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, we consulted with actual teenage girls — including some of the YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok personalities that the teen in your life likely follows. Then we combed our archives for any particularly covetable products for this age group. From this pool of options, we’ve broken the gifts down into six categories, and you can use the links below 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.)
Fourteen-year-old Laura would like nail polish this year so she can start painting her own nails. She said she would be happy with any of the drugstore brands, like OPI and Essie, but we suggest you take it a step further 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, which helps you better 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.)
Eighteen-year-old Taryn loves nail art but says she’s “not good” at doing it herself, so she’s been really into press-ons lately when she can’t get a professional manicure. She said she doesn’t have a brand she’s loyal to yet, so she’ll take any with “cute” designs. This press-on set from Chillhouse, a trendy nail salon in New York City, fit the bill. They’re similar styles to the designs you can get at the actual Chillhouse salon without all the work. You can find lots more from Chillhouse here and some expert-recommended picks here, if you’d like to shop around.
Based on the responses to our 2021 teen poll, The Ordinary might just be cooler than Glossier. “I love The Ordinary’s products because they are not too expensive and consist of simple ingredients,” says teen Ciara, who likes its hyaluronic acid the most. Your teenage girl is likely familiar with the brand from TikTok, so if she doesn’t have a bottle already, your cool factor will go up a few notches by giving her one.
Teen Patricia wants Supergoop! sunscreen, especially the pearlescent Glowscreen, but because of the price, she hasn’t yet had the courage to splurge and thinks it would make a great gift instead. Buying sunscreen for your teen will instill good skin-care habits early on.
Brittany, who is almost 16, loves learning about K-beauty on TikTok and wants to try it out herself, but everything seems “really kind of expensive,” according to her. This kit from K-beauty brand Peach & Lily, which includes the Strategist-approved glass skin serum, is an under-$50 intro to the world of Korean skin care.
Milk Makeup came up a bunch with the teens we spoke to. “I love their highlighters and lip-and-cheek sticks. I think they’re really pretty,” says Zivi. None is that expensive, so they would make an excellent stocking stuffer when it’s time.
“I have to wear a mask at school, so my face is breaking out,” says 17-year-old Jessica. Because a lot of the most effective (and Instagram-worthy) stuff for clearing up acne comes at a higher price tag than she’s willing to spend, she hopes to get some as a gift. “Some pimple patches would be cool. I like the ones shaped like stars,” she adds. If you’re feeling generous, you can even buy a refill pack with the starter pack to make sure she won’t run out any time soon.
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.
Viera-Newton has bravely gone through the intimidating task (for a millennial at least) of rounding up the best beauty gifts for Gen-Zers, and naturally TikTok influencer Addison Rae’s beauty line made the list. Item Beauty is all about individuality and embracing your imperfections, plus it’s made with clean ingredients and under $25 — all things that would appeal to a teen these days.
Another pick that topped Viera-Newton’s list of beauty gifts for Gen-Zers is this mask from Topicals, a brand with a mission similar to Item Beauty’s. “Founders Olamide Olowe and Claudia Teng created Topicals with the hopes of normalizing real, unretouched skin — with all its acne, scars, texture — and providing shoppers with straightforward, effective yet gentle formulas,” she says. This mask claims to soothe, calm, and replenish any kind of sensitive, irritated, or eczema-prone skin.
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.”
Sheet masks are a fun beauty gift, offering both skin-care perks and plenty of selfie opportunities, according to several teens, including Brynn and 19-year-old Natalie. Georgia, 15, says these fun, colorful masks from K-beauty brand Tony Moly are her favorite.
While the Ordinary may be coming for Glossier’s position atop teens’ beauty-product wishlists, the brand’s ever-popular lip balm is still something we don’t think any teen girl would turn down. As teen Natalie explains, “They have great products and are very aesthetically pleasing.” Another teen told us, “I can’t live without this. I know it’s a bit pricey, but it’s really good, and the packaging is cute!”
Or consider this lip gloss that comes recommended by actress and singer Suki Waterhouse. She told us she wears it as a balm throughout the day and will “really smother it on at night before I go to sleep so I can wake up with pillowy-looking lips.”
“I feel like every teen girl is really into makeup,” says Dani Cohn, a singer and Instagram star with more than 3 million followers. One of her favorite brands is Anastasia Beverly Hills. She says an eye-shadow palette would make a good gift, and teen Quinn recommends this one. “Every well-known YouTube makeup artist raves about it, and most girls who love a smoky eye or cut-crease would want this in their collection,” says Quinn. But we have lots more makeup-artist recommended options to choose from here, if you’re not quite sold on this one.
