Once, only children were allowed to open an advent calendar for a daily treat in the run up to
Then women got in on the fun, with the rise of beauty advent calendars —the likes of Jo Malone, the perfume brand, or Liberty the department store, often selling out in days. You can now buy coffee calendars, whisky ones or versions full of festive dog biscuits.
And this year — either totally unnecessarily or long overdue, depending on your point of view — men have finally gained parity with women, thanks to a profusion of beauty advent calendars aimed squarely at us chaps (we prefer to call it ‘grooming’, of course).
They range from the cheap and cheerful Lynx Africa, costing a mere £15, to extravagant ones such as the stylish Liberty Men’s calendar costing nearly £200.
Harry Wallop gives verdict on a selection of advent calendars on sale in the UK, including Liberty Men’s advent calendar (pictured)
So is it the Christmas revolution we never knew we needed? ‘Five years ago, there wasn’t really anything for men,’ says Martin Archer, founder of the Bearded Man Company, which makes a beard oil calendar. ‘But men are now making far more effort with moisturisers and eye creams. These advent calendars are a way to dip your toe into different products.’
It’s certainly an idea that’s catching on. The men’s grooming industry has increased in value by 7 per cent over the past five years and is now worth £1.7 billion. I myself am partial to upmarket shower gel or the occasional moisturiser, but I am dubious about spending hundreds of pounds on a calendar filled with tiny bottles that may end up unused, cluttering my bathroom cabinet for years to come.
Still, Liberty insists, along with most other retailers, that its calendar contains goodies worth far more than it costs. Next, the retailer, sold out of its men’s beauty calendar in just three weeks, while John Lewis says searches for men’s beauty advent calendars are up 54 per cent on last year. So, does the man in your life need a grooming upgrade? And which calendar could turn him from beast to beauty?
MAKES YOUR BEAU SMELL BEAUTIFUL
Liberty Men’s advent calendar, £195 libertylondon.com
Liberty claims this £195 calendar contains £460 worth of goods, but it’s hard to verify because quite a few items are made for the calendar. Though the Verso eye cream is the standard 20ml size and would usually cost £55, so you are definitely getting premium products.
The calendar itself is handsome, with sturdy drawers containing not just the products but a little introductory card explaining how to use them. I’m not sure about the Rock & Roll face scrub that claims to ‘be to your face what Zeppelin was to rock & roll’; it’s more gloopy than Stairway To Heaven. But my wife has already declared that I should start wearing Frederic Malle’s French Lover eau de parfum daily after I spritzed a test on myself. Overall, despite the price the calendar is quality. 5/5
12 DAYS OF FANCY SKINCARE
Clarins 12 days of Christmas calendar for men, £60, johnlewis.com or clarins.co.uk
Harry said Clarins 12 days of Christmas calendar for men (pictured) has a decent range of treatments and the products add up to £119 in value
One of the many calendars that are hazy about how many days there are in Advent (clue, it’s not 12). Clarins says the products add up to £119 in value. Some are full size, such as the 15ml tube of very good replenishing lip balm. On one of the days, however, you just get an anti-ageing serum in one of those fiddly little sachets.
Still, the range of treatments is decent. 3/5
FOR THE HIKER IN YOUR LIFE
Mankind 12 days 2020, £100, mankind.co.uk
Harry said Mankind 12 days 2020 (pictured) claims to have products worth £380, including an Avant glycolic acid rejuvenating face exfoliator and a 30ml pump of Doctors Formula marine collagen serum
Mankind is a relatively new men’s brand. It claims these 12 products are worth £380, with the most expensive, a 30ml pump of Doctors Formula marine collagen serum (an anti-ager), worth £105. It does cost this hefty amount on the Doctors Formula website, but I spot it on eBay for far less.
The other pricy item is Avant glycolic acid rejuvenating face exfoliator, which the company says is worth £92. But for that price you usually get 60ml in a glass jar, rather than 50ml in a plastic tube, as you get here.
It’s heavy on utilitarian fare — hiker’s foot balm, hand cream, even toothpaste — and light on fancy smelly stuff, which disappointed my wife. 3/5
A PRINCE HARRY MUST-HAVE
Christmas Beard Oil advent calendar, £32, thebeardedman
Harry said Christmas Beard Oil advent calendar (pictured) is good fun and great value, if your man has a hairy face
The Bearded Man Company has had a smash hit with this, even though many people thought we had passed ‘peak beard’ around the time Prince Harry grew one.
This is a simple calendar, and pretty diddy — the size of a paperback, but at least you get a new product for every one of the 24 days of Advent. You receive a dollshouse-sized 2ml bottle of beard oil with a different scent every day, from Sicilian lemon and sandalwood to lavender and bergamot.
I don’t have a beard, but I loved the smell of some, not least the oakmoss. If you added up all the oils, they would cost £38. Does your man have a hairy face? This is good fun and great value. 4/5
ONE FOR ZORRO WANNABES
Barber Pro 12 Days of Grooming Essentials advent calendar, £39, very.co.uk
Harry said Barber Pro 12 Days of Grooming Essentials advent calendar (pictured) is best for men who love face masks
How much does the man in your life love a face mask? If the answer is: ‘hugely’, then this is the calendar for him. Because every single product (although this is another with just 12) is a face mask of some sort.
Some are sheet masks you place over your face for 15 minutes, some are just for your eyes (making you look like Zorro), others are putties that you plaster onto your face and then peel off. It’s a bit like stripping wallpaper.
The contents, if bought separately, would cost £59 apparently. For most, this will be quite a niche calendar involving more faff than pampering. 2/5
FULL-SIZED FESTIVE FUN
Mr Porter 12 Days of Grooming advent calendar, £105, mrporter.com
Harry said Mr Porter 12 Days of Grooming advent calendar (pictured) is elegant, festive and great value, considering the quality
For once, we’ll forgive an Advent calendar for only supplying 12 products. Because nearly all are full-sized and great quality. There are some well-known brands such as Elemis and Malin + Goetz as well as more niche ones. You receive well over £400 worth of products for only £105 — the little jar of Perricone MD’s Cold Plasma Plus+ Eye serum alone would cost £80.
The calendar is elegant, festive and considering the quality, great value. 5/5
MONEY TO BURN? TRY POSH CANDLES
Diptyque advent calendar, £320, selfridges.com
Harry said Diptyque advent calendar (pictured) is fabulous, but only for seriously big budgets
Wow! This is expensive. On the upside, however, it’s unisex, so you could steal half the stuff if you gave this to the (very spoiled) man in your life.
Diptyque is the scented candle brand adored by celebrities including Harry Styles. And there’s no doubt this is the most beautiful calendar on offer — decorated by French artist Ugo Gattoni and elegantly slim enough to display on a bookshelf.
You get 11 mini candles, seven unisex perfumes, body creams, scrubs, Christmas decorations and its Do Son solid perfume — a little tin of balm you rub onto your fingertips. The calendar is fabulous, but only for seriously big budgets. 3.5/5