20 Great Beauty & Bath Gifts

by Grace Bonney

Writing this beauty guide each year is one of my favorite things. Not only because it gives me a chance to break from my normal home design category, but it lets me talk about my other passion: skincare. I do not wear makeup very often, and when I do, I wear it sparingly. When I find something I love, I’m passionate and devoted to that product. So when I say these 20 bath & beauty finds are tested and recommended, I mean it with 100% certainty. There’s not a single product in this guide I haven’t used and loved myself, so this is most definitely my must-have, go-to guide for anyone looking to gift beauty goods this year. Whether you’re stuffing stockings with Japanese exfoliating cloths (Julia introduced them to Amy and me and now we’re both obsessed) or splurging on heavenly Rodin face oil (basically liquid gold), there’s something here for everyone. And if all else fails, try the Ilia lip balm. That is a winter lip saver. xo, grace

All 20 shopping sources + 7 more beauty finds after the jump (all of which come with a personal explanation of why I love them)!

Image above:

1. Marvis Mouthwash Concentrate $22.50 – I’m obsessed with this. Obsessed. You have to mix it with a bit of water (in a cup is easiest) but it tastes SO. GOOD.

2. Rodin Face Oil $150 – $150 for face oil? I know. It’s A LOT. But you can use a single drop of this and it smells like so much more and I find that mixing a tiny drop of this into my daily face lotion really prevents dry winter skin and makes me smell like I applied subtle perfume. Julia and I have been sharing a single bottle of this on a daily basis for almost 6 months and we still have 3/4 of the bottle left. So it’s pricey, but it lasts a long time.

3. Mermaid Sea Salt Hair Spray $22 – This is a relatively recent purchase of mine (I’ve been using it since July) but I’m a major convert. It smells DIVINE and it works well for a soft but slightly crunchy bit of texture, like you would get at the beach.

4. Ribbon Hair Ties $9 – I have pretty short hair, but one side is long-ish so when I want to put it up for working, etc. I need something to keep it back. I don’t want to damage the hair I have, so I like something that’s what the industry seems to call ‘no-tug’. These are metallic so they’re right up my alley.

5. ‘Pink 337’ Supreme Shine Lipstick by Shu Uemura (Baby Pink) $30 – I learned a few years ago that, like blush, lipstick that is fairly sheer looks great when it’s a super bright color. It looks scary in the tube, but on your face it’s much subtler and makes your entire complexion brighten. I love this hot pink color. It’s probably the only other thing I have in my arsenal besides Blistex medicated (for cold mornings outside at the dog park) and 2 Ilia lipsticks and balm.

6. Juara Rice Facial Cleanser $25 – I’m a skincare nut. Seriously. So when I say I’ve tested a lot of face washes, I’ve tested a lot of face washes. This one is gentle but still effective. I apply it with a scrubby buff-style sponge sometimes for extra deep cleansing.

7. Ilia ‘Balmy Days’ balm $24 – Youe can’t go wrong with an Ilia product, you just can’t. They’re perfect. I use this every single night before bed and when I wake up my lips are still soft. This stuff is priceless.

8. Nars Duo Eyeshadow in Vent Glacé $34 – I’m pretty loyal to Nars for anything that doesn’t go on my lips. So any blush or eye action belongs to this brand. Mainly because the colors are both interesting and classic (and easy to wear) and they seem to last a pretty long time. I like this duo, used sparingly, because it makes me look awake, but is still shimmery enough to feel special and pulled together.

9. Mason Pearson Brush $88-$120 – Spending this much money on a hairbrush sounds insane. And to some there’s no convincing. But if you suffer from oily hair, this hair brush can make a drastic change in the way oils are distributed from your scalp through your hair. I am incredibly prissy about one thing when it comes to beauty care: oily hair. If my hair feels oily I get really itchy and antsy and can’t relax until I take a shower. Not only because it looks gross, but because my hair is short and on my face most of the day and it will make me break out. But this brush, used daily, distributes oil so well it’s a very noticeable change. Don’t believe me? Here’s a good story to back it up. I think it’s worth the hype. Is it worth the money for everyone? Definitely not. But if you have a beauty-loving friend who you’d like to splurge big-time on, this could be the one…

10. Bobby Pin Set $10 for 4 pins (2 in gold, 2 in red, not shown) – Whether your hair is short or long, a little clip never hurt anyone. To keep your hair out of your eyes (and off of your face to prevent breakouts) or just to jazz it up for a party, these are some of my favorite. They’re so sparkly and fun.

