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Swap your slap and save the planet

THERE'S hardly a home in the country that doesn't have a stash of beauty or bodycare products which rarely — if ever — see the light of day.

Many of these make-up mountains and body lotion lakes are the result of misguided gifting by others; it's absolutely OK to just come right out and say it.

You' ll find no talk about being ungrateful, or, of looking a gift horse in the mouth or “it's the thought that counts” sentiments here, because when it comes to presents such as jumbo-sized pound shop palettes packed full of eyeshadows that nearly burned the eyes clean out of your head when they were applied, it is definitely better to give than to receive.

While such gifts are unwanted at best and completely useless at worst, there's something particularly awful about being personally responsible for bringing rubbish beauty items across the threshold.

Forking over your own cash for often expensive products, only to discover that they're completely unsuitable when you get them home, is no fun at all.

Maybe it's a foundation that the sales assistant loudly proclaimed to be a perfect match for your skin tone but which actually makes you look like an Oompa Loompa. Maybe it's a nail varnish that you were sure would be your perfect shade but which actually makes your fingers look a bit, well, dead. Maybe it's a body moisturiser that you thought smelled good enough to eat in the shop but which now makes you gag every time it's opened.

Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to counteract the terrible sinking feeling that accompanies the realisation you've got a dud on your hands.

Sharing is caring

So maybe a product doesn't appeal to or suit you, but that's not to say that a close friend or family member won't love it. Kylie Minogue has said recently how she regularly recommends products to her sis, Dannii. I’m sure the Aussie beauties just can’t wait to get together and swap lippies.

Mothers and sisters are usually the safest bets when it comes to doling out unwanted beauty items; Irish mammies with their “ah sure don't mind me, I'll just sit here in the dark” mentality tend to be particularly delighted with the chance to try new items.

Perfumes and face, hand, or body creams will likely go down well with the ma, while your make-up mad sister or best pal might like to get their paws on foundation and colour cosmetics such as eyeshadows, blushers, and nail varnishes. Needless to say, it's crucial to know your audience to avoid insulting anyone — and for God's sake don't inadvertently return an unwanted present to the person who gave it to you in the first place.

Swap Shop

They're not for everyone,

admittedly, but internet beauty swap shops can help you to anonymously get rid of your duds and replace them with products you'd like to try or might actually use — without any money changing hands. You arrange the swap online directly with a fellow swapper, exchange address details privately, post your items, and then enjoy the goodies you receive in return.

A dollop of common sense is all you need to get your swapping started: used mascaras, lipsticks and lipglosses are obvious no-nos, but you should also think twice before offering or accepting pots of moisturiser or cleanser into which fingers have been dipped.

Try MakeUpAlley.com — with members from all over the world, you can get access to brands and products that are difficult to come by here at home. It allows you to create lists of what you have to swap and what you're looking for in their place, and also operates a detailed feedback system for all swaps.

Users rate each other based on their swapping experiences, which means you get a feel for how trustworthy individual members are and how they behave in the course of their swaps.

If you'd rather stay closer to home to give this swapping malarkey a go, there's an Irish spin on the enterprise over at Beaut.ie.

Their “Beauty Swap Siopa” connects unwanted products with potential new, loving owners.

Don't just bin it

It can be very tempting to simply hurl disappointing pressies or purchases straight into the bin when they don't live up to expectations, but you won't score any brownie points with super eco-conscious Stella McCartney or Natalie Portman by sending them to landfill.

At the very least, try to recycle as much packaging as possible. Cardboard outer boxes, paper inserts, and many plastic tubes and tubs can likely go straight into your domestic recycling collection, while glass containers can be included in the bottle run to your local bring bank.

If you can't recycle at home or want to get rid of articles that are made of materials your waste operator won't accept (things like compacts or lipstick cases would fall into this category), you may be able to do your bit for the planet in-store.

A number of companies host programmes where they' ll accept your empty cosmetics packaging and recycle it for you. For example, if you return 6 MAC primary packaging empties to a MAC counter, you'll get your choice of one of their lovely lippies for your troubles. (The Viva Glam charity lipsticks are excluded from this Back to MAC scheme.)

Origins, meanwhile, don't discriminate on the basis of brand and will accept packaging from any cosmetic company as part of their Return to Origins programme. They'll also hook you up with some samples to thank you for playing your part — find counters in Arnotts, Clerys, House of Fraser, Dundrum and Boots, Liffey Valley.