Urban Decay Face Case

When I was a child, my mother carried around a seemingly bottomless purse!

Though not quite as impressive as the one toted about by Mary Poppin, Mom NEVER had a coat rack lurking at the bottom—she seemed to have everything but a huge stash of makeup. A blue eyeshadow, a brow pencil and her current lipstick were tucked aside in favour of “mom accoutrements” like Band Aids, cards with dental appointments, packets of tissues, a bulging wallet and keys.

When I got older, I vowed that I would carry less in my purse, and, for the most part, I've been able to keep that vow… mainly by virtue of not having children. But I didn't count on one thing—my love of makeup.

I try to streamline my daily makeup bag as much as possible, but it seems by the time I get to the office there are multiples of lipstick (5 today), lip gloss (3), and lining pencils (3 for the eye, one for the brows, one for the lips). Those are in addition to my standard compact, concealer in pen format and covered lip brush.

Which is why I love Christmas so much when it comes to makeup!

This is the time of year when just about every makeup company sells special, limited edition palettes of products. Some of them are eye shadow only or lipstick only—the MAC Viva Glam lipstick palette is a perennial holiday best seller for the company. But my favourites are the full-face collections.

Benefit Gorgeous Georgia

Full-face palettes are ideal products for several reasons:the colours are usually neutral and can be worn by anyone,—though many companies make warm, cool and neutral versions;they are portable—the one I keep in my desk at work measures 4 by 5 inches and is about half an inch thick—small enough to tuck in an evening bag, or toss in a suitcase;you can be persuaded to try a new colour or two; full-size brushes are often included; and they include everything you need to make up your face except foundation and mascara.In fairness, I should point out the downsides:

There are many cheap palettes out there; companies can use palettes as a way of using up stock of unpopular colours; andquality ones can be expensive.

Benefit Gorgeous Georgia

Stila Golden Moon Palette

Urban Decay Face Case

Hard Candy Jewel Box

Hard Candy Jewel Box

I keep my MAC 2002 palette at the office and it comes in handy on those days when I've left my makeup bag at home, or I think I look washed out under office fluorescent lighting and need some extra oomph. With six eye shadows including two of my staples (Shroom and Mystery), neutral and shimmery blushes, and three lip glosses (all long gone) it was a wise selection.

For this Christmas season, the makeup companies seem to have out done themselves. The range of palettes available is incredible; these are some of the best:

Benefit Gorgeous Georgia

Clairins Makeup Your Way Palette

Hard Candy Jewel Box

Lancome Colour Focus Holiday Palette

Makeup Forever Studio Palette

Stila Golden Moon or Rose Moon Palette

Sugar Cosmetics Storybooks -- several shades available

Urban Decay Face Case

One of the cutest palette sets available on the market comes from Too Faced Cosmetics. They have a series called “The Quickie Chronicles”—ten mini makeup kits based on female archtypes from classic movies of the '40s and '50s. My choice: The Heartbreaker, a lovely selection in brown and peach shades.

Stila Golden Moon

Palettes and gift sets aren't limited to makeup. In fact, the gift set idea started with fragrance companies, and this is the ideal time of year to stock up on your favourite scent and its bath gel and body lotion all at once. Another fun gift for any woman on your list would be the Philosophy Gingerbread Man Suitcase, loaded with shower gel, bubble bath, body soufflé and ginger-flavoured lip gloss. Or you could splurge and get yourself a set of brushes from your favourite company—MAC, Bobbi Brown, Estée Lauder and Chanel all have sets available in beautiful cases.

If your budget doesn't extend to high-end products, drugstore brands are jumping on the holiday gift set bandwagon. Look for The Organic Bath Company Instant Spa; Revlon's Skinlights Palettes, Burt's Bees Healthy Hands Repair Kit and gift sets from Bonne Bell. Avon has sets of mini Glazewear for Lips in full colour and shimmering shades.

If you're looking for a gift for the world's greatest friend or your makeup-aholic sister, a palette or gift set from her favourite brand could be just the thing. But don't forget the most important person on your list, and treat yourself too. After all that running around shopping for everyone else—you deserve it!