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.
A nicely scented bath bomb is a perennial teen favorite. This brand — called Da Bomb — is actually run by two teenage sisters who started making bath bombs when they were 10 and 12 years old. But Loren Gray, a TikTok influencer with over 50 million followers, says any bath bomb would be “great for a friend who needs a self-pamper day.”
Teen Zoe thinks perfume would make a nice gift. She didn’t have a specific brand in mind, but we think this one from Glossier would be a hit. Viera-Newton promises it’s “one of the best perfumes on the market for that ‘enhancing your natural-scent’ vibe.”
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.)
“You can’t go wrong with a good scented candle,” says Loren. If you’re looking for one with a cool factor, Brynn, who was 19 when we spoke to her, recommends this candle from Boy Smells. “I feel like this is something everyone needs but doesn’t always want to spend the money on, so it’s a great gift,” she says. Jewelry and bag designer Susan Alexandra — a favorite among cool girls — is a fan of the brand.
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 the 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 the teen you’re shopping for lives in a dorm (where candles might not be allowed) or you don’t think they should have an open flame in their room, you can always go with a diffuser and some essential oils instead. This diffuser is one thing TikTok star Addison Rae can’t live without. “I feel like it’s more natural than a candle, and there’s no smoke residue,” she says.
Teen Zoe says she has fake plants in her room but would love to receive a real one as a gift. “I would definitely take care of it,” she says. This set of succulents is cute, and these plants are generally quite easy to care for since they can handle sitting in dry soil for a while.
“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.
When we asked teens about their favorite bedding, Ava told us about this bed canopy that’ll transform any teen’s space if they’re tired of their childhood bedroom. She especially likes that “it drapes softly around your bed instead of hanging straight down,” and adds that “it reminds me of the pillow forts I used to build when I was little, but with an air of maturity.” The canopy, Ava says, lets you create a little “secret hideaway” in your room “to draw, read a book, or chat with friends.”
Books, magazines, and games
Savana Santos, one-third of the TikTok-famous girl group Avenue Beat, says she’s been playing The Sims for forever. “I’ve literally been playing Sims since the first one came out,” she told us. “I’d play it on our family computer in the living room of my childhood home. Sims was everything and will always be everything to me.” Your favorite gamer girl will enjoy playing this computer game that (apparently) never gets old.
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.
Print magazines give teens a break from their screens, and Indonesian fashion influencer Evita Nuh says she’s always excited to flip through a new issue of Frankie. According to Nuh, this Australian mag is “so artsy and full of inspiration.” A subscription to it will give the teen you’re shopping for a year’s worth of creative content to pore over.
For the artsy teen, Fordham University student Carly recommends 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 in between Zoom classes or as a Netflix alternative. “Sitting down and completing a page out of a coloring book can be the most relaxing and rewarding task,” says Greene.
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.”
“I’m trying to get more involved in stuff like tarot-card reading and horoscopes,” says Caitlin Belle Isle, whom we talked to when she was 16. She told us she would love to receive this very adorable tarot deck. “I just use playing cards, but I just feel like a proper set like this would be nice to own.” It’s a solid pick for teens who check the Co-Star app every morning. And if you’d like to shop around, we rounded up more expert-approved tarot and oracle decks here.
Tech and school supplies
To keep organized, 15-year-old Sam would like a planner. She thinks Ban.do makes particularly cute office supplies (and yes, it’s a brand that’s Strategist-approved as well as celebrity-approved), but they’re a bit too expensive for her to buy herself. Each planner has a charming saying on it, along with brightly colored designs and a pack of stickers to keep her in a good mood. If you’re feeling generous, you could even get her a corresponding notebook to use, too.
When we asked teens about things they got to make school-from-home easier, 16 percent of respondents told us they bought blue-light-blocking glasses to help prevent headaches and eye fatigue. And even if they’re back to in-person learning, the glasses can be good for any screen time they’re exposed to at night — especially in the hours before going to bed. “They’re really quite comfortable and not heavy or tight,” says Ava, a teen who told us about this pair from Peepers. “The arms have a really wide rotation, so they don’t stretch when I put them up on my head.”
Marla Catherine, an 18-year-old lifestyle influencer with over 1 million subscribers on YouTube, recommends a more analog music experience: “I love music so much, and record players are an awesome way to play it.” She prefers Victrola record players “because they’re fairly cheap but really good quality. Plus, they have cute color options.”
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.
