25 Gifts the 16-Year-Old in Your Life Will Adore (Promise — We Asked a Real Teen)
Teens get a bad rap for being moody and hard to please, but shopping for the 16-year-old in your life doesn't need to be agonizing; all you really need to do to put a smile on their face is to lean into their personal passions and sense of style.
That being said, if your birth year begins with a 19, there's a chance that the teen you know will think your taste is cheugy. So, when it came time to curate our list of the best gifts for 16-year-olds, we made sure to check in with some actual teens.
Lila, age 17, is a high school senior living in New York. She's interested in math, biology, and economics, and tells POPSUGAR that her favorite class is multivariable calculus and differential equations (aka advanced girl math). Lila is also a member of her school's Spanish-speaking debate club and the founder of a club called Women in Business Leadership, which, she says, "holds forum discussion on financial and business topics as well as methods to achieve female equity in corporate positions." (Impressed yet?) Lila is also a foodie and a reader and loves a good beauty product.
Here, Lila gives us a sneak peek at her holiday wish list. In addition to Lila's must haves, she and other teens have also vetted every item you'll find below, which include top tech picks for teens (like the Nintendo Switch and iPad Air), the best in beauty (PS editors also can't get enough of the Hey Dewy Portable Cool Mist Humidifier), and some covetable fashion finds. Happy shopping!
— Additional reporting by Lauren Harano, Alessia Santoro, and Abbey Stone
For the Accessory-Lover
This adorable faux-croc handbag is a POPSUGAR reader rave for a reason: it's timeless, high-quality, and the perfect size. "This purse has ample room for my wallet, phone, keys, and hand sanitizer — but it's not so big that I have to spend an embarrassing amount of time locating a mere tube of lipstick," our editor says. It comes in plenty of colors, whether you want to get them a staple neutral like black or brown, or something bold like an ombré light-green-and-blue shade or a stunning lavender. Read our editor review of the JW PEI Women's Mini Flap Crossbody.
For the Astro Girlie
According to Lila, "Mini hoops are so in right now." Astrid & Miyu is one of her fave brands for jewelry because its materials don't irritate her sensitive skin. This pair of star-studded hoops is plated in 18k gold and features cubic zirconia sparklers.
Best Jewelry Staple
Jenny Bird U-Link Earrings ($108)
These perfectly dainty mini hoops can elevate a variety of looks, whether it's a homecoming dress, a cute top with jeans, or even sweats. These timeless earrings are also an editor favorite and featured in this review of Jenny Bird jewelry. You can never go wrong with giving someone a jewelry gift!
For the Bed Rotter
Lila tells POPSUGAR she's been eyeing this sweatshirt since she borrowed her friend's for a test drive. "[It's] super cute and such a great color to pair with anything. The quality of these hoodies is super good as well," she says. This comfy hoodie has a relaxed, oversize fit, which you might want to keep in mind when picking the right size for your teen.
For the Celeb-in-Training
Your teen will want to wear this stylish pair of sunnies all the time. They go with any style or aesthetic, and while they look luxe, they're actually pretty affordable; you'll want to get a pair for yourself too. Plus, Kate Hudson cited a similar pair as one of her must-have items.
Best Hair Product
You might have seen Color Wow's dramatic before-and-after vids on TikTok — your teen sure has. "This is my favorite product for when I use heat on my hair," Lila says of the brand's anti-frizz spray. She also loves that this kit comes with both a full-size and mini version, which is easy to pop into your bag when you have a day chock-full of activities.
For the Teen Who Loves a Nail Trend
Shopping for the teen who loves to do their own nails at home? This editor-favorite mani kit is something they'll use all the time. It has everything they'll need for DIY gel manicures, including an LED curing lamp, gel nail polish, a cuticle stick, a mini nail file, and 10 gel-polish remover wipes. This kit comes in a variety of colors like lilac, cherry red, pastel pink, and more. Read our in-depth review of the Le Mini Macaron 1-Step Gel Manicure Kit.
For an At-Home Spa Experience
Make your teen feel pampered with this editor-favorite humidifier for skin. One of our editors says, "The benefits of having one in my home have been endless — from clearing my sinuses to helping me sleep better at night and even making my skin feel better throughout the day." The rechargeable device is portable, so your teen can hydrate their skin during their morning routine, take it with them on the go, or breath a little easier while studying at their desk. It comes in three colors. Check out our review of the Hey Dewy Portable Cool Mist Humidifier to learn more.
For the Teen in It For the Long Haul
These eye masks contain calendula extract, hyaluronic acid, a blend of 17 amino acids, and aloe leaf extract to hydrate and calm the undereye area. Camu extract brightens the eyes for a more awake appearance. One POPSUGAR editor claims these are the only eye patches on the market that don't slip down her cheeks. They're soaked in a deeply hydrating serum that helps reduce the appearance of puffiness and gives a more awakened appearance. Read our full review of the Wander Beauty eye patches here.
For the Makeup Maven
Every makeup-loving 16-year-old needs the perfect neutral eyeshadow palette in their vanity. Lila says that she and her friends think Patrick Ta's formulas are great (they're free of parabens and phthalates and are cruelty-free), and she loves how versatile this range of hues is. The POPSUGAR team are also big fans of the brand — check out the results when one beauty editor took the Patrick Ta line for a spin, courtesy of the makeup artist himself.
