Call them stocking stuffers, Kwanzaa presents, or“just because” treats, but we all know that sometimes the best gifts come in little packages. And while we firmly believe in quality over quantity, there’s no reason you can’t give both this season (as those of us lucky enough to have fond memories of counting our presents as children can attest, the thrill never really goes away). Why not double, triple or quadruple the holiday joy with a few smaller but well-curated treats your loved ones might not think to treat themselves? With that in mind, here’s our TGU-tested and approved list of little luxuries.
We fell head over heels when we tried Briogeo’s Don’t Despair, Repair! Repair + Strengthen Travel Kit ($25) during our Black-Owned Beauty Month this year (also known as February). Almost a year later, we’re still enjoying the adorable neoprene travel case these super-emollient items came packaged in. Built for all hair types and concerns, these mini-sized editions of the cult-favorite luxury line are the perfect way to try before investing in the full sizes—and trust us when we say we’d buy these formulas by the vat, if possible.
Real talk? We never really got on the “baby hair” train—frankly, we’re more concerned with trying to smooth those broken edges back into oblivion. Nevertheless, we were enchanted when we received samples of the 3-in-1 Baby Tress edge styler, which will finally compel you to throw out that old toothbrush in favor of a multi-use styling tool in an array of of-the-moment colors that can be used with the styling product of your choice. The best part? Whether you’re an edge artist or savor a sleeker look, the Baby Tress is equally effective.
Speaking of styling tools, our wash day got infinitely easier when we started using celebrity stylist Felicia Leatherwood’s Detangler Brush ($14). We don’t know how the natural hair expert did it, but we have less tangles, less shedding and more even distribution of product when we brush through our hair—and for little heads, that means less time and pain. Plus, if it’s good enough for the likes of Issa Rae, why should we be “insecure” about making detangling easier?
We don’t know a lipstick lover who doesn’t need the perfect nude, and Mented Cosmetics built their still-expanding empire on providing the perfect shades for brown skin. But why stop there? With the “Build Your Own Trio” option ($45), the lip aficionado in your life can enjoy a variety of subtle, semi-matte shades perfect for dressing up or down.
Every fashionista knows an outfit isn’t really complete without a manicure, and the runway-inspired shades of Pear Nova are made to match. With 5 and 10-free, vegan and cruelty-free formulas, polishing your nails can also be a guilt-free experience—and with one of their 4-shade collections ($44; includes a curation option) you can put luxury at your loved one’s fingertips.
The name says it all: If you enjoyed comedian Amanda Seales’ HBO standup special, I Be Knowin’, you’ll love the gems she drops in Small Doses ($23.40). This compendium of advice and insights for and about black women is all shared in plain speak and easily digestible little nuggets. Come for the jokes, stay for the truths.
If your family and friends are of the card-playing variety, treat them like the kings, queens, and jokers they are with Deseta Design’s Royalty Pack ($25; available in Cool or Warm faces). Deseta means happiness in Amharic, and this Ethiopian-inspired deck of cards is the perfect reminder that we have always been royalty.
If you or someone you love aren’t already in possession of one of Grace Eleyae’s Slap Caps (currently on sale for $12 each), we don’t know what you’re doing with your
life hair; these satin-lined sleep caps are the protective measure we need each night for bed (and you can rock them outdoors, too). But Eleyae didn’t stop there: you can treat someone to a satin-lined piece from her hat collection (currently $15-$70), and keep their tresses protected in high style.
Fun fact: It may have been created with Caribbean carnivals in mind, but this writer got to live out her Euphoria-inspired, glitter-eyed fantasies at this year’s Root 100, thanks to Prime Beauty’s Island Gyal palette ($32), a mix of matte, shimmer and glittery shades in tropical hues. The pigments are super-saturated and can be used on eyes, cheeks, and even as contour and highlighter—equally perfect for vacation packing or New Year’s Eve partying.
Don’t forget about the men—whether clean-shaven or card-carrying members of #BeardGang, Scotch Porter’s got the goods—and the curated collections (currently $44.99-$120) to make the man (or men) in your life feel so fresh and so clean (clean)—and real talk? Non-men like us love the scents and moisturization, too.
Got someone with definitively dapper style on your list? Help them cultivate their preppy streak with a knitted tie from My Suited Life ($29-$39). These retro-inspired accessories are a quirky yet colorful touch that will help them keep their carefully maintained cool perfectly tied together.
One of the most fun product lines we tried this year had a “choose your own adventure” component. Made for everyone in the family and every part of the body, Meticulous Skin pairs all-natural, skin-loving products with a literal menu of scents—ranging from earthy aromas like Sandlewood to the unexpected, like Lemon Pound Cake and even Bacon (yes, BACON). Want to gift a bunch? Build a basket ($4 plus product) or caddy ($18 plus product), and fill it with an aromatic array of goodies. We promise the adventure won’t end.