths. This one feels nice on the hands and smells as Christmassy as mulled wine.
Personalised gifts can be naff, but this feels truly special. Burberry’s signature floral scent made festive with gold, topped with horn trenchcoat button stopper, in a glass bottle specially etched with any initials of up to three characters.
Women and men alike are mad for for this rich, thorough cleanser that also doubles up as a shave cream. This latest limited edition has the same reviving feel of the original, but thanks to mint as well as the usual eucalyptus. Comes with muslin, though I’d personally recommend using with a flannel.
An indispensable, multi-use lanolin balm, scented and flavoured for the festive season. I’m very rarely without the original to hand to soften lips and cuticles, soothe sneezy red noses and groom brows in need of a quick tune-up.
A beautiful clear mascara flecked with glittery gold, to be stroked over your regular black or brown. Gives just enough sparkle to be festive and sociable, not enough to look gaudy and naff.
If someone special has been nagging for one of these sonic cleansing brushes (they can be very effective on oily or problem skin), then now might be the time to treat them. A special edition designed in aid of the Keith Haring Foundation charity, and sold at a discounted price.
Candles last a relatively short time, so I’d at least like a votive that’s stylish enough to use as storage afterwards. This fits the bill and sits on my dressing table as a makeup brush holder. It also has one of my all time favourite smells, like a greenhouse in July.
It’s hard to go far wrong in L’Occitane, in all honesty, but the Amande collection is among my favourites. This fairly priced kit offers a bit of everything in the range, and suits any gender, age or skin type. Smells absolutely delicious, too.
The fashion- and beauty-obsessed will love this, a roomy, practical (soft enough to squash flat in small handbags) makeup pouch featuring an iconic Norman Parkinson archive shot of pre-Murdoch Jerry Hall, shot for an 1975 issue of Vogue.
When it comes to male grooming, Elemis is among the best of the luxury skincare brands. Here we have two full-sized essentials – shave gel and day cream – that any man would use, both packed in a lovely presentation box, at almost £20 off the individual retail cost.
Few men want hair sprouting from their facial cavities and yet a surprising number do apparently nothing to keep it at bay. This trimmer makes things swift and simple and at least appeals to a gadget-lover otherwise uninterested in grooming.
The stylish, useful alternative to those woefully unfunny moustache maintenance kits bought in a panic on Christmas eve. This beeswax-based balm conditions and sets unruly ’taches, sideburns and beards (and even thick, curly hair, at a push), and looks smart and elegant on the bathroom shelf.
Most men nowadays seem to accept that moisturiser is helpful, but this one is for skins that positively demand it. A rich face cream containing shea butter and olive oil to relieve discomfort, soothe razor burn and protect from cold weather and wind. The nice tin makes it look more of a treat than a necessity.
Men appreciate a nice washbag in my experience, and Herschel – purveyor of the classic backpack – has a particularly cool selection of prints and fabrics. This is roomy enough for the essentials (razor, moisturiser, condoms, shower gel and hair gunk) and can be thrown carelessly in the washing machine in the event of spills.
A reliably popular product in a conveniently stylish package for gifting purposes. Rich, lathering cream for use with a brush (also available at Mankind) and bowl, that looks great and smells reassuringly of 1970s grandad.
Anthony (once Anthony Logistics) was one of the very first serious men’s skincare ranges to land in Britain, and I still believe it’s among the best. This contains five of the brand’s best products, all of them genuinely useful, and includes the Glycolic Facial Cleanser especially good on faces prone to ingrown hairs.
What seems like a bit of a joke is actually terribly useful. A solid beard shampoo that contains none of the skin-drying sulphates of most regular shampoos. Instead, rich moisturisers refresh and soften both chin and beard, and make the recipient’s partner’s snogging experience a great deal more comfortable.
Good, ethical, affordable bodywashes with a small in-built donation to the Woodland Trust charity. Two varieties – Christmassy orange peel and clove, and reviving peppermint and eucalyptus – packaged attractively, ready for gifting. Organic and paraben-free, if that floats your boat.
If budget isn’t an issue, I feel you can do no better than this – for either a man or a woman. Margaret Dabbs specialises in medical pedicures, which in layman’s terms means she sets about your feet with a scalpel, removing any callouses and other hard skin, before buffing them thoroughly, filing your toenails and massaging everything with rich moisturiser. I look forward to the appointment all year and emerge with feet like a baby’s.
A beauty gift for those with everything but an interest in beauty, this is a room spray formulated to smell uncannily like an old library. Beautifully packaged and faintly intoxicating.
If your child wants makeup but you’re less keen, this is a way to keep everyone happy. Two cute lipstick-shaped strawberry and vanilla-scented balms, illustrated with floppy-eared fashionista Fifi Lapin, the illustrated blogging phenomenon.
A larger-than-it-looks sponge that allows kids to wash themselves easily, or to play while you get on with doing it for them.
A diverting pressie for rainy days or Boxing Day blues, with which I’ve had a great deal of success in the past. Children can safely make their own beauty products, before packaging, wrapping and re-gifting to playmates.
You may not get it, I may not get it, but it’s a fact that little girls are obsessed with YouTube superstar Zoella. Whenever I gift anything from this undeniably sweet, well-designed range, I’m temporarily promoted to favourite aunt in the world, ever.
I’m daft for Little Ondine polishes, which, unlike traditional lacquers, dry in seconds (really) and peel off on demand. Their natural resin base and entirely odour-free formula (again, really) make them a great option if your little one wants to play with nail colour but you’re worried about the chemicals. Not that you should miss out – I wear them often.
Christmas is the one time of year I’ll allow these, as they’re a pain to clean off the bath afterwards. But kids love to see them fizz into coloured bath water, and they make a nice Boxing Day ritual.
My children get chapped lips in winter, but point blank refuse to use any of my girlie lipbalms. These do the job well while being funny and collectible for kids.
You don’t see Pupa around so much anymore, which is a shame, because it’s a great source of quirky, affordable beauty gifts – especially for teens. This kitten-shaped face palette (there’s another colourway from the same stockist) contains three shimmery shadows and two bold lip colours. All are pretty, but I’d personally stick to one or the other at any given time.
The best budget brushes made mini for handbags and travel. Contains a foundation brush, a powder and bronzer brush, and a small shadow brush that, in my experience, works especially brilliantly with creme shadows.
British designer Colbert has designed these limited-edition pop art boxes, available while stocks last. Each contains a selection of Soap Glory’s pretty dependable products and is bound to impress a teen or fashion-conscious adult.
The fastest way to achieve the sought-after smoky eye is with a creme shadow crayon, a dark liner and a hell of a lot of blending. This great-quality value kit takes care of the first two – just add a soft brush.
A perfect gift for any budding young makeup artist, this contains a staggering 144 shades of eyeshadow, from nudes to brights and everything in between. As with all Makeup Revolution, the formula here is remarkably good for its price point – particularly now, while it’s half price.