The holiday season is finally here. I mean, yes, this year has been a combination of monotonous, fleeting moments mixed with neurotic horror over our and our loved ones’ health. But we can all take a breather and celebrate by gifting each other thoughtful things, even if it might not make sense to gather as one big family. And, if you’re anything like me and still don’t know what to give anyone, that’s okay. No really, it is, because I spent some time rounding up the best lifestyle and beauty products to give as gifts this year. Some of them were tested by yours truly, and the others are so damn popular that reviewers said they adored them too. Ho, ho, ho, let’s get to it.
Pandora Bracelet | $54
If you’re thinking of gifting something a little more heartfelt and thoughtful, I’d recommend a Pandora bracelet. Yes, it’s basically a grown-up version of a charm bracelet, but you and that special person in your life can both can customize a bracelet to your hearts’ desire. I’ve gotten my mother and my sisters a couple of charms these past couple of years, and they’ve loved each and every one. If they’re more a fan of aesthetics, you can purchase pretty charms, or match it with their eclectic sense of style. It’s an easy and fun way to bond.
Apple Watch Strap | $34 | Society6
Black Art Matters iPhone 12 Case | $28 | Society6
Known for its independent art, Society6 has the scoop on iPhone 12 cases and Apple Watch straps. I personally chose a Black artist because that’s where my support lies these days, but the website has so many different styles to choose from for folks who are all about their fashions.
Modern Slim Strap (beige) | $70
Base Station Apple Watch Edition | $130
Nomad is known for its minimalist, yet stylish power stations, made with three power coils to give a continuous charge to your phone no matter how you place it. After testing out its Apple Watch Base Station, I found it can also charge my Apple Watch Series 6 without any drama, which everyone needs less of in 2020 (drama, not charging).
I’m also a fan of their slim straps, a recent endeavor to cast their net to women and honestly? I’m impressed! The straps, made of Horween leather, are smooth and can last through rain and multiple handwashings. They’re also thin enough not to overpower small wrists, making them a great gift for anyone wanting something classically efficient.
Between Hoops | $70
Snake Ring | $300
Elegant jewelry doesn’t have to be expensive. Thanks to Mejuri, you can get your hands on a pair of 14K gold earrings for under $150 and necklaces for less than $350. I personally have these mini gold hoops on my Christmas wishlist. But even if you aren’t as simplistic as me, you should check out this personable Snake Ring to shake things up.
Adidas x Ivy Park
Leave it to Beyoncé to release a full line of athleisure, which is quite honestly on time! If you’re lucky enough to work from home, you can don Bey’s fashions and take photos to be a budding Instagram influencer. The choice is yours.
Columbia TurboDown Hooded Jacket | $95+ | Amazon
Columbia Powder Lite Hooded Jacket | $100+ | Amazon
If you’re from NYC, you know one of the best gifts you ever got for the holidays was a nice sturdy Columbia coat. They’re warm, made of real down, and will literally last you a couple of winters. NYC may be dealing with the effects of climate change, hence the 75-degree weather in November, but if you’re in a place where the temperature drops low, you can’t go wrong with Columbia.
Two Lil Stunnas Mini Longwear Fluid Lip Color Duo | $25
Rihanna always comes through for us when it comes to affordable beauty and skincare products! I’m craving the Two Lil Stunnas Mini Longwear Fluid Lip Color Duo, for a low, low $25. Just because celebrations will be a little more lowkey this year doesn’t mean your makeup should. And while you’re at it, wash your face with Fenty Skin Start’rs so you won’t clog your pores just in time for New Years’ pictures.
Pre-Party Juice Makeup Prep Set | $30
Happy Juice Brightening Skincare Set | $69
Skincare mavericks Ole Henriksen came through for the holidays. If you need to prep for a small get together, try out the Pre-Party Juice Makeup Prep Set, made to make your skin glow right before you apply makeup, or even the Happy Juice Brightening Skincare Set, made to make your skin healthy and bright over time.
