Festive season is not just for kids. My sons got their chocolate advent calendars to open, plus I bought a Lego Star Wars Advent calendar for Eddie.
I don't want to enter into the polemic against the commercialism of the advents, and what connection the modern advent calendars might have to the real meaning of the religious season leading to Christmas.
Obviously the Star Wars, Pirate-themed or beauty calendars have nothing to do with the religious side, they are just fun. And fun is not necessarily a thing of criticism.
There is a big market for grown-up advent calendars these days. It seems they have entered an era of boom. Many major brands are jumping on the bandwagon.
Last year I have treated myself to a Boots no.7 Advent calendar, which was mostly very decent, that is apart from the nail polish and eyelash curler which are of no use for me at all. I did ask around if anyone fancied an eyelash curler, there were no takers. This year Boots no.7 has the same useless beauty gift again in its advent calendar.
Overall, it was a lovely treat with lots of products, some in a pretty good size, and no.7 is one of my favourite brands.
I didn't buy an M&S advent calendar last year, but this year have succumbed. I blame it on the much agitated discussions on the merits of advents for grown-ups on Mumsnet.
Unlike no.7 calendar, the M&S version was the compilation of different brands rather than their own products.
The calendar itself was priced at £35, but you had to spend £35 in beauty, clothing or home departments. Since I was planning to buy my guys pyjamas for Christmas anyway, that wasn't difficult.
M&S claimed that the contents of the calendar were worth £250, which after opening all the doors and discovering all the products, I still question.
There are 25 items in total, with a good variety of beauty products from different brands, many of which I am not familiar with. I am yet to try all of the goodies.
What were the surprise products?
- Neal's Yard Beelovely handcream (50ml)
- Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm (vitamin E & peppermint, full sized)
- Rituals The Rituals of Sakura magic touch body cream (70ml)
- Rodial Super Acids x-treme acid rush peel (20ml)
- EH Moringa cleansing balm (15ml)
- Aphah Liquid Gold with glycolic acid (50ml)
- Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse multi-purpose dry oil (30ml)
- Ren Evercalm Global Protection day cream (15ml)
- Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief eye cream (5ml)
- Leighton Denny Crystal Nail File
- Look Good Mini powder brush
- Rosie for Autograph lip glossy
- Nailsinc Gel one coat with cranberry nail polish
- Autograph Cranberry nail polish with argan oil and vitamin E
- Philip Kingsley Elasticizer pre-shampoo treatment (40ml)
- Eyeko Skinny liquid eyeliner black (1.2g)
- Shay & Blue Atropa Belladonna natural spray fragrance
- Studio 10 miracle effect priming serum (5ml)
- Pur correcting primer (10ml)
- Percy & Reed Perfectly Perfecting Wonder balm (30ml)
- Josh Wood Radiant Shine hair treatment oil (28ml)
- Ultrasun Face anti-ageing sun protection for very sensitive skin (25ml)
- M&S Beauty Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream (15ml)
- Pixie by Petra Brow Tamer clear brow gel
- Filorga Time-Filler (15ml)
As you can see from the list, most of the products were the sample sizes, which often come free with magazines or in promotions like SoPost.
Some were slightly disappointing. Neal's Yard hand cream was a good sized product, but it's been added as a freebie to so many magazines throughout the year, that I have at least three tubes. The same with Burt's Bees lip balm - and it's not even in my favourite flavour. And again, I have about five Burt's bees lip balms as it is. They seem to last forever.
Some of the products have no appeal to me personally, like nail polishes, or an Brow tamer eyebrow gel which is a very niche product. I don't think I know anyone in real life who would use it.
The fragrance was not something I would choose myself, if I had to buy it separately. I might try to wear it, but it's rather boring.
I'm not sure the hair products would be much use to me either.
The products I'm most excited about trying are Pur correcting primer, Studio 10 firming serum, Skyn Iceland eye cream, Moringa cleansing balm and Alphah liquid gold.
It might be a great value, if we are to believe the contents are truly worth £250, but only if you are going to use most of them.
Did you buy the M&S advent calendar? Did you like its contents? Which one is your favourite product of the whole lot?
Update for the products I have tested (just notes for myself to remind me next year what I liked and what I didn't find useful):
- Eyeko Skinny liquid eyeliner black (1.2g) gives a good eye definition, with a precise thin brush tip. It is easy to apply, but it is not smudge-proof as some beauty bloggers claim. I did find that in a few hours, I get a "shadow" on the lower eyelid.
It is also a real pain to remove. I have three different eye cleansers, and none of them work on Eyeko. A few times that I applied Eyeko, I had to use several different cleanser products to make the skin around eyes look clean. Maybe you need to buy a special Eyeko eye cleanser to go with it?!
For that reason alone I wouldn't buy this product again.
- Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief eye cream (5ml) contains Biospheric complex of pure Icelandic glacial waters, arctic berries and pure oxygen. While the first ingredient sounds pretty bombastic for saying plain water, I'd like to know more about berries. It doesn't smell like berries, not gives any impression that berries have been used.
I was so looking forward to trying this product, but I was slightly disappointed by its texture. It reminds me of a homemade glue for children's projects, which congeals after a while, and gets a slightly sticky consistency. Or a cold semolina pudding. The surface sort of wrinkles when you touch it with a finger.
It is supposed to reduce puffiness and lighten dark under-eyes. Perhaps it is so, if you use it for a long time. But I haven't noticed any difference. I didn't like the texture or consistency. That's another product I wouldn't buy in the future.