The first “beauty” crackers that entered into my horizon were from the perfumier Penhaligon’s in 2007; they were splendid, luxurious things filled with leather and silver covetables and a New Year’s resolution, and there was a veritable bun-fight for them. It’s seared in my memory that, after hounding my insider contacts, a well-known celebrity got their hands on the very last available box while I failed my family by not bringing home a bountiful bang. But, I had sat up and taken notice of this move by a fragrance and beauty company into making such festive delights. It was the beginning of a trend that’s bedded down nicely among beauty aficionados for Christmas 2012.
Last year Lancôme made its entry into this new market (along with a sell-out beauty advent calendar) with six crackers containing miniature gifts ranging from skincare to mascara. This year it is joined for the first time by Liz Earle (Christmas Celebration Crackers, first picture, £35), Origins (Christmas Cracker Gift Set, £45, in very limited edition quantities), Estée Lauder (Christmas Cracker Gift Set, £45) and Maison Martin Margiela (Christmas Cracker Gift Set, £40). The six Margiela crackers each contain a 7ml spray of galbanum- and incense-laden Untitled fragrance in each one. Lancôme’s offerings contain a selection of bestselling mini beauty treats (one in each cracker), including Hypnôse mascara and a mini L’Absolu Rouge lipstick (Christmas Crackers Gift Set, £50). If you don’t mind going without the fireworks, Jo Malone’s individual crackers contain Pomegranate Noir Body and Hand Wash, Lime, Basil and Mandarin Cologne and Orange Blossom Body Crème minis (second picture, £28 each). There is a store rush for these as they have sold out online and are disappearing fast from counters.
It has to be said that such crackers are for the beauty faithful: they have no place at a family Christmas table, but I have shared them at dinners with my girlfriends and they have been absolutely delighted – not least because their immaculate Richard Ward hairdos are spared from being squashed by embarrassing paper hats. There’s a time and a place for mortifying traditional cracker jokes such as, “Q: What do you call a vicar on a motorbike? A: Rev”, and toasting with champagne at Cecconi’s isn’t it. It’s far more elegant to discretely touch-up your lipstick or dab a little something sexy on the pulse points.
The bigger beauty houses, such as Estée Lauder, have thrown down the gauntlet with their Christmas cracker offerings. I’d like to think that Dior, Guerlain and Chanel are watching closely. And next year I’m hoping for an even bigger beauty bang.