The Z Palette: An Adventure in De-Potting

Show of hands, who else out there has drawers full of eyeshadows, blushes, bronzers, and highlights that are basically collecting dust?

It’s so easy for a shade to become neglected as it gets buried in a heap of beauty products. As someone who subscribes to a few beauty subscription boxes this is especially true, as I receive a lot of eyeshadow singles or mini sizes of products to try that don’t always make it into the daily rotation. A lot of times its easier to reach for one of my palettes, where several shades are displayed easily at once, rather that dig through my stash to find a set of coordinating colors. It pains me, though, because I know I’m not utilizing my entire collection and I’ve definitely got some gorgeous products going un-noticed. So what’s a girl to do?

Enter, the Z Palette.

As a de-clutter-er, DIY enthusiast, and makeup lover the Z Palette is basically a dream come true. With a multitude of sizes and colors available, these empty magnetic palettes are the perfect storage devices for your color makeup products. After hearing so many professional Makeup Artists and Beauty Bloggers rave about them, I don’t know why I waited so long to pull the trigger and finally buy my own!

Creating your own custom makeup palette is a pretty nifty idea, but at this point you may be wondering how the heck one gets there from a pile full of individually packaged products. The technique is pretty genius. You see, regardless of how cheap or how fancy the plastic casing is around your makeup, the actual product itself is always poured or pressed into a metal pan. This pan can be “de-potted” or removed from the case or compact that it lives in. Most of the time the metal that the pan is actually made of will stick to a magnetic surface, allowing you to simply place it in your Z Palette without any extra effort to hold it in place. In the case that it does not, the Z Palette comes with thin stickers that you can adhere to the pan that will make it magnetic.

Long story short, with a little bit of effort you can take a whole pile of makeup, turn them into a bunch of naked pans, and arrange them inside your Z Palette however you’d like!

Each Z Palette comes with a handy instruction card that gives you detailed instructions on how to go about de-potting your makeup as well as some tips for troubleshooting problems you may encounter along the way. I will say, now that I’ve made it through my first round of de-potting, it’s definitely a little bit of a process. However, if you don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease I think it’s totally worth it for the end result.

Before you embark on your de-potting adventure, you’ll want to round up a few things to help you along the way. I found it particularly helpful to have:

  • A thin, blunt knife or metal spatula
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Acetone (don’t waste your super expensive nail polish remover)
  • Cotton swabs
  • A fine tipped sharpie
  • Paper towels
  • Tin foil
  • A toaster oven, flat iron, or other heat source
  • A trash can (cause you’re gonna have a lot to chuck along the way)
Once your supplies are in hand, you’ll want to set up your workspace. Since the process involves some harsh chemicals you definitely want to be careful about protecting whatever table your working on. Acetone will eat right through paint or wood finishes (I’ve learned this the hard way). I bought myself an inexpensive but thick plastic table cloth a while back that I use whenever I craft for this reason.

Now that you’ve got yourself situated, it’s time to get to work! The metal pan you’re removing is held in place with a little bit of glue. Sometimes the adhesive is pretty weak and you can pop the pan out easily. However, if you encounter any resistance or see your product start to crack you’ll want to stop what you’re doing and apply some heat to try and melt the glue first. As strange as it is to put your makeup in a toaster oven, it totally works. I set it to about 250º F, and placed all my makeup on a tinfoil lined tray inside for about two minutes. It was a little nerve wracking, considering that all the packaging is made of plastic, but unless you leave everything in there way too long, the only thing that will melt is the glue holding your products in place. Apparently you can also rest your makeup on the plate of a flat iron to do the same thing.

After you take your makeup out of the oven, you’ll want to gently start to pry the pan out using a small knife or spatula. I actually ended up using a fondue fork, which had really thin prongs, because there wasn’t always a lot of space between the pan and the packaging to work with. Once your pan is naked and free, you’ll also notice that it’s probably covered in glue. This is where the Acetone comes in handy. A cotton swab dipped in Acetone can be used to remove any residual glue or gunk that’s stuck to the pan. When your pan is nice and clean, write the name and shade of the product on the back of the pan for future reference and stick it in your Z-Palette!

If your gorgeous Urban Decay eyeshadow cracks in the process of de-potting it, don’t panic. If you put a few drops of rubbing alcohol in the pan, the product will get creamy and soft and you can re-pack and smooth it out. Eventually the alcohol will dry and your eyeshadow will be as good as new!

Also, if after going through all the trouble of de-potting a product you find that it doesn’t stick to the palette, you can use one of the included metal stickers to make it magnetic.

If the whole process of de-potting seems like way too much of a pain, you can still totally build a custom z-palette for yourself by purchasing makeup that’s already in a naked pan form. Makeup Geek and MAC are two great places to shop for color cosmetics sans packaging. To make things even better, the naked versions are also way less expensive than those that come in a compact, letting you save some serious cash in addition to the hassle.

Since I wanted to give myself plenty of room to play with, I bought the Extra Large sized palette (which can hold 35 standard round eyeshadow pans). However, there are tons of different sizes available depending on your needs. You could have a smaller palette for travel, and a larger one for general storage. Or three medium sized palettes, each containing a certain color family. Either way, the great thing about the whole Z Palette concept is that it offers you total flexibility. Swapping out products or rearranging them is incredibly easy. And even though it is a bit of work to de-pot your existing makeup, I think it’s totally worth it if that means you’ll be more inclined to actually use it.

I have to say, getting rid of all that extra beauty clutter was seriously satisfying. And my palette is still only halfway full! For now my plan is to keep this is as a space for the one-offs and random color cosmetics I receive throughout the year so that I don’t fall back into the same cycle of dust collection. And if I find myself not loving a shade or formula, it can easily be tossed to make room for something else. Perhaps I’ll write up an update of what’s in my Z-Palette at the end of the year and let you all know how I feel about it 6 months later. If you end up going on your own de-potting adventure I’d love to hear about it! Post a comment or send me a tweet and let me know how things go.

Do you own a Z-Palette or something similar? Would you ever de-pot your makeup?