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Don’t get me wrong: I can scour the racks of vintage stores for days. The treasure hunt, reduced price tag, and slight musty smell make my heart go pitter-patter. But on a few occasions, my penchant for prior-loved items has done more harm than good. Though I’ll never abandon my love for second-hand blouses, I now refuse to purchase second-hand stilettos. Here are the five items I always purchase brand new, based on my own trials and errors (emphasis on the latter).
When I was a sophomore in college, I bought a mattress from a friend who was graduating and moving to a different city. When she dropped it off at my apartment, I couldn’t help but notice the multiple stains. One resembled period blood and another large, yellow-tinted stain was clearly the product of a night she (or someone else) got too drunk and wet the bed. Hey, I’ve totally been there, too. Though I wasn’t judging, I definitely wasn’t going to keep that mattress.
Over the course of our lives, we spend more time sleeping than any other activity. Sweat, blood, bacteria, skin cells, hair, and other bodily fluids can seep into and remain on mattresses. Who wants to crawl into or nap on something that’s unsanitary? My mattress, along with the period and coffee stains, are 100 percent mine.
Last month, I hobbled into a podiatrist’s office after weeks of unbearable cramps in my feet. He asked me about my shoes, so I excitedly told him about the Nike high-tops and Chanel ballet flats (seriously) I had scored at a vintage store and was wearing nonstop. As I explained the sacred history of the Chanel ballet flat, he stopped me mid-sentence. Apparently, my second-hand successes were the culprit of my current limp.
He told me that shoes tend mold to a wearer’s foot. These already-molded shoes weren’t going to be able to adequately mold to and support my feet, which happen to be particularly flat. Wearing second-hand shoes can lead to a slew of foot issues, from heel and arch pain to tendonitis. It’s best not to try and fit into Cinderella’s slipper, even if it is a Chanel.
In the sixth grade, I bought a Covergirl mascara from my classmate Sarah Catherine with all of my allowance money. Her mom let her wear makeup while mine didn’t—she made quite the business for herself selling second-hand makeup to desperate and rebellious twelve-year-olds.
After coating my lashes in six layers in the school bathroom, I went to first period looking like the Joker. But when my mom picked me up hours later, I had a full-blown case of pink eye. Used makeup can often house germs and bacteria that can lead to rashes or infections.
When my partner and I moved in to our new apartment, the former tenant kindly offered us their vacuum cleaner for $20. “Sweet!” we exclaimed. “One last thing we have to buy.” It had a half-full can of dust, a number of scratches, and looked like it was from the 1980s, but we figured it would get the job done. Plus, we didn’t need a sleek one and definitely didn’t want to spend over $100.
Halfway through a trip around the apartment, it let out a painful noise and died. We took it to three local repair shops to get quotes, but each quoted us more than it would cost to buy a new vacuum. Lesson learned: Just buy a new vacuum, unless you know exactly how old the used one is.
OK—before you roll your eyes and silently tell me “duh,” consider this scenario: I came across a classic black Marysia bikini—yes, the one with the perfectly flattering scallops—in my size. It retails for $141. I found it for $20. For both the bottom and the top! (Seriously, why do brands sell them separately?) The swimsuit looked brand new and was described as “gently worn” on Poshmark.
I was about to press “Purchase,” but ultimately decided against it. Though I had all the information about the suit I needed, I was lacking information about the seller—specifically, their crotch. Victoria’s Secret models look hot as hell in their bathing suits. That’s easy to see. What’s not so visible? Whether or not their vagina is hot and itchy from a yeast infection. This type of bacteria can linger in swimsuits and underwear. It’s best to buy new, unless you’re willing to boil and bleach.
Though I still get tempted to buy second-hand sandals or borrow a friend’s eyelash curler when I’ve forgotten my own, recalling these debacles not only prevents me from contracting pink eye and sleeping on others’ period and pee stains, but it prevents me from wasting money.