Teenage girls are notoriously hard to shop for — and picking the right gift for them may be harder than ever before thanks to trends that shift at lightning speed and the influence of social-media stars whom most people of legal drinking age have never heard of.
To help you find an age-appropriate gift, I spoke to teenage girls and combed through our archives for any particularly covetable products for this age group (including some of their favorite celebrities’ can’t-live-without products). From this pool of options, I’ve broken the gifts down into six categories, and you can use the links above to navigate to the category you think will best speak to your teenager. (And if you’ve got an adolescent boy in your life, be sure to check out our list of gifts for teenage boys too.)
It’s probably time she retires her old bottles of OPI and Essie polishes. Step up her nail game this year with this Olive & June kit. It comes with everything she needs to give herself a mani — acetone-free nail-polish remover, nail clippers, nail file, nail buffer, cuticle serum, top coat, and the Poppy, a grip that helps you easily apply nail polish — plus six different shades that you can pick out for her. (For about $30 less you have the option to do just one nail polish shade with this kit, instead of six, if that better suits your budget.)
If she’s into nail art, she’ll appreciate the convenience of press-ons. They give her all the designs without the wait time or mess. Chillhouse, a trendy nail salon in New York, sells very Instagrammable press-ons similar to the art offered at its actual locations. Each kit comes with 24 pop on nails, non-damaging nail glue, a dual-sided buffer and file, and a cuticle stick. (You can find lots more from Chillhouse here and some expert-recommended picks here, if you’d like to shop around.)
This very useful (and affordable) hair dryer and brush is a product that TikTok users say is worth buying. (If you don’t trust TikTokers, the tool also comes recommended by hairstylists and beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton.) “A blow-dryer brush can be a great two-in-one, cutting down the amount of heat that is applied to the hair, saving hair from heat damage caused by excessive styling,” one hairstylist tells us.
YouTuber Emma Chamberlain told us she’s been using this hair towel since the fifth grade. “My mom and I saw it at CVS, thought it was smart, bought one, and I’ve used it ever since,” she says, adding that it keeps her sopping-wet hair off her neck after bathing. “With this, I can just walk around my house after a shower without dripping water everywhere,” she says.
Kickstart her skin-care journey with this CeraVe kit that comes with all the basics: a cleanser, an a.m. moisturizer with SPF, and a lightweight p.m. moisturizer. The brand was a standout in our most recent teen survey for being effective and affordable, and it’s also an all-around Strategist skin-care favorite for all ages and skin types.
Buying sunscreen will instill good skin-care habits early on. Teens have told us Supergoop is on the top of their wishlists because it’s covetable and out of their price range. We suggest gifting Supergoop’s hydrating Glowscreen, which doubles as a makeup primer.
These hydrocolloid stickers effectively flatten zits, and they’re cute enough for any teen to wear IRL or on Instagram. Plus they’re a mainstay for Rio’s acne fighting routine because they “help suck out any oils and pus from the spot, so the zit inevitably looks smaller and flatter by the time you remove it.”
Or restock them with the newest design. These adorable smiling-cloud hydrocolloid stickers were released this January and have the same gentle, hydrating formula as their star-shaped predecessors.
In our 2021 teen poll, results showed the Ordinary might just be cooler than Glossier (thanks, of course, to TikTok). Because its line is so inexpensive, it makes an excellent buildable gift. Products we’ve recommended from the company (that are good for sensitive skin) include its cold-pressed virgin Marula oil, which doubles as hair care and skin care, and this gentle, hydrating exfoliator praised by Rio.
If your teen is getting into fragrances, Glossier’s You Eau de Parfum is the perfect, not-too-overbearing starter perfume. Rio promises it’s “one of the best perfumes on the market for that ‘enhancing your natural scent’ vibe.”
Milk makeup makes lots of teen-approved products from its moisturizing foundation for an on-trend dewy look to its conditioning brow gel available in eight shades. Most giftable, however, are its multiuse products like its lip-and-cheek highlighter stick and these pigmented color chalks that work as an eye shadow, eyeliner, highlighter, blush, and powder lipstick.
If full glam is more their aesthetic, they’d appreciate an eye shadow from teen-favorite brand Morphe. Go with a classic palette like Sweetest Tea, which comes with a mix of neutral and eye-popping mattes and shimmers, if they’re new to makeup. For the more advanced, we suggest gifting one of Morphe’s buzzy collaboration palettes.
Lemonhead glitter is among the products we heard about when we asked TikTokers about the actually good beauty products seen all over the app. It has been worn by the cast of HBO’s Euphoria, as well as Beyoncé. Dasha, who goes by Dash.C on TikTok, says it’s a particularly gentle option: “Lemonhead comes off more easily than regular glitter, which I had to remove from my face with duct tape.”
