All Beauty, All the Time—For Everyone.

How to Donate Your Barely-Used Beauty Products

beauty products on a desk with computer

 Trent Szmolnik/Unsplash

It's happened to all of us: we buy a beauty product that's just "meh" or something we don't really need need. We abandon it to a beauty drawer where it rolls around among other such products, a taunting reminder of the money we wasted. So, what to do with all the barely-touched beauty products you just don't have a need for?

There's only one solution; you go all Marie Kondo and get rid of them either by donating them, selling them, or swapping them. Below, read our tips for how to do all three.

Clean Out Your Beauty Drawer

The idea of getting rid of things that aren't useful and don't "spark joy" has become a cultural phenomenon thanks to Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Typically, you're meant to get rid of clutter and clothing you no longer love, and we would argue this philosophy extends to your beauty products as well. It's a good idea to get rid of the powders, lotions, potions, soaps, and freebies you've collected over the months that you'll never, ever use. Take stock of your collection least once a year. 

Here's how to do it:

  • Start by dumping every beauty product you own on an empty table or other flat surface.
  • Have three bins at the ready: one for trash, one for donation, and one to keep. 
  • Put every item on that table in one of the bins. 

 Only keep the items you love or use on a regular basis. The rest has to go.

What to Swap, Donate or Sell, and What to Toss

Unless you're giving products to your loved ones (who don't care where your fingers have been), it's best to consider these guidelines when donating, selling, or tossing a beauty product.

What to toss: Toss mascaras, creams or lotions that come in jars and require you to dip your hand in them and anything that's been more than 50% used. But, before just shooting them in your trash can, read up on these beauty product recycling rules to dispose of used items in a way that's safe for the environment. If the product can't be recycled, consider upcycling and re-filling a reusable container with another product for travel or turning it into storage (a large jar can hold reusable cotton rounds, for example).

What to sanitize: Hairbrushes, makeup brushes, lipsticks, eyeliners, lipliners, and brow liners can all be sanitized at home. Clean brushes thoroughly in warm water mixed with a little dish detergent. Run a Q-tip dipped in alcohol over your lipstick. Sharpen any pencils (think lip, eye, brow) to remove the top layer. 

Donate Them

Not all charity organizations and homeless shelters will accept used beauty lotions and potions, so we recommend calling first to see if your local center will accept gently used products. Something that has never been opened should be fine, as long as the packaging is intact.

I contacted a women's shelter near me to see if they would accept products and the manager gladly obliged. When Superstorm Sandy hit the NYC area in October 2012, I brought a box of beauty products to Brooklyn's Armory, where hundreds of people were sheltering during the storm. The items I brought were snapped up quickly, and I like to think that getting some very nice goods for free cheered up a few people who lost a lot in the storm.

Allure has a list of several organizations that take previously owned makeup and skincare, some of which (like Project Beauty Share) allow you to mail in your donations even if you're not local to the area.

Give Them Away for Cash Donations

Also after the hurricane, a fellow beauty writer set up shop on her Brooklyn sidewalk giving away tons of her beauty products for cash donations, which she then gave to a local charity set up to help Sandy victims. She set up a folding table, invited her many beauty friends to join in and then spent the weekend giving away amazing stuff. She collected a few thousand dollars from her "event," which she then donated.

You may have enough goods to host your own charity sale in your neighborhood, especially if you join forces with a few beauty-obsessed friends. Just make sure to sanitize any lightly used items.

Sell Them

Glambot is a company that will buy your unloved or unused products, sanitize them, and then sell them for you. The policies are fairly strict to ensure customer safety—items must be at least three months away from the expiration date with at least half of the product remaining and the packaging in presentable condition. There are also some categories, such as skincare and mascara, that are only accepted from beauty industry professionals.

Check the website for an evolving list of accepted brands, as well as the full selling policy. You must send in a package of 15 full-size items, so this is probably a more viable option after a big makeup collection clear out. Sellers can choose to be paid in Glambucks instead of cash, which can then be traded for secondhand items listed on the site.

Swap Them

You've heard of clothing swaps, where a group of friends gather together with unwanted clothing items their friends may want, right? Why not include some beauty items in your next one?

You can also head online. r/MakeupExchange is a subreddit that allows you to swap beauty products with strangers. You list what you have to swap or sell, and can include what you are interested in receiving in exchange and what you're not, and wait for people to reach out to you. You can also be proactive by contacting people who have products you want and offer to trade directly.

Up next: Read how one beauty writer organizes hundreds of makeup and skincare products in her bathroom.

Related Stories