She’s not a household name like Kendall or Kylie Jenner, but model, Instagram star, and phone-case designer Devon Lee Carlson is a favorite of Gen Z (another tidbit we gleaned from one of our teen polls). “I think it’s how willing she is to try weird or different things,” one teen theorizes of Carlson’s popularity. This case from her Wildflower line is a stylish, teen-approved way to protect a brand-new iPhone 13.
Seventeen-year-old Sierra will be going to college next year and says, “I’ve never had to take my laptop out of my room, so I’ll probably need something to put it in if I want to take it to classes.” Although it’s a premature gift for her, since she hasn’t started college yet, she thinks it would be a great one regardless and says she “knows” other teens would appreciate it as well. This Baggu sleeve comes in 11 fun patterns and will keep any laptop properly protected.
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 this platform pair to the flat version. “My first pair was shorter; I don’t know what I was thinking because these platform ones are life-changing,” she says. “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.” These boots are a favorite of actress and singer Dove Cameron, whom the teen on your list probably follows. Hers, however, are oversize, which she believes makes 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.”
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.”
While not exactly in the realm of everyday clothing as the rest of the stuff on this list is, 17-year-old Jessica would really love a pair of roller skates. “During the pandemic, a lot of my friends got into roller-skating. I borrowed my friend’s sister’s skates so I could go with them, but I’d like a pair of my own,” she explains. We’ve ranked Moxi skates as the best skates to buy for beginners, but they tend to sell out quickly, so jump on them while you can.
“Is it weird to ask for underwear as a gift?” asks 16-year-old Isabelle. “If not, then I’d like new underwear.” If you ask us, it’s not weird at all — just a very useful gift. Isabelle says she’s not picky about brand, but we suggest looking to teen-friendly brand Aerie, which offers lots of multipacks.
“I think she’s, like, the brand’s ambassador or something, but I saw Kendall Jenner wearing a set from Alo on her Instagram, and it was so cute. I would love one, too,” says 14-year-old Jackie. She added that her friends have stuff from Alo Yoga that she likes, so she knows it’s good quality. These leggings have a matching bra that you can buy separately, if you’d like to get her the full set. Other brands on the teens’ radar are Girlfriend Collective, Outdoor Voices, Aerie, and Lululemon, in case you’d like to shop around or scope out where to get gift cards.
There was a lot of chatter about coats with the teens we spoke to. Three different styles came up — all of which would make great gifts. Ella, who just turned 16, says she’d like “one of those really soft-looking coats” for the holidays this year. When asked if she preferred sherpa or faux fur, she replied, “Either! I just want it to be soft!” She noted that she would like a hood, so she doesn’t “have to wear a hat and mess up my hair.” This coat from Ugg comes in fun color blocking, and as we’ve been told before, it’s extremely soft. It’s a bit of a splurge compared to 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 popular puffer. Teen Sarah likes this one from H&M because of the cropped style and hoodless design. She mentioned that lots of her friends like the puffers from Girlfriend Collective, Abercrombie & Fitch, Aritzia, and Lululemon, if you have a little bit more in your budget to spend.
According to our 2021 teen poll, Brandy Melville is still super popular — in fact, it was the most popular clothing brand among the 100 teens we talked to. They like its trendy options that come at wallet-friendly price points, like these “most comfortable” sweatpants that poll respondents told us about.
American Eagle’s mom jeans are a huge hit with teens. Celina, a participant in our teen poll, says, “I just love the quality of the denim; it’s very durable but flexible — it’s possible to distress them on your own if you want. And the waist fits snug but allows movement, so you don’t feel suffocated.” Rae is a fan of American Eagle jeans, which she says she’s been wearing since middle school. “I really love their stretchy mom jeans because I’m a dancer,” she told us. “I dance so much that I want stuff that’s super comfortable.”
Or you can go with this classic cut from Levi’s. Says Chamberlain, “Nothing fits me or hugs my body better than 501s.”
Lots of teens say overalls are cool again. “I’ve been shopping around but haven’t found the perfect ones yet,” says Dylan. They add that vintage ones are probably the coolest, but in terms of gifting, they will take new but worn-in-looking ones. These Levi’s overalls fit that bill.
Thanks to TikTok, lots of teens want to make their own clothes now, and they’re especially interested in flipping vintage finds. Buying her a sewing machine will get her started (if that’s something she’s shown interest in). This beginner-friendly one comes with a series of accompanying YouTube videos “apparently aimed at teenagers looking to hem their Depop jeans,” according to Strategist writer Katherine Gillespie.