Holiday Sales Guide 2020

Image Credit: Violet Grey

Well folks, here we are. In what has been a dumpster fire of a year, we’re at that time again when shopping season is upon us. This year in particular, I’ve felt so mixed. On one hand, it’s been a tough year, people want to be more thoughtful about how and where they’re spending money. On the other hand, most of us are in a collective in a state of extenuated stress and exhaustion from this year. So in a year unlike any other, it’s also unsurprising that the sales this year have been kind of all over the place too. Here’s my two cents on the general trends with the sales this year (feel free to skip directly down to the sales if you want):

– Sales timeframe all over the place: Sales are starting earlier, and I think that’s a good thing as I don’t always like the intensity of Black Friday – Cyber Monday deals. However, what we’re seeing now are some retailers starting as early as mid-October, others have early Black Friday sales anywhere from a week to a few days before Black Friday. And then we have the sticklers who will only go live with their sale when the clock strikes midnight after Thanksgiving. This has made it nearly impossible for casual shoppers to track, as email inboxes are blown up with confusion “wait, is THIS the sale? Or is there another one?” It’s also made rounding up this guide difficult because at the time of writing: some sales are over, others haven’t begun so keeping up with the information has been difficult to pin down. I know that retailers and brands don’t coordinate with each other, but wow, this feels disorganized. And while we’re on that note…

– The confusing terminology.. is an early access sale the same as the actual Black Friday sale, and is the pre-Black Friday sale any different? It seems each brand/retailer has a different interpretation. Some mean — “hey the sale you’ve been waiting for is happening now,” but I’ve also seen some unhappy customers comment on The Nue Co and Standard Dose IG accounts about their actual Black Friday deals are better than the “early access”/ “holiday” sales that literally ended right before Black Friday deals launched. So it’s a confusing and risky strategy for brands/retailer – do you change it up and go more all-out on actual Black Friday even when you’re telling your customers to do the spend earlier? Will that mislead your customers? Could it actually create confusion and lead to fewer orders as a result? So far, I don’t see the long play payoff in enticing customers to shop the early access in the week leading up to Black Friday, and then suddenly launching an even better deal on Black Friday. Most shoppers are either saving up and splurging, or dipping their toes, so to have them spend on their wishlist items and suddenly go “HERE’S A BETTER DEAL” does not seem like it will win any points.

– Mystery sales. This is where there are mystery items as the main draw of the sale. And I just don’t know why this is a strategy. It’s basically saying “Hey, there’s a chance you’ll HATE this, but we swear you’re getting it at a good deal!” Who does this serve? It sounds like the retailer/brand is trying to get rid of slower selling products. Similar to: “here’s a bunch of tiny-ass samples that we’ll give you for meeting a minimum spend even though you probably won’t use most of them because you’re not actually interested but FREE STUFF!”

– Different sale every day (e.g. new item discount, new gift with purchase). I think this strategy is to entice multiple orders? But it just feels like no matter when you buy, you’ll end up with a bad case of FOMO. Similar to mystery sales, the customer is not in control, and at an intense time where they’re being bombarded with offers, they’re most likely just going to move to the ones they have a handle on. Savvy shoppers also have a game plan, and this type of sale is pretty exhausting for anyone to really keep up, so I suspect this strategy may actually cause disengagement.

– The sit outs. We get it, Black Friday is consumerism, and not some altruistic endeavor. To be completely transparent, I posted on IG if I should even do a sales roundup this year because I just felt like this year deserved to be an “off year.” But 98% of you responded that you really wanted actual insight into where you should spend money, because guides don’t usually go beyond just listing a bunch of codes.

