If you still haven't sorted your Christmas shopping then keep it simple. At this late stage the way to go with beauty gifts is to stick with a theme or stock up on sets. It's all very well and good thinking you'll find the perfect present by wandering around looking for inspiration, but having accompanied a late-starting friend to try to do this last weekend, I wanted to run screaming from the mall.

I love Christmas, but I detest Christmas shopping when the day is nearly nigh. I'm a stock-piler and, when it comes down to those tricky types, a list writer. If my present buying isn't pretty much sorted by now I start to feel anxious, lest shopping cuts into socialising and the fun of decorating and wrapping with a glass of bubbles at hand.

My beauty suggestion is toilet bags, everyone needs one and hardly anyone replaces their own in a hurry, so these make useful gifts. There's some fun designs out there for both men and women and you can add contents if you are so inclined. Vary the price according to the recipient and for something beyond the decent lineup in most pharmacies and department stores head to bigger gift shops and Country Road. Men's stores sometimes carry them too, with upmarket outfitters offering leather options.

These may not sound wildly exciting, but if you make the effort to match the choice to the recipient then you can have some fun without widening your search too far which becomes exhausting and is likely to lead to your being sidetracked. If everyone at your gathering gets a variation on the same gift, it becomes a talking point about who got what and you can ring the changes with style variations from luxurious, to natural, eco-friendly, design-driven, etc, etc, to suit.


Other easy beauty themes are candles or hand and body lotions, yes, for men too, with the likes of The Body Shop's Hemp hand cream. There are also specialist products for gardeners and cooks, including from the Aromatherapy Company which makes a good exfoliating hand wash for grubby mitts and a scent-dispersing range for the kitchen. Try home and garden stores for other good ideas, including citronella candles.

For women a makeup bag with one well-chosen item inside is thoughtful and a chance to introduce a friend or family member to a product you think they will love. This could range from a flavoured lip balm with an SPF or hair ties for a young girl to hair chalks, stick-on nail apps, a nail polish, false lashes or scent rollerballs for teens, to a name brand lipstick in a gold case as a treat for someone older. Small boys enjoy bath bombs and bubble bath as much as girls, so check out the likes of Lush for unisex options. Many boys like hair products and you can find inexpensive gels and putty from the New Zealand-made Dominate company at the supermarket, ranging up to trendy salon brands such as American Crew. Electric hair and beard grooming tools are an idea for older guys, with Remington having a shelf-full.

Share your current must-have product with others who may not have caught up with the trend yet, making sure it is matched to their specific needs. The likes of CC creams, dry shampoos, or hair oils are ideal for this.

Come secret Santa time, wrap the likes of useful lip balms and sunscreens Christmas-cracker style. This shows more consideration than weighing people down with jokey tat or chocolates.

As to sets, these make terrific value buying, although it helps if you know the recipient well enough to avoid very generic choices. Among many good options that have caught my eye are Joico's haircare packs, Jurlique and Dermalogica skincare kits and boxes of Vinylux longwear nail polish minis. A set of makeup brushes would delight some people and end up in the drawer of others.

Body product sets are always safer than facial ones unless you know a preferred skincare brand in which case helping someone stock up will be a real saving to them. Ditto fragrance. All your research for others would have ensured you noticed the many perfume gift sets boxed with body products for little more than the regular cost of a bottle, so this is the time to start hinting heavily.