8 Gifts Our Editors Buy For Their Hard-To-Shop-For Friends

As self-proclaimed shopping experts, we at the Refinery29 team pride ourselves in coming up with the best gift ideas. However, there comes a time when that fountain of inspiration runs a little dry — aka when a hard-to-please friend is involved. Finding that perfect special something for the person who has everything pretty much sits at the top end of the holiday shopping difficulty scale.

This present will need to accomplish multiple things at once: telegraph your good taste, demonstrate your keen understanding of the person, and show them just how much you care. To help you get a head start, we’ve asked a team of R29 editors — who are hard-to-shop-for people themselves — what they will be personally gifting their difficult friends this holiday season. Read ahead for eight excellent product recommendations that will wow even the pickiest friends in your life.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by us. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy or click on something we link to on our site, we may earn a commission.

Slip Silk Pillowcase

“A silk pillowcase is arguably one of the most luxurious things to gift, but it’s not as gratuitous as you might think. Silk boasts countless benefits for hair and skin. Hair experts say that silk doesn’t absorb moisture in the same way that a cotton pillowcase might, resulting in healthy, smooth, and shiny hair. The material gives good slip, so friction is reduced and potentially even damage to fragile lengths. The same goes for your skin: not only does silk feel soft and cooling, but it minimises creasing, too.”Jacqueline Kilikita, Deputy Beauty Director

Shop Sephora

Slip Pure Silk Pillowcase Queen Size, $, available at Sephora

Anthropologie Bistro Tile Margot Monogram Mug

“When it comes to a friend who is hard to shop for, I tend to go the practical route with items they’ll use all the time. Since it’s cosy season, everyone can do with a mug, especially one from Anthropologie that comes monogrammed with their initial.

“Although people have their own collection of cute mugs in my experience, no one ever gets upset adding another to their list. Anthropologie’s Bistro Mugs are the elevated version they’ll consistently gravitate towards for coffee, tea, hot cocoa and more. Bring the chic café to them without having them step outside.” — Vivien Lee, Affiliate Fashion Writer

Shop Anthropologie

Anthropologie Bistro Tiled Margot Monogram Mug, $, available at Anthropologie

Lesure Flower Donut Pet Bed

“Whenever I’m having trouble finding a gift for a tricky-to-shop-for friend, my winning strategy is to get something practical for their pets instead. My giftees are always genuinely delighted and grateful that I have thought of their fur babies, and you know what? It’s not like their pet will be vocally demanding a refund or exchange.

“This fluffy pet bed is always a gifting success. First of all, the flower shape is just too adorable for words and provides so much Instagram story fodder. It’s been a hit with both dogs and cats I’ve gifted (as shown in this picture of my friend’s cat, Cloud). It comes in a range of sizes, all relatively inexpensive. The best part? It can be thrown in the washing machine. I get all the photo updates of cute animals snuggling in their new cosy nest from my friends, so it’s a win for me, too.” Venus Wong, Senior Travel Writer

Shop Amazon

Lesure Flower Donut Pet Bed, $, available at Amazon

Scupld Air-Dry Pottery Kit

“I was given this at-home air-dry pottery kit a few years ago and it’s still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. It resulted in a very happy, wholesome Sunday spent flexing my artistic muscles, getting mucky, dancing around the kitchen to my favourite songs whilst things dried, and creating pieces that I still use today (an incense holder and decorative vase which I use for candles — you can’t use air dry clay for pottery to drink from, btw).

“Since then, I’ve bought this same kit for several friends and my little sister who is notoriously hard to buy for (she’s way cooler than me and already seems to have everything she needs). At one point, I treated my housemates to a Sculpd kit and spent a rainy winter day drinking wine, laughing over the weird and wonderful ornaments we could create for our apartment, and just generally being silly — it was the best time! Inner child healing: unlocked.”Esther Newman, UK Affiliate Writer

Shop Selfridges

Sculpd Pottery Kit, $, available at Selfridges

Lanolips The Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm

“I love a small skincare gift, and I’m positively evangelical about Lanolips. It’s made from 100% lanolin, a byproduct of wool production. One important thing to note: unlike other animal byproducts, the sheep don’t die in the production of wool and subsequent removal of the lanolin from said wool. This one is the classic 101 formula you can put literally everywhere on your body that needs moisture.

