Beauty by Numbers: We put beauty advent calendars to the test

Hello November, we’ve been waiting for you.The Velvet team break out the best of the beauty advent calendars

Reviewer: Jane Kay, 40

The beauty calendar: Penhaligon’s Fragrant Countdown Advent Calendar

How much and where to buy: £350, Penhaligon’s, St Andrew’s Street, Cambridge

First impressions? Unless it came with a live elf, this calendar couldn’t be moreChristmassy. The door of the grand gilded box, which stands on little legs and opens with the tug of a ribbon, is decorated with Santa in his reindeer-led sleigh, speeding through a snowscape. Inside there’s a neat jigsaw of cardboard boxes, each numbered and franked ‘Special Delivery from the North Pole’.

What beauty booty do you get? As any perfume aficionado will tell you, Penhaligon’s is unrivalled for its fragrances, which combine top quality with a distinctly English eccentricity: take the Portraits collection, each named after an imaginary aristocrat (some noble, some not-so-noble). Though you also get some lovely pamper products - body wash, body lotion, lip balm, a candle - the fragrances are the stars of this show, with no less than 17 either 5ml or 10ml bottles included.

Are you dazzled? You couldn’t fail to be: every box contains something scrumptious. There’s a considered combination of iconic Penhaligon’s scents, such as Blenheim Bouquet (lemon, lavender, pine, pepper), made for the Duke of Marlborough more than 100 years ago, and new releases you might not know, like Heartless Helen (mandarin, tuberose, creamy wood) and Cousin Flora (citrus, musk, ambroxan).

Who would really appreciate this calendar? In the wake of a lottery win, I’d be tempted to buy it for my husband and me to share. There’s no real gender divide with Penhaligon’s - I know a man and a woman who both wear the slightly spicy Cairo and it suits each equally well - but some fragrances are more overtly masculine and others feminine, so we could split it. Any fragrance lover would adore it, though.

How many ding-dong-merrily-on-highs out of five? Four. It is *very* expensive. That said, you’ll be enjoying the contents all year; consider it an investment purchase?

Reviewer: Lisa Millard, 53

The beauty calendar: L’Occitane’s Calendar of Dreams

How much and where to buy: £89 (worth £98.50) at L’Occitane, Rose Crescent, Cambridge and Arc Shopping Centre, Bury St Edmunds. Also online at

First impressions? Very pleasing indeedy. A spruce-green cover decorated with charming Christmas trees and sparkling stars slips off to reveal a festive red tower of cutely arranged numbered cubes connected to twist and turn delightfully.

What beauty booty do you get? All my L’Occitane favourites are there in 24 beauty booty-filled boxes including Shea Body Shower Oil (love, love, love it), Essential Oils Shampoo, Immortelle Divine Cream (it really is), Almond Milk Concentrate, Intensive Hand Balm, Comforting Eye Patches and Herbae Eau de Parfum, among many others. Bliss.

Are you dazzled? Well and truly. That said, I am a big fan of the brand that hails from Provence, France, so the chance to savour a plant-rich product every day fills me with joy. Products are travel-sized so perfect for any Christmas get-aways or sleepovers. Plus, rather charmingly, each box reveals a sweet phrase or tip to help nurture nature. Ah.

Who would really appreciate this calendar? Apart from me? Well, any woman who likes her beauty to be luxury, high end and plant-rich.

How many ding-dong-merrily-on-highs out of five? Four and a half from me – it is a wondrous gift that keeps on giving but (it’s a little but) number 24 drawer did not deliver anything bigger or better than the others.

Name and age of reviewer: Alice Ryan, 40 (and feeling every year of it)

The beauty calendar: John Lewis & Partners Beauty Advent Calendar

VELVET NOVEMBER Beauty advent John Lewis (19092575)
VELVET NOVEMBER Beauty advent John Lewis (19092575)

How much and where to buy it: £150 (contents worth £255) from John Lewis & Partners, Grand Arcade, Cambridge

First impressions? Promisingly heavy, the calendar comes in a large star-studded box which hinges in the middle, opening to reveal 25 drawers of different shapes and sizes, each numbered in copper foil. It’s festive, yet understated. And something smells *amazing*.

What beauty booty do you get? What don’t you get? The range of brands, from giants like Sisley, Elemis, Clarins, Charlotte Tilbury, Becca, Nars, Bobbi and YSL through to up-and-comers like Evolve, the all-organic brand, is seriously impressive. There’s a lovely mix of products, too, spanning make-up, skincare, haircare and fragrance. The smell, it transpires, comes from a Neom Tranquillity candle - the blissed-out scent of a spa in a little jar.

