Remember that neon-purple eyeshadow your grandma gifted you over the holidays, because “it just looked so darling”? You know, the one that you politely tried on for her, then immediately returned after she left? Yeah, we’ve all done it, and maybe you, too, have wondered what exactly happens to those lightly-used-and-returned products after you’ve said goodbye to them at the register.
Turns out, they don’t go back to a special factory and get recycled into sweaters for the homeless. Most of the time, stores like Ulta and Sephora actually end up throwing them in the trash at the end of the day, and lest you think nobody would want to go through a pile of trash in the name of beauty, two beauty vloggers are proving you—and pretty much everyone else—wrong by recording themselves dumpster diving for makeup, and yes, the internet is freaking out about it.
Vlogger Shelbi, known by her fans on YouTube as Shelbizleee, is one of many vloggers taking advantage of the golden dumpsters at Ulta and Sephora. In a recently posted video, Shelbi shows off a large, dented, cardboard box that she discovered in the trash behind her local Ulta, excitedly saying, “I finally found the returns box!” before removing damaged and dirty-looking products, one by one, for the camera. “They took the lids and the caps off of all the foundations [and] off of all the lipsticks,” she continues in the video, “And they did try to destroy the palettes, but I could salvage them. They aren’t in perfect condition, but they are useable, for sure.”
Ignoring the fact, for a second, that beauty stores destroying their products before throwing them out is crazy-awful on so many levels (and reminds us of the time when Abercrombie said it would rather burn its unsold clothes than let “poor people” wear them), we’re seriously shocked that the stuff that looks like pure garbage to us is the equivalent to a very extremely successful trip for Shelbi. One of her best finds? An Urban Decay Naked Ultimate Basics palette, identical to the one she had just purchased (and will now return).
And Shelbi isn’t the only vlogger getting in on the action. Like Shelbi, vlogger Sydney Pillitteri is documenting similar dumpster dives on her YouTube channel, with nearly fifteen-thousand viewers tuning in to watch her recent Ulta dumpster haul, in which Pillitteri shows off all of the products she found in the trash, including a Stila eyeshadow, two Urban Decay Naked palettes, Tarte Maracuja Oil, and Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion (which was half-empty, leaving Pillitteri to assume it was a tester). While products like eyeshadow and lipstick may be riskier finds (thanks to the fact that they could be swarming with bacteria and are also difficult-to-impossible to sanitize), Pillitteri noted that she felt comfortable using a bottled product, like the primer, which squeezes out, rather than requiring you to dip into it.
First of all: These girls are awesome for finding a way to get their beauty jollies without breaking their budgets. But although these girls are obviously saving money (hey, we don’t like spending $54 on palettes, either), we can’t ignore the fact that there are obvious health risks that come along with dumpster diving for products that go on your face. In a report from Cleveland 9 News, dermatologist Elma Baron explains that there are an insane number of skin conditions that you can contract from using used, discarded beauty products, including itchy, red, and inflamed skin, or even “acne or eruptions that look like acne,” she warns. And, not to mention the fact that you actually can catch herpes from using infected lip products, if the virus is still present when you use it.
Regardless of the very obvious risks, though, we think these girls should let their dumpster-diving flags fly, because in an industry where steep prices and cult-like followings plague beauty products, it can be difficult to get your fill on the latest product launches without totally wrecking your budget. One person’s trash may be another person’s favorite eyeshadow palette, right? Just make sure to dab and swipe cautiously, and at your own risk.