5 Holiday Gift Set Traps, According to a Beauty Editor Who's Tried Them All

Okay, team, it's time for a little holiday shopping check-in. How's it going? While I encourage you to maintain your sanity by all means during this wild time, I also want to remind you that it's closing in quickly. If you haven't started shopping yet, it's not too late! It is time to take action, though, and there are no better options than beauty gift sets to really get cooking on that shopping list.

I. Love. Beauty. Gift. Sets. Seriously, they're a passion of mine. Not only are they an easy intro to brands we're curious about, but they also make for the most thoughtful gifts (hence the name). But of course, all gift sets are not created equal. Among the many compelling reasons to buy them for ourselves and our loved ones, there are also a handful of traps these mini product collections often employ that make them unworthy of space in our lives.

As an editor who's seen just about every variation of gift set known to humans, I consider myself particularly well-equipped to spot these scams from a mile away. Ahead, read up on the five most common gift set traps and what to buy instead.

Trap #1: The More-Is-More Fallacy

Photo:

@emmahoareau

We've all been fooled into falling for the idea that more is better. Sometimes our eyes play tricks on us, signaling to our brains that a set packed with dozens of products is the dreamy addition you've been waiting for. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the 70/30 rule: If you or the person you're shopping for wouldn't be interested in at least 70% of the included swag, then there's probably a smaller, more curated set that would better serve your intentions for giving it.

Trap #2: Blind Brand Loyalty

Photo:

@emmahoareau

There's no crime in being a major fan of certain brands. We all have those connections to certain labels that stick with us for life. But don't fall into the trap of buying a gift set just because of the brand name on the package. Really consider what's included in the collection and whether those items would go to good use.

Trap #3: More Packaging Than Product

Photo:

@emmahoareau

Gift sets tend to have special packaging, signifying a seasonal theme. We're all about some gold leafing on the box, but we take serious issue with gift sets that employ highly unnecessary packaging, like extra plastic wrappings, boxes, and sectionals. Not only does this practice tend to be a coverup for the fact that there's not as much actual product inside that package as it seems, but it's just plain wasteful.

Trap #4: Questionable Value

The point of a value set is—you guessed it—to deliver some sort of value. If a set costs more than buying each of the products inside individually, then there's really no point in spending the extra coins just to have them neatly packaged together.

Trap #5: Sample Swindle

Photo:

@dinahansen

Samples are a wonderful way for consumers to get acquainted with a brand, which is why retailers like Nordstrom and Sephora routinely offer them… for free. If you're investing in a gift set full of testers, I'm sorry to tell you that you're doing it all wrong. Deluxe samples are about as small an item as you should pay for.

Now shop my favorite beauty gift sets for every beauty lover on your list:

Any haircare fanatic will appreciate this discovery set of French favorites.

I don't play games, but when I do, it's in the name of a good hair day.

While you're nursing some epic hangovers this holiday season, treat you hair to some TLC, too.

Commemorate the holidays with an at-home spa day.

Detoxify your bod wherever, whenever.

Who's due for a shower-product upgrade?

Snag this set for the pal who needs to relax this season.

Now, this is a set you'll probably want to keep for yourself. No judgment! You deserve nice things, too.

You really can't go wrong with Jo Malone.

I'm pretty sure heaven is scented with Boy Smells candles.

The natural-beauty guru in your life deserves to spritz a new, clean fragrance in the New Year.

Is there anything better than a Herbivore bath set? I think not.

Get the salon manicure look at home with this collection of high-shine, long-lasting polishes.

A box full of nail tools to help you achieve the best at-home manicure of your life? Sold.

Discover your new favorite shade of nail polish with this set of 24 mini bottles.

Do you know someone who's constantly polishing on the go? They'll love this set of nailcare essentials.

This soothing oil and textured jade roller are must-haves for combating indulgence-related facial swelling this season. 

Trust me: The Glossier stans in your life want this.

This is the perfect collection of products to ward off the winter blues and brighten skin. 

This is the perfect gift for that friend who swears she doesn't need to wear sunscreen every day.

Cover all of your basics with this cleansing kit. 

This tried-and-true set of Caudalie classics will excite any true beauty lover on your list.

Brighten up that mug just in time for 2022.

When all else fails, French pharmacy favorites are always there to save the day.

Who doesn't love a classic Burt's Bees moment?

Give the gift of celebrity skincare favorites. This line is beloved by everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Victoria Beckham.

Your gua sha–curious comrade will be pleasantly surprised to open this chic set.

If you know anyone who's been toying with the idea of hopping on the Drunk Elephant train, this comprehensive set just might be the deciding factor.

Whether you're shopping for a first-time La Mer user or a superfan of the brand, this gift is sure to impress.

This is a dream kit for the Sephora lovers in your life who live for skincare. 

For the person in your life who's dying for a new morning skincare routine. 

Introduce a friend to this cool girl–approved line of clean cosmetics. 

Even the girl who has everything will be impressed with this luxe box of makeup artist–approved clean beauty essentials.

This one's for the person you know who can't stop quoting House of Gucci

Give the most iconic lipstick shade, four ways. 

This luxe set is the perfect gift for anyone who believes that red lipstick is the key to life. (It's me. I'm anyone.)

With six different tinted and clear balms, this set is the only thing you'll need to create a naturally flushed and glowy face.

You can never have too much liquid eyeliner (especially when it's vegan and cruelty-free).

Up next: Short-Lived Perfume Is the Worst, so I Found 21 That Will Last All Day

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