Each year we have brands post about how they’re not partaking because… values *cough* brand image *cough*. And that’s fine. But in an already stressful year, with a ridiculously convoluted and clusterfucked roll out, maybe don’t take up more bandwidth to get off on your own ego about how you’re taking a moral high ground. It’s like saying you’re opposed to Thanksgiving, while refusing to give up your spot at the table, and other people are trying to just enjoy the meal. Also most of these brands are discounted at several of their retailers, so let’s not pretend like this is some genuine statement on consumerism or brand integrity. One last note on this is: I don’t believe in conspicuous or irresponsible spending, and I know that especially this year, it’s been tough for many people. At the end of the day, we’re talking about beauty, which might seem frivolous, but that doesn’t mean people can’t save up for nice things that might genuinely make them happy. A lipstick may make someone feel empowered in the era of Zoom meetings, a bath soak may be the one thing keeping someone together at the end of the day, a fragrance around the home could make us feel transported even when we’re on lockdown 2.0. Every sale helps make these small bits of happiness more attainable, especially in tougher times. I understand wanting to make a point against mass consumerism, but the moral high ground and judgement has got to go (and we can get into it too – such as many brands being worthy of our support as they’re 1) small businesses 2) ethical/eco-friendly businesses 3) doing good — basically the type of businesses we want to support with our dollars). TL;DR: if this isn’t your cup of tea, you don’t have to partake, but don’t shit on others who do, and don’t assume that your non-participation makes you somehow more evolved, maybe spend the energy doing things like buying carbon credits, reducing plastic in your packaging, etc. to clean up your own business?


Violet Grey – 20% Off, applied at checkout.

Why I recommend it: Violet Grey is positioned as creme de la creme in the beauty world. Sure they can be snobby, but their brands are top tier, often times exclusive, and their sales are rare to come by. Last year, they had tiered sales, this year, they’re straight forward with 20% which is big for them, and not something I expected.

Products to get:
Augustinus Bader – The Cream, I haven’t seen any other discounts on Augustinus Bader, and I know so many people are curious about their (expensive) products. The Cream is the OG that put them on the map, so that would be my go-to from the line. Their line is priced so high, but the hype is at the point where I think most people have it on their radar, so this 20% makes it the best time to give the line and their products a try.

Byredo – Rose Hand Lotion, Byredo is similarly high-end, and not really available at discounts (Byredo’s own site is offering a limited edition candle at full price as their Black Friday promotion… soooo that’s where we’re working with). If there is anything from the line you want, Violet Grey is probably your best bet at a discount. I recommend the Hand Lotion just because it seems like such a given that everyone’s hands have been drier and more stressed out this year, but there are other good picks like the new Mojave Ghost fragrance which thankfully is among their lighter scents (it is inspired by the Ghost Flower in the Mojave Desert, and meant to be worn more as an intimate scent).

Standard Dose – 25% Off, applied at checkout.

Why I recommend it: Standard Dose is sort of the creme de la creme when it comes to high-end CBD-focused wellness. I know many of us have been curious/interested in this realm, and their curation of CBD products is one of my favorites. Added bonus, you’ll also find non-CBD products that have a wellness focus too.

They’re one of the retailers that had the confusing rollout, all week long they did tiered discounts starting at 15%, with 25% off at the highest $200 tier. But for Black Friday, it’s a straight 25% off.

Products to get:
Sigil Scents, Sigil is a new-to-me natural fragrance company that is making their way among both the cult, niche circuit and the naturals circuit. The brand itself is having a 25% off sale with purchases over $200, but that means buying 2 bottles (they only have 4 total perfumes in their line), which can be a bit of a gamble. The Standard Dose offer is much more flexible, as you won’t need to buy half their line to get the discount.

Corpus Naturals, Corpus is the only deodorant brand I’ve been using. Not only is it natural, none of their deodorants contain baking soda, which in my case, makes me really itchy. Their scents are also very high quality, like something you’d expect from a designer brand. My favorite is No Green which is a bodied neroli and cardamom, while my partner smells so good wearing The Botanist, which has the citrus qualities but more of a vetiver and forest feel. Similar to Sigil, Corpus itself is offering 25% off on their own website too, but I feel like why not just it from one place and reduce the carbon footprint?

