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I'm a Gifting Expert and These Are the Top 6 Worst Birthday Presents

No one wants to unwrap these on their special day.

When choosing a great birthday gift, you need to know your recipient extraordinarily well: What types of items they love, what they hate, what they're interested in trying, and what they might never splurge on for themselves but would appreciate receiving. If all that seems like too much, then start here. Ahead, TikTok gift-giving expert Leah, The Gift Girl (@leahsgiftguide) shares the things you should never gift unless someone specifically asks for them. Follow her advice, and you'll narrow down your options and be able to select a great present.

RELATED: The 8 Worst Wedding Gifts You Can Give, Etiquette Experts Say.


Open Makeup Bag
Savanevich Viktar/Shutterstock

Giving makeup can be hit or miss. "If you don't know what they wear or if they have skin allergies, I would refrain from gifting it," says Leah in a recent video. "I would think it's safe to gift them something that they use frequently and need to replenish, but I wouldn't just pick up something random unless they ask for it."

It could land in the garbage bin if it doesn't match their skin tone or suit their personal style. In the worst case, it gives them a rash or allergic reaction. Take a peak at the things they use in heavy rotation. Or, gift something beauty-related with less risk, like a cute barette, hair clip, or silk scrunchy.

Self-help books

books on shelf
Jessica Ruscello / Shutterstock

Self-help books are the type of thing that is better to shop for yourself. "Whether it's about organization, cleaning, or different mindsets, this could send the wrong message," says Leah.

You don't want them to think that you believe they need a nudge in the healthy habits department. The only exception is if the person asks for a certain book. A gift card to their local bookshop with a pack of fancy loose-leaf tea is a safer bet. They can select their own book and curl up with it at home.

RELATED: The 6 Best Things to Ask Guests to Bring—If They Offer.

Personal fragrance

Perfume bottle collection.
FabrikaSimf / Shutterstock

Perfume and cologne are expensive—and many of us enjoy trying out new scents. However, when you gift someone a personal fragrance for their birthday, there's a high chance they dislike it or would've preferred something else.

"Everyone has different preferences, but you should not just guess," says Leah. "A replenish or refill of something they already use and love is probably a safe bet."

You could also gift a perfume sampler that includes small vials of several different scents. That way, your recipient can decide which one to go all in on.

A gym membership

Woman Doing Pilates Exercise on Reformer
iStock / FreshSplash

Just because you'd adore a membership to the hip new Pilates spot down the street doesn't mean your friend or family member will.

"Imagine getting a gym membership for somewhere that you didn't ask for—think about how you might respond," says Leah in another video. It could come across as a quiet way to encourage your loved one to work out more and hurt their feelings in the process.

RELATED: 5 Times You're Forgetting to Send a Thank You Card, Etiquette Experts Say.

Appearance-altering items

woman using tooth whitening strip, ways you're damaging teeth

There are tons of products that fall under this umbrella: teeth-whitening strips, self-tanner, hair dye, and more.

"Someone recently mentioned that their friend was gifted a plastic surgery voucher," says Leah. "The nerve!"

Even though you might think you're doing someone a favor by helping them stock up on something they use often, don't gift it unless they ask for it.

Hygeine products

deodorant on table with roses

Similarly, pass on gifting self-hygiene products—unless you want to insinuate that your friend's current items are less-than-stellar.

"Self-hygiene includes things like deodorant, facewash, and toothpaste," says Leah. She notes that these are different than wellness products, like fancy lotions, sponges, nail polishes, and body washes, which someone might not splurge on for themself.

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Juliana LaBianca
Juliana is an experienced features editor and writer. Read more
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