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The Best 40th-Birthday Gifts, According to People Who’ve Reached 40

Photo: Courtesy Universal Pictures

If you have a friend or a loved one about to turn 40, it’s likely that they’re currently taking stock of all they’ve accomplished so far, while in the back of their mind gearing up for a whole new batch of anxieties. It’s a birthday that can feel “like a whirlwind,” according to Christopher Choa, the director of cities and urban development at engineering firm AECOM. “Hopefully, you’ve mastered what you need to do for family and work,” he told us, “but you’re anxious about having to deal with so many responsibilities on your own.”

It would make sense, then, that such a transitional moment might call for a gift that seems a step up from the types of things you might give on any other birthday. According to Choa and the ten other cool people we spoke to — all of whom have marched past the milestone themselves — the best 40th-birthday gifts can be things to help one stay calm and relaxed or allow for a bit of self-pampering, items that let the recipient further indulge in a favorite pastime (like a nice cutting board for the home chef), or special pieces that the recipient could have for the next 40 years. (After all, “by 40, you’ve learned to take care of your favorite things,” says Scott Schuman, the founder of the Sartorialist.) Below, our eleven cool people share 29 ideasfrom a sleek hairbrush to an anti-aging moisturizer to a statement pair of socks to the aforementioned cutting board — that they say will help anyone entering their fifth decade do so in style and at peace.

Things for self-care

While many of the gifts we heard about were described as having a calming or rejuvenating effect on top of their original purpose, four specifically came recommended for their restorative powers. If your recipient is carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders, restaurateur Michael Chernow (who owns The Meatball Shop and Seamore’s) says slapping one of these patches on there will help. “I’ve been buying them for all my friends,” he says, “because CBD products are not things that people who aren’t into it would ever buy for themselves.” The product, he says, is a “game changer” that he uses to “stay ahead of my recovery, anxiety, and stress. What 40-year-old isn’t dealing with that?”

“If someone is turning 40, they may also be a parent,” says Danielle McGrory, the founder of branding agency Communité. In that case, she says, “the greatest gift is to give them a break from their kids!” An Airbnb gift card for the amount of your choosing will allow them to look forward to just that on the other side of the pandemic. (And if they’re on the East Coast and need inspiration, we’d suggest including a link to our 70 Best Airbnbs Near NYC guide as part of that gift.)

We also learned about another means of escape, accessible even within the four walls of your recipient’s home: HigherDOSE’s Sauna Blanket, which allows the wearer to replicate the experience of a sauna while lying in bed. Chernow told us it was his 40th-birthday gift to himself. “I love it — you’ll never need to leave your house or apartment anymore to get your sauna in, and the blanket is small enough to keep in your closet.”

Your recipient will have to move their body to get a sweat on with this gift, but according to writer Ivy Pochoda, the effect on their body and mood will be more than worth it. “I wish I’d know about Pilatesology when I turned 40 a scant handful of years ago,” Pochoda says, explaining that while their courses are billed as “anti-aging medicine for your joints,” she’d “venture to add also for your soul.” Pochoda adds that a gift certificate to their classes, which boast “friendly instructors I’m convinced are my friends,” is a perfect 40th gift for both a man or woman, with “so many” workouts targeted for both. “Since I discovered the app, I’ve been gifting it far and wide,” she says. “Predominantly to my cohort, who is hitting their 40th year, because I want us all to remain forever young.”

Kitchenware and food

Marie du Petit Thouars, the founder of cult-y candle and fragrance brand Maison Louie Marie, says that at 40, a person might find themselves with the time and space in their home to develop new skills. That’s precisely why she recommends gifting this pasta-making machine (that a professional pasta-maker has also recommended to us). Echoing Chernow’s reason for gifting his CBD products, du Petit Thouars says it’s “something you’d never buy yourself — but that’s what makes it a wonderful addition to any foodie friend’s kitchen.”