Depotting MAC Eye Shadows

February 24, 2012

MAC eye shadows are like frisky little bunnies in my makeup drawer…they multiply! I knew that space in my drawer was getting pretty tight, but I was surprised to count over 50 wee shadow bunnies hiding in there.

I don't mind having that many, in fact I kind of love having a bunch to be honest. It's a fun little indulgence that isn't that expensive, and it's just good clean fun to add a new shadow to my collection.

Mac Depot Stash Before

The problem is it's pretty impossible to remember what colors are hiding in the stack. And at 6 AM it takes more time than I have to dig around in the pile looking for that gray I think I have. The time had clearly come to depot my MAC eye shadow collection. To the Google we go for instruction! To the Google!

I found lots and lots of tutorials – both video and text – on depotting eye shadows of all brands, especially MAC. Some folks like to bake the pots in a low oven, some prefer waving a candle or butane lighter underneath the pot, and others use a clothing iron to toast the bottom of the pot. The method I chose was using a hair flat iron because it seemed the simplest and safest.

Before you get started, please heed my very serious warning…BE CAREFUL with this project! You're using two super dangerous weapons: a sharp knife and a hot iron. I'm a self-confessed klutz, and I just barely managed to avoid burning off a finger or all my hair.

However, I did stab myself lightly a few times and came close to really hurting myself until I figured out how to manage this process more gracefully. It reminds me of using one of those treacherous oyster knives to open an oyster shell, but you aren't wearing those big thick protective gloves to depot shadows. So please be careful!

MAC Depot Tools

All you need for the flat iron method is:

  • a flat iron
  • a small piece of parchment paper to protect the iron from melty plastic
  • a sharp thin knife
  • a soft towel to use as a work surface
  • 3/4″ labels
  • 3/4″ thin magnets
  • reading glasses to see what you're doing if you're 40-plus like me

The first step is to get the plastic insert that holds the MAC pan out of the plastic case. This is the part where I was the biggest threat to my own life. What you want to do is wedge the tip of the knife in-between the plastic insert and the case, and pop the insert out. It's easiest to do that near the back hinge where the lid connects to the bottom part of the case.

Once the insert is out, place it face up on the parchment on the flat iron. I had my iron heated to around 370 degrees.

MAC Depot Iron

Once you get your rhythm going, you can do two at a time.

MAC Depot Iron 2

These guys are waiting their turn on the iron. That Barbie line was so awesome!

MAC Depot Waiting

Carefully lift the insert off the iron after 20 seconds or so, and check to see if the bottom of the insert is starting to soften. You're looking for a little dent in the middle of the insert.

MAC Depot Bottom Dent

Once you see that, you can poke at the hole with the tip of the knife and try to gently pop out the eye shadow pan onto the towel. If the plastic is still too hard to do that, place it back onto the iron for a few more seconds. Keep checking it until the pan releases.

MAC Depot Pan Free

The pan is going to be really warm now, so again be careful. I snap the melty insert back into the case, and then put it aside. If you left it on the iron until it got warped, you might have a little trouble getting it snapped back into the case.

While the pan is still upside down, I like to place a self-adhesive 3/4″ magnet onto it. The warm glue on the back of the pan will also help it adhere.

MAC Depot Magnet

Some people clean the back of the pan with q-tips and alcohol or makeup remover before adding a magnet, but I didn't think it was necessary. If there's a lot of glue and it seems like a big task to remove it all, you can rub a little baby powder over the cooled glue with your finger to neutralize the stickiness.

Some of the tutorials I read suggested removing the original MAC label from the bottom of the case and attaching it to the pan. I tried that but didn't love the result.

MAC Depot Black Label

The only thin magnets I found were 3/4″ and the original label is more like 1″ so there was a little awkward overhang. I also am not a huge fan of the black label because it's a bit hard to read, and if you've had the shadow for a while the label might be faded or worn, making it even harder to read.

What I used was a 3/4″ adhesive label from Avery. I had red so that's what I used. I think white would get grubby really quickly anyway.

You could hand-print the labels, but I like to laser-print them. They look really nice, but I also love that I have the label stored in my computer so if I ever want to replace a dirty label I print a clean one off in a jiffy. The Word document is also a nice little database of my shadows.  Yes, I am a little OCD, thanks for asking.

MAC Depot Label Sheet

I just peeled the laser-printed label off the sheet and attached it to the magnet on the pan.

MAC Depot Backs

That's it.  Rinse and repeat a few dozen times til all the kids are depotted!

Once you have all the pans depotted and labeled, you need a palette to put them in. I bought 3 MAC palettes that were supposed to hold 15 shadows, but I pried the insert out and made room for 10 more shadows. I was a little impatient though, and just used a butter knife on my nice new palettes, and ended up scratching them a little. Oops! You'll be more careful than I was!

I since found out about another option called the Z Palette, which I might try next. The appeal of the Z Palette for me is that the lid is clear so you can easily see the colors inside. The downside is that some reviewers mentioned that the construction of the palette could be more sturdy.

After a little bit of time, my space-consuming collection was transformed into this neat compact stack that makes me very happy:

MAC Depot Palettes

 This palette has all warm colors.

MAC Depot Warm Palette

This one has all cool colors. 

MAC Depot Cool

This one has grays, duplicate backups of favorite limited edition colors, and some random brights with room to add more.

MAC Depot Spares

I had these guys leftover after the project:

MAC Depot Empties

It might look like a pile of junk on its way to the recycling bin, but no! This pile is headed to the Back to Mac program. For every 6 empties you turn into a MAC counter or online, you get a free lipstick. If you return them to a MAC store though, you can choose an eye shadow or a lipstick. These empties will allow me to bring home 9 more new shadows for free! Wheee!!

Now I'm on a roll with a mission to depot all of my shadows. Next project: depot the few LaFemme and Stila shadows I have, and liberate all the other random pans whose packaging is taking up way too much room!


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2 Comments so far

  1. Posted by Tamara

    September 12, 201211:37 am

    Used your depotting technique. No broken shadows! But I removed all of my labels from the bottom of the original pot with a product called Goo Gone! I use it around the house for stickers on mirrors, glass, etc. They all came off with no problem!


  2. Posted by LilSis

    September 12, 20122:43 pm

    That’s great, Tamara! I love Goo Gone, but never even thought of using it to take off the original labels. Thanks for the tip. I might use that in the future if I don’t have time to print new labels.

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