I've Been Selling My Gently Used Makeup, But I'm Not Sure I'd Buy Someone Else's

I'm comfortable taking your money, but I don't know if I could put your blush on my face.
Publish date:
March 15, 2016
shopping, germs, Used Makeup

Like everyone else, I've been decluttering. Every time I throw a bag of clothes in a thrift store donation bin, I feel a flicker of accomplishment. But if just discarding feels good, selling stuff feels even better.

Selling is rewarding on multiple levels: I get cash, my taste is confirmed, and best of all, I'm reassured that my unwanted stuff is going to be used. Using Craigslist and Facebook groups, I've sold clothes, art supplies, electronics — and makeup.

To be honest, I didn't think anyone was going to buy my used makeup, but I was on kind of a roll after making a bunch of sales in a row. I listed a matte Tarte blush for $10 on a local Facebook group. It was a nice peachy color, but I thought it looked weird on me and I only ever wore it twice. (I think I bought it back in the days when I was scared to return things to Sephora).

I was genuinely surprised when a stranger contacted me. We met in a parking lot near my apartment. I handed the blush over and she asked if I'd sanitized it.

"No," I said. "I thought you'd want to do that." She gave me a funny look. "Just wipe off the top layer with an alcohol pad," I said. I had no idea if that would sanitize it or not, but she seemed to want some reassurance from me.

It felt a bit weird to sell used makeup on Facebook, because I would not be comfortable buying used makeup for myself. I was comfortable taking her money, but I don't think I could put her blush on my face.

When it comes to used makeup, I might be in the minority. People sell "swatched only" lipstick all the time, and there's even a startup devoted to the secondhand slap market. Glambot, founded in 2013, supposedly sells a million dollars a year of pre-owned, disinfected cosmetics. (The Beauty Brains podcast listed four possible disadvantages to buying used makeup online: Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and E. coli). This sounds gross and risky to me, but you could probably reduce the risks by skipping the lipstick and stick foundations and sticking to products that come out of nice, sanitary bottles.

The funny thing is, I've happily accepted used makeup from friends and family. When my friend Rebecca moved abroad, she gave me a generous stash of opened products, and I gleefully accepted them all — even the lipsticks and eyeshadows. (I wiped them off first, but still.) I think I'm only afraid of people's germs when I don't know them.

Or maybe it's just about money and how much you want something. For years, I refused to buy exercise clothes secondhand. I bought a lot of other clothes secondhand, but I wouldn't buy fitness gear because I knew they'd been sweated in. That was before the day I found a barely-worn Moving Comfort running bra on sale for $1.00 (price for a new one: $50). This was the deal that broke my grossness barrier. A couple washes in hot water and I was good to go.

I guess if I'm saving money on something I really want, I suddenly get a lot less squeamish.

  • Would you buy secondhand makeup? Or use a friend's?
  • Share your used makeup horror stories!