gifts they might actually want

The Beauty Advent Calendars to Buy Before They Sell Out, According to Experts

Photo: Courtesy of the retailer.

Gifting a beauty advent calendar to yourself or to a loved one is pretty much a can’t-miss. There’s something for everyone, even if you don’t know the recipient’s taste. And it’s almost always a bargain, once you account for the retail price of every item. “The advent calendar is a way to discover and try launches or established brands,” says Jenni Middleton, the director of beauty at trend-forecasting agency WGSN. After several years in a row of reporting on beauty advents, we wanted to look a bit more into why these meticulously packaged collections are so covetable. While advent calendars have been popular since the Victorian era, the beauty advent-calendar craze is relatively recent and originated in the U.K., according to one London-based expert we’re very inclined to trust. “The catalyst for luxury advent calendars (specifically beauty ones) was in 2014, when department store Liberty released a calendar to coincide with the relaunch of its beauty hall,” explains Ailbhe Malone, the senior editor over at Strategist UK. Beauty writer Daniela Morosini, who also lives in the U.K., agrees. “People would queue around the block to get them — I remember seeing endless lines outside Liberty as early as 6 a.m.” Morosini adds that “the boom of beauty influencers then brought what was a kind of niche product to a much wider audience.” Now, most beauty brands and retailers offer advent calendars for the holiday shopping season, both here and across the pond. “It’s kind of like the sneakerhead or hypebeast community. People will wait all year for the drop and want to be first in line,” adds Morosini. Read: These always sell out fast.

With most of this year’s calendars now on store shelves (and some already selling out), we asked Middleton, Morosini, Malone, and a few of our own (including Strategist’s in-house beauty writer Tembe Denton-Hurst and some of our friends over at the Cut) about the best advent calendars you can still get right now. We’ll continue to check in with our experts, too, so we can add any late arrivals that they think are worth the money. To ensure you don’t miss out on any you like, we noted the availability of each beauty advent calendar in its corresponding blurb below.

The advent calendar that our experts say started it all is, as Middleton puts it, “as eagerly awaited as Santa with his sleigh, as every year it features a great value set of products.” This year, those products include 25 items (including Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector, Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream, and Le Labo Another 13 perfume). The 25 products retail for $1,000 — the highest value the calendar has ever been — so the $295 advent calendar, while not cheap, is definitely a good deal. And, for the second year in a row, Liberty is also offering a “men’s” advent calendar, which includes brands like Dr. Barbara SturmD.S. & Durga, Susanne Kaufmann, and more. Last year, the calendar sold out within a week, so don’t dillydally.

Availability: Now.

For the second year in a row, Liberty is also offering a “men’s” advent calendar, which includes brands like Dr. Barbara Sturm, D.S. & Durga, Susanne Kaufmann, and more. “But it’s not just the typical beauty products packed in this advent calendar; you will also get a few alternative surprises, including a mini-bottle of Liberty Sloe Gin to get the Christmas mood in motion and a Liberty pocket square to complete the look,” says Emma Chiu, the global director of trend-forecasting company Wunderman Thompson Intelligence.

Availability: Now.

For the skin-care obsessed, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s calendar delivers every year. “I would die for this one,” jokes Anello. The calendar features 24 products — including Sturm’s beloved hyaluronic serum — in an assortment of miniature and deluxe sizes. “Dr. Barbara Sturm’s advent calendar allows you to experiment with her line so you can tailor your perfect skin-care routine” before you invest in her more expensive, full-size products, notes Chiu. The price is a bit eye-popping, but remember that the brand’s hyaluronic serum sells for $300 alone, so $495 for that and 23 other things isn’t actually that steep by comparison. And, as Strategist contributor Rio Viera-Newton reminds us, this would be money well spent: “I have yet to find a product of Dr. Sturm’s that doesn’t have over-the-top rave reviews.”

Availability: Now.

Both Malone and Morosini told us to keep an eye on ASOS calendars, which are generally very reasonably priced. This one includes 24 products, 15 of which are full size, from brands including Dr. Paw Paw, Dr. Jart, and The Ordinary.

