Wednesday 25 October 2023

The skyrocketing price of beauty advent: Has Christmas capitalism reached its peak?

As the festive season approaches (I saw Christmas decorations in my local supermarket at the beginning of October and nearly blinded myself), we find ourselves inundated with the shiny allure of beauty advent calendars. 

These enticing packages of storebought joy, often laden with luxurious skincare and makeup treasures, have become an annual tradition for many. But what began as a less-calorific take on the daily chocolate treat has become something verging on the absurd. These extravagant advent calendars, with their skyrocketing pricetags, have morphed into a laughable annual reminder of the capitalist and consumerist culture that leaves the average person with FOMO at best, and festive depression at worst, unable to afford the lavish indulgences showcased online and in stores.

Image c/o Unsplash

The cost of advent beauty treats

The escalating cost of beauty advent calendars is nothing short of farcical. Take, for example, Cult Beauty, whose first advent calendar in 2019 was priced at £195. This year, they've raised the stakes to a staggering £225. Yes, they claim you're receiving more than four times the value in products, but the question remains: are the prices of these products overinflated from the get-go?

Let's consider brands like Beauty Pie, who source high-end cosmetic formulas and sell them at a fraction of the cost of those sold by named brands. This practice sheds light on the reality that many products on the shelves - and indeed in advent calendars - are marked up, even if they offer value in quantity. Are these calendars really the great deal they seem to be?

Personally, I thought the issue had come to a head with the Chanel advent calendars, which in 2021, were priced at a jaw-dropping £610. Perhaps not a surprising RRP for Chanel, but inside was a smorgasbord of disappointment - miniature perfumes, cheap-looking bracelets and fragrance cards, amongst two lipsticks, a nail polish and hand cream. While Chanel is known for luxury, it would be a fool's errand to justify such an extravagant price for items that might be considered mere "knick-knacks."

@eliseharmon I’ll lay everything out and show you all of the contents and you can tell me if you think it’s worth it #chaneladventcalendar ♬ Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree (Rerecorded Version) - Brenda Lee

The FOMO is real - but is it more than that?

There's an issue surrounding these calendars that often goes unnoticed - the impact on mental health. The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a real emotion, strongly correlated with social media usage, and it seems rife in relation to the beauty advent calendar. 

We scroll through our feeds, witnessing celebrities and influencers flaunting their calendars (many of which have been gifted) as if there's no "cost of living" crisis sweeping the UK, and this has a tangible mental impact. Feelings of disappointment morph into inadequacy and exclusion. The pressure to "keep up" during the holiday season is already immense, and the incessant marketing of these calendars only exacerbates the issue. The result is a sense of longing and anxiety, which is the last thing anyone needs during a time meant for joy and togetherness.

Moral responsibilities of beauty brands

It's easy to say, "just resist FOMO" or "detox from social media during the festive period." But it's not that simple. We're all consumers in one form or another, and escaping the clutches of capitalism, especially during the Christmas season, is incredibly challenging. The festive season is the highlight of the capitalist calendar, and the pressure to participate is heavy.

Rather than placing blame on consumers, is it finally time to hold beauty brands accountable? While some will undoubtedly argue that business is business, in today's social climate these brands should at least be aware of their moral responsibility to consider the impact of their marketing and pricing strategies on the mental health of their customers. 

However, I'm aware that little action is likely to be taken by a business without a threat to their bottom line. Therefore, if a boycott is the only solution, let the boycott begin...

I'll end this article on this note: the high price of beauty advent calendars is more than just an issue of affordability. It's a reflection of a culture that prioritises profit over wellbeing. This Christmas, let's not forget to unwrap the gift of critical thinking and question the role of these calendars in our lives. It's a small but necessary step in moving towards a more mindful and responsible form of capitalism (I know, I know, is that even possible? Let's imagine that it is).


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