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Recession-Proof Beauty: The Swap Meet

Welcome back to my series on recession-proof beauty. I've already written about how to keep your beauty spending under control, but if you want to get beauty products for free, there's another way: swap them. I know some of you are skeeved out by this idea, but if you follow a few guidelines, it's a great way to purge unused products from your stash and pick up a few goodies at the same time. The biggest community for doing so is Makeupalley, which has 236,830 items up for swap today. As you can imagine, you can find just about anything there, so I'll show you how to make the most of its enormous swapping opportunities.

The concept is pretty simple. After signing up for an account, you can list your unwanted beauty items for swap. Then you can browse the up-for-grabs swap lists of other members. When you see something you're interested in, contact the member to see if she's game for a swap. If it's a fit, you'll both ship out the goods and leave a "token" — similar to eBay's feedback forum — for each other.

Of course, there are a few etiquette and sanitation guidelines you should follow. To find out what they are,


What to swap: Okay, first things first: Your emerald-green Wet 'n' Wild eye shadow? Nobody wants it. Sorry. When listing items to swap, you'll have better luck if you offer boutique brands (MAC and Nars are popular; drugstore brands aren't). And only list products that are in new or like-new condition; testing a lipstick on your hand once is fine, but don't list a half-used bottle of shampoo. To make your listing stand out, be honest about the product's condition and consider taking pictures.

What to look for: You can find a lot of brand-new items on Makeupalley, but many have been tried once or twice. Personally, I'd be fine with swapping items that can easily be sanitized, such as perfume or creams in a sealed pump bottle. I'm a little less inclined to go for lip gloss (since the wand can't be cleaned), and I'd never go for used mascara. Fragrances abound, particularly in sample sizes.

How to make an offer: Read the swapper's profile. Some swappers are willing to swap for all kinds of items, but others only want to swap for items on their wish list. Then, make contact, and be realistic in your swap offer. "I'll take your Phillip Lim Nars palette if you want my Boucheron perfume sample" is not a fair swap. But "How about my new Nars Dolce Vita lipstick, Stila Kitten eye shadow, and Lancome nail polish?" is a tempting one.

Ship the goods! This part is easy — just wrap and mail your swap item promptly. To be sure that your item arrives in one piece, wrap it with bubble wrap. And while it's not required to send a few extra goodies (fragrance samples, etc.), not doing so is considered a bit déclassé. After you've received your swap, then leave feedback in the form of a token. From there, you can enjoy a new-to-you beauty product — and all you've had to pay is the cost of shipping.