“It’s a hard sell, I know, because now you’re thinking about sheep, not chapped lips. But if you like to slather Vaseline all over yourself when it’s cold out, this is the upgrade you want. I find it stays put much longer than petroleum jelly but provides the same nourishment and relief. It’s also a good gift for the hard-to-shop-for folks because it has an element of product discovery, but is mild enough that there isn’t much to offend: no strong scents or harsh ingredients. The brand also sells a stick version and a tinted version.”Marshall Bright, Affiliate Editor

Shop Lanolips

Lanolips The Original 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm, $, available at Lanolips

Patch Silvy Satin Pothos

“I am the impossible-to-buy-for person (Aries, here). I am specific. I know what I like, and everyone else can only guess (wrong). Short of taking people like me off your list, I’d avoid imagining what we need and just go for something impossible not to like, even if it’s a bit generic.

“I’d trade gifts for a nice dinner out or tickets to a show, but if that’s not an option, you really can’t go wrong with the gift of life: a plant. They are green and happy and full of hope, and I’m always killing them, so I can never have enough. Fortunately, pothos like this one live forever, so it’s perfect for inexperienced (and irresponsible) plant parents.” — Colleen Barrett, Freelance Affiliate Editor

Shop Patch

Patch Silvy Satin Pothos, $, available at Patch

& Other Stories Déjà Vu Mood Scented Candle

“& Other Stories might not be your first port of call for candles, but having tried their new range, including the warm and earthy notes of the Déjà Vu Mood candle, I’m mega impressed.

“I’ve often been disappointed with the brand’s concession candles as they tend to be prone to tunnelling and less heavily scented. This certainly isn’t the case here: Expect a blend of jasmine, saffron flower, and cotton candy, topped with notes of raspberry in a candle that seems to burn forever. An easy Christmas gift for a fussy friend, and £25 well spent.” — Kelly Washington, UK Social Editor

Shop & Other Stories

& Other Stories Déjà Vu Mood Scented Candle, $, available at & Other Stories

Upstate Handblown Carafe

“When I’m in doubt or buying something for the person who seems to have everything, I always think practical gifts are the way to go. There are things that are super nice but people wouldn’t traditionally buy for themselves — carafes and pitchers are #1 for that in my book. A pitcher doesn’t have to be gross plastic, and a carafe is always chic.

“Upstate’s glass carafe is my go-to: Expensive but not too expensive, and because each piece of glassware is handblown, no two of them are the same, which adds a personal touch that’s always nice. They also come in a wide variety of different colourways, so you can pick one for a person’s aesthetic or home design. And because they’re a small business, it’s especially caring to give rather than just picking something up while you’re running errands. I would be thrilled if I got this as a gift, truly.” Amanda Mitchell, Senior Beauty Writer / Stories Creator

Shop Bed Threads

Upstate Handblown Carafe, $, available at Bed Threads

Bombas Men’s Sunday Slipper

“I declared these bestselling slippers the perfect gift for everyone on your list, and I stand by that. I’m already a fan of Bombas socks, but I hadn’t tried their slippers before. And it turns out, customers wait for them to be restocked every year because of their cozy goodness. They’re a great indoor slipper that has some structure. I’ve already gifted the quickly selling-out women’s style to my mum (who has shared her admiration of them) but am considering also ordering a men’s pair for my dad next.” — Victoria Montalti, Associate Affiliate Writer

Shop Bombas

Bombas Men’s Sunday Slipper, $, available at Bombas

8 Oak Lane Wine Bottle Carrying Clutch Bag

“This is the second year in a row that I am getting this ‘wine clutch,’ which I add a bottle of nice red to, for my have-everything friends. In the best-case scenario, they will get a laugh out of this gag gift. In the worst, they will have an extra bottle of wine at their house. While this bag comes in a variety of colors and has a champagne bottle version as well, I love this one because of how on-trend red currently is.” Irina Grechko, Fashion Director

