“Lab time can cost around $500 for an hour,” Spinnato says. “When you see them refurbish a compact, that process takes about two hours. So it’s about $1,000 [worth of lab time] to get these videos done. You never see their faces or hear them talking, and they’re wearing gloves. I think that’s to have a sterile environment first, but also because they could be rogue employees in some lab.”
Cosmetic chemist and research and development director for SOS Beauty Nick Dindio adds that “the people who are repairing cosmetics definitely know what they are doing. The equipment isn’t difficult for the average person to get their hands on, but there are quite a few different tools and machinery that they are using that would be quite expensive,” he says. “For this reason, I don’t think the average consumer would have the ability to repair cosmetics like this at home.”
Makeup artists who tend to travel around for work often reconfigure their kits to make them packable and ensure they’re only toting around the essentials. “People combine products to keep it streamlined so you don’t have to schlep around more than you use,” says makeup artist Jessa Blades. But those artists are putting all of that makeup into a new compact or case, rather than reusing old ones.
Pessimists might assume that #cosmeticrepair videos actually show the process of making counterfeit products, but Dindio isn’t concerned about that. “The amount of time and effort that goes into a single repair would be far greater than the profits they could make,” he says.
The lab conditions in the videos appear sterile, though Dindio says it’s tough to generalize whether or not makeup repair should be considered hygienic or safe. “It depends on the product,” he says. “Anything that goes on or around the eye area would be the highest risk type of product in my opinion, so I would personally not use an eye product that had been ‘repaired.’ Many of these products [used in the videos] are powders that don’t contain water and are generally not as susceptible to microbial contamination, so the risk is lower.”
Cosmetic chemist and product developer Ginger King warns that refurbished eye shadows, in particular, could pose a risk. “There could be contaminations during the process,” she says. “I know it’s attempting to salvage things when it’s broken, but makeup is not something you want to mess around with, especially when it comes to eye shadows for potential infection.”
King adds that bronzers and blushes might be a relatively safer bet for makeup rehab. “Those tend to last a long time, and if you absolutely want to try this, you could if you are not prone to acne or pore-clogging issues.” Still, King recommends “just buying a new one” when the time comes.
Some brands, like MAC and Kjaer Weis, sell refillable items in an effort to reduce waste. “The first resort should always be just to return to the retailer, and brands are usually happy to help,” says SOS Beauty president Charlene Valledor, who worked in product development at Hourglass and EM Cosmetics before starting her own company. “Attempting to repair a product could actually just ruin it. A lot of people try to add alcohol to a broken powder, which is crazy – even if you fix the break or whatever the aesthetic issue is, you are likely to ruin the performance of the product.”