The Nue Co. – 30% Off + Free bottle of THE PILL on orders over $110

Why I recommend it: Because there have been so many new releases from The Nue Co. that I’ve been loving. And 30% off is a seriously high number that makes getting things and trying more things a no brainer. And The Pill is a great product (see full review here), so the fact you can get it for free with $110 is not a cherry on top, it’s like a full course on top of what you’ve ordered.

Products to get:
Functional Fragrance, this one grew on me, A LOT. Throughout the past year, it has been the only fragrance I’ve used. The scent is so lovely and grounding, and not full of artificial, overpowering notes so I don’t get nausea/tired of it after a few hours of wearing it (important especially when you’re just at home most of the time). If you haven’t tried it yet, but are even just the slightest bit curious, I think it’s worth exploring (they have a smaller size, and even a room fragrance version if you want the smell but not on you). It completely changed my perspective on fragrance, and its potential to be functional and act as a wellness product. And the fragrance itself is so well done, even Sophia Roe said it became her favorite and go-to perfume in 2020.

Forest Lungs, the newest fragrance offering from The Nue Co. After my experience with their Functional Fragrance, I just had to try Forest Lungs which is similar as an anti-stress fragrance supplement, but works through bringing in healing olfactive scents from nature and the great outdoors which feels very timely at a time when we’re staying in. I am really excited for this to arrive.

Sleep Drops, I’m kind of surprised by the decline in my quality of sleep as I’ve gotten older. I just feel more restless, and always wake up before I feel fully recharged. I’ve been searching for something to take at night, but it’s hard because I’m also actively avoiding edibles as my goal is to take it when I’m in bed, having already brushed my teeth so I can immediately get ready for dozing off. The Sleep Drops are non-habit forming, alcohol-free, and use herbs like passionflower and valerian root to induce tranquility and reduce anxiety, which sounds perfect.

Naturium – 20% Off with code THANKS2020

Why I recommend it: So here’s the thing about Naturium. They had a terrible rollout with a lack of disclosure and transparency where the co-founder, Susan Yara didn’t properly disclose the fact that she co-founded this line despite talking about the products on her massive platform. That was shitty. But that doesn’t mean the products themselves are bad. I had been following Susan Yara for two years (she is really well known for her celebrity skincare/beauty reaction vids on Youtube), and I always had a hunch she’d be releasing a line. Despite a misstep with rollout, the products themselves are well done, the formulas have good actives in good concentrations, the packaging is pretty nice, and the price is beyond fair. I always made it clear that how I feel about a person whether I liked or disliked them, wouldn’t change how I accessed their product — and that is the case here, I think the products are very promising, and am excited to get my hands on them.

Products to get: So I kind of went all out just to try things, but what I primarily wanted to compare them against were similarly clinical lines like Paula’s Choice, and budget ones like The Ordinary. So here’s what I got –

Retinol Complex Serum, at just $20 regular price, you’re damn right I want to see if this works as well as more expensive retinols. What I like about their retinol complex is that they have real retinol alongside Bakuchiol, the leading plant alternative.

Niacinamide Serum 12% + Zinc 2%, at $16 regular price, I couldn’t say no to this either. Niacinamide is sort of the star ingredient of 2020, it’s good for stressed out skin, helps with pigmentation, balances out sebum, and decongests. This reminds me of The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum (I mean, even the name, c’mon now), so I’m curious how the formulas perform. Also, since staying at home, I’ve been more prone to congestion, and have been searching for a serum that can work as a non-acne, acne serum in the sense that it can help with breakouts, but also just be good for skin overall. And I think this is the perfect fit. It’s also the best seller in the range.

BHA Liquid Exfoliant 2%, I know Susan Yara likes acid toning so I was really curious what her acid toner would be like. I’m surprised it’s a BHA with fruit acids, rather than a AHA. As most acid toners are AHA, I do want to see how this handles on the skin, whether it’s gentler, or if the results might manifest differently. I also know Susan often likes to get her acid and essence in the same step, so I wonder if this might resemble Asian essences in any form as well.