Are you dazzled? Absolutely. This calendar strikes a brilliant balance between old-friend products you’re delighted to see again (Philip Kingsley’s iconic deep-conditioning hair Elasticizer, YSL’s lush Volume Effet Faux Cils mascara, Charlotte Tilbury’s dewy-skin Magic Cream) and new acquaintances that you’re equally delighted to meet (the shimmering BECCA Champagne Pop highlighter, the delicious Floral Street Electric Rhubarb EDP). Most of the products are minis, but there are some good-sized pots and tubes, too, plus vouchers for free samples, counter consultations and taster treatments.

Who would really appreciate this calendar? Any beauty lover who deserves a little extra TLC. Though there are some nice make-up bits - the BareMinerals GEN NUDE lippy in plummy Scandal being a stand-out - this calendar has pampering at its heart, thanks largely to the luxe skincare.

How many ding-dong-merrily-on-highs out of five? Five. No, it’s not cheap - but you get a lot of beauty bang for your buck.

Reviewer: Louise Cummings, 43

The beauty calendar: Glossybox Beauty Advent Calendar

VELVET NOVEMBER Beauty advent Glossy box (19093124)
VELVET NOVEMBER Beauty advent Glossy box (19093124)

How much and where to buy: It’s £70 for Glossybox subscribers, £80 for non-subscribers, from

First impressions? The words on the pretty candy pink packaging declare ‘It’s The Season To Be Glossy’, and this treasure trove from the iconic beauty box subscription brand dazzles as bright as the sequins on the Strictly Christmas Day special. Each product is individually wrapped too, so you get a glorious gift to crack open each day in December. Fabulous.

What beauty booty do you get? A very merry £370-worth of indulgent beauty and skincare products from top brands such as Dermalogica, Rituals, Luxie and Nude by Nature. Unlike many calendars, which reveal dinky treats behind each door, this beauty features 15 full-size products, and everything you’d need to put on the glitz at the office party, from a spritz of sweet Nomad by Chloe, to LASplash Cosmetic’s sparkly liquid eyeliner, NYX Professional Make-up’s shimmering eye-palette to Nails Inc’s metallic gold polish. Just wow!

Are you dazzled? How could I not be? I’ve just got to keep this away from my 3-year-old mini-me, who has been known to plaster herself in Mummy’s make-up if left unattended.

Who would really appreciate this calendar? Me, me, me! Along with my besties, my mum, my mum-in-law. . . In fact any special ladies with impeccable taste, would find this beauty box a December delight.

How many ding-dong-merrily-on-highs out of five? A joyous 5.

The reviewer: Emily Lloyd-Ruck, 30

The beauty calendar: Latest In Beauty (LiB)

VELVET NOVEMBER Beauty advent Latest in Beauty (19092988)
VELVET NOVEMBER Beauty advent Latest in Beauty (19092988)

How much and where to buy: £58 for subscribers ad £65 for non-subscribers – a saving of over £212.

First impressions? The packaging is covered in a bold print of wrapped up presents and that alone has me *so* excited about the big day being well and truly in sight. The box itself is hefty yet manageable – it’s currently sitting among my beauty products so the contents can get familiar with their new surroundings.

What beauty booty do you get? The anticipation is killing me but this is definitely worth the wait to find out what’s behind each window. There’s a mix of cult beauty favourites with 24 of LiB’s top brands including Skin Laundry Facial Sheet, Paw Paw, Temple Spa Eye Mask, Show Beauty Decadence Hair Fragrance, Molton Brown Shower Gel and Juliette has a Gun Fragrance. The first 1000 orders will receive calendars containing gift cards to spend on LiB beauty boxes. Yes please.

Are you dazzled? The run up to Christmas can be stressful to say the least but this little beauty will make anyone feel like the belle of the ball and look dazzling come Christmas day.

Who would really appreciate this calendar? Mums, sisters, daughters, best friends – all beauty product fanatics would be over the moon.

How many ding-dong-merrily-on-highs out of five? A big baubling 5.

The reviewer: Grace Deverall, 28

The beauty calendar: Look Fantastic

How much and where to buy: £79 (contents worth a whopping £420) from

First impressions? Stunning. Size sometimes matters and this box is promisingly large and heavy. Beautiful too. The midnight blue reusable box is covered in a stylish golden geometric star pattern and opens to reveal 25 (yes, one for Christmas day too) numbered boxes and drawers in different shapes and sizes to add even more interest. Once the beauty booty has been enjoyed the box offers a good-looking storage solution.

What beauty booty do you get? A rather brilliantly edited array of top brands and range of products for skin, hair and body. How about Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, Caudalie Vinopure Toner, Philip Kingsley Elasticizer, Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel, Lord & Berry Black Eye Liner, Rodial Dargon’s Blood Lip Mask, Emma Hardie Moisture Boost Vit C Cream and Omorovicza Queen of Hungary Mist for starters? Yes, really.

Are you dazzled? I’m reclining with smelling salts – this calendar offers massive beauty bang for your buck. It is without doubt one of the best your money can buy.

Who would really appreciate this calendar? Beauty aficionados of all ages. But mostly little old me. Please.

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