Consider graphic eyeliner, which makeup artists say is both trendy and easy to use. Makeup artist Janice Kinjo likes Sephora’s collection, because it has a great range of colors and the eyeliner is long-lasting, making it perfect for beginners. “The 12-hour contour pencils are good for those really just starting out who need more control over eyeliner shape and placement. The multi-stick is wider in shape and highly pigmented in color and can also be blended out with fingers into an eyeshadow,” she says.
According to the data from our 2021 teen poll, strip lights are a décor trend among girls and boys alike these days. Although string lights are still popular for the homey glow they cast, LED strip lights look better on TikTok. And as one teen, Claudio, puts it, they’re “a fun alternative to conventional lighting and very laid-back for a night in with friends.”
Whether she’s redecorating her childhood bedroom or plans to bring photos from home to her first dorm room, these string lights — which teens raved about during our 2019 teen poll — feature clips to hold on to 20 polaroids or printed photos. (And if she doesn’t already own a Polaroid camera, you can pick up the newest model here.)
“One of the top things on my and my friends’ lists is a blanket,” says 17-year-old Jazzy. “It’s always nice to stay cozy and comfortable.” This Barefoot Dreams blanket is one that’s particularly popular among teens. It was first mentioned to us by a VSCO girl and most recently came recommended by actress Brie Larson, who said her 13-year-old neighbor introduced her to it. The hype around the blanket seems warranted: Vlogger Marla Fay says it’s “the most amazing, soft, cuddly throw,” and Larson likes hers so much she’s the proud owner of five.
If they’re all set on a throw blanket, gift them this cozy fleece pillow instead. Made with a supportive back and wraparound arms, it’s perfect for when they’re reading, lounging, or watching TV. And it has a convenient side pocket to hold their phone.
Otherland, a brand we’ve mentioned many times before, was founded by a millennial who clearly has a sense for young people’s tastes. With Otherland’s customizable gift boxes, you can pick from signature scents or their holiday collection, then decide which three you want to add to your box. You can add a note and pick the message on the accompanying matchbox. The gesture feels more personal than buying a single candle off a shelf. (If you’re looking for something even more personalized, check out our guide to items we’ve written about before that can be monogrammed and customized.)
If she’s ready to graduate from fake plants to real ones, we suggest starting her with a set of succulents. For one, they’re cute, but more important, they’re generally quite easy to care for since they can handle sitting in dry soil for a while.
Books, magazines, and games
For the artsy teen, we recommend a coloring book like this one from Art Therapy Coloring. Gifting it with some colored pencils, pens, or markers would make for a thoughtful gift your recipient could use as a Netflix or scrolling alternative.
Another nice option for the artsy type: a graphic novel. Ghost World comes recommended by visual artist Janie Korn, who discovered it in her late teens. The book follows Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer as they “float through that awkward limbo that bridges childhood and adulthood,” Korn explains. She appreciates how “cutting and sarcastic” the characters are as they “narrate the existence of suburban adolescence, snarking at the quirks and ironies and collecting eccentric misfits on the way.”
The graphic novel Persepolis follows Satrapi’s life from age 6 to 14, a time during the Islamic Revolution and later the Iran-Iraq War. It was one of the most recommended books in our graphic novels roundup because, as one artist told us, it “uses the graphic novel medium to the full potential.” The book brings a foreign time and place to life through “very simple details allowing the reader to really understand the range of emotions and feelings of the characters.”
If you know the teen in your life checks the Co-Star app every morning, a tarot-card deck is a solid gift. This one’s extra cute and comes with an easy-to-follow guide book for beginners. And if you’d like to shop around, we rounded up more expert-approved tarot and oracle decks here.
Gen-Z musician Gracie Abrams told us this poetry anthology is “heartbreaking and kind of highlights human fragility, resilience, heartbreak, and just real love.” If you know your teen is a fan, they’d appreciate owning this book that might have inspired one of their favorite love songs.
Journaling does wonders for stress and mindfulness, but a blank page can be daunting for some teens. Encourage the practice with this five-minute journal recommended by writers, wellness experts, and actress Debby Ryan. It helps set intentions at the beginning of each day and circles back at the end of the day to discuss the day’s positive moments and how you can improve for tomorrow.
This book, by the reigning production company A24, was featured in our roundup of the best coffee-table books of 2022. It’s a trove of casting director Jennifer Venditti’s early casting photos, including shots of stars such as Julia Fox and Hunter Schafer. If the teen in your life is an aspiring indie film critic, they’ll treasure this collector’s item.
