Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored. After running our experiment and drawing our own conclusions, we did reach out to Glambot for a statement, and they provided us with a discount code for our readers. This is not an affiliate code and we make no commission from any purchases you make on Glambot. The code is at the end of the article, so keep reading!
Is buying used makeup safe?
We live in an age where we are bombarded with new makeup releases every week. Unless you’re a billionaire, or you’re a beauty guru who’s got PR packages coming out the wazoo, chances are there’s a huge number of products you’d like to get your hands on but sadly never will.
This is where used makeup retailers come in to save the day! Well maybe.
Used makeup hasn’t got a great reputation. We all know by now that you should never ever ever share mascara, you should throw out old or expired makeup, and if it smells funky don’t use it. But do you know why we do these things?
Once your makeup is opened it’s exposed to air, moisture, and the bacteria on your hands and face (there’s always some no matter how clean you think you are). This is an ideal breeding ground for all sorts of nasty stuff. The bacteria found in one study could potentially give you Meningitis, acne, bacterial vaginosis, urinary and respiratory tract infections, diarrhoea, vomiting, and can infect any wounds/breakouts already on your face.
Are you totally put off the idea of buying used makeup forever? Don’t be. It’s not all doom and gloom.
While you probably shouldn’t accept mucky old lipsticks or palettes from friends, or pick up a makeup bag full of goodies at a garage sale, there is a way to get your hands on some cheap, used makeup that’s totally safe.
Introducing Glambot. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re an american company founded by a woman named Karen Horiuchi. They sanitize and sell used makeup, and they have some pretty strict criteria to protect you again all those nasty bacteria we told you about.
Selling to Glambot
Anything you send in, first and foremost, must not be expired. It has to be at least 50% full, and the price is based on how much is left. You must also send a minimum of 20 products to sell to Glambot. This eliminates a lot of potential casual sellers, and means that most of their products come from people in the makeup industry who are given PR that they have not used, or total makeup addicts who take pretty good care of their stuff. This criteria means that most of the makeup that comes in is barely touched, if at all.
Next, Glambot clean their products. Their founder and CEO Horiuchi has degrees in law and biotechnology, and their 5 step authentication and sanitation ritual is surely a reflection that. The team checks the makeup is not counterfeit, then they use heat, alcohol solutions, and/or natural emollients to kill any bacteria, and shave off layers to expose new, untouched product. Then the product is sealed up ready to be shipped out.
Glambot guarantees that the makeup they sell is authentic and safe for use.
What do the experts say?
Not everyone agrees that methods like Glambot’s are enough to ensure the safety of consumers. Dermatologist Howard Sobel, MD, told Refinery29 “No matter what method Glambot is using, even if effective 90% of the time, you cannot know for sure what bacteria, infection, or fungus has been left behind on the remaining 10%,” in addition the only way to guarantee sterilization of a product would be for it to spend “15 to 20 minutes at a temperature of 249℉.”
Interestingly the FDA in the USA does not require cosmetics to have expiration dates or PAOs on their makeup. In these cases how does Glambot know for sure they are not expired?
Reassuringly, Neal Schultz MD told Refinery29 that almost all beauty products on the market have preservatives in their formulas that function as a built in safety net
So is buying makeup from Glambot a good idea? I wanted to find out for myself, so I splurged.
I bought 15 items from the site, 14 items were sold as ‘good’ condition and one was ‘fair’. Then I ate the lot and waited for the nausea to kick in.
I’m privileged to have a boyfriend that works as a lab technician, so together we hatched a plan. We devised a test that would compare the cleanliness of the Glambot makeup against a couple of brand new products, and some gross old bits that have been rolling around in my makeup drawer for up to 10 years.
Below are pictures of the products I ordered from Glambot, as I received them. Click the picture for the name & weight, or view the table below!
