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M&S beauty advent calendar review 2021: A reusable box packed with treats from Aveda to L’Occitane

At just £40, does the high street retailer’s festive offering deliver luxury on a budget?

Louise Whitbread
Thursday 04 November 2021 09:50
<p>Retailing at £40 when you spend £30 on clothing, home and beauty, there’s £300 of goodies to be unveiled  </p>

Retailing at £40 when you spend £30 on clothing, home and beauty, there’s £300 of goodies to be unveiled

Autumn is upon us, which means only one thing: the festive season is fast approaching. As we start making plans with friends and family in the run up to 25 December, another way to enjoy the countdown to Christmas is with a beauty advent calendar.

Over the past few years, more and more brands and retailers have released their own versions, filled with mini and full-size products across make-up, skincare and haircare. Some are more anticipated than others, and luxury department store Liberty London is the market leader, with its gigantic beauty offering selling out every year since it first launched in 2014.

One retailer selling a growing number of coveted brands is M&S, and its annual beauty advent calendar is usually a great opportunity to try its wide range of products that you may not have tried before.

Available to buy in store and online now, the retailer’s 2021 calendar costs £40 when you spend £30 on clothing, home and beauty at M&S, and inside you’ll find an estimated £300 worth of beauty treats. This makes it one of the more affordable beauty advent calendars, as many retail for over £50 and some into the hundreds.

How we tested

To find out if it’s worth your hard-earned money, we opened up every drawer and examined the contents, size of the products and their variety, as well as the packaging and if overall it’s a worthwhile way to countdown to Christmas.

Read more:

M&S beauty advent calendar: £40, Marksandspencer.com

  • Number of days: 25
  • Products: 25
  • Product sizes: 7 full size, 18 travel size
  • Value of products: £300
  • Price: £40 when you spend £30 on clothing, home and beauty

Packaging

It comes in a neatly packed tin box, decorated with blue and gold detailing. It’s a nice size, not so big you’d struggle to carry it, and it can easily fit on a windowsill, shelf or desk without getting in the way.

It’s wrapped in cardboard branding, and the products are individually packaged too. The good news is that there’s no plastic wrapping – a pleasant surprise considering many beauty advent calendars can be overloaded with it.

The products are arranged in two layers, the one on top has numbered boxes one through 12, and the bottom layer stores the remaining 13 to 25. There’s not an inch of space left, and the product boxes have been neatly placed in a tetris style pattern, making use of all the room.

It’s a sturdy box that doesn’t scream Christmas, with the tagline “Beauty lies within” on the front. However we loved its elegance and how easy it would be to reuse as anything from a cake tin to stationary pot, or simply as a larger storage option for a growing beauty routine.

We were disappointed to see that some of the travel-size products were small but packaged in a box twice its size. Not only did that seem wasteful and unnecessary, but it also feels like the retailer has compromised on bigger boxes to make it look fuller. So, design-wise, there is room for improvement.

Products

In our eyes, M&S is an underrated beauty destination and is home to some brilliant brands including Aveda, L’Occitane, Philip Kingsley, Ren, Emma Hardie and Nails Inc. So, if it’s on your Christmas list, look away now, as we’re about to spill what you’ll find in its 2021 calendar.

Some of the standout products include a full-size Aveda strengthening leave-in treatment (£28, Marksandspencer.com), a full-size Percy & Reed wonder balm hair primer (£19, Marksandpsencer.com), and a Stila brown waterproof eyeliner (£16, Marksandpsencer.com). There’s also an Eyeko brown liquid eyeliner (£16, Marksandspencer.com) and an Autograph colourbalm lip shine (£10, Marksandpsencer.com).

Alongside the Aveda treatment you’ll also find a travel size Emma Hardie moringa cleansing balm (full size £47, Marksandpsencer.com), and a full-size Ultrasun lip protection SPF30 (£8, Marksandspencer.com). Plus, a mini L’Occitane shower oil (full-size £19.50, Marksandspencer.com) and a deluxe Philip Kingsley elasticizer hair mask (full size £22.50, Marksandspencer.com).

