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I test beauty products for a living — here's what I'm gifting my 68-year-old mom for Mother's Day

From an award-winning tinted sunscreen to a multi-tasking cream, the best Mother's Day beauty gifts are those she'll actually love and use

beauty products on a pink background
Mom deserves a good Mother's Day beauty haul, which is why I'm scooping up these goodies from Supergoop, Weleda, NYX and more (Amazon)

Last month, my 68-year-old mother sent me a long, extremely "mom" email asking for recommendations to help her address some of the skin and hair issues she's started experiencing as she's getting older. She knows I test beauty products for a living, of course, and knew I'd recently reviewed dozens of products for our lists of the best dry shampoo, the best undereye concealer, the best tinted sunscreen, the best leave-in-conditioner and more. Now, usually I wouldn't think of beauty products as the best Mother's Day gifts. Skin care, hair care and even makeup can all be difficult to choose for someone else. Gifting anti-aging lotions and potions can feel especially presumptuous: Do you want a loved one buying you wrinkle cream? How should your mom respond if you wrap up that viral crepey-arm-skin miracle in a bow? But there are exceptions to this rule: If you're solving a skin-care problem the recipient has expressed a desire to solve (for example, a quality hand cream if your giftee has complained of dry hands), if the person explicitly asked (or heavily hinted) for specific items or, simply, if you know a certain product is amazing and it's something you want a loved one — like your own dear mother — to enjoy.

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In the case of my mom this year, all of the above exceptions applied. And, while I know she just wanted "suggestions" and would never expect me to buy her a suite of new products, part of the joy of being an adult daughter is the ability to surprise and care for the person who once dedicated most of her life to caring for you. Below, the best-list gifts I'm buying for my mom for Mother's Day.

I've tried a LOT of eye creams. And, for my money, outside of the Korean skin-care brand CosRx (which I also love) CeraVe makes the best affordable de-puffing/under-eye brightening treatment currently on the market. Not only does it feel good on your skin (absorbs quickly, no gross pilling), it's also fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. And you don't have to take my word for it. Olivia Wilde also loves it. So do thousands of reviewers, who say it's like "Botox in a cream." I'm not sure about that claim, but I do know this is a quality skin-care staple and a must try for anyone with an undereye situation they don't currently love.

$12 at Amazon
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$20 at Ulta Beauty$18 at CVS Pharmacy

Fun (or not-so-fun) fact: The skin on our necks lacks the same oils as the skin on our faces, which makes it particularly susceptible to developing fine lines and a crepey texture (and which is why our necks age faster than our faces). Therefore, the most important quality of a good neck cream is effectively adding moisture to the area's delicate skin. With that in mind, there are few products more emollient than this classic, which research shows is comprised of near-identical ingredients to luxury lotions 10 times its cost. Many popular neck creams promise skin lifting and tightening, but most of these claims are bunk and, while this isn't the only product I'd use on an aging neck — it's an excellent place to start. 

$7 at Amazon
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$8 at Walgreens

While it's not exactly meant as a face cream, this ultra-rich moisturizer is used for that purpose by most every seasoned beauty expert I know. It's extremely hydrating, packed with nourishing plant-derived ingredients and is especially good as a nighttime treatment for faces, hands, feet, necks and even the décolleté.

$15 at Amazon
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$20 at Macy's$20 at CVS Pharmacy

This multitasking cream works as a primer, a high-quality sunscreen and a tinted moisturizer, and, with a boost from hyaluronic acid, vitamin B5 and niacinamide, it leaves behind a pretty pearly glow. Nearly 10,000 5-star reviews on Amazon rave about its complexion-perfecting powers, though some found it to be a bit too shiny and not ideal for oily skin. But since neither of these is an issue for my mom, it's a yes!

$38 at Amazon
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$38 at Kohl's$38 at Nordstrom
NYX Professional Makeup

This gel formula is ideal for mature skin. It goes on sheer and natural-looking, and the finish is satiny-smooth. It's buildable — layer more on days when you need heavier coverage. It's also compact, comes in a dozen different shades and is — perhaps best of all — affordable (right now, less than $10!). 

$11 at Amazon
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$12 at Walmart$12 at Macy's

From the Nicole Kidman-approved hair-care brand Vegamour, this dry shampoo does triple duty — absorbs excess oil, texturizes and volumizes, and promotes hair growth too, which makes it perfect for older women like my mom, or anyone with fine or thinning hair. The travel size is the perfect entry point — it's affordable, compact, and a little goes a long way.  

$18 at Amazon
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$18 at Kohl's$18 at Sephora

I converted to bar shampoo earlier this year when I found out 1) It helps prevent millions of pounds of plastic waste from entering landfills per year, 2) It's economically sound (the bars last forever — weeks if not months longer than bottles) and 3) High-quality shampoo bars are lightweight, conditioning and make your hair look amazing (especially if it's fine or thinning). After using this gentle blue-hued bar, my dyed blonde mane looked brighter and more golden in the best way and I know it will do the same for my mom's blonde/gray locks too. 

$28 at Amazon
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$28 at Sephora$28 at REVOLVE

Look, I HATE recommending pricey products but this is, by far, not only the best leave-in conditioner I've tried, but is the single best hair product I've come across in ... as long as I can remember. It won't weigh down thin/thinning hair but will make it silkier and shinier.

$23 at Groupon
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$29 at Amazon$29 at Kohl's

One aspect of successful gifting is delivering up an item the giftee would never have thought to buy for themselves, a product that they may not have known existed but once they try it can't imagine living without. Kate McLeod's Body Stone is exactly this kind of gift. The all-natural "solid" moisturizer became an instant cult favorite when it entered the skin-care scene in 2018. Since then, it's attracted legions of fans, including actress Naomi Watts and any person I've ever gifted it to. 

The "stone" is made of cocoa and shea butters, which, when warmed with your palms, help it glide over skin, plus essential oils, which give it a pleasant, subtle, somehow expensive-seeming scent. It's also made inNew York's Hudson Valley in small batches using sustainably sourced materials and, since it's technically a solid, is perfect for travel. The mini version lasts for about a month — the ideal amount of time for your gift recipient to get hooked. 

$12 at Sephora

I have yet to find a person who does not love the smell of this silky, non-greasy, hydrating "dry" oil. The universally beloved French pharmacy staple feels luxurious and works to hydrate to one's face, body and even hair.

$25 at Amazon
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$25 at$25 at eCosmetics

If I could, I'd buy every person I know a bottle of CosRx snail serum — it's truly a favorite product, one of the most effective skin-care items for complexion smoothing, skin softening and dark-spot lightening I've ever tried. But, because handing over a bottle of snail mucus on a major holiday might seem a wee strange (and also not everyone's thing), these sheet masks are a quality alternative. They contain the award-winning snail slime, are highly hydrating and work for most any skin type. Users report they help with skin inflammation and even rosacea, and this pack of 10 is a solid entry point into the famous K-beauty line.

$25 at Amazon
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$25 at Ulta Beauty