Too Cool For School
Too Cool For School’s Rules of Mastic Line | $100
Too Cool For School’s Mastic line is one of the newest in their arsenal, and all the products are certified EWG green-level ingredients. This basically means there are no artificial ingredients, mineral oils, animal oils, color, or fragrance. The lack of these skincare additives makes it a fine choice for people who have sensitive skin. I spent about three weeks testing out the Mastic line. The first thing you should know is its made of five products: cleanser, toner, serum, and two moisturizers. Like all Korean beauty routines, it takes a decent amount of time to complete—so if you’re strapped for time (and, to be honest, nowadays you really shouldn’t be), these aren’t the products for you.
The products themselves are very lightweight thanks to the vegan formula. I also didn’t suffer from irritation after completing my daily routine. It’s happened before when I’ve tested other skincare lines in the past. Since the Mastic line is pretty affordable, it’s a great starter pack for K-beauty. The cleanser lathers up in just the right way and the toner is basically just a spray. The only thing I would suggest is to add sunscreen to this regimen. It’s the number one key to effective skincare and is recommended by all dermatologists.
Glow Together Set | $34
Glowing Skin Trio | $42
Known for its Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, Glow Recipe made its claim to fame with its pastel packaging and skincare line with fruit extracts to really make your skin, well, glow.
Two of my faves that I was lucky enough to try out were the Glowing Skin Trio and the Glow Together Set. The Glowing Skin Trio includes their classic Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser, Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask, and Banana Soufflè Moisture Cream. When used before bed, it gives you soft, moisturized skin, plus they smell amazing. Seriously, don’t use these when you’re hungry!
If you’re a fan of the classics, the Glow Together Set for $34 is your best bet. It comes with the Watermelon Sleeping Mask that illuminates your skin while you sleep for a nice, glassy, and dewy skin for the next day, as well as the Watermelon Glow Ultra Fine Mist for a midday skincare pick me up.
I’d recommend the two for the skincare-obsessed members of your family. They’d probably had it on their list of things to try, anyway.
Treadly 2 Treadmill | $749
It’s getting cold, which means outside workouts will be few and far between which honestly is a bummer, especially if you aren’t comfy with going to the gym just yet. So, in comes Treadly—a slim, foldable treadmill that can get your jog in without ever leaving your living room, yes, even if you’re in an apartment. At only 3.7″ and 77 pounds, you can fold it up under your couch when not in use.
Made with reinforced aluminum, it won’t bend or break, and with an added app you can track your miles and ongoing progress with a tap of a finger. The max speed is about 5mph, so you’ll get a decent workout without overly exerting yourself. So, honestly, it’s perfect for anyone that is getting a little antsy from social distancing. Plus the name just rolls off the tongue.
Rad Power Bike | $1,600
One of the most popular e-bikes around, Rad Power Bikes will give you a certified bang for your buck. I’ve been so intrigued by the mechanisms of e-bikes for fitness purposes and I’m slowly becoming impressed. You get to roll around, seeing the sites without expounding so much energy on peddling, which means you can go longer distances without getting burned out. Apparently, dads everywhere are experimenting with this, too, so! Make your dad the cool dad. He deserves it.
Bevel Luxury Safety Razor | $50 | Amazon
Beard Softener | $15 | Amazon
Bevel Shaving Kit | $200 | Amazon
Bevel is a men’s grooming company that focuses on shaving. Because Black hair is usually curly, Bevel created multiple razors that can prevent ingrown hairs. They also offer a range of skincare, like beard softener to help smooth coarse hairs in order to make your face a little less itchy. If you don’t have curly hair, you can still take advantage of the razors that prevent skin irritation, even if you aren’t prone to razor bumps or ingrown hairs.
Billie Shaving Kit | $9/month
Billie is a subscription razor service I wholeheartedly recommend. You’ll get a custom razor with a choice of four different blades delivered to you based on personal shaving habits. The reason I love it is that it really engages women in the act of shaving, because you want to, not as a result of societal norms. It also has one of the only advertisements I’ve seen that shows hair on folks who identify themselves as women, which is a huge plus. Women grow hair just like men and it’s up to us whether we want to remove it or not.
Anyway, this gift is an excellent choice, either for yourself or a friend newly embarking on their feminist journey.