11. Tocca Beauty Soap $12 – I think Tocca makes the most elegant and sophisticated smelling soaps. This one smells like bergamot and gardenia- two of my favorite scents.

12. BB Mending Conditioner $34 – I think Bumble & Bumble’s shampoos and conditioners are fantastic. They’re expensive, but they WORK. And I’ve tried all the brands people swear by that are much pricier (Kerstase, etc.) and they don’t ever seem to work on me the way this does. I use these religiously – but I only use the conditioner in the winter when my hair is dry. In the summer I just use their moisture shampoo.

13. Salux Nylon Japanese Beauty Skin Bath Wash Cloth/Towel $6.41 – Julia discovered these when working on a book about Korean cuisine. They were sold in a popular Korean grocery store in New Jersey and she brought a few home, one of which I gave to Amy. Both Amy and I love them and I’ve found they leave my skin SO much softer than a regular scrubby-thing from the drugstore. I’m a permanent convert.

Image above: Lulu Organics Dry Hair Powder $10 – I’m a dry shampoo convert. I love this powder because it smells SO much better (Lavender/Clary Sage) than other kinds on the market. I wish I could spray it on sometimes, but this small pocket size is great for a quick spruce up after a long flight.

Image above: Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil $38 – If you need a beautiful AND functional hair oil that won’t leave your hair greasy and weighed down, this is one of my favorites.

Image above: Ilia Lip Conditioner in ‘Arabian Knights’ $24 – you own ONE LIPSTICK in your life, it should be this one. Universally flattering, incredibly soft and conditioning and subtle enough for even the most makeup-averse wearer. To the right is Oribe’s Dry Shampoo $20-$39. I find that if you have thin hair or short hair, a dry shampoo can do so much to give your hair the texture it needs to look interesting and not flat. I really love this product.

Image above: Deborah Lippman ‘Cleopatra in New York’ nail polish $19 – I don’t spend a lot of time on my nails, but when I do, I like to go super classic or super crazy. This falls into the latter category. NOTE: Be sure to apply this OVER at least a top coat of clear. It is VERY hard to get all those sequiny bits off if they’re stuck directly to your nails.

Image above: ‘Shine’ by Aesop $35 – This is the best non-greasy hair oil I’ve found. I have pretty naturally oily hair, but it still manages to get dry in the winter. So I like to use a LITTLE something to soften it out. This not only smells nice, but it works incredibly well.

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  • You are so right about the Ilia lip balm. My lips can’t survive winter without it! I just wish it weren’t so spendy for the amount you get but it’s natural and really works. I also love Oribe styling products (try Surfcomber mousse if you want waves) and Bumble and Bumble’s Thickening Dryspun Finish which is even better than Oribe’s Dry Texturizer in my opinion.

  • Love that you mention the good scents of most products. That’s a big factor when I choose.

  • Have you ever tried Fresh’s Creme Ancienne? I splurged on it a few years ago and it was the best moisturizer I’ve ever had – especially in the winter when your skin gets beaten up by the wind. It’s a total splurge but out of everything I’ve tried (and I’m a skincare junkie) there’s nothing like it, not even the famed creme de la mer. The other thing I can’t live without (but must since buying an apt and renovating a kitchen costs $) are Dr. Gross Alpha Beta peels. Supposedly they’re for daily use but I think if anyone did that their skin would come right off.. Once/twice a week – my skin never looked so dewey and fresh. A-mazing. And obviously highly recommended. And lastly, since you like that Deborah Lipmann polish – you should check out Jin Soon’s polish in Obsidian – black with iridescent sparkles! I can’t wait to try the cleanser you’ve recommended and the balm and so many other things!

  • Tocca is one of the best soap and candle companies out there! My mother-in-law gave me a candle that I’ve been burning forever! I also have become a big dry shampoo fan, it works especially well on bangs.

  • Hi, can you speak to whether these products have parabens or sulfates? Always on the lookout for well-reviewed products without those! Thanks.

