Even in the best of years, it’s not necessarily the choosing or even buying of Christmas gifts that finishes me off, but the thought of wrapping them all. Hopefully I’m not alone in my existential dread, with visions of endlessly wriggling rolls of paper and disobedient ribbon dancing malevolently through my mind. Given that 2020 has been anything but the best of years, we wanted to not only present you with some of the loveliest choices the beauty world has to offer, but to go one step further and showcase the beauty gifts that come resplendent in their very finest festive packaging, to save you the wrapping nightmares. All you have to do now is pick and click.

MAC Boom Boom Wow Mini Advent Calendar

MAC’s calendar takes the crown for 2020’s most stunning packaging. It’s a silver half moon case, sort of like a vintage fan, that opens out to a full circle to reveal 12 silver boxes, like decadent slices of pie. It’s a very clever use of space in that it folds up nice and neatly and yet still manages to contain all those treats. It has a sparkly, festive, frosted feel, like flurries of snow flakes and ice crystals decorating a roaring twenties party. Luckily, after making such an entrance, what’s inside is no sort of let-down. There’s a full-size of the iconic Velvet Teddy lipstick, plus enough of an assortment of eye and lip products to create looks running the gamut from wearable to properly glamorous.

Palm Beach Collection Passion Flower Fizz Soy Candle 70g

So this one isn’t exactly a cracker, or even a bauble, but it’s just as pretty as any ornament and such an easy buy that I felt I had to include it. It’s all done up in peach and gold, very ’70s summer vibes of a Coke ad (rather than the polyester-clad reality), and inside the properly constructed, weighty gift box is one of Palm Beach’s reliably excellent votive candles. Its passionfruit and champagne scent is bright and citrusy without being cloying, and all in all this is an affordable little number that looks and feels like a real gift, rather than an afterthought. I should note there actually is a bauble-ised version of this candle, in a tiny little 50g size, if you’re after something to hang on the tree, but this boxed version is still the one I’d go for.

MECCA MAX Beauty-Full Days

MECCA MAX is continuing to do great things in the space of affordable beauty that is good quality and doesn’t patronise its often-younger-leaning demographic. The 2020 calendar illustrates that to a tee – plus, it’s just so fun. For a start, it’s a fuchsia and gold hexagon that stands on its narrow base, so a great choice for anyone who might not have much storage or display space to play with, and who isn’t tied to a Christmas gift having to look traditional in order to be appreciated. The kit, which you take apart rather like doing a puzzle, adding to the sense of play, contains everything you need to create a full face – just BYO your own base, if you want one. This is a lovely introduction to makeup, extension of a collection, or an upgrade to tweenly-packaged buys your giftee might have had in the past. The colours are easy to use and wearable, and primarily the type you can just use with your fingers, pat into skin, and go.

24 Days of Clinique

If you want to go all out and give what will feel like a lovely, impressive present, Clinique’s huge offering this year (at nearly 40cm wide, it’s about the size of a desktop computer screen) also represents genuinely good value. The 24 mint, peach, and red-striped boxes cover all the greatest hits, including the classic hand cream and some ‘suits everyone’ makeup items – hi there, Chubby Sticks – but this buy is mainly a treat for skincare lovers. There’s particularly great representation of the beloved Moisture Surge range, which, pleasingly, works well on all skin types.

The Beauty Advent Calendar’s The Glam Beauty Bonbon

The fact that The Beauty Advent Calendar is run single-handedly by a hard-working woman bringing together products largely made by other hard-working women is reason enough to get excited about its offerings. The full 24 day advent calendar, my favourite pick from our round up of advent calendars last year, has already sold out, though if you happened to snare one of the beautifully made calendars in previous years, this year’s refill pack is still available, as is the 12 day calendar. My pick from this year’s expanded range is The Glam Bonbon, a Christmas cracker featuring a colourful, aerial beach scene. It contains four treats designed to take care of 2020’s most overused body parts, and each treat is from an Australian brand that embraces sustainability. First, your recipient can up their sanitiser game with the excellent brand Edible Beauty’s offering, containing the necessary ethanol as well as antimicrobial colloidal silver, and then it’s all about pampering and prettifying with hand cream, nail polish and perfume oil, which I recommend using on cuticles for a decadent treat.

