Recession Beauty: Makeup Swappin’

By | February 5 2009 | 20 Comments

While makeup swaps aren’t news to the savvy lasses of, some of whom regularly trade products via the UK site Beauty Swap Shop or through the leader of the pack, Makeup Alley, I reckon you won’t have come across the pithily named and brand-new swapping site,, before.

Set up by Northern Irish lass Arlene Johnston, the site is for Irish and UK swappers and while it’s only just launched, I see a couple of items of Extreme Interest already: NARS Orgasm blush, anyone? Or how about a little MAC glitter eyeliner?

Swapping can be a great way to try out products you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford, and saving cash is more important than ever given our current financial crisis. Piqued your interest?  Head over to now to check out what’s on offer.

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20 Replies to "Recession Beauty: Makeup Swappin’"

  • Big eyes says:

    Opened makeup?Germ issue?Or closed makeup?why would u buy it if not gonna open it?lol :) I’m confused, must go check out the site…

  • sarah says:

    Aww, slightly disappointed, thought this was going to be a
    day like the clothes swap were you go along and leave your stuff in and shop for other stuff. That would be deadly.
    Love the idea of the above but way too lazy for all that
    posting malarkey.

  • Big eyes says:

    V.strange site seems to have nothing on makeup, hair or fashion just nails and diet? and seems to b 3 ppl on it?Not convinced id want someone elses makeup anyway tho!

  • M says:

    I was on this last night coincidentally- shame there isn’t much on there already but all sites have to start small I guess!

  • Jenna says:

    Hmm I’m not sure I would be up for using someone elses lippie!! eeew!! I would love the idea of this site if it was exclusively for swopping clothes & accessories…even would get over wearing second hand shoes if it meant a new outfit!!

  • tina says:

    I don’t know, I don’t think I’ll ever want some strangers old make up unless it was unopened and sealed. It’s just a bit gross, or am I just being weird? I think I’d rather buy some cheap stuff if I couldn’t afford better quality make up.

  • Admin says:

    I’m with you on the lipstick – though you could shave the top off – and mascara should never ever be swapped unless it’s unopened, but swapping is great for lots of things:

    bath and body products
    anything in a hygenic pump
    nail polish

    just of top o head

  • Big eyes says:

    Tina, i hear ya in theory good idea but wouldnt want someones makeup spesh eye makeup v prone to infection and all!

  • Admin says:

    Gals – just on the side of swapping, I wrote this for the tribune last year (the full text didn’t appear in the paper, but this is what I’d submitted) and apologies for the length


    Falling property prices, government levies and cut-backs mean it’s time to get clever about beauty buying. Kirstie McDermott checks out two makeup swap sites that will save you cash.

    So, you bought that super-swanky moisturiser you’d been reading so much about, and on its first engagement, it rolled back off your cheeks in great big dirty chunks. Oh, we’ve all been there. But the difference is, last year, when cash was a bit more plentiful, we’d have been pretty likely to have shoved it to the back of the bathroom cabinet; chalked it up to experience and gone and bought another. Repeat to fade.

    But not any more. Budget belt-tightening and global economic crises are hitting pockets at home, and suddenly that half-forgotten stash of hardly used €50-a-pop products doesn’t seem like such a good investment. What can you do? Well, you could chance your arm at returning them, but we don’t fancy your luck much, especially if they’ve been opened and have been festering for six months or more.

    No, forget fighting with sales assistants at beauty counters, because swapping is now the smart choice for cash-strapped gals who refuse to give up their cosmetic cravings. Well established when it comes to clothes, the beauty barter is something new in the recessionista’s arsenal, as Aoife Shortt Ryan, from Wicklow, well knows. Swapping on US website Make Up Alley since July, she’s off-loaded a ton of gift-with-purchase products she didn’t want or need. “I couldn’t throw things away because I would feel too guilty”, she confesses. Likewise, Rachelle O’Brien, a self-confessed product junkie from Athy, began swapping due to the sheer amount of unwanted bits and bobs she had cluttering up her bathroom counters. Describing Make Up Alley as an “Aladdin’s cave of fabulous stuff waiting to be swapped”, she’s exchanged her unwanted cosmetics for brands like L’Occitane, difficult to come by in her neck of the woods.

    And that’s the beauty of swapping – one woman’s junk is another’s gem, as Shortt Ryan has also discovered. Exchanging goodies with beauty fans as far flung as Malaysia and Hong Kong has netted her hard-to-find brands like Fresh, and added to her stash of OPI and Essie nail polishes. Best swap? “It’s between an EstÈe Lauder palette and a Philosophy blusher/bronzer duo, both of which are in daily use”, she enthuses. So, is there a downside to on-line swapping? While Shortt Ryan has had good experiences with what she’s received in the post, she’s less than impressed with the attitude of some of Make Up Alley’s swappers. Primarily an American website, a lot of its users won’t consider an out-of-country exchange, something she brands short-sighted and frustrating.

    That’s not the case with Beauty Swap Shop, though, as it’s UK-based. Galway gal Niamh Barrett has used the site to exchange skincare that didn’t agree with her, and to begin with, she was a little wary. “I thought it wouldn’t work because there was no way of knowing whether or not you’d actually receive the item you had swapped”, she says. But Barrett reckons the site operates on trust, and swaps are entered into in good faith. “Since so many women have products they’ve used once and then forgotten about, the odds are in everyone’s favour”, she reasons.

