Advice + Ask The Edit, + Gift Guide, + Makeup

Ask Belle: Holiday Palette Envy

Dear Belle, 

My niece (who is a sophomore in college) asked me for a giant makeup palette for Christmas.  I’ve been thinking it over and wondering if makeup palettes actually make good gifts.  I’m not sure if it’s the best thing for me to buy her, since I’m concerned about the quality of the makeup.  Any thoughts?

Sincerely, Amelia

Buying makeup as a gift is always tricky.  Will you choose the right shade?  Does the person have allergies?  Will the gift end up in a junk drawer?  Makeup palettes can make good presents, but it depends on the palette.

I would never recommend buying a makeup palette like this enormous one from Sephora, unless you’re buying it for someone under-16.  Why?  The vast selection of colors seems like a great deal, but most of those shades won’t be used and there won’t be enough of the staple shades to keep her stocked for more than a few weeks.  It’s great for playing around with to discover what colors you like but not much else.

If you do want to buy her a palette, be more discerning.  An eyeshadow palette like the Urban Decay Naked 2 Palette ($52) or this Plum Dazed set from Sephora ($16), which contains a handful of near-universally flattering shades.

And since your niece is a bit older, I’d also recommend some kits and palettes that contain better quality products than you find in those inexpensive makeup kits you see in department stores before the holidays.  I like this Stila Artist Essential Set ($59), which contains an array of sophisticated shadows and how-to cards for creating new looks.  If she likes lipstick, this $38 kit from Bite Beauty offers some lovely hues.  And if you want to go all out, the $300 Makeup Forever Professional Kit has full-sizes of all their best products from their awesome pencil liners to their Microfinish HD Powder.

If the girl wants a palette, buy her a palette.  Just steer clear of those inexpensive, enormous palettes made to sucker people who don’t know what to get the young women in their extended families.  Those items are best left to teenagers trying to find their look and little girls who play dress up.



  1. S says:

    Amelia, if you happen to see this comment, I’d consider this LORAC palette for your niece in addition to the ones Belle suggested above: I own it and love it – a Sephora employee recommended it to me over the Urban Decay Naked palettes. Good luck making your selection!

    November 25, 2013/Reply
  2. Sarah says:

    I’m a palette junkie (can’t wait to get the Naked 3). And my favorite is the Lorac Pro palette ( It has a good mix of matte and shimmer plus the Lorac quality is excellent. I use it nearly everday for work as well as for nights out on the town.

    Definitely agree about avoiding those large, cheap palette. Those are always poor quality and not worth the twenty bucks. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    November 25, 2013/Reply
  3. Chelsea says:

    I love Bobbi Brown palettes for Christmas gifts. The colors and quality are always great.

    November 25, 2013/Reply
  4. L says:

    Tarte as a kit on sephora for 59$ last I checked that has more than just eye shadows and is pretty nice

    November 25, 2013/Reply
    • R says:

      I wouldn’t buy the Tarte kit. I bought the one last year with eyeshadows, lip glosses, 2 blushes, bronzer, and highlighter. I hated it all except the bronzer and highlighter. The lip gloss applicator was gross, and the lip gloss was glumpy. The eyeshadow fell all over my cheeks in 3 hours. I gave all of this to my 6 year old niece.

      November 25, 2013/Reply
  5. Gabrielle says:

    Nordstrom’ Rack has NARS palates on sale (might be physical locations only).

    November 25, 2013/Reply
  6. Jenn L. says:

    Hallelujah something I can actually speak to and offer solid advice on! Eee.

    So I third the recommendations of the Lorac Pro palette. I own it and Urban Decay’s Naked, and I love both – but one is not substitution for another. If she has nothing, get Lorac Pro, as it has more versatility.

    Right now, Ulta is doing a holiday bundle (NOT Black Fri exclusive) where you can get the Lorac Pro (reg $42), mini Behind the Scenes Eye Primer (which comes with the regular Lorac Pro), and Front of the Line PRO Liquid Eyeliner (Reg $23) It is a very, very good deal.

    If you know she is passionate about neutrals on the other hand, UDs naked palettes are excellent. Naked (original) warm-toned, Naked 2 is cool, and Naked 3 (just released, may be hard to find) is like a rosy-neutral (rose golds, pinky browns). They are $52 ea and each come with a brush (brush differs with each).

    Alternatively, if she wants a ton of colors – UD Vice 2 ($59) is flippin gorgeous, comes with a brush, and is a palette of 20 different shades of pretty. Too Faced’s A Few Of My Favorite Things ($56) is also awesome w\ 20 shadows and comes with a lippy, blushes, and bronzers.

    If she really really really wants the crazy dozens-of-colors palettes that are inexpensive, I recommend Coastal Scents or BH Cosmetics, both of which are available on Amazon. Though their quality is not as high as the prestige brands, they are pretty damn good considering the price.

    Good luck!

    November 25, 2013/Reply
  7. Emily says:

    Another option would be to go to the MAC store and build her a customized palatte. That way she can mix and match when the colors run out, since MAC sells just the refills.

    November 25, 2013/Reply
    • CH says:

      This was going to be my suggestion, too – I love that the MAC palettes are refillable!

      November 25, 2013/Reply
    • Jenn L. says:

      MAC is good stuff, but it is pretty spendy – if she wants to replenish down the road, it might be hard on a college student or recently-graduated budget. Inglot custom palettes are good, or you could check out Makeup Geek’s site and order her singles and a Z Palette!

      November 25, 2013/Reply
  8. Amanda says:

    I bought an E.L.F. 32-shade palette from Target for $6 and I love it! It has great shades (a mix of shimmery and matte neutrals, plus deep purple, navy blue, and deep green), and it stays put all day on top of my primer. I’m definitely impressed with the quality for such a low price. Probably doesn’t qualify as a “giant” makeup palette per the gift request, though 🙂

    November 25, 2013/Reply
  9. Valerie says:

    I’ve also heard good things about Em Cosmetics’ “Life Palette” ($75)- has four different sets of shades with “recipe cards”/videos on how to create different looks, and you can choose between different themes depending on when your niece wants to wear the looks (day v. night v. work makeup).

    November 25, 2013/Reply
    • Jess says:

      I cannot recommend EM Cosmetics. I really don’t think the payoff is there for the price. You can get seriously prestige stuff for the price of Em stuff…Its just not worth it.

      November 26, 2013/Reply
  10. save. spend. splurge. says:

    The Urban Decay Naked Basics palette is nice.

    November 25, 2013/Reply
  11. Jess says:

    can I also recommend this —

    i love the lorac, i love the stila, i hate em, i hate mac..but Urban Decay is by far the best. That book of shadows redux will be on sale on urban decay’s website for $24 on cyber monday. Its a steal! It has a great mix of neutrals and brights plus my holy grail of liquid liner and primer. mascara is a nice bonus too!

    November 26, 2013/Reply
  12. libertyonless says:

    The E.L.F. pallet isn’t a bad option for just playing around!

    November 26, 2013/Reply