Is It Safe to Buy Preowned Beauty Products?
While the samples sent to POPSUGAR were in like-new condition, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist (the equivalent of a consultant derm here in the UK) Dhaval Bhanusali said there's still a lot that can go wrong. "They use some pretty general terms," he said about Glambot's sanitation process as outlined on its website. "You can spread bacteria very readily and create massive chaos and harm a lot of people even with the smallest of errors."
One of the concerns Bhanusali pointed out was the products' expiration dates. The label lists how long it is good for after the initial use (it might read "6M," for example, meaning after opening, you can use it for six months). Without a specific expiration date, there is no way to determine when a product was opened and for how long.
Horiuchi said Glambot's team analyses products, looking for specific indicators to help determine if a product has expired. Some indicators include the separation in liquids and the sheen and smell of a product.
Bhanusali warned that while mould can be an indicator, in most cases, there's no way to visually determine if a product has expired.
"It becomes really, really difficult to quantify the risk, but it's always going to be there. It's kind of like why we don't reuse needles and syringes."
"All you need is the smallest amount of bacterial contamination to cause problems. I'm talking like a microscopic amount," Bhanusali said. "It becomes really, really difficult to quantify the risk, but it's always going to be there. It's kind of like why we don't reuse needles and syringes."
When asked if she trusts Glambot's sanitation process, Patera said she isn't concerned about contamination. "All the products I received were like brand-new or swatched," she said. "Nothing was heavily used or went bad."
Do Used Beauty Products Sometimes Mean Counterfeit?
With any booming retail market, fakes tend to follow close behind — and the beauty industry is no exception. During a raid in 2018, the LAPD seized $700,000 worth of counterfeit makeup in LA's fashion district.
Horiuchi said Glambot uses a "red flag" process for weeding out fakes. "We have a whole list of indicators, as well as a repository of known fakes for comparison," Horiuchi said. "Because if it's not authentic, you don't know what went into the product at all."
Other indicators include spelling, packageing, colour payoff, and weight. Horiuchi added that counterfeit manufacturers often target popular brands, like Kat Von D and Too Faced, and, in particular, makeup palettes.
Recently, Patera ordered a palette from Glambot but noticed that the previous owner had swapped out the correct shades with different eyeshadow pans. After contacting customer service, Glambot refunded her order.
But unlike counterfeit goods such as handbags and shoes, there's a lot more at risk with counterfeit makeup. Bhanusali said his office sees an increasing amount of patients for contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction from a product or ingredient that causes redness, scaliness, or sometimes a superficial chemical burn, which can be a result of using contaminated beauty products.
In one instance, Bhanusali and his team tested out a facial cleanser that was causing a patient's skin to react. "It ended up being shampoo," he said. "They couldn't figure out what shampoo it was, but it wasn't a cleanser."