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Reducing Beauty Waste – Unwanted Makeup

Reducing Beauty Waste: What to do with your unwanted makeup and cosmetics?

The rise of social media influencing, beauty subscription boxes and concepts like beauty advent calendars means we can easily end up with piles of products that aren’t right for us. This unfortunately contributes to a world of wasted and unused cosmetics. Realistically, how many cleansers and eyeshadow palettes can be used all at once? (No judgement – this is from personal experience!) The question is: what should we do with it all? If you have drawers stuffed full of unused products, it is time for a major declutter.

Charity Donations

Donating clothing to charity stores or contributing to food banks is something commonly understood and discussed, but the everyday issue of hygiene poverty is often overlooked. According to The Hygiene Bank, people give up buying toiletries long before going to visit a food bank, as low income forces them to re-prioritise. As many charities do not accept makeup and cosmetics items, some newer charities have been created specifically for this purpose.

Reducing Beauty Waste - Unwanted Makeup GlamCandyThe first charity that caught our attention is Beauty Banks, founded by beauty journalist Sali Hughes and her colleague, Jo Jones. They distribute items to partner charities across the UK. The standout of this concept is that there are donation points across Superdrug stores throughout Scotland, so you can easily drop off donation items while doing your typical shopping. We popped to our local Superdrug store in Aberdeen to donate – it was a nice surprise to see the drop-off bin already full and waiting for collection.

This particular store is linked with Aberdeen Cyrenians, who support people experiencing homelessness or those at risk of losing their homes.

Commonly requested products include toiletries such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, but new/unused make-up and cosmetics items are also very welcome additions. Though not a necessary staple, makeup items such as lipstick are wonderful gifts that can improve someone’s day or overall mood/confidence.

Another charity option is Toiletries Amnesty, who are similarly dedicated to reducing beauty waste and hygiene poverty. They have also recently been backed by online store FeelUnique. Examples of acceptable products and FAQs can be found on both charities’ websites.

Reducing Beauty Waste - Unwanted Makeup GlamCandy


Any items that have been opened and/or lightly used can be donated to your friends or family (as long as they haven’t expired). It is very common to try a product once or twice before realising it’s not for you – a wrong foundation match or lipstick shade, for example. What doesn’t suit you may be perfect for a friend. Some products can also be sanitised hygienically to minimise cross-contamination. For example, pencil products can be sharpened and sprayed with alcohol spray to sanitise. The tops of lipsticks can also be sliced clean off to leave new, untouched product.


If you are looking to make a profit from your products, another great option is Depop. This is an online buying and selling platform that is a cross between eBay and Instagram. The platform is a great option for selling cosmetics and makeup as you can connect easily with likeminded users, and it can all be done via a mobile app. It is very user-friendly and free to list items (however, Depop does charge a small fee if your item sells).

What about Makeup Empties and Packaging Waste?

Makeup packaging can be very tricky to recycle due to its shape and materials, for example, mascara tubes, lipstick tubes and eyeshadow palettes. This means that these items are not often accepted by standard recycling bins. Truthfully, this is part of a much larger plastic waste issue, for which a meaningful long-term solution is yet to be found. In the meantime, however, you can drop off your used makeup packaging at local Boots, Superdrug, Sainsburys and Tesco stores across the UK. Dropoff points have been created specifically for this purpose by makeup brand Maybelline, in partnership with TerraCycle. Once the dropoff bins are full, the packaging is collected, extruded, and used to create new recycled products. Whichever option you choose, it is hugely satisfying to know that our beauty products will go to a loving new home instead of gathering dust in cupboards or going straight to landfill. Not only will recipients be grateful for your donations, research has shown that decluttering has both physical and mental benefits, helping you to create space and improve your focus. A win-win situation all round!

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