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Is second-hand makeup a worthwhile trend?

Millennials have started buying used beauty products in an effort to save money and reduce waste. A trend worth embracing or just downright unhygienic?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the current sharing economy and am more than happy to ditch fast fashion in favour of clothes swaps and vintage stores, but is purchasing pre-owned makeup maybe taking it a step too far?

According to BoF, the second-hand beauty market is taking off in Japan, a country with a reputation for cleanliness. Becoming increasingly popular among a ‘small but growing segment’ of the country’s money-conscious millennials, it’s certainly a rather out-there way to be frugal.

‘I thought it was very weird for people to use used makeup products,’ said Mo Miura, who lives in Tokyo and despite selling her own makeup, refuses to buy used cosmetics for hygienic reasons. ‘However recently,’ she says, ‘Japan has a trend of sharing and I feel like people’s consciousness towards [extreme] cleanliness has been changing,’

I’m not sure about you, but no matter how broke or eco-conscious I am, it’s a concept I’m definitely struggling to get on board with.

Yes, the wider conversation about plastic waste has called into question the beauty industry’s environmental impact over the last few years and there is no denying that something needs to change, but this new trend comes with a lot of risks.

Director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Joshua Zeichner says that ‘even if you throw away the applicator, if it previously was stepped into the product the whole makeup may be contaminated. You have no way of knowing if the previous user had any skin infections, sharing makeup is extremely unhygienic.’

It’s a phenomenon I never really saw coming to be honest, but when it comes down do it, are we really that surprised? In the midst of panicking about our climate situation, perhaps – if done the right way – this could actually help a little.

I mean, when purchasing used cosmetics it’s obviously better to be cautious about your health, and I don’t think it’s (I hope it’s not) a thing to host garage sales for your old mascara and the lipstick you found hiding under the bed five years after losing it, but I think online communities such as Glambot and Poshmark might have the right idea.

A trend that is starting to gain traction worldwide, second-hand beauty is also pretty big in the US; especially among social media-savvy teens who can’t afford the top brand products all their favourite beauty bloggers are using to recreate the latest Euphoria makeup look from Instagram’s discovery page.

That’s where Glambot comes in. A West Coast-based website that tapped into this opening in the market, they began selling used cosmetics in 2015. The service takes your unwanted makeup (whether it’s foundation that ended up being the wrong shade for your skin or an eyeshadow colour that stopped looking good once your tan wore off), sanitises it, and then repackages it in a fresh container to sell at a discounted price.

They have, of course, received a high level of questions asking if it’s even safe to use pre-owned items, but they insist that their extremely rigorous cleaning techniques mean hygiene isn’t an issue.

‘Depending on the exact composition of the product, we use a combination of different sanitisation techniques, which include the application of heat, the use of various alcohol solutions, detailed layered product removal, and the use of natural emollients,’ said Karen Horiuchi, the company’s founder.

‘What’s more, all items sent in must be non-expired. We meticulously check all items for dates that are explicitly specified on labels and other packaging.’

So, what do you think? As you can probably tell I’m a bit torn between wanting to save the planet and not wanting to be unhygienic.

Help me out by letting me know in the comments whether it’s a trend we should embrace or reject.


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