And for the Euphoria die-hard, here’s a boxed set also from A24. It is a splurge, but that’s because it comes with eight books full of untold stories from the show’s actors and creatives and never-before-seen visuals.
Liz Goldwyn, the founder of the Sex Ed, a multimedia platform dedicated to sex, health, and consciousness education, recently told us about the best sex books for every person, including teens. She recommends this one for “the Gen-Zer who doesn’t see gender.” As she explains, “It highlights the queer and two-spirit history of the Cherokee community, making it a great title for those looking to explore the cultural history of the gender identity spectrum through an Indigenous American lens.”
Goldwyn recommends this classic James Baldwin novel for the adolescent who loves Call Me by Your Name. “Not only is the book a part of the 20th-century literary canon, it is also a deeply poignant and often heartbreaking love story we can all relate to — no matter our sexual orientation,” Goldwyn says.
Tech and school supplies
Or consider gifting them a more analog music experience. Lots of teens are getting into collecting vinyls, and Victrola is a fairly inexpensive option that’s still good quality. Plus it comes in a lot of cute color options.
Blue-light-blocking glasses became hot-ticket items during the pandemic for at-home learning. They’re still good to have on hand for any screen time teens are exposed to at night — especially in the hours before going to bed. These Peepers are stylish, but just as important is the fact that they help prevent headaches and eye fatigue.
Chances are your teen already owns AirPods, but to keep them on top of the latest gadgets out there, you can upgrade them to the slightly fancier AirPods Pro. The earbuds come with the added bonus of noise-canceling technology and a wireless charging case.
If AirPods don’t fit your budget, consider these less expensive, trendy headphones. Strategist junior writer Brenley Goertzen found them on the Instagram account wired it girls, which documents “It” girl celebrities such as Chloe Cherry, Megan Fox, Bella Hadid, Lily-Rose Depp, and Zoë Kravitz effortlessly sporting wired headphones.
Slippers make a classic gift, and Ugg is a go-to for many — including teens. Addison Rae says she wears these Ugg slippers everywhere. “They’re so cute, and they’re insanely comfortable,” she adds. “I like that they have the band in the back because, first of all, they stay on my foot. Second, I feel like the band almost makes them less of a home slipper and something I can wear casually out of the house.”
Emma Chamberlain says her style changes day to day, but these Dr. Martens are a staple for her: “They give me a rock-star feeling, like I could stomp on a drum set with my boots if I wanted to.” She prefers “life-changing” platform pairs to the flat version. “I only wear platforms now. They’re so comfortable, too, once you break them in. They take every outfit from That’s cool to Whoa, look at her,” she says. Another teen favorite, actress and singer Dove Cameron, has a pair and recommends sizing up to make them even more comfortable. “Because they’re so big, I can stuff whatever pants I’m wearing into them, even if I’m wearing really heavy sweats or the jeans are too long on me,” she adds. “I can fit anything in them. This sounds so funny, but they don’t look like clown shoes, trust me.”
While not exactly in the realm of everyday clothing as the rest of the stuff on this list is, roller skates still make a fun gift. The hype around the hobby continues post-pandemic, so if your teen doesn’t already have a pair, we suggest you gift them these expert-approved ones from Moxi.
It’s no surprise that Skims, the brand founded by Kim Kardashian, is popular among teens. Because it’s so known for its loungewear, you can’t go wrong with the line’s knit hoodie or tank. Be sure to act fast, though — sizes are starting to sell out.
Coats are a popular wish-list item with teen girls, with soft, faux-fur ones topping their lists. We suggest this one from cool-girl brand UGG. It comes in a fun color blocking, and as we’ve been told before, it’s extremely soft. It’s a bit of a splurge compared with the other gifts on this list, but it’s the type of thing that will get a lot of use.
Or you could go with a more subtle (but still soft) jacket in a fleece fabric, which is what teen Becca is craving right now. “They just look cute,” she says. Although we’ve recommended the North Face and Patagonia versions over and over, for those like Becca who want a less utilitarian look, this Free People fleece is a great option. It’s been mentioned among stylish women we’ve paneled in the past, and it’s available in 15 different colors.
You can’t go wrong with a puffer. Cropped, hoodless designs are the most popular silhouettes among teen girls, and we found a couple of options at different price points. The most affordable comes from H&M, but it’s only available in light sage green. The jackets from Alo and Free People are a bit of a splurge, but they’ll likely last your teen a long time, and they’re both highly covetable teen brands.
Or you can go with this classic cut from Levi’s. Says Chamberlain, “Nothing fits me or hugs my body better than 501s.”