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


(Image credit: @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


(Image credit: @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


(Image credit: @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


(Image credit: @amy_lawrenson)

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


(Image credit: @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:






Associate Beauty Editor

Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.