Would You Pay to Use Someone Else’s Makeup?

We’ve all tried on our mom’s blush, or our sister’s mascara, or our friend’s lipstick. Sharing makeup, in the traditional sense, is not a new or novel idea.

However, a company in China called 17Beauty is taking the idea of makeup sharing to a new level. For the equivalent of 4 American dollars, the 17Beauty Box allows you to enter a secluded pink booth and enjoy access to an abundance of expensive, luxury cosmetics (for 15 minutes, that is).

When inside said box, you’re free to use whatever you like. The concept of these luxury makeup-sharing booths feels ideal for events or special occasions— a night when you might like to treat yourself to a seamless layer of $50 Dior foundation without having to pay $50. And if you were to spontaneously decide to grab a drink after work but forgot to bring your makeup bag, that 17Beauty Box might be the ideal place to freshen up. Or if you wanted to try out luxury products and test their wear before buying, you would know exactly where to go.

Of course, there are downsides to the concept of public makeup sharing. 17Beauty Boxes are stocked with sanitizing tools and disposable hygiene products so that customers can ensure that the makeup they use is clean before and after use. However, there’s no guarantee that they’ll take the time, and there is little to no regulation to encourage them to.

Furthermore, the internet is flooded with articles about the various bacterias and even illnesses that can be transferred through the sharing of makeup; the most extreme being eye infections or even staph infections.

A $4 price tag to temporarily take your pick of luxury makeup products might seem like a deal—but is it worth the risks that come along with it?

Though 17Beauty Box has yet to come to America, the idea of makeup sharing has certainly made its way here. Entire Reddit threads, Depop stores and Poshmark pages are dedicated to the buying and selling of someone else’s cosmetics. Some brand new in their boxes, some lightly used, all purchased under the presumption that the sellers are hygienic and honest.

What conclusions can we draw from the global phenomenon of makeup sharing? Perhaps it’s a step towards sustainability and a commitment to using existing resources. Perhaps it’s well-intentioned but misguided. Perhaps it’s just a fad. Only time will tell.

Illustrations by Megan Badilla