So long, chocolate: the real thrill in the run-up to Christmas is to be found in beauty advent calendars, each window revealing a brand new product to enjoy.
Whether you’re looking for a gift someone special or just to treat yourself, there is plenty of choice, with prices ranging from £45 to the luxe £320.
As well as raising your Christmas spirit levels, it’s also a fun way to get to know new brands and discover treatments that you may well end up buying for years to come.
Best for: Budget
Key specs – Windows: 12; Total worth: £120+
We love the Feel Unique advent calendar’s sleek, space-age and Northern Lights packaging., plus with just 12 days, it’s a pretty good buy on a budget. The contents of this year’s is mostly minis, though you do get a few full-size goodies too, including Zoeva’s Strobe Gel, a Lime Crime lip liner and, our favourite, a three-pack of the brilliant Invisibobble. Minis to fall in love with and buy full-size include Charlotte Tilbury’s Brightening Youth Glow and Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse.
Best for: Manicures
Key specs – Windows: 24; total worth: £150
For manicure addicts, Ciate’s Mini Mani Month includes 23 mini bottles of its vegan polishes, a nail file and one full-size bottle. The colour range, from deep blue to glittery pale pink, includes six shades that you won’t see until you open the window (the rest are previewed in the product visuals), and ten new, exclusive shade, too.
Best for: men
Key specs – Windows: 12; Total worth: £112
Clarins’ men’s version offers two full-size products – the Anti-Fatigue Eye Cream and Active Hand Care cream – plus ten minis, ranging from 3ml (lip balm) to 100ml (shower products).
It’s a great way to get a feel for the iconic range, and to suss out what products to buy in full size later on.
Best for: Cult high-street brands
Key Specs – Windows: 24; Total worth: Not disclosed
Asos’s advent calendars are always a good mid-price option – they also do a 12-day version for the very affordable £25.
We love its mix of high-end (Elemis, Nars, Laura Mercier) and high-street (Yes To, Sleek, Mane & Tail).
You’re sure to discover some new favourite products with this year’s selection, which includes a brilliant Dr Jart face-mask.
Best for: Make-up
Key specs – Windows: 24; Total worth: Not disclosed
Another choice with standout packaging, we’ll happily be displaying Mac’s black and gold star calendar among our Christmas decorations. Inside you’ll find a mixture of samples and full-size products, including our must-haves Fluidline in Blacktrack, a Velvet Teddy Matte Lipstick and a Boldy Bare lip pencil, plus a pair of the brand’s ever-popular 36 lashes.
Best for: In-store offers
Key specs – Windows: 25; Total worth: £255
John Lewis’s pale peach and gold drawer packaging is so pretty, we want to keep it for storage after Christmas.
Inside each drawer you’ll find a skincare, beauty or fragrance treat, some full-size (we can’t wait for our Neom Organics 60g candle!); highlights include the much-loved Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector highlighter and a Nars bronzer.
Some days also come with cards for in-store experiences, such as a 30-minute make-up lesson at Laura Mercier and a 1-hour transformation at Charlotte Tilbury.
Best for: Iconic products
Key specs – Windows: 12; Total worth: £195
A delivery from Charlotte Tilbury feels like Christmas has come early at any time of year, never mind during the advent.
It’s also one of the most generous calendars in terms of full-size products (though you pay for it only having 12 windows for the same price as some 25-window calendars): you’ll get an iconic Pillow Talk lipstick, eyeshadow pencil, cream shadow and glossy Sexy Lips lipstick.
Plus minis of all the best bits, including Legendary Lashes and Magic Cream. We love the unusual cylindrical packaging, too.
Best for: Elemis addicts
Key specs – Windows: 25; Total worth: £339.55
There is not a single disappointing window in this abstract tree-shaped calendar from premium skincare brand Elemis.
From the Frangipani Monoi body range to Superfood day and night creams, it’s full of products you’ll want to buy full-size come January.
The best bit is a full tour of the Pro-Collagen range, including the Hydra Gel Eye Masks, Rose Facial Oil and a full-size Marine Cream.
Best for: Novelty packaging
Key Specs – Windows: 24; Total worth: £550+
We love the packaging of Space NK’s advent calendar, which comprises of four boxes shaped like books, each of which opens to reveal individual boxes.
Inside, there is not a single filler product. Brands include Sunday Riley, Kate Somerville, Hourglass, Drunk Elephant, Sol de Janeiro, Nars, Eve Lom, Olaplex, and many more.
Best for: Full-size products
Key specs – Windows: 25; Total worth: £610+
Liberty’s is the classic beauty advent calendar and for good reason: its snowy illustration of the iconic London shop epitomises Christmas, and it’s rammed with 18 full-size products.
Our favourites include Votary Super Seed Facial Oil, a Diptyque Baies candle and a Nars blusher-bronzer duo in the cult shades Orgasm and Lacuna.
Out of the £100+ calendars, it’s also the best value for money.
Best for: Luxury
Key specs – Windows: 25; Total worth: not disclosed
With every product hand-picked from the beauty halls by Harrods head of beauty Mia Collins, this is a real expert edit.
Its 25 drawers contain full-size and travel-size products from the likes of Dr Dennis Gross, Nars, Byredo, Huda, Hourglass, Foreo, By Terry, Omorovicza and many more.
The chic navy and gold packaging is decorated on the outside with a simple illustration of the department store shop-front in Knightsbridge.
Best for: Candles
Key specs – Windows: 25; Total worth: not disclosed
If you’ve got a dressing table stacked with repurposed Diptyque calendar candle jars, or a house filled with scented candles, this one’s for you.
You’ll find a few body and skincare samples behind windows too, but most exciting is a full-size Protective Pine candle, with beautiful, decadent packaging, plus 13 mini (35g) candles in all the brand’s signature scents including Lily of the Valley, Sandalwood, Verbena and Tuberose.
£320, johnlewis.com (LOW STOCK)
Best for: Fragrance
Key specs – Windows: 24; Total worth: not disclosed
There isn’t much that’s more decadent than an advent calendar stuffed with 24 goodies from Jo Malone: hand wash, cologne, bath oil, candles, soap and body creme.
The scents range from classic Basil & Neroli and English Pear & Freeisa, to our favourites Earl Grey & Cucumber, and Sweet Almond & Macaroon.
You’re guaranteed to have a sweet Christmas, and to make a few friends handing out the scents that don’t suit you, too.