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How to Depot Makeup

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filled makeup palette

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Unii Cosmetics
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It may sound like a gardening term and while it does involve replanting of a sort, depotting has nothing to do with horticulture. It’s actually a beauty practice where you remove makeup pans from their original containers and transfer them to one carryall palette.

The habit has recently gone mainstream—you can find palettes sold specifically for this purpose and countless You Tube tutorials—but it’s long been a pro secret, says Zena Shteysel, a makeup artist and creator of Z-Palette, a customizable, magnetic palette (from $14; Zpalette.com). “The depotting trend began with professional makeup artists who carry large amounts of product from various brands. This practice allows them to condense their kits and still have everything they need.”

Depotting also has green roots, says Minna Ha, founder of the UNII Palette ($29; Uniicosmetics.com). “When eco-friendly cosmetics brands began selling refills, they also came out with palettes that would only fit their specific makeup pans,” she says. But since not everyone is loyal to one makeup brand, manufacturers soon developed empty magnetic palettes that allowed for 100-percent DIY customization.

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The process to transplant your makeup seems simple:

1. Use heat to loosen up the glue that holds the makeup pan in place. While you can use stoves and candles, the easiest way to do it is to place the palette on top of a warm flatiron for one to three minutes, or blast it with a blow dryer.

2. Using a sharp object such as a butter knife, spatula, or tweezers, pry the makeup pan from its container. Pressed powder blushes and shadows are typically the easiest to remove, but glosses, creamy lipsticks, and even foundations can also be depotted—if they’re housed in a separate pan.

3. Now you’re ready to pop your color into a magnetic compact. Both ZPalette and UNII Palette come with magnetized stickers in case your depotted pan is not metal. A helpful tip: Save yourself a lot of guesswork in the future and label the back of each pan with brand and shade name.

But it’s not always so easy, Ha says. “Depotting can be tricky and there is a bit of a learning curve.” These pro tips will help you master the method:

Safety first: Be smart about your surroundings when heating the original makeup container, especially if you’re using candles. Don’t depot in a flammable area, Ha says, and sit at a table cleared of all papers, fabrics, and anything else that could melt or catch fire. Be sure to use potholders or wear a protective glove, adds L.A.-based makeup artist Emily Kate Warren. “It’s hot!”

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Take your time: “Allow the heat to warm the glue long enough—at least one to three minutes—so there is no resistance when removing the product,” Shteysel says. Pushing on a pan that just won’t budge can lead to breakage. If it won’t remove within about 5 seconds, try heating it a bit longer.

Do a trial run: Practice your technique on old powders or colors you're not very fond of, Ha suggests. “We all know the heartbreak of cracking a favorite eyeshadow or blush.”

Repurpose your failed attempts: If you do wind up with a cracked powder, all is not necessarily lost. “Saturate the powder with rubbing alcohol—preferably 99-percent alcohol—then mash the product back together,” Shteysel says. Once it dries, it should be fixed. Or you can grind it up mortar-and-pestle style and then keep it in a screw-top container, Warren adds.

Get a refill: Save yourself time and effort and seek out brands that sell individual pans of products that can easily be plopped into your magnetic palette. It’s also a way to be more eco-friendly and reduce waste from cosmetic packaging. Aveda, MAC, Tarte, and Stila are just a few brands that offer these.

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Think outside the box: Magnetic palettes make depotting simple, but you can also get creative with your container, Warren says. “There are tons of options—empty CD or DVD cases, or products sold at office supply and organization stores.” And bead containers are great for loose powders because of their screw-top, she adds.

Recycle your empties: Once you’ve depotted a compact or container, take it to your local Origins retail store or
counter—they’ll recycle cosmetic packaging from any brand. If you’re a MAC girl, take your empty MAC containers back to the store and score a free product after six returns. Now that’s incentive!

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