The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed there are only 14 pictures, and that is because I lost the picture I had taken of the last item, a mini Urban Decay setting spray, because I am a lemon.
|Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush Meaningful Mini||Good||£3.60|
|Tarte Rainforest Of The Sea Marine Boosting Mist Mini 7ml||Good||£3.60|
|Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powder Incandescent Strobe Light Mini||Good||£3.60|
|Too Faced Love Flush Long Lasting 16 Hour Blush Love Hangover Mini 2g||Fair||£3.60|
|Urban Decay All Nighter Makeup Setting Spray Mini 15ml||Good||£3.60|
|Tarte The Sculptor Contouring Face Slenderizer Park Ave Princess 1 Mini||Good||£3.60|
|BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Powder Opal Mini 2.4g||Good||£3.60|
|Makeup Forever Artist Shadow Refill Peachy S-748||Good||£3.60|
|Tarte Birthday Suit Liquid Lipstick Mini||Good||£3.60|
|Too Faced Melted Long Wear Lipstick Fuchsia Mini 5ml||Good||£6.84|
|Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer Mini 4.11ml||Good||£3.60|
|Beautyblender Blotterazzi 1ct||Good||£3.60|
|Cover FX Enhance Click Bubbly||Good||£3.60|
|Benefit Mascara They’re Real! Travel 3g||Good||£3.60|
|BH Cosmetics Sculpt And Blend Brush 115||Good||£4.11|
How we did it
You might have used petri dishes at school. They’re little sterile containers filled with a jelly-like substance called agar, which is a sort of bed made out of all the stuff bacteria need to grow. So while it might take years for mold to form on your lipstick, on some agar it might not even need 48 hours to be visible to the naked eye.
We got 60 petri dishes, dipped a stick in the makeup, rubbed it on the jelly, and watched if anything grew over the next few days.
If you want more detail, we’ve got you covered! If you’re only interested in the results, just keep scrolling <3
We used sterile cotton swabs to sample each Glambot product three times. Once testing the exterior packaging (lids, hinges, caps etc), and twice testing the actual makeup.
We also tested two brand new lip products, one swab each, and tested the gross old makeup twice per product. We left five cells blank.
The new makeup
The gross old makeup
Why did we need to perform so many tests, and what were the blank cells for?
To explain, let me pose some scenarios:
Scenario 1 – Bacteria grows in every single dish.
In this scenario:
- If we’d only tested makeup from Glambot we wouldn’t be able to tell if everything they sold us was unsanitary, or if there was something wrong with our agar, dishes, swabs, or method.
- In the blank dishes absolutely no bacteria should grow, because nothing has come into contact with them. If something does grow, it’d mean that something has probably gone wrong with the experiment.
- Having some brand new makeup that should not have any bacteria, meant that if bacteria did grow on their dishes, there was something wrong with the cotton swabs that came into contact with them or the brand new makeup was unsanitary, (which would be very concerning!) and would mean that something has probably gone wrong with the experiment.
Scenario 2 – No bacteria grows anywhere.
There was a chance this could happen, after all the blank dishes shouldn’t grow any, the new makeup shouldn’t grow any, and if Glambot are as great as they claim, none should grow there either. So if nothing grows at all how do we know everything was safe, rather than something being wrong with the setup?
- By using super old, heavily used makeup, we should expect to see bacteria grow on their dishes. If none grows in any of the used samples, something has probably gone wrong with the experiment.
So we randomly assigned each dish a product, and began swabbing. Before testing, nothing from Glambot had been touched, it was left in the packaging it came in, the new makeup still had hygiene seals, and the old makeup was just chillin being all gross. We tested the used stuff last because even though we had like 500 disposable gloves and swabs to get through, we didn’t want to get our new or Glambot results contaminated with the stuff that was probably dirty all over.
Each tray had 12 dishes, one blank dish was left per tray, so we could ensure the integrity of each tray individually.
Once swabbing was done the trays were sealed up and put in a warm cupboard for 48 hours.
Now onto the bit you’ve probably skipped to, the results.
Of the Glambot makeup, 47% was totally clean. 40% had possible traces of bacteria in the lids, hinges, or other parts of the container but none in the makeup. 13% gave us a reason to suspect the product was not sanitary, but in these cases there was only a 16% chance the makeup actually contained any bacteria, more likely it was an error.
Of the old, gross makeup, two bits were clean, two bits were so disgusting they have now been thrown away and we shan’t ever speak of them again.
Lastly, as expected, the blank dishes and the new makeup were totally clean.
So we feel confident in saying 87% of the makeup we bought from Glambot is safe to use. The other 13% we can’t say were definitely unsafe, but there’s a slim (⅙) chance there may be some bacteria there.
Let’s talk about these results in more detail, and give you a little more information.
