Get Free Makeup From MAC By Returning Your Empty Containers

The Back to MAC recycling program offers free lipstick in exchange for empty makeup containers.


May 31 2019, Updated 12:16 p.m. ET

Want to save on makeup? There’s an easy way to score free lipstick that doesn’t involve sweepstakes or dance challenges. All you have to do is recycle with Back to MAC.

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MAC is encouraging its customers to reduce waste with the Back to MAC recycling program, which has been kicking around for a few years now. Here’s how it works: first, collect six empty MAC product containers. MAC accepts "primary packaging," meaning the material that actually encases the product. Lipstick tubes, lash cases, blush compacts, eye shadow pots, foundation tubes and bottles, and skincare bottles all count. "Secondary packaging," such as the cardboard box your makeup came in, does not. 

Once you've sussed out your qualifying items, return them to a MAC store near you, or through MAC Cosmetics online. You’re now entitled to one free lipstick of your choice.

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"Because we share your commitment to the environment, MAC accepts returns of its primary packaging through the Back-to-MAC Program," the MAC website reads. There you'll find different shipping label options and extra info on how to redeem your reward. It also provides a complete breakdown of packaging MAC can't accept — in addition to those cardboard boxes, avoid any sample containers, cosmetic applicators, and tools, Pro Palette metal eye shadows and powders, makeup cases, Blot Film sheets, and accessories.

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There’s an extra tier to Back to MAC, available exclusively to members of the MAC Select rewards program. It’s called Back to MAC Expanded, and it comes with a few added perks. When MAC Select customers return six empty containers, they can choose a lipstick, lip gloss, or single eye shadow of their choice, worth up to $18.50. 

They also don’t have to haul all six containers in at once. MAC Select shoppers can use the Back to MAC Tracker, which tallies every item they return. They can bring a single empty eye shadow pot one day, three dry primer bottles the next time. Once they hit six, they score the free reward. It’s just slightly discounted, to a lipstick, gloss, or eye shadow that’s $17 in value.

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The other catch to the MAC Select program is that you can’t return empties online. You have to bring them to a store, excluding the ones in Massachusetts or airports.

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MAC isn't the only makeup brand that provides freebies to customers who recycle. Lush, the Canadian company famous for its glittery bath bombs, offers one free face mask to any shopper who returns five empty Lush pots to a store location. 

The skincare giant Kiehl's also has a program, but it's a little more complicated. To qualify for one free travel-size Kiehl's product of your choice, bring in an empty full-size Kiehl's product container. You'll get a stamp. Rack up 10 and the travel-size loot is yours.

There are still more cosmetics companies that recycle empty containers for customers, just without the free makeup. Aveda and Origins accept used product packaging at store locations, while Garnier maintains a free mail back program with Terracycle. Make sure to check out your favorite brand's website to see if there's a program for you.

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