Ho, ho, ho! And away we go.
I’ll be mentioning both things you might want to gift and things you might hope to get this holiday, but in the spirit of the season, we’ll start with the giving. There is so much good stuff to both gift and get this year that I had to split this into a few parts so it was a little more manageable. This part is the good-smelling part.
Fragrance: Traditional perfumers
Sephora: One of the best fragrance deals around is the wildly popular Deluxe Fragrance Set for Her (or its male counterpart). For $50 your gift recipient gets sample size vials of 12 popular fragrances, plus a gift voucher that can be redeemed for a full-size bottle of whichever one she likes best. This year the kit also includes an atomizer! (The male version contains a deluxe sample of Anthony Logistics for Men Shave Cream instead.)
Also available at Sephora, Harajuku perfumes have become incredibly trendy this holiday season, and are lemmings for thousands and thousands of girls and women looking for something that’s as cute as Hello Kitty but that isn’t targeted at eight-year-olds. Including one of these in someone’s stocking will definitely mark you as the hip, cool, and in-the-know friend, mom, sister, or aunt.
If you know you’re going to give a fragrance sampler as a gift, you might consider buying it from fragrancenet.com, where you can often get products at anywhere from slightly to considerably less than regular retail prices. (They have some skincare and makeup, too, but often don’t stock whole lines, so product selection is hit-or-miss.)
Fragrance: Etailer love
Etsy: If you haven’t yet poked around Etsy, wait until you have a few hours to spend and then direct your browser to this multi-etailer cyber-marketplace. On Etsy you can get reasonably-priced handmade items of all types from small etailers and artisans. I advised you to wait until you have a few hours because you can easily lose a half a day just wandering around the site drooling over things.
Loreto/L’aromatica: In the beauty/skincare category, there are several Etsy sellers offering things like handmade soaps and scrubs, and some mineral makeup sellers who might show up in one of the other parts of this gift-giving guide. But if you’re really looking for a unique, personalized gift for a fragrance-loving friend, you can’t do better than a custom perfume from Loreto. I got one of her custom perfumes last summer and I love it. There are two options. For $15 (a steal!) you can get a perfume in which you (or the person for whom you are buying the product) pick up to five notes from her extensive list. Loreto, whose customer service is fabulous, will help you tweak the notes if they don’t quite go together, or if you want something that’s a little heavier on the amber and a little lighter on the floral, etc. She is an expert perfumer, so she can take what you think you want and make it even better! Or, for $30, you get this excellent twist: a personalized perfume based on a personality profile that she sends you. You (or, again, the person for whom you’re buying this gift) fill it out, return it, and she puts together a perfume based on your answers. You get to have some input — there’s a place on the questionnaire to list notes you love and hate, so if you can’t stand patchouli, she’ll be sure not to put any of that in.
The one I got last year was one of the personality-profile types, and the scent she created for me has the following components:
Top notes: Orange, sage, guava, juniper, lime, bergamot, pine, pomegranate
Middle notes: Ginger, rose, vanilla, Spanish moss
Base notes: Patchouli, frankincense
It’s a lovely scent, and the assortment of notes is definitely one I wouldn’t have put together myself, but that’s why she’s the master perfumer and I’m not. I was really surprised by how much I liked it! This is truly a unique gift, and it’s a great price (particularly the pick-your-own-five-notes version).
Bath and Body Etailers:
Villainess: If there’s someone on your holiday list who loves bath creams and scrubs and soaps, then Villainess is definitely a site to check out. Their bath and body products have various edgy-chic, not-quite-naughty names, like Smooch! (moisturizing sugar scrub) and Smack! (cleansing and moisturizing scrub) and Whipped! (body cream). They also have soaps and facial masks, and offer both single-note scents and their own combinations (crushed raspberry/dark chocolate/sandalwood, dark chocolate/vanilla/citrus/black pepper/nutmeg, and oh the list goes on). I’m not as wild about their fragrance oils: they are enticing when first applied but I find that their staying power leaves something to be desired. In addition, the bottles, which are beautifully exotic and delicate, are not exactly practical and tip over easily.
Isle of Eden: I’m almost afraid to mention this one, but I can’t leave it out because the products are so darned good. Isle of Eden produces lovely, lovely bath creams, scrubs, moisturizers, and fragrances (they also do shampoos and conditioners but I haven’t tried them). The reason I’m hesitant to mention them is that the turn-around time has historically been epically lethargic: upwards of 6 weeks. However! They say they have changed their operations and now have a TAT of 10 days or less. (Caveat emptor.)
Isle of Eden is definitely a bit over-the-top in terms of product appearance and product descriptions. Their colors are garish and some of the products look like they are the unfortunate results of an explosion in a clown factory. But in spite of all that, I love, love, love them. The sugar scrubs are moisturizing, the bath frosting makes a rich, smooth lather that’s excellent for shaving, and one of their fragranced body sprays inevitably draws compliments every time I wear it. And they all smell AMAZING. Unlike the Philosophy scented bath products, the scent on these does linger on the skin after bathtime is over. The colors may be garish but the packaging is plain; the goodies are all on the inside of the container. Choose the Bee So Soft cream over the Whipped, and the Bath Frosting over the Cashmere Crème Body Wash (the latter has a tendency to smell a bit plasticky).
Other fabulous fragrance or bath/body gift ideas? Leave ’em in the comments!