Oh, Christmas. The most joyous time of year, filled with mulled wine, twinkling fairy lights, and stockings.
It also happens to be one of the few times when you are encouraged to eat chocolate every day for a month.
Advent calendars are wonderful. They give you something to look forward to every single morning.
But just FYI, that happiness doesn’t need to be as fleeting as a piece of chocolate shaped like a reindeer, gone at the speed of melting.
Loads of major brands have hopped on the beauty advent calendar trend, giving you mini beauty treats for every day in the run up to Christmas.
Glowing skin and enough nail polish to last you for the next year is better than chocolate, we reckon.
Not all beauty advent calendars are made equal, however, and few come cheap. To save you from messing up your advent calendar budget, we got all of the top beauty calendars on the market this year, ripped them all open (before December. I know, we are awful), and have reviewed them below. They’re in alphabetical order, FYI.
Packaging: A snazzy black and gold design with mini boxes.
What’s inside: 24 products from big brands including Barry M, Bourjois, essie, Maybelline, Percy & Reed, and Molton Brown. There’s a good mix of makeup, skincare, and bath products to keep you going throughout the month.
Festive joy: The colour scheme is lovely, but honestly, chocolate is more exciting than Balance Me eye cream.
Best for: Pared back types with simple taste. There’s nothing very exciting in here.
When and where you can buy it: It’s out now through Amazon.
Packaging: The calendar itself is a thing of beauty, with a marbled design inside and a fold up design that opens like a book. The doors are clearly marked but still take some hunting, which, as we all know, is part of the fun.
What’s inside: A glorious mix of skincare products from the likes of REN and Oskia – masks, cleansing oils, balms, serums, instant tan – as well as some suits-everyone makeup products, and a Foreo Luna Play (which costs £29 alone, so this is a bargain). The treat on the 25th is a 20% off discount on all beauty and grooming on ASOS.
Festive joy: All the treats are equally exciting – there’s not a single dud or filler – and things ramp up in the final days. Plus there’s actually a door for Christmas day, which is shockingly rare.
Best for… Anyone who loves skincare. This one is my personal favourite. It’s got great quality products, the packaging’s lovely, and none of the items are specific to skintones, so you don’t end up having to give any away. Plus, at £50, it’s the best value calendar on the list.
When and where you can buy it: It’s currently sold out, but hopefully ASOS will restock it.
Packaging: Classic Benefit – pink, kitschy, Americana, with a San Francisco theme.
What’s inside: A bunch of Benefit greats: they’re real! mascara, high beam, POREfessional, they’re real! remover, they’re real! tinted primer, roller lash in black, gimme brow in 3, benetint, hoola, it’s potent! eye cream, watt’s up!, stay don’t stray in 01 light/medium.
Festive joy: Well, it’s only 12 days worth of gifts (meh), but Benefit’s always cheering.
Best for…Someone who’s new to makeup and needs the basics. There’s nothing too exciting/challenging here, so it’s not too intimidating. Whoever you get it for will need to have lighter-toned skin, though, as the stay don’t stray is in the light/medium shade.
When and where you can buy it: It’s out now and available through Benefit.
Packaging: A snazzy gold and turquoise.
What’s inside: All manner of No7 makeup – primers, mascara, lip colour, and brushes – along with some skincare treats and a pair of tweezers.
Festive joy: I mean, the No7 calendar always nails it – and nearly always sells out, so good luck getting one. It’s a great Christmas treat that’s worth the money, with a decent mix of products to try out.
Best for…Anyone with classic, pared back style. There’s nothing groundbreaking in here, just dependable staple products that anyone will appreciate.
When and how you can buy it: You’ll need to sign up for the waiting list.
The Body Shop
Price: £99 for the 25 Days Ultimate Advent Calendar
Packaging: Okay, so this one’s a little special. Each box has a little task on the side to make the world a better place (think ‘offer to walk a friend’s dog’ and ‘compliment five people’), to encourage you to be lovely all December. Once they’re all opened, the boxes also turn into a trivia game for Boxing Day. It looks great too.
What’s inside: Exactly what you’d expect – all kinds of glorious Body Shop products ranging from scrubs and shower gels to matte lipsticks.
Festive joy: What could be more festive than little acts of kindness throughout the month and a trivia game? Nothing, that’s what.
Best for… Body Shop fans. Anyone with a passion for ethical beauty will be a fan and fruity smellies will be a fan.
When and where you can buy it: You can buy all of The Body Shop’s advent calendars through their website now.
