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Japanese Millennials are Apparently Buying Second-Hand Makeup

The new trend sees young people turning to second-hand products to save money and avoid waste.
japan millennials makeup
Image by Japan Kuru via Flickr.

Japan’s love for its beauty industry is renowned. With a plethora of brands and a thriving beauty industry, Japanese skincare and makeup devotees are spoiled with choices. But a new trend is arising in this market, at the hands of the country’s millennials.

According to a report published by Business of Fashion (BoF), the latest bizarre trend consists of millennials buying second-hand cosmetics.

A nationwide makeup obsession and high beauty standards are a trademark of the country. The data speaks for itself. Japan hosts beauty brands whose exports amounted to $2.4 billion in 2016. Market research institution Euromonitor International claims that Japan’s shoppers spend the most money per capita when it comes to cosmetics and skincare products.


And now, within the country’s digital second-hand retail scene – worth $4.59 billion! – is a market for used makeup.

The country’s top digital marketplace, Mercari, is one such platform which sells these products. They even have this question on their FAQ page: “Does Mercari allow used makeup and cosmetics?” The answer is yes, though they state that shoppers are wholly responsible for their purchase.

“When you want to try a new Chanel lipstick, you can try it via Mercari at a lower price and then buy a new one if you actually like it,” said Yo Douglas, a senior specialist at research firm Gartner. He also cited mutual understanding and respect between the buyers and sellers on these platforms. For instance, buyers trust that the products aren’t near their expiry date and are still hygienic enough.

Moe Miura, who lives in Tokyo, told BoF that she sold used Chanel, YSL Beauty, and Clinique products using Mercari. All her items were sold “within a few days,” she said.

“Recently, Japan has a trend of sharing and I feel like people’s consciousness towards [extreme] cleanliness has been changing,” she was quoted as saying.

There appears to be a number of other reasons as to why Japan’s youth buy used products.

The most evident reason is money. The consumer psyche, according to BoF, is completely different when it comes to this demographic. Millennials in Japan appear to be frugal as a whole. Buying second-hand products is considerably less expensive than turning to their luxury counterparts. Brands such as Shiseido and SK-II are steeply-priced–but when the products are used (and less filled than they were originally), they become instantly more affordable.


According to Reuters, Japan’s frugal millennials are plenty. Reluctance to spend comes from lack of stable jobs and lower incomes than in past years. In 2016, about 30 percent of workers aged 25-34 said they settled on temporary jobs because permanent employment was difficult to find.

Another motivation behind the phenomenon is the use of products as props for social media posts. Getting them second-hand is the cheapest option.

BoF also credited an aspect of Japanese culture as motivation for young people to turn to resale: mottainai is the idea of regret regarding unnecessary waste of material or consumable goods. The word translates literally to “what a waste.” The belief emphasizes that waste should be avoided at all costs–an idea these millennials seem to be taking quite seriously.

Would you buy second-hand makeup?

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