One person’s discarded makeup is another person’s new favorite product. Dumpster diving has been around for a couple decades now, but because of the Internet, it’s more popular than ever. Beauty vloggers are taking to the trash to find next-to-new makeup and cosmetic products.
Shelbi, a popular YouTuber known by her username Shelbizleee, is arguably the most well-known vlogger who constantly posts hauls of the beauty items she scores while dumpster diving in the trash cans of Sephora and Ulta. Her hauls have garnered millions of views, so clearly, there are many who are fascinated by her hobby. Shelbi always stresses that her practice helps save money. After all, if you could pick up a palette for free that usually costs around $40, why wouldn’t you?
However, for Shelbi and her fellow dumpster divers, the justification goes beyond just the matter of price. In her Twitter bio, Shelbi describes herself as an environmentalist — a primary reason why recycling makeup is important to her. Tested products and products that have been returned or barely used are often thrown away. As a result, some see dumpster diving as a beneficial way to combat the large amount of waste that is disposed of everyday.
On the other hand, dumpster diving for makeup doesn’t come without risks. When pocketing used makeup, the chances of contracting a skin condition such as a bacterial contamination, infection or general skin damage like inflamed skin, rashes or acne should be considered before applying the product. Shelbi encourages her followers to take precautions by teaching them how to spray alcohol on items they find — mostly powder-based products — to get rid of potential dirt and germs. She also mentions the importance of wearing gloves during the actual process of dumpster diving to keep safe.
Dumpster diving remains a controversial practice. It helps people save a couple of bucks and it’s undoubtedly environmentally friendly, but it can be argued that the major health risks that come with it are not worth the money it saves. Still, the dumpster diving makeup haul movement is continuing its upward trajectory for those with that acquired taste, while those more hesitant of the trend will stay within the confines of a store to buy their products. In the end, whether you support dumpster diving for cosmetics or not, we can all agree that it’s a hot topic worth debating.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 24 print edition.
Email Sherah Ndjongo at [email protected]