Packaging: Looks lovely, and the drawer design means you can reuse the packaging for storing your makeup afterwards. It’s a lovely shade of pink and it’s suitably festive. The massive downside: each product is labelled on the box – meaning there’s no element of surprise. FFS.
What’s inside: Well, considering these are all listed on the website and on each box, I don’t feel like I’m ruining the surprise by listing the exact items: Colour Chameleon in Mesmerising Mink, Eyes to Mesmerise in Jean, Lip Lustre Lip Gloss in Unleash Me, Matte Revolution Lipstick in Walk of Shame, Mini Full Fat Lashes Mascara in Glossy Black, Mini Goddess Skin Clay Mask, Mini Magic Cream Moisturiser, Mini Multi-Miracle Glow Cleanser, Mini Rock ‘n’ Kohl Eyeliner in Amber Moon, Mini Supermodel Body, Mini Take It All Off Eye Makeup Remover, Mini Wonderglow Face Primer.
Festive joy: Let’s be real – Charlotte Tilbury loses major points for not only having just 12 items (c’mon, you need at least 24), but for listing each product on the box so there’s zero surprise. Seriously, what’s the point? Add in the price (we repeat: £150) and it honestly made us feel the opposite of festive.
Best for… If you’re spending £150 on 12 products, I’d recommend just picking out a selection you know someone will like.
When and where you can buy it: It’s out now and you can buy it online.
Packaging: Neat boxes with ribbon tabs for easy access, in elegant white and gold. One niggle: The boxes are in order, so there’s none of the fun of hunting for the day’s treat.
What’s inside: Cult classics such as Kiehl’s cream and Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, along with candles, skincare, and a spot of makeup. Apparently the contents are worth more than £595.
Festive joy: It’s fancy as f***, so anyone opening this should feel bloody festive. There’s a gift for Christmas Day, which is always great, but having the boxes in order does take away from the fun a bit.
Best for…People who demand the height of luxury.
When and where you can buy it: The Harrods advent calendar is set to launch on 1 November.
Holland & Barrett
Packaging: Green and white. Simple and sweet.
What’s inside: This is Holland & Barret’s first try at a beauty advent calendar, and they’ve done pretty well. The calendar is packed with face washes, creams, bath foams, oils, snail gel, face masks, and soothing sprays, all free of parabens and microplastics.
Festive joy: There’s not much in here that’ll make you jump up and down with joy, and as there are only 12 gifts, we’d hoped for something a little snazzier. For the price though, it’s not bad at all.
Best for…Your environmentally conscious mate.
When and where you can buy it: It’s available in-store or on the website.
Packaging: Sleek, simple, if a little plain.
What’s inside: Plenty of luxury skincare from the likes of Elemis, REN, and Molton Brown, some makeup, and four mini bottles of perfume.
Festive joy: Fairly Christmassy, although we do wish there were a few more wow-worthy products.
Best for…Perfume-lovers. With four mini bottles, this calendar was the most-scent heavy. Only choose it if you know the person who’ll be opening the doors is open to trying new scents – perfume can be very personal, so you don’t want to leave anyone disappointed.
When and where you can buy it: Out now online and in-store.
Packaging: So. Pretty. Each box drawer is a different colour, creating a sleek, cheery finish.
What’s inside: We’ll be honest – this one is so bloody exclusive we haven’t been able to try it out yet (once we get our hands on it, we’ll update this piece), but we do know that it contains fragrances, colognes, and candles.
Festive joy: 24 days rather than 25, but the quality of the products makes this one pretty special.
Best for…Your fanciest friend. Dropping £300 on an advent calendar is pretty bloody bold, but someone with an expensive taste and a passion for fine fragrance will be a fan.
When and where you can buy it: It’s set to drop at the end of October through Jo Malone stores and Harrods.
Packaging: Brightly coloured and beautiful.
What’s inside: Hand creams, skincare, and all varieties of moisturising products. They’re not full-size, but they’re not measly either.
Festive joy: The Christmas packaging is sweet, and the mix of products is enough to keep you enthused throughout the month.
Best for…Anyone who deserves some pampering. They’ll be silky soft with this treasure trove.
When and where you can buy it: It should be launching at the end of October.
Packaging: A classic Liberty print, with a mini drawer design.
What’s inside: Super fancy full-size and mini products, including Le Labo perfume, a Dyptique candle, Espa skincare, and Byredo hand cream.
Festive joy: Anything this posh is bound to make you feel Christmassy. Throw in a Dyptique candle and we are beyond set.
Best for: Yourself. Who else can you justify spending £169 on?
When and where you can buy it: Liberty says the calendar will be out ‘soon’.
Packaging: A nice selection of boxes within a box, each with their number written out. We’d prefer a traditional door design, but this is nice too.
