Welcome to our column, "Hey, Quick Question," where we investigate seemingly random happenings in the fashion and beauty industries. Enjoy!
This holiday season, tell your mother her neck sags. She might also like to hear about her under-eye bags and wrinkles. In the spirit of giving, why not point out her age spots and drooping jowls, too? Not openly, of course. Say it with a gift!
Okay, yes, the above sentiment could be plucked from The Onion, and no advertiser would dare speak it aloud. Nevertheless, that does seem to be the (non-satirical) subtext of some of Holiday 2019’s more suspect gift sets — all very luxurious, to be sure, but also… a little weird to gift your loved ones? Mildly to aggressively offensive? In a word, rude?
Take StriVectin's Firming Favorites, a festive kit featuring the brand's Tightening Neck Cream to "smooth the appearance of horizontal neck lines and sagging." Or Clarisonic's Dark Spot Diminishing Stocking Stuffer, a generous way to call attention to a friend's fading, but not forgotten, acne scars. Or Shiseido's Ultimate Wrinkle Smoothing Eye Set, which claims to treat six different types of eye wrinkles — crow's feet, corner crinkling, under-eye wrinkles, lid creases, under-puff lines and stress wrinkles. That one is both practical and educational, since the person receiving said set is likely (blissfully) unaware there are six different types of wrinkles, much less on their own face.
Maybe it's my snowflakish tendency to take offense to any and everything, but who, I politely ask, is giving these rude gifts?
"I think companies do these holiday sets as more of a selling tactic for consumers to buy for themselves, not necessarily to gift someone else," says makeup artist Megan DiGuilio. I hope this is true. Surely the only person for whom it is appropriate to buy saggy neck cream is your own self.
A very unscientific survey on my Instagram Stories revealed that best friends and moms — and only best friends and moms — can get away with such gifts. As my younger sister points out, "Mom got me an entire acne thing for Christmas once and I was hype." But if any other person on the planet were to present her with, say, the Proactiv Holiday Glow Kit this year? "F that person."
In the same survey, multiple participants said Proactiv is, in fact, the worst holiday gift they've ever unwrapped. "Someone gave my colleague a Tom Ford moisturizer that said 'anti-aging' and she was decently offended," fashion designer Karisa Gagnon tells Fashionista. One mother of two says her low moment was unboxing a brightening eye cream: "I know I'm tired. It's like, what are you trying to tell me?"
Of course, maybe you are trying to tell someone something — something sensitive, that you can't just come out and say. If that's the case, I have a few recommendations.
Instead of outright telling someone, "You're greasy," consider gifting them some Boscia Limited Edition Holiday Blotting Linens.
Rather than, "You’re smelly," place the Type:A Deodorant Stay Fresh Holiday Set under the tree. (This is a pre-packaged, holiday-themed set specifically created for gifting purposes, so it's fine!)
In place of, "You're old," grab any holiday offering from the questionably-named brand Crepe Erase.
Instead of, "Your face requires professional intervention," present them with a gift certificate for Botox, filler or a surgical procedure. Plastic surgeons really do this — Dr. Melissa Doft of Doft Plastic Surgery even sent out a press release about it. "Due to the financial commitment, these sorts of gifts are most commonly seen amongst close friends and family — people who are privy to their loved one's concerns and could lovingly offer such a treatment without it seeming insensitive," she wrote. "Mother to daughter, daughter to mother, husband to wife, wife to husband."
This feels like a trap. A trap destined to ensnare and strangle any relationship that comes near. The Peloton Bike of beauty. If my husband did this, I would divorce him and ruin Christmas. DiGuilio agrees: "If my partner of 10 years gave me a gift card for some sort of cosmetic procedure I have never mentioned before, it would be super weird, and I would probably cry." On the other hand: "I'm open about my Botox use, so if someone gave me a gift certificate I'd be pretty stoked," Catina, an event planner in the industry, tells Fashionista.
That seems to be the only way an objectively rude gift will be well-received: If a parent, best friend or significant other has loudly lamented the fact that the "fat compartments that once led to full, youthful cheeks" now "sag to create marionette lines and jowls," as Dr. Doft describes, or has expressed an explicit desire to "restore volume to aged hands," then go forth, brave soul, and fill their stocking with an $800 syringe of hyaluronic acid filler. (If that's out of your budget, Advanced Clinicals Anti-Aging Wrinkle Serum, $13, promoted by the brand as a "stocking stuffer," will do.)
My own mother has complained about her neck area quite a bit, but still, I could not imagine a scenario in which she opened a Tightening Neck Cream and overflowed with holiday joy and not shame-filled tears. "Wouldn't you be offended if I gave you a skin-care product to 'smooth the appearance of neck lines and sagging'?" I texted in an effort to prove my point.
"If I got it from you, I would like it because I would think that we had talked about my sagging jowls and how they bother me," she texted back. She hates these (imaginary) jowls, she continued, and would love to not have them, but doesn't know what would help and did I have any suggestions?
So, anyway, I think I’ll get her that StriVectin set for Christmas.
Please note: Occasionally, we use affiliate links on our site. This in no way affects our editorial decision-making.