    Last words? O’Brien gets to the heart of the issue. In trying economic times, we’ve got to get clever. “Maybe you’ve been longing for expensive cream but couldn’t justify the spend – well, a swap shop might just give you the chance to try it”. And all for the price of a few stamps – sure, who’d say no to that?

    Two websites for savvy swapping stand out.
    What is it? A US website devoted to up-to-the-minute reviews of any beauty product you care to mention, Makeup Alley also boasts a dedicated swap section with in excess of 250,000 listings
    Sign up: Head to the Swap section and register your details to begin trading
    Pro: A huge network of users means the choice is terrific, and it’s easy to see how trustworthy your potential swapee is as there’s a ratings system built in, much like eBay
    Con: American users can be reluctant to ship outside of the states, meaning that some of those great brands are destined to remain forever elusive
    What is it? UK based, Beauty Swap Shop has over 3,300 members, all ready and willing to swap unwanted beauty items
    Sign up: Easy to find, a register / login panel is located on the homepage. Provide a few details including your name and email address, and you’re good to go
    Pro: As it’s based in Britain, it’s popular with UK and Ireland-based barterers, keeping postage costs down. The handy swap manager function means it’s a cinch to tailor your search according to your requirements – so if you only want to swap with those in the Emerald Isle, then that’s perfectly possible
    Con: There’s no way to see how reliable users are, so there’s a certain element of trust involved with each transaction

    Anything pristine and in its original, unopened packaging
    Unwanted pressies – that scent your auntie gave you for Christmas and which makes you sneeze? You might hate it, but it’s a sure thing that someone else will swoon for its allergic-reaction ways
    Tried-once products in pumps or tubes. Less air – and therefore contaminants – will be able to penetrate into these types of packaging, so they’re safer to swap than a pot you’ve been sticking your fingers into
    Discontinued products are particularly popular – Pout goodies are highly sought after, for example


    Anything exceeding its use-by date. If you’re not sure where that is, flip the packaging and look for a small pot symbol. The number inside the pot indicates the product’s shelf life once it’s been opened
    This isn’t about getting rid of all your rubbish. Don’t expect to receive gorgeous goodies in return for a grubby eye-shadow trio. So be realistic and reasonable, and aim to swap like for like
    Opened, used mascaras. Gross, so don’t go there
    Much-used moisturiser in tubs or pots – this is MRSA city. Bin them instead

  • tina says:

    Admin – oh yes the products you mention would be ok, I was just thinking things like lipstick etc, duh.

  • Big eyes says:

    Thanks Admin, that makes sense, my poor sis gets chance every occasion from her in laws and she hates it so perfect for situations like that, id still be iffy about bronzer and stuff what if they had gross habits and contagious skin infectiosn lol!

  • Loddy says:

    Ugh, wouldnt be a fan of swapping cosmetics etc… how long have they had them for, has anything been used, has stuff been put on spots/lips/eyes/skin conditions. Is it bad to say I wouldnt even swap that kind of stuff with my friends never mind a stranger….

  • littlemiss says:

    What about giving away unwanted stuff to Charity? I always put in a little make-up bag (one I would have received for free) and fill it with products I don’t use or don’t suit me.. I put it in with the clothes. Is that okay, or would it just be binned?

  • dressjunkie says:

    Hi ladies, I’m Arlene Johnston, the founder of slapswap. I’m having fun reading all the comments and think all your arguments regarding hygiene of the products etc are very valid.
    Half of my friends and family would never dream of using the site as they will only buy brand new. However the other half have the bargainista trait and love the idea.

    For every woman that won’t swap, there is one that will :)
    I’ve been swapping for a long time through other mediums and perhaps I’m just lucky but I’ve yet to react to anything I’ve used. There are precautions you can take such as shaving the tops of lipsticks, blushes, even eyeshadows, the top layer can always be removed with little bother.

    I would never suggest that you use swap items in a professional capacity, it should be for your own personal use at your own risk which swap site users seem to take on board. If I do try something (for instance recently Benefit Thrrrob) and like it, then I will purchase a brand new one for my kit :)
    But swapping has definitely saved me and others a lot of money over the years, products that I thought I just had to have (such as Chanel Pro Lumiére foundation), I discovered for the trade of a MAC lippy, were just not the holy grail I thought they be. £30 saved.

    We are a small site and forums etc are very sparse at the moment but I’m hopeful a community can be built, and if not, no harm done :)
    We swap ultimately because it’s fun & free!


  • Big eyes says:

    Thanks Arlene :) your cartoon pic scares me a litle :(

  • Aphrodite says:

    Kirstie – you should post that up on it’s own, not as a comment!

  • laineyg says:

    The swapping seems to go on a lot on the MAC community I watch – they propose things as lightly swatched or well used, and they do get sales swaps. It’s weird. Not sure how they clean shadows etc, but every second post is a sale or swap and not much stuff is BNIB!

  • dressjunkie says:

    LOL @ Big Eyes, you’re not the first to say that, there is a campaign among friends for removal! I kinda like it in a sick way, makes the “real” me feel a bit pretty in comparison!

  • Big eyes says:

    I’m sure you’re beautiful Arlene, that cartoon is v disney witch tho!

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