Women Are Dumpster Diving For Makeup So They Don't Have To Pay For It

Restaurants and grocers notoriously throw away unethically copious amounts of perfectly good food on a nightly basis, but who knew the same is true of makeup? Believe it or not, dumpster makeup hauls are not only a bona fide "thing," they're a growing and lucrative trend. While plenty of makeup products are worth the splurge, there exist many makeup shopper tricks that don't force you to break the bank to make your face.

To turn the old saying around, behind every high-end department store, there's an equally high-end dumpster just brimming with treasures. Countless makeup counter testers - from MAC, NARS, Urban Decay, Clinique, and other upscale brands - are routinely tossed out every day for "health" reasons. The same remains true for slews of returned products that barely see the light of day. And what's not to love about a $200 color palette with the eyeshadows only slightly worn down? Or a brand new $60 Yves Saint Laurent lipstick that's barely been used once?

If one can apply the famous "five second rule" to a dropped chocolate chip cookie, one ought to be able to give at least that much leeway to an untapped wealth of designer cosmetics. At least, that appears to be the philosophy most of the women who find makeup in dumpsters choose to live by. Read on to find out more about the fascinating - and ingeniously economic - world of makeup dumpster diving. 

  • Makeup Dumpster-Diving Tutorials Are A Big Thing

    Makeup Dumpster-Diving Tutorials Are A Big Thing
    Video: YouTube

    Not sure where to start with makeup dumpster diving? Worry not: the internet abounds with tutorials. One of the most popular channels is overseen by a 23-year-old cosmetics aficionado named Shelbi, who (according to Broadly) "uses YouTube and Facebook to teach young girls how to dumpster dive for makeup."

    Since its initial broadcast in November of 2016, Shelbi's debut video has been watched well over a million times; and since then, she's begun to Facebook livestream her many nocturnal adventures in trash-picking. As evinced by the above video, she managed to successfully recover more than $2,000 worth of makeup in one staggering week, which is no small financial accomplishment. Some of the brands therein include Gucci, Anastasia Beverly Hills, and Dolce & Gabbana, just to name a few.

    If that's not a good enough reason to put on some fishing boots and some rubber gloves and go wading through the trash, then what is?

  • Believe It Or Not, Stores Toss Out High-End Makeup On A Regular Basis

    Do you think high-end stores routinely employ a waste-not, want-not philosophy? Think again. According to StyleCaster, stores like Ulta and Sephora throw massive amounts of products away on a routine basis, not necessarily because their employees or management advocate doing so, but because of good old (legal) health stipulations. However, one person's trash is another person's treasure, and one tester's "gently used" bronzer is another wearer's splendidly burnished visage.

  • Some Companies Try To Destroy The Perfectly Good Makeup They Throw Away

    A "Scrooge" isn't just a curmudgeon who appears around the holidays. While some stores turn a blind eye to dumpster diving, others apparently go out of their way to destroy perfectly good items that were just going to end up in a landfill anyway. According to Racked, one anonymous Ulta employee admitted to taking "painstaking measures" to render beauty products useless:

    "We did have a pretty serious dumpster diving problem... One time my manager went to throw something away when a lady was diving, and got punched in the chest. She had a huge bruise. Soon after that incident we started breaking the makeup down... it becomes a huge messy mix of makeup and useless containers but makes for a safer work environment for us because people are less likely to try and dumpster dive."

    All this sounds very Jerry Springer, to say the least, and the average dumpster representing an "unsafe" work environment seems like a dubious possibility at best, but you know, whatever.

  • Technically, Infection Is A Risk

    While most dumpster-gathered makeup can be easily sanitized by a simple spray or two of alcohol, the possibility of developing a debilitating rash and/or skin condition does technically exist. According to Cleveland 19 News, and to dermatologist Elma Baron, picking through bins for gilded trash probably isn't worth it. 

    From “Itchy skin, red skin, inflamed skin, acne, or eruptions that look like acne," bloodcurdling infections can "take several forms," according to Dr. Baron. She also points out that "just because the product is sealed doesn't make it safe. It depends on how long [it's been] been exposed to certain temperatures, and how long it’s been sitting out."

  • It's Actually Pretty Easy To Clean And Sanitize Makeup

    It's Actually Pretty Easy To Clean And Sanitize Makeup
    Video: YouTube

    As stated, sanitizing dumpstered makeup isn't as difficult as one might think. For eyeliner and lip pencils, the remedy is nearly effortless: simply employ the old pencil sharpener trick (see the above video for details). Eyeshadow palettes can be sanitized by a couple sprays of rubbing alcohol, as can most blushes or bronzers. According to makeup blogger Shelbi, unpackaged lipsticks are a judgment call/hit and miss. Slicing a top layer off the tube in question usually suffices, though liquid lipsticks (which can't easily be sanitized) are more problematic. Everything should probably be okay in most cases, provided a rat didn't spit in the vial.

  • A Lot Of Tossed Makeup Is Still In The Package

    Dumpster-bound makeup doesn't always, or even usually, equate to gently used testers: many rejected products are still in their original packages. This is usually because they've passed their expiration dates, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything in of itself. Like many medications, a lot of technically "outdated" cosmetics are still perfectly safe and/or effective to use. One xoJane contributor, chronicling her own adventures in dumpster diving, found not only mucho packaged makeup, but also a fair amount of perfectly good personal care products, as well: "most of [which were] perfectly good, fresh, undamaged, and unused."