Second-Hand Beauty Products: Should We Buy Them?

By Ellie Hutchings

Most of us have probably used platforms such as eBay and Depop to purchase second-hand clothing at some point, but what about second-hand make-up? The last couple of years have seen increasing emphasis placed on the importance of adapting to a more sustainable lifestyle, so it seems only natural that such platforms and individuals alike have sought to capitalise on this new industry.

One company in particular has taken this trend by storm: Glambot. Founded in 2012, Glambot allows people and brands to sell their make-up through the platform in return for money. The site offers a ‘Payout Calculator’, so users can estimate how much they will earn from the make-up they sell and, if they wish, can make 30% more if they opt for store credit over cash. And it’s not just unused make-up that Glambot accepts. Pre-owned make-up is sold on the site as long as it’s not expired and at least 50% of the original product remains. The platform also accepts skincare and perfume samples.

For those who want high-end make up on a budget, Glambot is a blessing. Just a few examples of the deals to be found include Huda Beauty eyeshadow palettes for $24.30, Dior foundation for $46.80 and Charlotte Tilbury blushes for $36 (RRPs $27, $52 and $40 respectively). At the lower end of the scale, MAC lip lacquers, Real Techniques brushes and Stila eyeliner can all be purchased for under $10. Glambot also frequently offers promotions for its customers, such as codes to get money off or free shipping for orders over $30.

Of course, not everyone is willing to purchase second-hand beauty products, and the success of the market is hindered primarily by consumers’ issues with hygiene. However, Glambot is tackling this hurdle by professionally sanitizing and packaging all the products they sell. Details of how specific types of products are disinfected are available on Glambot’s website, explaining the various uses of alcohol solutions, light therapy and even pressurized air in the cleaning process. Products with reusable applicators, such a lip glosses and mascaras, are only accepted if brand new.

In fact, Glambot’s main drawback is probably the restrictions it puts on sellable products. The platform only accepts specified brands listed on the website and the exterior container must be fully intact, with very minimal signs of wear. Plus, if the seller chooses to reject their monetary offer from Glambot, they have to pay the cost of return shipping. Alongside the fact that sending products to Glambot is more complicated for sellers living outside the U.S., perhaps the platform is better suited to buying rather than selling for the time being.

So, how does Glambot compare to other reselling platforms? eBay, Depop and Poshmark all prohibit the selling of second-hand cosmetics. eBay, for example, has been known to remove make-up listings because of health and safety concerns. Pretty much the only pre-owned beauty-related product eBay allows to be sold on its platform is make-up brushes (which, of course, must be thoroughly cleaned before listing).

Similarly, both Depop and Poshmark set out in their seller guidelines that only unused make-up items may be sold on the platform. However, this doesn’t stop sellers from listing make-up products. Often, by specifying the condition of the product as ‘new’ the item will stay up – even if the photos show visible signs of use. If you’re happy buying used products from an individual, unaccredited seller then one of these platforms may be a good option. On eBay, Urban Decay eyeshadow palettes are listed for as little as £2.50 and, if you’re lucky, you could even swipe some Chanel make-up for under £20. As Depop doesn’t have an auction function, items tend to be listed at a slightly higher price than you’d find on eBay. With that being said, you can still find items from high-end brands at just a fraction of their original retail price. Poshmark is perhaps the priciest of three platforms, though it does have the advantage of ‘Posh Authenticate’ – meaning high-end items are carefully inspected to ensure they’re genuine.

It would seem that the second-hand beauty market is flourishing, and the eco-friendly aspect of recycling and reselling certainly gets my vote. However, for the original cosmetic brands, the re-selling of make-up is a troubling endeavour.

Buying second-hand make-up is still a relatively novel trend and whether it’s here to stay is yet to be determined, but Glambot’s model seems robust and as increasing numbers of people are willing to purchase second-hand, I see no reason why the industry shouldn’t continue to thrive.