Five unique self-care gifts from small businesses run by U of T Scarborough alum

Think Dirty, Norm, Glow Ritual and Cabinscape products.
These self-care gift ideas support U of T Scarborough alum's small businesses, and your giftee's wellbeing (Submitted photos).

Alexa Battler

The holidays might be the best time to give the gift of self-care — a little stress-busting something can be just what your loved one needs in the chaos of December. And as January looms and resolutions start getting tossed around, products that make their lives healthier and easier could help them get a strong start on those goals (or if you’re like me, cope with immediately failing them).

We’ve rounded up a list of businesses run by U of T Scarborough alum (and one by the community pillar Scarborough Spots) with products that’ll show your giftee you care about their wellbeing. Maybe there’s also something for you here too.

A natural perfume with a purpose

Glow Ritual's range of hair perfumes

Glow Ritual’s wellness perfumes not only smell nice, they can also add an invigorating, mindful ritual to your giftee’s day. Just spritz a small amount on pulse points (such as the wrists) and/or the ends of the hair and enjoy an artisan-crafted scent inspired by the environment and intended to evoke different feelings. Don’t worry about damage, all the company’s products are free of synthetics, parabens and harmful chemicals.

The Amalfi fragrance is a citrusy blend designed to spur joy, Tulum is one for serenity, and the popular Marrakech scent conjures blooms and warm spices to embody feelings of love. Glow Ritual is owned by alum Sumera Nabi (BA UTSC), and you can use the code “UTSC” at checkout for a bonus gift with your purchase.

Get scents for $45 from Glow Ritual

Body butter that seriously hydrates

Natural Organic Matters (NORM) organic almond body butter and a person using it for dry skin

If dry or sensitive skin — or even Eczema — is among your giftee’s winter woes, this hand and body butter is designed to hydrate skin for 24 hours and reduce irritation from dryness, all without leaving a greasy finish. Free of parabens, phthalates, gluten and sulphates, it’s made of only three natural ingredients: almond butter, which is packed with vitamins, antioxidants and essential fatty acids; hazelnut oil, to stimulate blood flow and tighten skin; and litsea essential oil for a lemony scent. It also comes in a recyclable glass container topped by a bamboo lid.

Natural Organic Matters (NORM), run by alum Chevon Riley (BSc 2020 UTSC), is certified by Health Canada, and donates a portion of all proceeds to Toronto Tree and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Get body butter for $40 from NORM

A tiny cabin vacation that makes off-the-grid easy

Cabinscape has a range of tiny cabins perfect for a winter getaway

This one’s a pricier gift at around $150 to $200 per night for a getaway, but it’s one that promises to be memorable. Cabinscape, by alum Laura Mendes (BA 2005 UTSC) and Johnathan Loerchner (BA 2005 UTSC), has a range of custom, eco-friendly tiny cabins on private properties overlooking lakes, rivers, trails and nature around southern Ontario.

Gift a night, a weekend, or choose the “Cabin Chaser” package and send your giftees on a mystery three-day road trip with a surprise itinerary that takes them through local gems, scenic landmarks and two unique cabins. There are other packages for romantics, adventurers, dog lovers and more, and a self-care kit is available at all cabins, full of spa products from local artisans in plastic-free packaging. Plus, get $25 off your first trip and stay in the loop by signing up for their newsletter.

Get trips from $149 from Cabinscape

A beauty box subscription or a clean product

Think Dirty has a range of products that have all been vetted for harmful chemicals

A surprising amount of chemicals in beauty products are straight up toxic, from carcinogens linked with cancers to neurotoxins that disrupt hormone production. That’s why alum Lily Tse (BA 2001 UTSC) founded Think Dirty, a company that analyzes millions of cosmetics for skincare, wellness, makeup, hair, body and moreThe platform calculates the potential health impact of each ingredient to give products a “clean” rating. 

You can gift a smorgasbord of the cleanest products in a range of beauty box subscriptions, including a limited edition holiday box, a roulette box and a one-time purchase option. The boxes range in pricing, but you can use the Think Dirty app or check out the company’s Clean Beautique to find products you can be confident about (or you can be sneaky and break the box’s contents into multiple gifts or stocking stuffers… just an idea). 

Get beauty boxes from as low as about $50 and thousands of clean products at Think Dirty

A cozy sweater or shirt that shares the love

The Love Scarborough campaign has a range of sweaters and shirts available from Scarborough Spots

For the giftee that wears their Scarborough pride on their sleeve, these sweaters and shirts also give back to the east end. All net profits from this line go to the Scarborough Health Network Foundation and support the Love, Scarborough campaign, a movement to address the severe lack of donations Scarborough hospitals receive compared to the rest of Toronto.

There’s also a range of other retro Scarborough sweaters to snuggle up in from Scarborough Spots, including a popular pullover that puts a map of Scarborough right over your heart, and others that celebrate specific east-end neighbourhoods.

Get shirts from $15 and hoodies from $50