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Valentine’s Day Gift Review

Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays — but I should clarify that I like it because it’s my birthday, not because it’s a great holiday within itself.

In fact, I would say that Valentine’s Day on the surface is pretty silly. I think it’s cool to have a day to celebrate love, but it seems like Valentine’s Day is really about celebrating romantic love in a very specific way. Acts of love on Valentine’s Day are all about giving a significant other something they probably don’t really want — has anyone truly yearned for a stuffed animal with “I luv u” written on it?

I suppose chocolate and candy can be nice (if you’re into that), but I am a much bigger fan of buying yourself a treat when you want it. I guess there’s an appeal to buying lingerie, but again, that’s a category that I usually don’t want other people (even a partner) to buy for me.

The other problem is that my love language (…if that’s real) is not gift-giving. To me, acts of thoughtfulness and consideration are the clearest and most meaningful expressions of love, so when I get a traditional Valentine’s gift, it can even feel a little disappointing.

So instead of going through the usual run of Valentine’s gifts, this year, I’ve got a list of things that I would be genuinely happy to receive as presents. These are things that I use pretty much every week (if not every day), so receiving them would feel like my partner pays attention to my routine. I also like all of these because they are good self-love presents, which I fully support as a new tenet of Valentine’s Day.

Face Halo

My coworker introduced me to Face Halo after we started talking about the negative effect that beauty products are having on the environment. It feels like most beauty products are designed to be disposable (think: face masks, eye masks, razors, pore strips, zit stickers … I could go on), and even reusable products often come in plastic packaging. My coworker was adamant that makeup wipes are one of the worst offenders.

I used to use makeup wipes, and I tried to offset the environmental impact by using a little corner of the wipe each day so that each one would last a few days. But I also have really sensitive skin, and makeup wipes burn me (even the “gentle” and “night time” ones).

I started out using face halo the recommended way, which is wetting it with water and wiping off makeup. It worked pretty well, although the thickness of the pad made it a little bit harder to get eyeliner off than when I used a flimsy makeup wipe. I was also afraid that since I was just using water, I had to scrub a little bit harder, and it felt like it was causing my eyelashes to come off.

I liked that it wasn’t burning my face and that it’s pretty much infinitely reusable (good for 200 washes in a washing machine, and I would guess that you’re supposed to wash it every few days or every week?), so I tried using it in the shower instead of before my shower over the sink. That was when everything changed. Ever looking to shorten my daily routines, I decided to put a little bit of face wash on it and wash my whole face at once (without taking off makeup in a separate step), and that pretty much takes care of my makeup. Sometimes I rub it over my eyes without soap first to take off mascara, and sometimes, if I feel like my skin is too dry, I just wash my face with water and the Face Halo.

The pads don’t have chemicals on them (the makeup removal is done by the little fibers), so as far as I can tell, there isn’t any downside to using it as a fancy face-scrubber. I got a pack of three (I’m still using the first one I opened), and after a few days of my Face Halo hanging in the shower, my partner asked if he could have one to wash his face (he does not typically wear makeup — I think he just wanted to be like me). I ended up giving my third one to a friend who also has really sensitive skin and who used to use disposable cotton pads. I also recommended them to my brother when he asked me about what I do to keep my skin clear (although, full disclaimer, Face Halo has only been in my routine for about two months, and I do still get occasional breakouts).

Apothepure Candle

I am undoubtedly a candle girl. My whole apartment only has two rooms plus a bathroom, and I have six candles (which is kind of on the low end for me).

Candles serve a lot of purposes: alternative lighting (especially good for writing letters at an antique desk with a quill pen), improving smell (wonderfully effective in a small space), acting as the centerpiece of a homemade Thanksgiving wreath, adding romantic ambience, setting the mood for your thriller/mystery book club — honestly, if you don’t have candles, what are you doing?

One ritual where I feel that candles are absolutely essential are baths — specifically, the Sunday night kind of bath that requires a glass of wine, bath salts, fancy soaps and a good book. You don’t want to read that good book with harsh overhead lighting. No no.

So I put the Apothepure candle to the true candle test (being an accessory to a bath), and I was not disappointed. The specific flavor (or scent, I suppose, but you’ll see why I chose “flavor”) I have is California Creamsicle (sounds tasty, right?). I am pleased to say that its smell is strong enough to notice but not so powerful that it is overwhelming and distracting. When I light it, visitors tend to say, “Hey, it smells good in here,” as if I have a tantalizing soup simmering on the stove, rather than something like, “What’s that smell?”

Again, I use the soup comparison because the smell of this candle is strangely delicious. It really does smell like a creamsicle, but it doesn’t smell like a sticky, overly-sweet mess that you might find in a sweaty child’s hand. It’s sweet in an elevated and welcoming kind of way.

One other thing I’ll add (since it’s already clear I have a candle problem) is that it does seem to have a decently long life. I light it often, and it is clearly outliving some of my other candles.

Cotidié Pants

This is going to sound like a strange recommendation for a Valentine’s Day gift (either to yourself or another person), but let me lay out some facts that might sway you. One: it’s the middle of winter, and where I am, it’s the middle of winter in New York City. Wearing winter clothes is no longer fun and cute, and everyone is looking for something to be excited about when they get dressed. Two: as of the time I’m writing this, the projected low for Valentine’s Day is 12 degrees F. The high is 24. Three: having cold legs/ankles really sucks.

Enter: the black Cotidié Pants that I recently incorporated into my wardrobe.

When I first saw these pants, they initially made me think of my high school newspaper advisor (who always wore athletic-style polos and slacks; he was a sports reporter). In folded form, I was kind of like, “What occasion are these for?” because they are made of athletic fabric, but they are styled like women’s work pants. They have fake pockets in the back (one of my greatest pet peeves in women’s clothing), but they have decent front pockets (large enough to hold my phone). They are sort of like leggings, but still a lot like casual pants?

After a day of wearing them, though, I struggled to remember what life was like before them. First of all, they’re pull-on, and they have just the right amount of stretch — tight enough to be comfortable and flattering but not so tight that they leave marks or constrict my will to eat (which is strong). The fabric feels really thin, but they kept me surprisingly warm outside and cool in our flaming office. I also like that they feel like just the right length, and they don’t ride up when I sit down.

I feel like maybe this should have been the first thing that I mentioned, but they look really good on. Like, really good.

There are only two slight downsides to these pants (besides no back pockets!), and one of them is probably psychological. One is that the fabric is thin enough to show underwear lines, so you have to consider your undergarments carefully. The fabric isn’t see-through or anything, it’s just a similar fabric to a favorite pair of leggings (which is generally an upside). The other is that I’m worried that my love for them is akin to a dad who loves athletic shirts or cargo shorts because he thinks that they are ok for everything, when really they are ok for very specific occasions (working out and nothing, respectively). There’s no way these pants are good for everything? Right??

So I’ll hedge my bets here and say that these pants are good for any casual outing, although I still think you could dress them up with the right top. I would say they are maybe better for weekends than work because they are a bit like leggings, but I’ve actually worn them to my casual office twice already! They do look like work pants, but something about the feeling of knowing that they are way too good and comfortable for work makes me want to say they are for weekends.

Anyway, back to the facts: these are warm enough for winter, versatile and comfortable — all the things that traditional Valentine’s Day gifts are not (@lingerie). But if you still want something more romantic and less dead-of-winter-in-New-York, Cotidié has dresses, tops and other more “romantic” options. But you would be missing out on these nearly perfect pants. 

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