Shop Neiman Marcus

8 Oak Lane Wine Bottle Clutch Bag, $, available at Neiman Marcus

Public Spirit Hand Soap

“Good-smelling body products are always a great gift idea, especially when it’s a luxury hand soap that doesn’t carry a steep price tag. Public Spirit is one of my faves, since you can get most of its hotel-quality body care products for less than $20. The brand also donates 10% of profits back to the community the perfect way to spread the holiday spirit, if you ask me.” Becca Sax, Affiliate Coordinator

Shop Public Spirit

Public Spirit Hand Soap, $, available at Public Spirit

Sephora Favorites Perfume Sampler Set

“I’ve gifted this Sephora perfume sampler kit to numerous friends and family, and it’s always a hit. The concept is genius: Inside the quilted pouch (which can be repurposed as a travel toiletry bag) are 16 (!) sample vials of luxe scents like Prada Paradoxe, Margiela’s By The Fireplace, Tom Ford Ombré Leather, to name a few, and your recipient can redeem a coupon inside for a full-size version of their winning scent (often at a steal, given the entire set retails for under $100).

“It’s the best of both worlds: Your giftee gets exactly what they want, while you look like the savviest shopper in the group chat.” Karina Hoshikawa, Senior Writer

Shop Sephora

Sephora Favorites Perfume Sampler Set, $, available at Sephora

Rose Inc Structured Beauty Clutch

“This is the best travel bag. It fits the makeup and skincare I need when I’m on a trip and it actually doubles as a clutch that I could wear out to a nice dinner if I don’t like the purses I brought. The fabric is slightly puffy, giving Bottega vibes, but it’s just $20. I gave one of my best friends this makeup bag with a few Rose Inc products inside (the cream bronzer, concealer, tinted serum, and lip balm are my faves) for her birthday and she still uses the makeup bag on every girl’s trip we’ve taken since. It’s fun to match.” —
Megan Decker, Beauty Editor

Shop Rose Inc

Rose Inc Structured Beauty Clutch, $, available at Rose Inc

Porter Road Butcher’s Choice Box

“Let’s get one thing out of the way: this probably won’t make the best gift for a friend that is meat-free. But for anyone else, a curated box of high-quality meats is the kind of delivery that will make cooking (and hosting dinner parties) so much more joyous this holiday season.

Porter Road is a purveyor of high-quality beef, pork, chicken, and cold cuts sourced from Tennessee and Kentucky. Working only with reputable farms that raise their animals outdoors, the company runs its own facility to hand-cut and age the meats. I like to send my friends this curated box, which contains a little bit of everything: dry-aged steaks for a special dinner, short ribs for BBQ, bacon for breakfast, and so much more.

“I’ve tried the cuts myself, and the taste — especially the steaks — is truly next-level delicious, and requires very little seasoning or marinating. The idea that I’ve just taken care of a big chunk of someone’s grocery list for weeks to come, with the best ingredients possible, brings a smile to my face.” Venus Wong, Senior Travel Writer

Shop Porter Road

Porter Road Butcher’s Choice Box, $, available at Porter Road

Brochu Walker Cashmere Neck Square

“A few people have told me that I’m hard to shop for; it’s not something I’m proud of but I know that I am particular. Personally, I always say you can’t go wrong with something cashmere because it’s truly the softest fabric on the planet. A year or two ago I was gifted this cashmere neck square and I love it so much!

“When I’m wearing a jacket without a hood or collar, it adds a layer of warmth and it’s chic the way it drapes around the neckline and shoulders. It’s more interesting than a regular scarf, IMO, and there’s a creative element to the styling, which I love.” —
Megan Decker, Beauty Editor

Shop Brochu Walker

Brochu Walker The Cashmere Neck Square, $, available at Brochu Walker

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