Join The Conversation
emalove emalove 9 years
I used to be obsessed with Makeup Alley, but I was never tempted to swap. It just skeeves me out. My sister and I occasionally swap makeup, but that's about it for me. I'm too much of a germaphobe.
AllaWallaBalla AllaWallaBalla 9 years
I agree, the piece was very well written. I, for one, did not take offense and I don't think you made anyone sound snobby. If anything, I did that by calling them "picky." Some people on Makeupalley like Wet n' Wild and some don't. I think you were encouraging Teamsugar members to be realistic about their expectations. On the bright side, I guess people now have a more realistic idea of what Makeupalley is really like!
latent latent 9 years
Bella I think the piece was well written. Yes there is caution to be exercised, but that's just common sense. :)
SparklinSeahorSe SparklinSeahorSe 9 years
i've been a member of MUA for about 5 years now. at one time i had swaps going all the time... but since then i've kind of lost interest in it. however, swapping was such a fun thing for me at the time. i was younger and didn't have a steady job, so i couldn't always afford to buy cosmetics whenever i wanted to and swapping was the best way to do it! i met some really sweet girls on there and it was always like christmas when i would get packages in the mail! if you have an abundance of cosmetics that you just don't use, i would recommend swapping... it was one of my favorite things to do!
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
Sounds interesting. I will definitely look into this.
Beauty Beauty 9 years
Ouch! Gosh. I've been a member of MUA for almost 10 years, and I don't mean to make anybody at MUA seem like a snob — just trying to tell people about the great resource that is swapping.
maryanny maryanny 9 years
Wow, I was thinking about joining the board but the MUAers that just came here to "set you straight" really changed my mind! :-\
kewlgirl kewlgirl 9 years
i am also a swapper on MUA. I feel like I have got some really great stuff, that I wouldn't have access to buy on daily basis. (I live in a small town). I order online a lot so I am used to the shipping thing. And it's really fun to get packages in the mall. And the extras are great. I love doing it. And I suggest people sign up and get swapping!
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
I will just go for drugstore stuff and pay cash. Recession free.
Nanashimara Nanashimara 9 years
I registered just so I could leave a comment and tell you that you're making MU Alley sound like a bunch of snobs and putting some restrictions down that aren't true. Plenty of people are interested in WnW items and d/s items. Sure, Mac is very popular, but a lot of things will swap in the end. And people have no problem swapping for a half used bottle of shampoo. What's the big deal? I've swapped half-used things from makeup to facial cleanser. Anyway, there you go, the dirty truth about MU Alley. We LIKE WnW items! The horror!
xdollpartsx xdollpartsx 9 years
No offence... but most of the stuff that is written here is very "Non-Mua" friendly. I am a member of MUA and have swapped many times... First off- your advice on a half empty shampoo? I have a bumble and bumble shampoo for swap that is used and girls for nuts for that brand. And WnW? I just did a huge swap for a girl who wanted the WnW palettes which are a HUGE hit over on MUA! (Every mua gal knows that)! And what about that hard to find lippie from MAC's past collections that has been worn about 15x... Girls would swap more than retail for it, because it's important to them... This article makes us sound like snobs (Mac and Nars ARE popular) BUT most of the girls on MUA love cheaper and more quality products like NYX and WnW and Milani, to name a few... Have you ever been on MUA? I would advise coming to visit before writing a piece about something you have no idea about.
yellowbanana yellowbanana 9 years
I see this being a good idea for hard to find items, but if it's something I can buy from the department store or Sephora, what's the point? I'd rather save the cost of shipping. Plus, it's hard for me to think of any of my unused, yet non contaminated, products that anyone might want to swap for. Not many.
AllaWallaBalla AllaWallaBalla 9 years
I Am Awesomeness-It doesn't quite work that way. People swap for rare, expensive and hard to find items. Things like shampoo and razors that are readily available wouldn't have much swap value. Swappers on Makeupalley are very picky.
i-am-awesomeness i-am-awesomeness 9 years
It does skeeve me out. But it makes me happy in a way because I've been thinking about what to do with most of my meal plan money. there's a small convenience store on campus that sells shampoo, soap, razors, etc. I wanted to find a way to sell them but this is cool bc I can swap the products from there for beauty products I want! Oh this excites me :)
AllaWallaBalla AllaWallaBalla 9 years
Honestly? My tip is Don't Do It! I was swaplifted my first time around and it seriously makes you feel bad about humanity as a whole. To think that there are actually people out there that are willing to lie and cheat for your USED makeup/skincare/hair goods! But if you do plan to swap, there's a sister site called "Swap Talk" that you should sign up for in order to see if the member you plan to swap with has had problems with other swappers in the past. It's also a great source for swap etiquette information.
Beauty Beauty 9 years
Good points, Allawallaballa — there's definitely a lot more to swapping than I could cover in an introductory piece. Any other tips for newbies?
mischo-beauty mischo-beauty 9 years
Good information- thanks.
AllaWallaBalla AllaWallaBalla 9 years
With all due respect, it's *slightly* more complicated than that. There's a possibility you will get "swaplifted" where the other member never ships her end of the swap. Also, if you're a new member and/or have very few swap tokens, you will always send your end of the swap first. And you have to know how to ship your items so that they arrive in ideal condition (not broken) or the swap will be "reversed" and you may have to send back the item you received or buy a new item to replace the one you sent. Plus, for certain heavy items, the price of shipping can be prohibitively expensive. Swapping can be great but definitely do your research before jumping in head first.
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