5 Ways to Recycle Your Makeup

The process of finding your favorite beauty products is a process of trial and error. In the quest to securing a perfect shade of foundation or the right shade of red lipstick, you're bound to switch out some items in your makeup bag. Whether you use every drop of your favorite lip stain or you find a new shampoo that better suits your needs, your cosmetics collection likely includes some forgotten empty bottles or unused products. But before you toss these products aside or leave them hanging out on your makeup shelf, you may want to consider these alternatives. From a recycling program for your favorite hair gel to free products for frequent shoppers, here are five alternatives to throwing out your leftover beauty products.

Back to MAC

Those who can't get enough of MAC Cosmetics may want to take advantage of their Back to MAC program. All you have to do is collect six primary packaging containers (think tubes, bottles, eyeshadow pot, etc.) that your MAC product came in. The products can be used, empty, or full, but they have to fall within the company's required guidelines for return.

MAC then keeps track of each of your returns and once you reach six returned products, you'll get a free MAC lipstick. Who knew that our love of Ruby Woo would come in handy?!

Lush 5 Pot Program

<cite class="credit">Image courtesy of Lush</cite>
Image courtesy of Lush

To encourage recycling among its customers, Lush has a rewards program centered around the return of its signature black product pots. The 5 Pot Program rewards customers with a free face mask after they return five empty, clean Lush pots. As Jennifer Graybeal of Lush explained, "To encourage and support our closed loop recycling, customers simply bring back 5 empty Lush pots (washed out and dried) to receive a free Fresh Face Mask. After collected, the returned pots are sent back to our Vancouver and Toronto suppliers, where they regrind and remold the pots."

Along with their recycling reward program, the company also uses "100 percent recycled plastic to make the pots, bottles and lids that house our products." And Jennifer had additional suggestions for what you can do with gently used or leftover Lush makeup. "Our black pots make for great seed starter containers, flower pots, pen holders, craft project material, organizers for bits and bobs like hair ties, bobby pins…and they stack well on top of each other," she said. "Any of our bath bombs, fresh face masks, lip balm, massage bars, solid scrubs and solid perfumes can be composted. And of course, re-gifting or donating unused products to local shelters and organizations is always a good idea."

Garnier and Terracycle®

<cite class="credit">Image courtesy of Terracycle®</cite>
Image courtesy of Terracycle®

Got a shelf in your shower filled with shampoo? Garnier and Terracycle® partnered for a recycling program that will take your personal care and beauty products. You have to sign up online in order to participate, but the program is free to use. Once approved, you'll be sent a box that to deposit old hair care, skin care, and cosmetic items in. There are certain mail restrictions you have to follow, but once the box is filled and mailed back, your leftover makeup and beauty products will be recycled and remade into other products.

Plus, you can feel even better about giving back because the program comes with special rewards based on the sizing of your package. Collect more than 10 pounds of leftover cosmetic products and Terracycle® will award you points that can be redeemed to give donations to a nonprofit or school of your choice.

Gina Herrera, Terryacycle's U.S. director of client services explained their intentions with the program, noting that they wanted to partner with Garnier to find an easy way that consumers can recycle. "Recycling is something that everyone can do," she said. "All you have to do is want to make a change."

The program does have a waitlist, but Gina recommends signing up and collecting products until you're approved. She noted that applications are always being reviewed.


A number of nonprofits are always looking for beauty and personal care item related donations. Check in with your local shelters and donation centers, or give a look to charities including Project Beauty Share, the Beauty Bus Foundation, and Give and Makeup.

Before deciding on a charity to donate your products to, you may want to reach out and find out their guidelines for donations. Make sure to see what condition they want beauty products in, what items they need, and how donations are accepted. It's also important that you check in with your local post office to ensure that you're meeting mailing guidelines.

Kiehl's Recycling Program

Frequent shoppers at Kiehl's will want to take advantage of their recycling program. Return empty full-size bottles to the store and earn a stamp. After you collect 10 stamps, Kiehl's will reward you with a free travel-sized product. The brand has reportedly collected more than 3 million empty products since beginning their recycling incentive.

Along with Kiehl's, Lush and MAC, additional retailers including bareMinerals, Aveda, and Origins have recycling programs worth taking advantage of.

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