Availability: Now.

Morosini also told us about ASOS’s grooming calendar, which includes goodies from the Ordinary, Cetaphil, and Elemis this year and would make a particularly great gift for any boyfriends or younger brothers looking to step up their skin care and general hygiene routines. It contains half as many products as the calendar above, but eight of its 12 things are full size, with four coming in smaller, travel-size packaging.

Availability: Now.

If you’re always reaching for a candle to light while you do your makeup or skincare routine, Denton-Hurst suggests Voluspa’s calendar, which she calls “really fun.” Strategist writer Chloe Anello agrees: “this one looks magical.” Anello adds that she hints every year for her boyfriend to gift her one. “Maybe this will be the year,” she notes. While the mini-version has sold out, this one includes 12 of their larger votives in scents like Spiced Pumpkin Latte, Gilt Pomander & Hinoki, and Forbidden Fig. It also includes a wick trimmer.

Availability: Now.

Senior vice president of ecommerce Camilla Cho has her eye on this Soko Glam Advent Calendar for someone on her gifting list. The set includes 16 products (six full size and ten travel size) from brands like Isntree, Hanskin, and Klairs, perfect for any K-beauty fan. The decorative cardboard box also features magnetic doors, so it can be reused after the holidays.

Availability: Now.

According to Middleton, Lookfantastic’s advent calendar is a price performer: For $135 you get $640 worth of products. It’s also available for preorder right now, and we suggest any interested parties take advantage of that because this advent calendar has sold out for five years in a row. If you prefer to be surprised, read no further: Lookfantastic has revealed that this year we’ll definitely see Eve Lom Cleansing Oil Capsules, Kevyn Aucoin Volume Mascara, and 111Skin Antioxidant Energising Essence.

Availability: Now.

[Editor’s note: This advent calendar is currently out of stock but “coming soon,” according to the website. We’ll be monitoring the situation and will update this story in response.]

“This one is definitely an investment, but it’s worth it when you consider the original cost of products,” explains the Cut’s Daise Bedolla. This year, those products include four full-size items and 21 sample-size ones (the larger items, according to Susanne Kaufmann, include her Hyaluron Serum Moisturising, Eye Cream Line T, Eye Rescue Stick, and Lip Balm). Those four products alone would normally retail for $391, so the $586 advent calendar, while not cheap, is definitely a good deal.

Availability: Now.

Middleton loves the Ciate London Mini Mani Month calendar, which includes 22 mini nail polishes, one full-size version, and a mini primer, too. The polishes all feature Ciate’s signature formulation, which is infused with strengthening biotin, nourishing bamboo, and hydrating bakuchiol extract to keep nails strong and healthy. Plus, they’re made with biodegradable glitter and are packaged in recyclable bottles.

Availability: Now.

The 12 miniature products within Benefit’s advent calendar include sample-size tubes of three mascaras — “They’re Real” Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara, Bad Gal Bang! Mascara, and Roller Lash— from our list of the best mascaras, according to makeup artists. Strategist writer Chloe Anello told us about the calendar, which also contains fan-favorite products like the brand’s Hoola Matte Bronzer. She says it would make a great gift for a teen — or anyone — just getting into makeup because the affordably priced calendar and its selection of goodies are “youthful and fun.”

Availability: Now.

For a more affordable advent calendar full of fragrances, Middleton directed us to Atelier Cologne. The calendar contains 19 mini versions of the brand’s signature perfumes, which run the gamut from fruity to floral to woody, making it a great idea for someone who’s always on the hunt for their next signature scent. The calendar also includes a full size of the brand’s Clémentine California perfume, which has notes of clementine, juniper berries, and vetiver — and retails for $80 on its own. This year, the brand also partnered with illustrator Daria Hlazatova to create the packaging’s super-pretty celestial design. If your budget is a bit higher, Atelier Cologne also released a Luxury Advent Calendar this year, which retails for $375 and includes three full-size perfumes, along with nine mini-perfumes, two candles, and a selection of bath and body products.

Availability: Now.