Primers and setting sprays
As you’d probably expect, both the Tarte and Urban Decay setting sprays were clean, inside and out. Makes sense really, a bottle of setting spray doesn’t ever come into direct contact with your face, and the component would be pretty easy to wipe down. If these had turned up as unclean we’d have some pretty extensive questions for whoever these used to belong to!
The Hourglass primer might have had contamination on the inside of the lid, but we can’t say for sure.
Of the five powder products, only The Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder was clean. Why? The surface of the powder was a raised curved, which I believe is how it is sold, so it was probably one of those products we talked about earlier, which was never used.
Three powders (the Tarte blush, Too Faced blush, and Becca highlighter) had possibly unclean packaging. This makes sense, as unlike lipsticks or sprays, these powders were in compacts with hard to reach areas like hinges and clasps. I can forgive them this, but whether you can is entirely your choice.
The last powder was the Makeup Forever shadow refill, so aside from the pan there was no packaging to speak of. This was one that showed as having a small chance of the makeup itself being unclean. You’ll see in the pictures that the surface of the powder was uneven, almost dented. My theory is that is got a bit beaten up during its journey, but of the three tests, one came back positive for bacteria, one was clean, and one was uncertain, and no amount of denting explains that one.
We had two cream ‘sticks’, the Tarte sculpting stick, and the Cover FX enhance click. When we opened the Tarte one it looked a little sad and melted, but there was no bacteria there. The Cover FX might have had a little dirt inside the lid, but the stick itself was fine, despite what looked like heavy use, and the product sweating.
Totally clean, no conjunctivitis here!
I was pretty chuffed when I opened the Too Faced lipstick and saw the sponge applicator was stark white. Either that’s never been used before or they did a damn fine job of cleaning it. The results came back totally clean so I’m guessing the former. The Tarte lipstick was totally clean too, so that’s 100% clean lipsticks, which is great. They did mention on their site that items like mascara and lipsticks that can be the worst for bacteria are only bought from selected ‘trusted’ sellers, so I’m pretty sure they’re all essentially new products. I could be wrong, but that’s what I’m getting from the data I have available.
Brushes and Sponges
I was shocked the the BeautyBlender came back clean, but I assume that’s one of the products Glambot will only buy from its most trusted sellers, and would have to be unused. The brush was another story. We dug the swab deep down into the bristles and the results were not great – just like the Makeup Forever powder we had one test positive for bacteria, one uncertain, and one clean.
We all know that if we get our brush glue too wet when we’re washing it the glue could disintegrate and the hairs could all fall out. So with that in mind how are you supposed to disinfect it? Most of the products mentioned today only have a few ‘bits’ to clean (ie, lid, mirror, makeup, bottom, hinge) and not all of them managed that, so how am I going to trust thousands of individual brush hairs and totally cool and safe to use?
I know you’re probably wondering about the used makeup. The Soap & Glory blur stick was FILTHY. There was a load of the standard bacteria on the dish, plus a weird lime green circle that will haunt me for the rest of my days. Now this is something I’ve smeared all over my face, spots and all, so I was expecting to see something pretty gross, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.
My Collection lipstick had one positive and one negative result, so either the packaging or the lipstick itself was covered in bacteria. I think the lipstick, either way it’s in the bin now.
We reached out to Glambot after the experiment was finished, and they had this to say:
“We at Glambot strive to serve the beauty needs of makeup lovers all around the globe. We ship worldwide and and offer the largest collection of steeply discounted top brand makeup. Our team members take extra precautionary measures to ensure that each piece of makeup we sell is both authentic and safe to use.” 06/07/2018
Science aside, Glambot has a whole host of benefits. Since the conclusion of the experiment I’ve been incorporating some of the items into my daily routine. I would never have been able to afford Hourglass or Becca highlighters, and this is such a nice way to try them out. The sample sizes are really generous, and they only cost me £3.60 each. I would recommend Glambot as a way to get bits you can’t afford to buy new and/or full size.
*Your first purchase, does not apply to clearance items. No minimum purchase, not affiliated.
Hope you enjoyed this article! Good god did it take forever to put together. Leave your thoughts on used makeup in the comments – we’d love to hear your take on this!
University drop-out, pretend artist, makeup enthusiast. Uses too many brackets when writing. Can’t be stopped.