Millennials are buying second-hand makeup: Should we all do this more?

Finding high-end makeup for economical rates

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Photo credit: Starkvisuals/Pixabay

have never been inside of a second-hand store. Ironically, I donate clothing to the Salvation Army, Goodwill and clothing bins all of the time though. I do it so much that at one point I decided to be a marketing writer with a for-profit reusable apparel company. And as much as I like finding cool items on Craigslist and Freecyle, used cosmetics is the one area I have never even humored. So when I read recent news from Business of Fashion that Japanese millennials are buying used makeup, I cringed. And then I quickly had to admit I’m a hypocrite.

Here’s why. I had absolutely no problem posting three garbage bags’ worth of used hair products on Craigslist and Freecycle. I proudly gave away shampoos, conditioners, hair oil, barrettes, headbands and pins — although I knew for sure my mother had used every single item inside before.

Recommended Read: “In 2020, be less weird during Craigslist pickups ~ Why do Freecycle people bring out their ‘inner weirdo’ when getting free stuff?

So if I saw no problem with people buying used hair products, why is makeup any different? I pondered what exactly is the difference between taking advantage of used quality makeup versus me using Q-tips and wipes to try “tested” makeup in stores. While I’d like to believe that stores would take better care of their beauty products, I’ve been in enough cosmetics aisles in department stores to know that these areas can be neglected. I take extra swipes off the top, and make sure my skin and lips don’t directly touch that of random strangers.

I’m a germaphobe. I admit it. I don’t go anywhere without antibacterial ointment, and I’ve installed two bidets in my home after hearing Hasan Minhaj gush over them. However, all bets are off when it comes to new makeup brands and colors. I simply cannot afford not to try out a new shade. I cringe when I see people wearing makeup that makes them look more like Bozo than Beauty. Even though I only wear makeup maybe a handful of times in a month (if that), I’m a connoisseur lip gloss shopper! And with my skin tone, the last thing I want to do is just buy some random product online and get home to realize I look like Pennywise, snatching small children into sewers. No, thank you. Hard pass!

Thin line between great products and better deals

Japan’s second-hand market is already thriving — its domestic market for digital resale was valued at 483.5 billion yen ($4.59 billion) in 2017, according to BoF. Meanwhile, I bypass most high-end department store beauty departments (minus Macy’s) when I need to stock up. I just cannot see spending electricity bill rates for a lipstick color. I don’t have a big makeup bag with a collection of stuff; it’s more like a palm-sized clasp container. Call me frugal. I like good deals and very little makeup.

But Kohl’s is my only weakness, the department store where I do most of my replenishment. However, they have a terribly annoying habit of selling lip gloss and lipstick shades that I absolutely love, only to discontinue selling them by the time I run out. That department store has done that to me on three different occasions. I buy lip gloss I like from there the way people shop at Costco or Sam’s Club. I’m not messing around. They will not leave me high and lips dry a fourth time. And as much as I love higher-priced brands such as Iman, Too Faced and Fashion Fair, I even need to test out their makeup too.

Recommended Read: “Pantyhose and shapewear: Acknowledge the skin I’m in ~ Undergarments and shoe lines finally tackle questionable ‘nude’ shades

So I pondered on whether I was frowning on second-hand makeup a wee bit too much. If you told me I could get a deal on any of the makeup lines above and I already knew I liked the color choices — or those Kohl’s lip gloss brands that keep going to the Bermuda Triangle — I would pause. And I would consider it. If you’re already testing used makeup, why not get your money’s worth by paying for second-hand makeup too?

Japanese second-hand cosmetic businesses are not alone. U.S. companies such as Glambot and Depop are a couple of companies that help users find economically priced cosmetics. So with stores such as Macy’s joining up with second-hand stores like thredUP, should department stores and online stores be doing more to reach out to their budget-friendly customers? And if they did, are you game to buy second-hand makeup, too?

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Check out her five Medium publications: Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit to read about her.

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