    • grace

      i’m afraid i don’t know about that for a lot of these- you’d have to check each link for more details. i use makeup so sparingly that i don’t have as big of a concern about that. but i know the things i use daily (the Ilia products, the juara face wash) are organic and paraben-free.



  • Love this annual beauty/skincare guide! I’ve recently entered a new decade and started to spend more on skincare. I’ve already noticed the difference in my skin. Since there are so many products out there it is great to get recommendations from someone who has used them!

    • abby

      i did the same thing when i entered my 30s. i switched from spending money on going out quite as much and now spend that money on things that make me feel better, head to toe.


  • Love most of these. I might add that the Salux is my favorite. I notice the link takes you to amazon. I’ve bought 2 of them from there that were the fake ones. I would recommend you buy them directly from the saluxshop.com. I’m not associated with them.

  • Grace, do you know where to find a sample size of the Rodin face oil? I would love to try it, but with such sensitive skin I would want to make sure it worked for me before I spent the 150. Thanks!

    • elizabeth

      i’m afraid i don’t- i’ve never seen in it in sample form in a store. that said, sometimes when you shop at sephora they let you select a range of samples to be included (for free) in your package. so perhaps keep an eye out for that? i know they sell it there.

      also, it’s not MUCH cheaper, but you can buy a sample-sized kit of rodin goods for $85 here: http://needsupply.com/travel-set.html?gclid=CKfC5_D1prsCFct9OgodeHwAXQ&kwid=productads-plaid^18283950120-sku^3045617-adType^PLA-device^c-adid^32048877815

      i have sensitive skin and have never had any problem with it, but i agree it’s worth testing before buying something so expensive. perhaps a friend might let you try a bit?


  • I love your skin care guides. A previous guide you put together recommended the farmaesthetics facial oil. I bought it that week and I’ve been using it ever since although lately I think it’s been a little stale for me. The Rodin is that much better? I am in trouble. Love the nail polish too! I am of the same camp – traditional or crazy.

    • hi erica

      stale like actually stale? or just not working? i still love their work, but lucked out to be living with a significant other who uses rodin. i started ‘borrowing’ hers when i ran out of mine and am now hooked.

      grace :)

  • Grace, two questions about the Ilia Arabian Nights Lip Conditioner: 1. Does it (or the lip balm) have a scent? I’m sensitive to a lot of the fragrances they put in lip products. 2. Do you recommend such a deep color even for people with ultra-fair skin and practically no-color lips?? Thanks!

    • alix

      no and YES. there’s the tiniest bit of a scent to the balm but i think it’s just the natural scent of whatever oils are inside. here is an ingredient list: http://iliabeauty.com/collections/lip-care/products/balmy-days

      the YES. the deep color of arabian nights turns into such a soft color on your lips. i am VERY fair skinned and it looks fantastic on me. it looks much darker than it actually reads on your skin. sort of like that classic “black honey” lipstick from clinique :)


  • Love this guide! From one skincare fanatic to another, I can recommend a local SF brand called InFiore. I love their Fleur Vibrante moisturizer. In my mind, it’s a tug-of-war between splurging on their Lucense or splurging on Rodin’s oil. Also, drinking 3 liters of water everyday makes a huge difference in my skin, especially during winter.

  • Grace – stale as in not working! I also still use (and am totally obsessed with) the Kate Somerville Exfolikate you recommended a while back. The best and worth every $.

    • erica

      oh no!! you should write them or call them about that- i bet they’ll send you a new one. since they’re organic ingredients it’s possible they could go stale i think.

      so glad you like the exfolikate- that stuff works wonders.

      g :)

  • I love these options! I posted a few gift guides for under $10, $20 and $30 with so many makeup and beauty options. Thank god for reduced pricing during the holidays.


  • Love this list. dying to try the rodin oil at some point and Cleopatra in NY is my absolute fave (especially because you don’t have to be perfect when applying it because it masks a lot of flaws,right? :) Some of the beauty products I am devoted to are Kiehls lip balm, Mario Badescu’s rose facial mist and sephora’s Jumbo Liner 12HR Wear Waterproof #14 Violet ( stay’s on all day and has a slight iridescence) Oh! and Davines Momo Moisturizing Curl Enhancing Serum ( if someone has thin, curly hair, it is THE best) I LOVE lists like this! :)