Trade Up! How to Host Your Own Beauty Swap Party


From time to time, we all make mistakes when we buy makeup. Like that blood orange lipstick that you bought. You hoped it would turn you into a Robert Palmer girl, but it made you look like you have a Sunny D mustache. Before you try to return it (good luck with that) or throw it out, remember that one girl’s trash is another girl’s perfect shade.

So instead of chucking your unwanted beauty buys, get your friends together for a Beauty Swap party. It’s like a clothing swap, but with beauty products. Guests bring gently used or new-and-ignored items they want to dispose of and everyone goes home with a free swag bag of new-to-you products. Not only may you find a new lipstick to obsess over, but you’ll be doing your part for the planet, as well.

Here are our six best tips for a successful beauty swap!

1: Pick a date and guests wisely

If cocktails and trial-and-error makeup application is involved, weekends are ideal.You don’t want to be showing up to a morning meeting the next day if that temporary dye hasn’t washed out. There’s no hard, fast rules on the number of party attendees, but make sure to stipulate that everyone checks with the host first before extending the invitation to other friends. When swapping beauty products, you want the vibe to be a little less flea market and little more exclusive (not to mention hygienic).

2: Set the ground rules

Each attendee must bring items to swap—makeup, brushes, hair products, fragrance, and nail polish are all welcome. You might want to stipulate that everyone bring both drugstore and higher-end brands so that you don’t end up with piles of dollar-store Halloween makeup. Ask that everyone show up on time (so that all have fair dibs on the goods) and that they bring a bag to carry home their haul. A couple of things you should probably avoid swapping altogether: mascara and lip glosses with wand applicators.

3: Create separate stations for products and sanitation

If you’re hosting, make two stations: one for product display, and one for sanitation. We recommend using cheap, opaque white vinyl shower curtains as tablecloths—guests can feel free to try out swatches on the table’s covered surface and you can quickly fold and toss when the party ends.

• Product station: On your white shower curtain/tablecloth, use permanent marker to write designated areas for eyeshadows, lipsticks, nail polish and so on, so that guests can easily group their items accordingly. Scatter jars full of Q-tips across the table for hygienic sampling, and set out some tissues as well.

• Sanitation station: At your sanitation station, you want to provide all necessary tools and products and have them labeled clearly, plus how-to-sanitize instructions for different types of products (again, you can write your directions on the shower curtain/tablecloth with a permanent marker). Fill spray bottles with rubbing alcohol, and leave out cotton pads to clean both makeup and brushes. Lay out two sharpeners, one for lip pencils, one for eye pencils. After shaving off the outermost layer of a pencil, guests should sanitize the sharpener in with alcohol or spray cleaner. Include a jar of 70% alcohol and a couple of small spatulas, for sanitizing lipstick, along with directions on how to do it (shave off a layer with a spatula, and/or dip into a jar of 70% alcohol for a few seconds). Other good cleaning products to have on hand? Brush cleaner—either DIY or Parian Spirit—in clearly marked jars, plus spray cleaner such as Parian’s or Beauty So Clean Cosmetic Sanitizer Mist.

4: Keep food and drinks separate

Sure you want to be a good host. But be sure to set up your refreshments away from the makeup! And especially, the sanitation station. If you can sequester eats and drinks in a separate room, all the better. Perhaps you can even create your own beauty-themed signature drink.

5: Start swapping!

• Round one: Everyone picks at will. If more than one guest wants the same item and no one is budging, each has to try it on and the party pool votes on who wears it best.
• Round two: Likely, there will still be a ton of stuff that needs to be taken on the table. Now’s the time to get social and recommend products for one another.
• Round three: Gather up the orphans into three piles: (1) items that absolutely no one will want, to be tossed; (2) items to keep for your next beauty swap (invite a few new people); and (3) items to donate to a women’s shelter, especially unused bath and personal care products. (Check to find locations near you.)

6: Make it regular

Before everyone leaves, pick a date for the rerun!

Read more on sanitizing products:
• How to clean makeup brushes
• DIY brush cleaner recipes
• How to sanitize lipstick