So, what in the world is a BEAUTY SWAP?
It’s like a clothing swap, but with new and gently used makeup, perfume, and skin/body/hair products. And beauty tools. And alcohol. Basically, IT RULES. Everybody has one of those drawers or cabinets that are overflowing with Sephora samples, impulsively purchased brown lip liner you used all of two times, and fig-scented cuticle oil, right? Well, get ready to clear that baby out. Here’s how.
1. First, pick a friend to co-host your swap.
Co-hosting expands your circle of invitees, which results in more products to swap and good times to be had. It also lightens your hosting duties — one of you can party plan, and one of you can mix drinks. God, you two are good at this.
2. Set up a place where people can sanitize slightly used products.
I can practically hear you from here: “This doesn’t sound sanitary!!II!111!!11!” Well, my shrieking Internet pal, your beauty swap can be as sterile as you’d like it to be. Feel free to only allow sealed or otherwise unused products if that’s what makes you feel the most comfortable. Anyone who’s ever used a tester at a drugstore counter, however, will probably be fine if barely-used products sneak in as well. Consider separating unused from gently used products if you have a handful of serious germaphobes in attendance.
3. Include cups and spray bottles of rubbing alcohol, plus disposable cotton balls or pads. Then leave clear instructions about how to use them.
4. And clearly label these so that people don’t accidentally drink them!
5. Next, make sure you’ve got the other kind of alcohol for your guests, if you so desire.
A couple of these and everyone will be a little less self-conscious about grabbing that weird lime nail polish or glitter hairspray that they secretly covet.
6. Even better than booze? Alcohol-infused snaxx.
These strawberries were soaked in vodka for about 22 hours before being drizzled with dark chocolate. They were gone in about .08 seconds — and everyone was tipsy in about .08 more.
7. Pile your products on a long or wide surface that has enough space for people to crowd around.
8. Don’t bother organizing.
People will be picking things up and putting them back all haphazardly, so there’s no point. Just revel in the chaos of it all.
9. Encourage people to put their stuff down anywhere.
Don’t limit people to sections – you want the products to blend anonymously. That way, no one is going to feel self-conscious about bringing Maybelline instead of Make Up For Ever. No product-shaming, please — this is a safe space.
10. Leave instructions in the middle of the table so people don’t keep coming up to you and asking you how it all works.
Keep it casual! Just ask that people try not to take more than they donated. And unless your friends have at least a shred of self-awareness and manners, I promise you that no one will come to blows over body lotion.
11. Then start grabbing.
12. Don’t be shy about testing unsealed nail polish.
While you don’t want to needlessly open anything sealed, feel free to paint a single nail if you’re feeling that unsure.
13. Some stuff might be a little weird/funky.
Did someone try to swap a half-bottle of Visine or some gummy old Bonne Bell lip balm? It’s okay. This is natural at a beauty swap. Just leave it where you found it and throw it out afterward. Remember, even if it IS Dr. Pepper flavor, no judging — this is a judgment-free zone.
14. Once pickings start slimming down, force stuff on people.
People tend to start off taking things conservatively because they want to leave enough stuff for others. When you see that most people have slowed down or stopped picking through the pile, encourage them to take anything that they might have passed over the first time so it doesn’t go to waste.
15. Now delight in your finds!
“I loved the beauty swap, almost more because I got to unload lots of clutter than because of the great stuff I got (which was also the case). At the swap I grabbed a few staples I always dig and was pumped not to pay for (soy soap by Fresh, body lotion by L’Occitane) but also a couple things I wouldn’t normally buy for myself and would like to try: orangey-red nail polish, a full palette by Pixi.”
Or not. There are likely to be some misses, but the good things are worth the hassle.
“I grabbed the Sally Hansen Salon Effects nail polish strips. I didn’t think it was as successful as I would have wanted. I only put two on and threw the rest out. It was messy-looking and peeling away. I also took the Aveeno positively ageless night cream. I’ve actually been wanting to try this product, so I was happy to see it at the swap. The bottle was clean – it looked like it had been used but it didn’t really gross me out. Last, I grabbed a Victoria Secret body mist…I probably should have just put that back.”
16. Finally, decide what to do with the leftovers.
Anything sealed you can donate to a local women’s shelter or charity group. The stuff that’s already open, just toss.
In conclusion, beauty swaps are truly the best.
After you host your own, you’ll be all, “Can you believe I got an unopened Tarte foundation, a full-sized Bulgari perfume, and the exact shade of bubblegum lipstick I’ve been wussing out of buying? Me neither!” So get to it, and happy swapping!