The Body Shop Make It Real Together Big Advent Calendar

What a very special gift this is – beautifully illustrated from the front cover to each individual box it contains, it’s heavy and cumbersome in the best way. As you’d expect, really, given it contains a full 25 treats, which warms my childish heart (after 24 days of special present opening, why should The Big Day itself be the one when you stop?) The front of the box depicts a group of friends and family of varying ethnicities celebrating their taste in festive jumpers – ‘Pudding Boobs’ being the clear winner in my eyes – and is all about being together, however that will look this particular pandemic-y Christmas. So what’s inside the keepsake box, you ask? Products from every single category, including hair, lips, eyes, nails, and, of course, the body. There is a panoply of scents featured, enough variety that no matter your preference you’ll find a new one to enjoy, or to share with loved ones, as the box itself encourages. Speaking of which, I maintain no beauty offering is as thoughtful as The Body Shop’s: each of the 25 boxes even come with a different suggestion of how to undertake a small act of kindness for someone else. I think sometimes there is a misconception that The Body Shop is only for the young, and while I would have been too thrilled to speak had I received this at the very height of my own TBS obsessions as a pre-teen, I am just as keen on it now, twenty-five years later.

Jo Malone Christmas Cracker

As always, Jo Malone London stuns with what is probably the beauty world’s most elegant packaging. This year, the signature cream and black pairing gets a celebratory update with the addition of silver and bold geometric patterns, and the cracker itself is finished off with, what else, a black ribbon tied at each end, just so… can you even imagine the table décor that would feature one of these at each plate? Banish all thoughts of paper hats that never fit properly and jokes that are never worth reading out loud. Instead you’ll find inside this bonbon a miniature trio of three fragrance and body products featuring some of the most easy to wear scents in the range, including perennial favourite, Wood Sage and Sea Salt, which somehow manages to be both fresh and comforting at the same time.

12 Days of Go-To Astonishing Advent Calendar

Open the neat little doors of Go-To’s peachy-keen calendar to reveal the vibrant colours of indigenous artist Lynette Nangala Singleton’s Ngapa Jukurrpa (Water Dreaming) — Puyurru, specially commissioned to adorn Go-To’s festive offerings this year. The twelve drawers feature a variety of full size products, most notably the brand’s best-selling Face Hero face oil, and miniature versions, one of which is its brand new body cream, Party Skin. This is an ideal introduction to the range, and will come in handy for all that borderless domestic travel we’re about to undertake.

Charlotte’s Bejewelled Chest of Beauty Treasures

If you’re determined to spoil someone special with a decadent gift, look no further this year than Charlotte Tilbury. Queen of the celebrity makeup artists, Charlotte’s brand has been the talk of the town since the day it launched, thanks to her ability to bring what professionals demand to an increasingly demanding consumer. Think high pigment payoff, formulas that last, and eternal glow. This year’s offering features three full-size makeup items, one of which is brand hero Pillow Talk lipstick, and travel-size makeup, skincare, and body items, including two major 2020 launches, Pillow Talk Push Up Lashes and Charlotte’s Magic Serum Crystal Elixir. As a luxe finishing touch, each item is neatly wrapped in maroon tissue. The Bejewelled Chest itself is a sparkling rose gold, made to look as though it is bedecked in strings of tiny diamonds, and contains twelve drawers with crystal handles, making it major upgrade to any glamorous makeup lover’s vanity. Plus, it’s worth noting that the drawers aren’t numbered, so it works as a very flexible, ‘this isn’t necessarily a calendar’ gift if you’re a little late to the party, literally or figuratively. Consider Christmas all wrapped up.

Story by Zoe Briggs.

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