Free the birds

Packaging, Sustainability

Bah Humbug! Why Beauty Advent Calendars Should Be Banned

The countdown to the most wonderful time of the year has begun – and the must-have Christmas gift everyone is yet again talking about is the beauty advent calendar.

It’s the retail trend that’s gone through the roof in recent years, with waiting lists for some beauty advent calendars  – like the offering from Boots opening in the summer – and everyone from Elemis, ASOS, Cult Beauty to L’Occitane jumping on a bandwagon arguably set in motion by Selfridges with the launch of their beauty calendar in 2010.

But I think they should be banned.

Liberty's beauty advent calendar

If you think that makes me a Scrooge, fair enough – I fully understand the consumer delight they bring, but I’m haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, when our seas, rivers and landfills are choked with an ugly mess of single-use plastics and non-recyclable, glittery packaging.

Beauty advent calendars are the embodiment of festive over-consumption in our increasingly gauche Christmas gifting tide, which is needlessly pumping single-use plastic miniatures and excessive non-recyclable glittery, foiled packaging into landfill – even with calendars which claim to be sustainable. Santa might as well be carrying an overflowing black bin bag rather than a sack.

The whole point of beauty advent calendars is to give us samples to try and encourage us to splash out and consume more of those products once the box is empty afterwards but who could possibly use all (24 or 25) different products these beauty advent calendars contain? There’s no way everything behind those doors is going to be suitable for your colouring, skin or hair type or even to your taste. They’re a symptom of our modern over-indulgence leading to far too much unnecessary waste and environmental impact.


Lush's beauty advent calendar

Okay, this year, Liberty has made moves towards sustainability by making the packaging for its calendar completely recyclable (after removing the magnet that closes its doors). But what about all the plastic containing the products inside? Even with plastics that can be recycled, all those bottles, tubes and pots need rinsing out first or else they can’t be (and FYI nail varnish bottles cannot be recycled full stop). And how many people actually bother to do that even when it’s possible to do so (and with many miniature containers, it’s simply not)? Most people are often confused about what they can and can’t recycle through a lack of information printed on the packaging and end up binning the empty containers.

Lush has the right idea, however. Their sold-out calendar features a beautiful, reusable chest made entirely out of recycled materials, and includes 24 full-sized products in either naked or recyclable packaging.

Likewise, Caroline Hirons has refreshingly offered an alternative to the wasteful beauty advent calendar this year. With minimal, fully recyclable packaging, Caroline’s now sold-out Winter Kit offers 12 full-sized, carefully selected skincare products to get you through the winter months and has donated £10,000 of sales to The Eve Appeal.

Caroline Hirons' Winter Kit

Elsewhere, beauty advent calendars are an obscene use of over-packaging and hyper-consumption that feels wrong in this current climate of consciously consuming less and out of step with our push towards greater sustainability in everything we buy.

If the industry is honestly trying to deal with the plastic problem, then beauty advent calendars with all their sample size, single-use plastics and non-recyclables should be consigned to the back burner until they do. Instead, they’re producing untold tonnes of waste over the festive season.

So I say bah humbug to them – bring on the beauty advent calendar revolt and give the planet a break instead this Christmas.

Nick Vaus.