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Beauty: Advent calendars to lift the Christmas spirit

You may well be appalled to see me talking about Christmas now, but I’ve learned over the years that when it comes to beauty Advent calendars, the early bird catches the worm. These novelty collections of miniature beauty products – one nestling behind each day of Advent – were introduced circa 2010 and have become vastly more popular year by year.

I can see their appeal. They offer an opportunity to sample many products, are infinitely more pleasant than that weird chocolate they put in regular Advent calendars (unless you have a traditional version with wooden shepherds inside, which are even more deflating of a morning) and are a daily tonic during a stressful month. With 24 products inside, none is cheap, but some brands’ calendars gift more lavishly than others.

Ciaté excels at gift items, and for me offers the most appealing calendar in the nails category. This (at £49) contains generous sample pots of bold, interesting nail colour (frankly, they’re sufficiently big and fancy to pick three you don’t like and can pass on as a Christmas present), treatment products, a good crystal nail file, some lovely nail art and a full-size bottle of festive, glittery red polish not available elsewhere. It’s a veritable orgy of goodness for the mani enthusiast and looks impressive on the kitchen worktop.

The best of the big brands, I think, is Clarins’ calendar, on the basis that there’s not much it doesn’t do well and the risk of feeling disappointed with the day’s sample is minimal. At £60, it’s £2.50 a product (you can also bag more free samples at checkout). They’re small but decent, there’s a mix of skincare and makeup, as well as some men’s stuff, if you can bear to share the love.

If spirits are low and budgets high, Charlotte Tilbury’s The Book Of Makeup Magic, £150, is a thing of extraordinary beauty. Based on the 12 days of Christmas rather than Advent, it holds a dozen generously sized skin and makeup products, including Tilbury’s Magic Night Cream, not otherwise available until January. The packaging is stunning, with little individual gold-embossed boxes of treats that make one feel like a giddy child.

At the time of writing, all three are either in stock or about to launch. But to dither is to be disappointed.

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