Other mini goodies we love include the Ren Atlantic kelp and magnesium body wash (full size £22, Marksandspencer.com) and a travel size Nails Inc nail polish in ‘tis the reason to sparkle – a shimmery red that’s perfect for your festive plans this year.

There’s also a 10ml Shay and Blue fragrance (full size £30, Marksandspencer.com), a mini Eyeko brown mascara as well as a This Works stress check roll on (full size £18, Marksandspencer.com).

However, there’s quite a lot of product repetition with this advent calendar, with five facial moisturisers, three hand creams, three shower gels and two eyeliners.

Read more: What’s inside Fortnum & Mason’s advent calendars?

Considering the umbrella of beauty brands stocked at M&S is vast, it’s a shame not to have seen products from other brands. The additions of the likes of Pixi, Living Proof, Lumene, Murad, Nuxe, or Origins could have made this box feel more varied in its product offering. We felt the retailer missed an opportunity to show off a wider showcase of the beauty products it offers.

Value for money

Each Christmas, beauty advent calendars get bigger along with their prices, but this, at £40, is definitely more affordable.

However, it comes with a caveat of spending £30 or more, which means it’ll set you back a minimum of £70 to purchase, which is quite expensive considering the contents are made up of mostly miniatures and travel size.

We should note however that just two of the six full-size products within it combined would cost more than the entire advent calendar.

Read more: Missomas advent calendar is worth its weight in gold

We wish we could have seen more cult, high-end beauty brands you can shop at M&S, like Living Proof, Murad and Nuxe, which would have made it feel more luxurious. Instead it contains a lot of lesser-known products, which admittedly still offers the opportunity to try new products, but we felt it missed a trick.

Lastly, the amount of product repetition makes it less value for money than we’d been expecting. It’s difficult to see what need there is for five moisturisers, for example.

The verdict: M&S beauty advent calendar 2021

Overall this year’s calendar is slightly disappointing, as we were hoping to get a much wider range of items from the M&S beauty hall.

That said, we were impressed with the box it came in, which is decorated with a luxurious blue and gold pattern, and we’ll definitely be putting it to good use once 25 December is over.

Unless you’re already a fan of M&S’s smaller, in-house brands or want products that can be shared, we wouldn’t call this one a must-have.

Buy now

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on beauty advent calendars and other skincare offers, try the links below:

Read more about the best beauty advent calendars for 2021

Beauty advent calendars 2021 – our ultimate guide to this year’s Christmas treats from M&S, Cult Beauty and more

Fortnum & Mason advent calendar – from traditional to 3D pop-ups versions, food fit for a feast and of course, the beauty advent calendar, you’re spoilt for choice

The Body Shop advent calendar – this year’s calendar features a selection of the ethically conscious brand’s cult classics

Cult Beauty advent calendar – it’s overflowing with skincare and make-up from Charlotte Tilbury, Sunday Riley and more

Benefit advent calendar – calling all Bene-babes, the gift you’ve been waiting for all year is here

Lookfantastic advent calendar – brimming with skincare, haircare, make-up and bath treats from all your favourite brands

Charlotte Tilbury advent calendar – the luxury beauty brand has gone all out for 2021, but is it worth the money?

The White Company advent calendar – sink into 25 days of utter indulgence with the brand’s seasonal offering

Clarins advent calendar – there are festive options for men and women this year and both are busting with cult products

Lush advent calendar – the eco-conscious brand has revealed its joyous gift set with a sustainable focus

Asos advent calendar – we got our hands on the fashion retailer’s festive box and there’s plenty to shout about

Next advent calendar – this year’s offering is packed with treats from big names such as Clarins and Mac

Liberty advent calendar – with treats from Augustinus Bader and Olaplex, this year’s calendar lives up to the hype

Jo Malone advent calendar – it’s stuffed with bestselling candles and bougie bathroom treats

Diptyque advent calendar – the French perfume house has unveiled a cabinet of curiosities

John Lewis advent calendar – with £600 worth of beauty products, is it worth the hype?

Mac advent calendar – packed with bestsellers, this one will sell out fast

Net-A-Porter advent calendar – with £1,300 worth of products for just £255, this is worth considering

Selfridges advent calendar– this one comes with a 45-minute beauty concierge appointment

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.