holiday gifts 2022

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

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy of the retailer.

Whether you’re gifting it to yourself or a loved one, a beauty advent calendar is a great way to try new products or restock on old favorites. Plus, it’s almost always a deal once you account for the retail price of every item individually.

The beauty advent calendar craze is relatively recent and originated in the U.K. “The catalyst was in 2014, when department store Liberty released a calendar to coincide with the relaunch of its beauty hall,” explains Strategist senior editor Ailbhe Malone, who is based in the U.K. Now, many beauty brands and retailers offer advent calendars for the holiday shopping season, both here and across the pond.

I’ve been covering the beauty advent-calendar beat each holiday season since 2019. For this year’s list, I made sure to include the calendars our experts have recommended most year after year that often sell out before Thanksgiving. I also included a few exciting newcomers, since quite a few brands have launched a calendar for the first time this year. While it is now officially December and some of this year’s most in-demand calendars have sold out, there are still quite a few in stock, though we recommend not waiting much longer to buy one.

According to Emma Chiu, the global director of the trend-forecasting company Wunderman Thompson Intelligence, “Sephora’s Advent calendars are always reliable, offering a full range of beauty products at an affordable price.” For just $45, the calendar features a mix of 24 mini and full-size goods and is especially great for those wanting to explore Sephora’s in-house collection to see how it stacks up against the more expensive beauty brands’ versions of cleansing wipes, eyeliners, and lip stains.

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For the third year in a row, Liberty is also offering a men’s Advent calendar, which includes brands such as Frederic Malle, Augustinus Bader, and Paula’s Choice. “But it’s not just grooming 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,” says Chiu.

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For luxury-beauty lovers, Bloomingdale’s has curated a mix of high-end products from some of the Strategist’s most beloved (and pricey) makeup and skin-care brands, including Le Labo, Charlotte Tilbury, and Augustinus Bader.

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If you’re looking for a gift for a tween or teen who is just getting into makeup, the 12 miniature products within Benefit’s advent calendar include sample-size tubes of three different mascaras — “They’re Real” Lengthening & Volumizing MascaraBad Gal Bang! Mascara, and Roller Lash — from our list of the best mascaras according to makeup artists as well as fan-favorite products like the brand’s Hoola Matte Bronzer.

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For the skin-care obsessed, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s calendar delivers every year. The calendar features 24 products — including Sturm’s beloved hyaluronic serum — in an assortment of miniature, deluxe, and full 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. And as Strategist contributor Rio Viera-Newton reminds us, “I have yet to find a product of Dr. Sturm’s that doesn’t have over-the-top rave reviews.” The $560 price is a bit eye-popping, but remember that the brand’s Glow Drops sell for $150 alone, and you get that plus 23 other skin-care products in this set.

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This is the second year in a row Neiman Marcus has released its advent calendar. While the retailer hasn’t released specific product details, it has teased that many typically splurgy brands like Maison Francis Kurkdjian, Tom Ford, Hermes, and Dior will be included.

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If you’re always reaching for a candle to light while you do your makeup or skin-care routine, Strategist beauty writer Tembe Denton-Hurst suggests Voluspa’s calendar, which she calls “really fun.” This one includes 12 of its mini-votives in scents such as Spiced Pumpkin Latte, Gilt Pomander & Hinoki, and Forbidden Fig.

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“If you are shopping for a teen (or love a bath) Lush’s calendars are sweet,” says senior editor Ailbhe Malone. For the first time ever, Lush is allowing customers to preorder its 25-product Advent calendar, which includes limited-edition holiday offerings such as the brand’s Golden Pudding Bath Bomb, Gingerbread House Bubble Bar, and Elf Shake Shower Gel. Malone does have one tip of sorts about this one, though: After doing a story on Lush’s bath-bomb factory a few years ago, she discovered that the products don’t age as well as, say, a fine wine and suggests anyone who buys this calendar do so with the intention of using its goodies as soon as they’re able. “It’s not a calendar I’d advise rationing, so I’d suggest buying this one to divvy up between housemates or cousins (a thrifty Christmas gift would be to parse the calendar into separate presents).”

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This year, the Susanne Kaufmann Advent calendar includes four full-size items and 21 sample-size ones. The larger items are the Eye Rescue Serum, Nutrient Serum, Rejuvenating Eye Cream, and Lip Balm, which all together normally retail for $465, so the $510 Advent calendar, while not cheap, is definitely a good deal.

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Jenni Middleton, the former director of beauty at trend-forecasting agency WGSN, loves Ciate London’s Mini Mani Month calendar, which includes 23 mini nail polishes and one full-size version. The polishes include Ciate’s signature formulation, which is infused with strengthening biotin, nourishing bamboo, and hydrating bakuchiol extract to keep nails healthy. Plus the glitter polishes, perfect for holiday parties, are made with biodegradable glitter, and all of its polishes are packaged in recyclable bottles.

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The Advent calendars from Rituals, says Middleton, are annual best sellers in part because of the packaging. This year’s is no exception: Designed to look like a 3-D Christmas tree, the calendar stores the 24 miniature beauty and home products in hanging ornaments, including four petite candles in soothing scents such as amber and vanilla.

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Viera-Newton has dubbed this her “personal favorite” Advent calendar based on its packaging alone. The $200 calendar is filled with 12 of Tilbury’s classic products, five of which are full size — that’s two more full-size products than last year.

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If you’re looking for a calendar with products focused on “relaxing, nourishing, and treating the face, hair, and body,” look no further than the Elemis calendar, says Middleton. The 25 skin-care products include the brand’s Pro-Collagen Marine Cream and plenty of other hydrating lotions and potions that are ideal for dry winter skin.

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L’Occitane, a brand that tends to be a hit with moms (and others who hoard hand creams), has an Advent calendar packed with some of its best-selling products, including those creams as well as soaps. When you consider that a single hand cream from the brand typically costs $12, the fact that you’re getting a medley of 24 pocket-size goodies for $80 makes this a really nice gift for a mom — or anyone else you’re looking to impress. Middleton recommended it, too, noting that this Advent calendar’s colorful packaging is as desirable as what’s inside it.

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Olive and June’s $65 calendar includes seven mini-polishes and a shrunken, travel-friendly version of its signature tool kit, so you’ll have everything you need to do your manicures at home.

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According to the Cut’s Asia Milia Ware, “This Advent calendar is the holy grail if you’re a cult-favorite type of gal.” The $245 collection features everything from La Mer’s signature Crème de la Mer moisturizing cream to Caudalie’s Detox Mask to Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Hyaluronic Serum. “I’m super-excited for it because I’ll have mini restocks on my favorites,,” Ware says.

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Both Chiu and Middleton recommended Cult Beauty’s Advent calendar, which Chiu says “is always one to watch for beauty aficionados.” Middleton agrees, saying that Cult Beauty features a nice mix of emerging brands — and this year, it’s packed 37 products behind 25 doors.

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The Best Beauty Advent Calendars to Buy Before They Sell Out