How To Hack A Holiday Beauty Set For The Best Last-Minute Gifting

Who says that beauty advent calendars are pointless if you don't buy them before December 1? Sure, we salute the planners, but procrastinators can reap the benefits of the 25-day pop-out gift boxes, too. Because, as it turns out, those jumbo cardboard calendars and 10-piece value sets actually make the thriftiest present to grab in the final two weeks of gifting season — just as long as you know how to hack them.

To prove it, we're breaking down the best gift sets to buy right now, with a detailed guide on exactly how to segment the pieces — separating the night serum from the liquid eyeliner — and break them into smaller gifts (plus, which pieces from each box you should go ahead and stow away for yourself).


From every Charlotte Tilbury must-have to a shiny Estée Lauder dream vault, scroll through to check out our favorite beauty sets of the season, and the pro hacks for how to divvy them up into the best mini presents to wrap in tissue paper and toss into a CVS gift bag without a second thought — guaranteed to please everyone who wound up on your last-minute gift list. (Yourself included.)

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

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Think of a beauty advent calendar like your personal treasure trove of stocking stuffers. Keep the mini Magic Cream and the gorgeous bronze cream eyeshadow for yourself, and plan to sprinkle all the other Charlotte Tilbury goodies into any gift bags that are looking a little sparse.
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— PAID —

Along with the titular best-selling lactic-acid treatment, valued at $105, this core-essentials kit comes with a detoxifying clay cleanser, brightening vitamin C serum, retinoid-rich night oil, and soothing gel moisturizer — for just five bucks more. So wrap up the Good Genes serum as a sweet stocking stuffer for your sister who's been dying to try it, then keep the rest for yourself. We won't tell.
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Keep the Bath & Body Works jumbo eucalyptus- and spearmint-scented candle for your own bathroom aromatherapy (because Olivia Wilde swears by it), and then you can pawn off the pillow mist, a fizzy bath bomb, and a body lotion to your favorite cousin.
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If your mom has a thing for Clarins, but a single cream feels a little underwhelming, splurge on the 12-piece sampler you know she'll love.
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For your best friend who loves her Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook, you can't go wrong with gifting the Goop-y charcoal and coriander bath salts — but we'd highly recommend keeping the scalp scrub for yourself.
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Your aunt, your grandmother, and your boss all wear Estée Lauder's legacy beauty products. If you buy a big kit, you can personalize a fancy beauty gift bag for each one.
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Buying a set of multiples is another great gifting hack. With a box like this — filled with the same lipstick in different shades — you can pull out the color you love most, and then distribute the rest among your friends.
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If you've been dying to try a few different products from a single brand — like the consummate California cool-girl's new fave all-natural hair brand Playa — splurge on the stocked holiday kit, so you can get the whole collection and spend way less than you would buying each bottle individually. Plus, anything you don't want to try, you can pass along to your work wife.
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Everyone's been buzzing about Milk Makeup this year, which makes this bestsellers set — packed with serum chubby sticks, highlighters, and cannabis-laced mascara — the trendiest beauty gift money can buy. Keep the Watermelon Brightening Serum for yourself, and wrap the rest for your best friend who reads TMZ on the regular.
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Let's be real: You're buying this luxe Diptyque candle trio for yourself — but giving your second- and third- favorite scents to your mom and older sister may help you justify the $114 hit to your bottom line.
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