Sunday Scaries CBD
Side Piece Bundle | $67
Unicorn Jerky | $19
We all need to chill the hell out every once in a while. In comes Sunday Scaries, named for the well, sunday scaries. The fruit-punch flavored CBD oil had me relaxing in about 10 minutes, and the chews give me uninterrupted sleep, which is all I need these days since the pandemic has made me a tad neurotic. Your strong, stressed out friends (please check on them) will thank you.
Single’s Day Bundle | $59
Following the theme of chilling the hell out—what calms you out more than a couple of orgasms? Ella Paradis is known for its sex toy bundles, and its Single’s Day Bundle is no different. You’ll get three different vibes to hit the right spot over and over again: a Better Touch Vibe, G-Spot Hero, and Booty Pop. So, a little clitoral action, a little g-spot action, and maybe, if you’re with it, a bit of butt play as well. Now, make sure you don’t gift this to people you’re not cool with. In fact, any sex toys I recommend anymore will be exclusively for you or someone you’re engaging in (safe!) sexy times with.
Satisfyer Pro 2 | $59
The Satisfyer Pro 2 is legendary, and for good reason. It stimulates your clitoris with little bitty air pulses to really make you scream. I’ve done tons of reviews on this so I can say with some confidence that you will be … satisfyed. Whether you’re trying to wind down or wind up, this little buzzer has you covered, especially if your dating life disappeared once the pandemic came on the scene. It’s ok, I’m not talking about me (or am I)?
Nike Air Max 95s
Air Max 95 SE | $170
I love, love, love, and did I say LOVE Nike Air Max 95s. I can probably replay some of my best childhood memories by wearing a specific pair of these special sneakers. Inspired by the anatomical body, the sides resemble ribs and the laces, the spine. I promise you’ll never go wrong with a pair of 95s.
Just don’t get the 98s, they’re wack and should be canceled. I still don’t know why they came back into fashion, but as a sneakerhead, I understand why y’all still buy them even if they’re ugly.
Nike Air Max 90s
Air Max 90 (Women’s) | $120
With a classic silhouette, even more so than the ‘95s, the Air Max 90s are here to stay. You get a bunch of straight lines and different colorways to match your personality. If you’re out of touch with Gen Z, these wouldn’t hurt your cred as the cool sibling or cousin.
Desus & Mero Timberlands
Desus & Mero Waterproof 6-Inch Boots | $210
Desus & Mero Waterproof Field Boots | $185
YERR! An NYC staple, if you don’t have a pair of Timbs, you’re wack. That’s it. That’s on period. So, like the pop culture icons they are, Desus and Mero gave the guys something to be hype for—two different pairs of Timbs! One, the classic (and my personal fave) waterproof 6-inch boot in black, and the other a waterproof field boot in brown and green, which I’m not a fan of, but to each their own. I still stand by not ever visiting the Bronx because it’s chaotic, but one thing this Brooklyn girl and Bronx natives can agree on, Timbs are life. Even in the summer. I will cop a pair once they’re available for the ladies.
Ace Fanny Pack | $85 | Dagne Dover
My colleague Jordan McMahon loves fanny packs more than I do, and raved about them in his fanny pack roundup. He makes the argument for this brand better than I ever could:
For the best mixture of style and function, I like Dagne Dover’s Ace Fanny Pack. Its cushiony appearance might be offputting—I wasn’t a fan at first—but it grows on you, and it’s the most suitable for outfits ranging from your lazy day sweats and hoodie to a good pair of jeans and a nice jacket. Dagne Dover’s standard range of colors offers plenty of variety, though I’m partial to Dune’s washed-out pink look.
It’s not just pretty, though. It’s my favorite fanny pack, thanks to its neoprene exterior, which keeps all my trinkets dry when the weather’s harsh. It even packs pockets inside and on the back to keep things tidy. A clip hangs onto your keys if you’re prone to losing them in your mangled cords and loose receipts. Its strap, though somewhat wide, keeps the pack secure on your hips, even on bumpy bike rides and long walks. There’s plenty of space, too, with enough room to house my iPhone 11 Pro, Kindle Paperwhite, and daily essentials like my wallet and keys.