Counter Confidential: The Truth About Returns


Shopping for makeup can be a bit like Russian roulette. You never know if you’ll find exactly the right product or shade, but you pick something anyway. Then, two weeks later, your face is having a nasty reaction. But is it appropriate to return makeup products once it’s been used?

Returns can be tricky business, especially at the counter. But, if you really can’t stand a product, you should return it. Still, when it comes to returning, there are a few nagging questions that might be on your mind.

If I can return it, why am I getting an evil glare?

I’ve gotten the evil eye before, too. Returns may affect a counter’s goals for the day, but that is never a reason why a beauty advisor should treat you in a hostile manner. A beauty advisor shouldn’t make you feel bad. If it’s unbearable, get help from someone else.

Isn’t that yucky if I’ve used it?

Used products never go back on the shelves. They should be marked as “damaged” right away, so you don’t have to worry about someone else repurchasing your items. “Damaged” items are discarded separately from the normal trash. Normally, they are sent back to the manufacturers to be discarded properly because of the materials (like bottles) are considered hazardous waste.

What if it’s half-used?

A used bottle is perfectly acceptable to return; an empty one is not. Since some products can require two to three weeks to be effective, it’s actually quite normal for people to realize they’re having a reaction a little bit later.

What if I hurt my beauty advisor’s feelings?

You might feel a bit guilty when returning products, especially if an advisor spent significant time helping you. Try explaining why you don’t like a product or why you’re returning it. Your artist might be able to give you some insight as to why you’re not having the best results, and could suggest an item more suited to your needs. More interaction will benefit you because you gain knowledge and you can both consider this return as more of an exchange of information.

Can I return it without a box or receipt?

Every counter is different. Some allow a full refund without a box or receipt so long as it was purchased on a credit/debit card. Others will only allow store credit, so check with your local counter to be sure. It’s always best to keep all makeup receipts and boxes for at least two weeks—just in case. You can try creating a file with all your makeup purchases, and some stores now email receipts for your convenience.

Undercover Beauty Agent is just an average makeup artist at your local beauty counter who's reporting true stories exclusively for Beautylish: "I love what I do because I get to make people feel beautiful on a daily basis. I'm a beauty advisor in New York City by day and a secret beauty agent by night, totally ready to share all my insider secrets and gossip."