For the Lip-Gloss-Obsessed
This bestselling nonsticky lip gloss has a hydrating formula that will practically replace the brand's popular lip balm. It's just pigmented enough to give your budding beauty maven a flush of color. It comes in 12 flattering shades, and at only $16, you can get them a few so they have options. Read the in-depth review of the Tower 28 Beauty Clean ShineOn Jelly Lip Gloss.
For the Teen Who Puts Skin Care First
If the teen in your life is a skin-care enthusiast, they'll love this beginner-friendly set from Glow Recipe. It comes with full-size versions of the bestselling Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops that are all over TikTok and the hydrating Guava Vitamin C Bright-Eye Gel Cream. It's great for those who have dry or sensitive skin and want a glowy, hydrated, and plump look.
Best Splurge Gift For Teens
Apple iPad Air ($499, originally $599)
"My backpack is super heavy with all of my notebooks and my laptop, so I've been looking for an easy alternative," Lila says. "Many of my friends use iPads in class to take notes, and there are so many cool functions to help make diagrams and organize online notebooks. I also think iPads can be handy when watching TV in bed."
Best Practical Gift For Teens
Sixteen-year-olds are notoriously glued to their phones. If you're shopping for the iPhone user in your life, get them something cute and personalized like this case from BaubleBar. It features raised acrylic letters (and can fit up to 12 characters) with a pearl-like finish for a luxe 3D effect. It's perfect for someone who loves a neutral vibe. If your teen is more of a maximalist, POPSUGAR has it on good authority that teens are fans of smartphone cases from Casetify.
For When Your Teen Wants to Drown You Out
Apple AirPods Pro ($140, originally $249)
These Apple AirPods are the No. 1 bestseller on Amazon. They are known for their good sound quality and can provide up to 24 hours of listening with the MagSafe charging case — they block out noise for immersive sound and operate in transparency mode if the wearer needs to know what's happening around them. They're also sweat- and water-resistant.
For the Gamer
Nintendo Switch ($299)
Nintendo's latest drop has three modes of playtime — TV mode, tabletop mode, and handheld mode — for gaming whenever, wherever. It has a battery range of four to nine hours, depending on software usage and conditions. It can even connect over WiFi for multiplayer gaming.
For the Nostalgic Teen
Your teen's Instagram feed isn't the only place for cute pictures: they can print out their favorite memories with friends and family and even show off their photography skills with this smartphone printer from Fujifilm.
For the Audiophile
Marshall Emberton Bluetooth Portable Speaker ($103, originally $120)
With more than 20 hours of playtime per charge, the Marshall Emberton Bluetooth Portable Speaker is a must for avid music listeners. Resilient, waterproof, and lightweight — and with a rich, clear, and multidirectional sound — it's perfect for all your adventures. The stylish design is a huge plus.
For the *Serious* Gamer
Meta Quest 2 ($249, originally $300)
The Meta Quest 2 isn't for everyone, but for the game-loving teen looking to level up, it's hard to think of a better gift. It's a virtual-reality headset that will let them play games, watch concerts, and more as if they've been transported there. They can experience a whole new world with these.
For the Bookworm
If your 16-year-old is a reader, gifting them a book is a no-brainer. Lila has her eyes on "The Secret History" and loves that the bestseller has been rereleased in hardcover, but you know your teen best. Choose a book by their favorite author or in their genre of choice.
For the Sweet 16-Year-Old With a Sweet Tooth
DIY Mochi Ice Cream Kit ($35)
If your teen loves to cook and experiment with new recipes, they'll love trying out this DIY Mochi Ice Cream Kit. This Japanese dessert is the perfect treat: sweet and chewy on the outside, cold and creamy on the inside. The kit makes four batches of eight in total.
For Harry Styles Fans
Stay with us: considering how much of a megastar the former One Direction member is, this gift is a lot less niche than you might think. This coffee-table book by journalist and fashion industry vet Terry Newman includes fun facts about Styles's most-loved looks, alongside gorgeous photography.
For the Memory Keeper
Fujifilm Fujicolor QuickSnap Flash 400 35mm Camera ($26, or two for $42)
Sometimes, only analogue will do. This disposable camera is preloaded with 24 exposures of 35mm color film. It has a built-in dual-flash system and large viewfinder for perfect framing, every time. It's such a fun stocking stuffer they can use to capture memories, then and there.
For the Teen Serious About Hydration
This viral water "bottle" is an insulated stainless steel cup that actually fits in most cup holders. It keeps drinks hot for seven hours, cold for 11 hours, and iced for nearly two days! Your hydration queen can drink it from the straw opening or the wide mouth opening. Peloton instructor Kendall Toole and Studio McGee designer and cofounder Shea McGee are both huge fans of it. Plus, it's an editor favorite; read our review of the Stanley Adventure Quencher Tumbler.
For the Adventure Seeker
Impala Quad Skate Skates ($110)
Maybe they were inspired by the "Barbie" movie or maybe they just want to try a new hobby on for size . . . Either way, these retro-inspired skates are sure to get your active teen up and moving. They come in a variety of different colors, so you can get them their favorite shade.