Paula’s Choice – 20% Off

Why I recommend it: I’ve been getting into Paula’s Choice this year. I’ve kept it fairly within the realm of specific serums like Retinol, because I was just getting tired of spending a lot on luxury retinols that didn’t feel like they were working. For Paula’s Choice, it’s no frills for me and everything is on the purposeful side.

Products to get:
1% Retinol Treatment, their strongest retinol and also their best seller, which I previously reviewed and really liked. This is my trusty staple retinol.

Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30, a tinted mineral sunblock with state-of-the-art antioxidants for extra skin benefits. I want to see if the super-light aspect means it will feel more “breathable” than normal mineral sunblocks which tend to be thick, and chalky.

MIJA – 20% Off, code: THANKS2020

Why I recommend it: MIJA has one product, aptly named Superstar. It’s the primary wellness supplement I’ve taken for the past year. And more incredibly, it has satisfied my search among the class of wellness supplements for one that just works. This all-in-one streamlines my supplement routine, and doesn’t rely on gimmicks, nor market toward isolated areas (most powders are geared toward specific issues in isolation from overall health, which don’t sit right with me as it’s just not how the body works). Superstar works because it’s made by someone who knows what they’re doing, formulator and co-founder, Sarah Koszyk is known as one of the leading nutritionists and dietitians in the country, and her client list at her private practice in San Francisco is a who’s who of Silicon Valley.

Not only is Superstar’s formula made from high quality organic plant-based ingredients, it is also clinical and effective, drawing on decades of work, Sarah has set about the most extensive data points to look into the common, universal dietary shortfalls and nutritional gaps to address in this one supplement. This is why it’s able to check off so many boxes on benefits from external skin health, to digestion, stress/mood, immunity, and energy. MIJA’s attention to the actual ingredients, from sourcing to preparation, reminds me a lot of In Fiore and YULI, which I don’t really see in the supplement space. I haven’t seen Superstar offered at 20% off before, so definitely grab yours at this sale.

YÜLI – 15% Off, code GRATITUDE2020, Free Harmony Body Oil on Orders $300+, plus donation matches.

Why I recommend it: It’s not just that YÜLI is that rare brand that works on its own model (trading off no big box wholesale, no discounts, no PR for on-site sourcing from their own farms, products made fresh, and time-intensive/costly formulas that don’t fit in normal wholesale models). So their sales are rare, and exceptional when they do occur, and a straight 15% from them is a big deal.

It’s obvious that they put a lot of thought into their sale this year. Instead of tiered discounts, they have a straight forward (and user friendly) discount of 15% off without meeting any spend. Additionally, if you do spend over $300, they’re including a free Harmony Body Oil, which would cost $80, so the actual discount saving you’re getting is pretty high. And Harmony is not a frivolous gift, especially now I just am in the mood for their body oil: it’s perfect because the weather is getting drier, I always need to make an effort to take care of my body as well as my face, and their body oil really is very soothing and anti-inflammatory, making it the perfect gift to receive.

Also, the discounted amount you save is going to be matched as donations to three non-profit organizations, the United Negro College Fund (which gives merit and need based scholarships to minorities, and whose recipients include Martin Luther King Jr. and Spike Lee), 350.ORG (one of the leading grassroots organizations pushing for adoption of clean, renewable energy), World Central Kitchen (a global nonprofit that provides meals to vulnerable communities. They’re currently partnering with local family-owned restaurants to keep small businesses afloat and communities fed through the pandemic). I have to say, these choices are stellar, and diverse. YÜLI is exemplifying what it means to be a business that does good, and it’s awesome that they’re making this a win-win for customers to enjoy savings, receive a gift all at great values, and also partake in making a bigger positive impact. How could I not recommend this sale?

Bonus hack: My partner taught me this — If any of you have those credit cards that give points back, some cards like Chase Freedom are giving you 5% if you pay through PayPal Oct-Dec. I know that YÜLI accepts PayPal – so it’s basically 5% added on to your savings.

Products to get: Obviously, Ambrosia Beauty Nectar. It’s just in its own class of super-serum, pairs well with everything, and is one of those products that should be in my routine as regularly as possible.