What’s inside: All the classics – cleanse and polish, facial oils, washes, and creams.
Festive joy: There are only 12 products in here, so we’d recommend it as a Christmas gift rather than a standard advent calendar. Also, while the products are high quality, there’s nothing particularly sparkly or exciting.
Best for…Anyone who loves skincare and wants a really strong starting point for great skin in 2018.
Packaging: Traditional, classic.There’s a lovely winter scene inside with clear, easy to spot numbers.
What’s inside: Everything you’d want from L’Occitane. Mini hand creams, shower gels, creams, and soaps. The gift on the 25th is an eau de toilette.
Festive joy: Fairly festive! We tend to associate L’Occitane with Christmas – if you’re lucky, you’ll get a gift set from your aunt. This is packed with stuff you probably wouldn’t buy yourself, which makes it a real joy.
Best for… Anyone who loves hand creams and shower stuff. This one’s a more grownup beauty calendar, with stuff everyone will appreciate having.
Packaging: Wonderful. We’re big fans of the drawer design, which you could easily use as storage post-Christmas, and the poem on the inside is a nice touch. The individual boxes are a bit irritating in terms of clutter.
What’s inside: Skincare, makeup, haircare – the works. There are nine full-sized products along with 16 samples, and the products bought individually would come to more than £300.
Festive joy: It’s a delight. Full-size products make December loads more exciting, and the packaging is the perfect amount of festive.
Best for…ALL beauty lovers. This one’s a winner. The products are high quality and exciting, the calendar itself is lovely, and the price is decent.
When and where you can buy it: It’s out now and available on LookFantastic.
Price: £35 when you spend £35 on clothing or homeware
Packaging: Cute, but a little annoying. Each product is in its own little box that slots inside a house-like structure, but for some reason a few of the early days’ items are stacked behind ones that come later, meaning you have to shuffle them around to get to a few. I prefer a traditional door style calendar, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t like having to deal with a bunch of empty boxes.
What’s inside: Skincare galore. REN, Emma Hardie, Korres, Pixi, and more. There’s some festive makeup in there too – a sparkly nail polish, a lip plumper, and some mascara, as well as a perfume. The gift for the 25th is a makeup bag.
Festive joy: It’s pretty festive, and each product elicits an ‘oooh!’ when you open it. Again, no dud products (although I wasn’t a fan of the perfume), and all equal levels of exciting.
Best for…People over 35 who love skincare. A few of the products are focused on firming and radiance, although these aren’t overwhelming. I found plenty of products to suit my oily skin, and I’m always a fan of an Emma Hardie cleanser. Get it if you happen to already be spending £35 on other M&S stuff and you’re getting a pretty sweet deal. I bought one last year and I’m still using up some of the products.
When and where to buy: It’s coming soon and will be available online and in-store for £35 when you spend £35 on clothing or homeware.
Packaging: All the products are individually boxed in red and green, with sweet accent ribbons on a few. Glorious.
What’s inside: Perfumes, hand treatments, NINE body washes, four lotions, mini candles, shampoo, hair masks, body polishes, and a festive shower gel bauble.
Festive joy: It’s red and green and there’s a shower gel bauble. This is peak Christmas.
Best for…Your fancy grandma who always has posh hand wash in her bathroom.
When and where to buy: Out now online.
Packaging: A delight. We’re big fans of the dark blue tones, tricky to spot numbers, and festive design. Only annoying thing? There’s an image of some of the products on the outside of the doors. Why, Selfridges? Why ruin the fun?
What’s inside: So. Much. Lancome. Plus Kiehl’s and YSL. A decent mix of luxurious skincare, makeup, and perfumes.
Festive joy: There are only 24 days of gifts rather than 25, but the quality of the products makes up for it a bit. We do wish there were a wider range of brands included, though. There’s only so much excitement we can muster after the fourth Lancome product.
Best for…Lancome lovers and those with expensive taste.
When and where to buy: Available now in-store and online.
Packaging: Looks cute, but it’s a nightmare to open each box. We were scratching away for ages.
What’s inside: Nail polishes, lip liners, matte liquid lipsticks, eyeliners, mascara, and shadows. The liners each match a lip colour, which is a nice touch, but it does take away from the excitement a bit. Really, both the liner and lip colour should sit behind the same door.
Festive joy: Meh. The products are a bit samey, and although there is a gift on the 25th, it’s not too exciting.
Best for… Teens and lip colour enthusiasts. It’s also one of the cheapest calendars around.
When and where to buy: It’s currently out of stock on Boots, but it should be back soon.