Don't Bin Unwanted Makeup, Donate It To These Women Instead

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
When it comes to pretty, shiny things, many of us are like magpies. It’s understandable: it demands a strong will to resist the relentless marketing everywhere we go and, in any case, the new liquid lipstick from your favourite beauty brand is gorgeous.

But often we don’t need – or even really want – the things we hand over our hard-earned cash for, so it’s little surprise that a stockpile of unused bits and bobs soon starts to form. From that freebie anti-ageing eye cream you got for spending £30 in Boots to the kind cosmetics gift that didn’t quite suit your colouring, you probably aren’t using every item in your makeup bag.

The familiar ‘New Year, New You’ spiel makes January seem the ideal time for a sort out, but instead of throwing out your unwanted goodies in a frantic bid to ‘clear your clutter, clear your mind’, why not do something more positive with them?

Give and Makeup is a non-profit initiative that helps pass on your surplus makeup, clothing and more to the thousands of women who turn up at refuges with nothing after escaping domestic abuse. It was founded six years ago by skincare expert and blogger Caroline Hirons after research for a blogpost on everyday essentials led her to a page on Refuge’s website.

“I read that the fewer things women take with them, the longer they have to get away, because the abuser is less likely to assume that she’s left,” she says. “Most of them only take their kids, their purse and maybe a change of underwear. I had a lightbulb moment. I had been sent so much stuff for the blog and I didn’t need it all, but these women did. I rung my friends up and said ‘Bitches, we’re doing this!'”

Two women are murdered by a partner or ex-partner every week in the UK, with one in four experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime. Charities like Refuge and Women’s Aid protect those in need, helping them find somewhere safe to stay while they struggle to rebuild their lives.
Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, encourages the donation of makeup to women’s refuges. “When you go into a refuge, you are literally running for your life. That means that you leave nearly everything behind – another indignity for an abused woman,” she says. “Refuges are a vital space for survivors of domestic abuse to reclaim their confidence and identity – and something to make them feel pampered and special, like makeup, can play an important part in that.”

Initially, any Give and Makeup donations were sent to a Fulham shop run by a member of Hirons' family, but when they kept arriving, Refuge set up a PO Box close to its offices. “It was frustrating at the beginning as people were asking me for the addresses of the refuges, which I obviously couldn’t share as they are full of women whose lives are threatened,” says Hirons, who regularly organises collections from brands and retailers as well as donating personally.

Give and Makeup originally focused solely on makeup, as the name suggests, because Hirons wanted to help liberate those women who had been banned by controlling abusers from wearing makeup and dyeing their hair. Unlike charity shops and similar schemes that only work directly with brands, it accepts lightly used products – so that blusher you tried once and never wore again need not go to waste. The general rule is that if you’d happily give something to a friend, they’ll take it, though tested items with an applicator wand (namely mascaras, lip glosses and concealers) are no-gos for hygiene reasons.

Suggestions of other things to send to the women include toiletries, clean underwear, stationery, homeware for personalising their refuge rooms, books, cosy blankets, small mugs and bowls and children’s toys and games.

"Literally everything” in a good, usable condition is accepted, and the women are “so grateful” for the gifts they receive. “If you ask women to give £40 to charity, most will balk and say they can’t afford it, but they’ll happily hand over an eye palette that they aren’t going to use anymore,” says Hirons. “Donating is doing good for someone in a worse-off position than you, it’s really that simple.”

If you need help, you can call the Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247

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