If you have acne scars, and those stubborn red marks, it’s a good time to take the plunge on Cell Perfecto PM, which short of lasers is as good as topical treatments get. This was the product that started my YÜLI love affair.

I also love their Halcyon Cleanser. I rotate cleansers a lot, but this is one that makes me happy every time I come back to it because it works so effortlessly, and makes my skin feel “nude” afterward where it’s neither stripped nor is there a ‘film’ feeling which is a tough balance to achieve. I’ve found that even if I switch in a new cleanser, I still won’t remove my Halcyon from my shelf, and will reach for it at those “1 AM in the morning and I just want something that works and feels good” times. And I may have purchased 3 bottles of their limited release of the ROSE version of Halcyon Cleanser that just came back in limited numbers for the sale.

This is before we go into their fabulous face mists, and incredible oils, so really, you can’t go wrong with this line.

Nuface – 25% off, code SELFCARE

Why I recommend it: I’ve been on the at-home microcurrent train for a while now. I think many of us have been looking to home-facials in light of COVID, and microcurrents are one of the best ways to *literally* supercharge a skincare routine. There are two dominant brands in the space, Nuface and Ziip. NuFace is the more “mass market” brand, whereas Ziip is positioned a little more higher end. However, I noticed that even with influencers, retailer videos, and beauty editors, while they loved Ziip, they preferred Nuface for lifting and firming benefits. My own verdict is that Ziip is better for working on the complexion (radiance/pigment issues), whereas Nuface is stronger for toning and sculpting, which to me is the purpose of microcurrents. While it’s true that you can usually get Nuface at 20% if you look hard enough, 25% is obviously a better deal (they also accept PayPal, just FYI for those who might have credit cards that are giving reward points for spend through PayPal, see bonus hack from the YULI sale). So it’s a good time to pull the trigger as the devices cost a pretty penny.

Product to get:
I upgraded my device to a Trinity Set that comes with the attachments. I mainly wanted the red light LED attachment which would have cost more to buy separately. I think being able to pair microcurrent with LED therapy would pretty much cover all my at-home device needs.

Orce – 25% off

Why I recommend it: I’ve been neglecting my make-up recently. There hasn’t been too much need. But it’s also kind of made me purge my collection, and reset my makeup collection. I realized that what I missed was that “classic” more liquid type of foundation in a clean version. Then I heard about Orce, this clean makeup startup founded by a Singaporean woman, focused on catering to yellow-toned complexions that many Eurocentric brands don’t fully address (many veer red/blue instead of yellow/tan). And I heard the foundation being compared to Koh Gen Do, which is one of my all time favorites.

Products to get: At this time, Orce has a foundation range and a setting powder, so I’d start with the foundation. They also have a lovely “Experience Set” that sends you 3 vials of their range set by Light/Medium/Dark so you can match.

Okay folks, I think that about covers it. A couple of other products I’m getting that I haven’t mentioned are:

  • Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age: Discount at 23% off. It’s the middle-child in DECIEM’s range between high-end NIOD and mass-budget The Ordinary. The gents at Garçon’s love this serum and say it basically is the NIOD copper serum plus The Ordinary’s Buffet’s in one.
  • Glossier Hand Cream: Discount 25% off. The packaging is cute, and it’s priced pretty well especially with the discount (just $13). It’s just something I’d be happy to have around, which is good when it comes to hand creams.
  • Samsung SSD 500 GB: Discount $30 or 27% – Black Friday Deal. Okay, not a beauty purchase. But if you’re on a MacBook like me, chances are, you’re running out of space too. My partner recommended this SSD (solid state drive) external hard drive, because it’s super light and small (basically the size and weight of the Glossier hand cream so it’s great for travel), doesn’t have any moving parts (silent, and drop resistant), and the write speeds are as fast as the Macbook’s native SSD. This will hold all my photos (blog, travel), and documents that I don’t want to lose.

I know this has been very long, but more than anything else, I hope it’s been helpful. Feel free to drop me a comment!


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