Beauty's Best New Sample Sale Is Like an Editors' Picks Guide Come to Life

Beautyfor's sales are filled with cult-favorites from Crown Affair and Tower28—and they give back.

a collage of sample products on sale along with women getting services handled at a beauty sample sale
(Image credit: Sofia Kalman)

When I hear "sample sale," I envision semi-feral shoppers playing tug-of-war over single Manolo heels and perfume bottles with torn boxes. Thousands of products at a new beauty sample sale, Beautyfor, could make even the most level-headed shoppers lose their cool in the aforementioned fashion. This wasn't at all what happened.

At Beautyfor's first sale in New York City last weekend—with more installments to come, in New York and outside of it—more than 500 beauty lovers shopped premium beauty finds for 25 percent off or more, with the proceeds from their purchases benefitting three charities: The Jed Foundation, The Trevor Project, and The Humane Society. It was organized like the world's tidiest magazine beauty closet, with products stacked in color-coordinated rows and stations for shoppers to get makeup and nail services between their browsing. Guests politely chatted with editors and dermatologists for product recommendations; if two people reached for the same box at once, they exchanged "no, you take its" until someone conceded.

This vibe was intentional: All 10,000 products and 50 brands included in Beautyfor's first sale were lovingly curated by Gabby Shacknai and Zoë Weiner, the beauty editors-turned-co-founders behind it.

Gabby Shacknai and Zoe Weiner in front of a chalk sign for their Beautyfor sale

Beautyfor founders Gabby Shacknai (left) and Zoë Weiner (right).

(Image credit: Sofia Kalman)

Shaking up the look and feel of a sample sale would come later in the business-building process. At the outset a few months ago, the duo wanted to tackle a bigger problem in beauty than fighting over the best dry shampoo on the shelf.

"We know the beauty industry backwards and forwards, and we thought we knew everything there was to know," Shacknai tells me. "But as brands were so eager to send us just thousands and thousands of products [as editors], we were of course, very thankful. But we wondered where would these products end up if we weren't doing these sales? And after a little bit of digging, we realized that in a lot of cases, the answer was a landfill."

Specifically, 40 percent of beauty samples get sent to the trash on average. Weiner and Shacknai figured brands including Bubble, Peter Thomas Roth, and Grown Alchemist would much rather have their overstock go into someone's skin or haircare routine for less—and support a charity while they were at it—than into a waste pile.

a close-up of products on sale at the Beautyfor sample sale

Beautyfor's first official sample sale had more than 10,000 products from more than 50 brands.

(Image credit: Sofia Kalman)

a group of women shopping at the beautyfor sample sale

Proceeds from purchases benefited three charities: The Jed Foundation, The Trevor Project, and The Humane Society.

(Image credit: Sofia Kalman)

The resulting sale had the do-good feel of a community fundraiser and the insider-access of an editor-voted skin and hair awards—without the work of scrolling through several Google results to find the expert-approved blush or toner. Weiner and Shacknai were on-site to guide shoppers, in matching Pistola pink jumpsuits embroidered with their new venture's logo, and everything included had their stamp of approval from years testing and writing about products.

"I think the other part of this that we really enjoyed is the the sense of curation," Weiner says. "We get to partner with brands that share our mission and ethos, but also just make really good products that we can stand behind."

a woman gets her hair done at a hair station within beautyfor's first sample sale

Ticket-holders could also have their hair styled and nails touched-up at activations inside the sale.

(Image credit: Sofia Kalman)

Wandering around the tables after chatting with the founders, Beautyfor felt to me like the equivalent of the celebrity closet sales and editor clothing swaps taking over the city this year. Earlier this month, fashion girls lined up on Jenna Lyon's block for a chance to shop her old J.Crew work outfits; Chloë Sevigny has also opened up her personal overstock for fans; and The RealReal has curated resale events with cast-offs from Julianne Moore and Kate Moss. Each one convinces shoppers to be more mindful with a dose of expertise—because renowned figures in the space bought it first, you know it's good. And in coverage from each of those events, they weren't just about shopping—they were about chatting up the people next to you in line to enter or at the dressing room.

Beautyfor's take has the same sustainability element, as well as the getting offline, going in public, meeting other people element. (You know, community.) "Certainly the pandemic has added to this," Shacknai says, "but honestly, the internet and social media and the way that shopping is so disconnected from the physical experience, [makes] being a part of something, whether you're going with friends or making new ones, special."

"Beauty right now is so digital," Weiner agrees. "There's so much listening to random influencers and things like that, and that point of connection has been lost." Here, there's a chance to find it again—along with a few items your routine might be missing—without a fight.

For updates on Beautyfor's next sample sale, follow the organization @Beautyfor_org on Instagram.

Halie LeSavage
Senior News Editor (Fashion & Beauty)

Halie LeSavage is the senior fashion and beauty news editor at Marie Claire, where she assigns, edits, and writes stories for both sections. Halie is an expert on runway trends, celebrity style, emerging fashion and beauty brands, and shopping (naturally). In over seven years as a professional journalist, Halie’s reporting has ranged from fashion week coverage spanning the Copenhagen, New York, Milan, and Paris markets, to profiles on industry insiders including stylist Alison Bornstein and J.Crew womenswear creative director Olympia Gayot, to breaking news stories on noteworthy brand collaborations and beauty launches. (She can personally confirm that Bella Hadid’s Ôrebella perfume is worth the hype.) She has also written dozens of research-backed shopping guides to finding the best tote bags, ballet flats, and more. Most of all, Halie loves to explore what trends—like the rise of doll-like Mary Janes or TikTok’s 75 Hard Style Challenge—can say about culture writ large. (She justifies almost any purchase by saying it’s “for work.”) Halie has previously held writer and editor roles at Glamour, Morning Brew, and Harper’s Bazaar. Halie has been cited as a fashion and beauty expert in The Cut, CNN Underscored, and Reuters, among other outlets, and appears in newsletters like Selleb and Self-Checkout to provide shopping recommendations. In 2022, she was awarded the Hearst Spotlight Award for excellence and innovation in fashion journalism. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Harvard College. Outside of work, Halie is passionate about books, baking, and her miniature Bernedoodle, Dolly. For a behind-the-scenes look at her reporting, you can follow Halie on Instagram and TikTok.