When Beauty Products Suck

How to return stuff, and what retailers' return policies make the grade

Stop right there -- that product graveyard under your bathroom sink is large and depressing enough. Find out which products you can return where -- and which ones you can't.

By Beth Shapouri

The Rating System 0 Store has no specific policy. 1 Return unopened merchandise within 15 days or less. 2-3 Return unopened merchandise within 30 days. 4 Return unopened merchandise within 30-90 days or get store credit after 30-90 days. 5 Return merchandise within 30 days. Testing allowed on some products. 6 Return merchandise within 30 days. Testing allowed on all products. 7 Return merchandise within 30 days or get store credit after 30 days. Testing allowed on some or all products. 8 Return merchandise within 60 days. Testing allowed on some or all products. 9 Return merchandise within 90 days. Testing allowed on some or all products. 10 Return merchandise after more than 90 days. Testing allowed on some or all products. Policy may vary by location. Online return policies may differ slightly for stores with Web sites that aren't mentioned. Amazon.com Return rating: 0 Return/Exchange policy: Returns and exchanges are not accepted by amazon.com. You can return products to the manufacturer, but the return policies will vary by company. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: Not much to report. Cons: Returning items is inconvenient because you have to track down customer service and return information to determine the policy and where to send the product. Barneys New York Return rating: 7 Return/Exchange policy: Products (including items that have been opened and tested) can be returned within 30 days of purchase with a receipt. Store credit is issued for products returned without a receipt or after 30 days. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You can test the products at home to see if you really like them. Cons: While 30 days is plenty of time to test and decide if you like most products, it may take longer to decide if you like skin treatments that can take weeks to show results. Bath & Body Works and bathandbodyworks.com Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: Products (including items that have been opened and used) are accepted for exchange or refund with receipt at any time. Without a receipt, the item may be exchanged or returned for store credit. Items purchased through the Web site may be exchanged or returned for refund (minus shipping charges) at store locations or returned by mail. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You can test the product several times before you decide whether it's really right for you. And there's no time limit! Cons: None when shopping at the store. But you have to eat shipping costs for items mailed back through the Web site. Beauty.com Return rating: 5 Return/Exchange policy: For most personal care items, unopened products are accepted for refund within 30 days with receipt. However, makeup items marked with a "100 percent color guarantee" logo on the site are accepted for refund if opened and tested within 30 d ays. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: They'll accept unopened items within 30 days, so if you decide that the product isn't what you imagined from the picture on your computer screen, you're not stuck with it. And if your item has the color-guarantee stamp, you can return it after you've tested it. Cons: The color-guarantee stamp is only offered on a few products. BeautyFirst and beautyfirst.com Return rating: 1 Return/Exchange policy: Both the store and the Web site have final sale on clearance items, opened cosmetics, nail polish, combs, brushes and hair accessories. Styling tools can be returned for a refund within 14 days with a receipt, unless the item is defective. (In that case, you have 30 days to exchange the item. After that, the store will follow the warranty/guarantee policy of the manufacturer). Other products may be returned with a receipt for a full refund or store credit within 30 days of purchase. Items bought online may not be returned to stores. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You can exchange or return most unused, unopened items within 30 days. Online orders come with pre-addressed return shipping envelopes. Cons: You're stuck with anything you open that could be contaminated by skin or hair and you only have two weeks to see if styling tools make the grade. Sealed items returned to stores without a receipt will only get you store credit for the item's current retail price. If you need to return an item bought online, you'll have to suck up the shipping costs. Beautyofasite.com Return rating: 2 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened items can be returned for exchange or store credit with a receipt within 30 days. No returns of opened or used products or merchandise damaged in transit. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: They'll take back unopened items within 30 days, so if you decide that the product isn't what you imagined, you're not stuck with it. Also, if a product is damaged in the mail on the way to you, they'll replace it at no charge. Cons: You can't test the products to decide if they're really right for you. If you return an item, you pay the shipping cost unless they made an error. They won't accept items without a return authorization number on the packaging. If a product gets damaged or lost in the mail on the way back to them, it's not their problem. Oh, and they won't take back color cosmetics, brushes, hair accessories, sale items or discontinued merchandise. Bergdorf Goodman Return rating: 8 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened products are accepted for refund, exchange or store credit within 60 days with a receipt. Without a receipt or after that time, store credit may be issued. The manager determines whether opened or used merchandise is returnable. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You've got a nice long 60-day grace period to decide if you want to keep what you bought. And in some cases, you may be able to return products you've tested. Cons: Then again, you may not be able to return products you've tested, or you may get a reduced refund -- it's the manager's call. B-glowing.com Return rating: 1 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened items will be refunded (minus shipping) within 15 days of receipt. Clearance and sale items are not returnable. Receipt needed? Yes, along with a return authorization number. Pros: Not many, but you do get 15 days to return an item you haven't used. Cons: After 15 days, you're stuck with your purchase and you can't test it at all before you decide. Also, there's no going back if you buy it on sale. Unless they made a shipping error, shipping isn't covered in your refund. Bliss Spas and blissworld.com Return rating: 2 Return/Exchange policy: Unused products can be returned within 30 days of purchase with a receipt. Cosmetics, fragrances and electronic devices that have been opened or used will not be accepted. Bliss Outlet merchandise is also ineligible for a refund. A skincare product you've sampled may be accepted if less than 20 percent of it has been used. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: They'll take back unopened items within 30 days, so if you decide the packaging or product isn't what you imagined from the picture on your computer screen, you're not stuck with it. And you can test skincare products to make sure they don't irritate your skin. Cons: After 30 days, you're stuck with your purchase. Other than skincare products, you can't test products at home before you decide. Plus, shipping and handling fees aren't covered for online orders. If returning items purchased at the spa, you can only get store credit. The Body Shop and thebodyshop.com Return rating: 8 Return/Exchange policy: Products purchased in the store or on the Web site can be returned for a refund within 60 days with a receipt, regardless of whether they're open or used. The only exceptions are "Love Your Body" cards, gift checks, gift cards, gifts-with-purchase items and product samples. Sets must be returned as sets, not as individual items. A credit is issued after 60 days without a receipt. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You can test products for 60 days before deciding if you want to keep them. Cons: They won't refund shipping. (Exception: If you're returning a product because they made an error, they'll send UPS over). Bloomingdale's Return rating: 9 Return/Exchange policy: Generally, unopened products are accepted within 90 days for refund with a receipt. After that time or without a receipt, store credit is issued. Returns are also accepted for "gently used" items, but the definition of that term is up to the manager. Receipt needed? Yes for refund. No for store credit. Pros: You've got 90 days to decide if you want to keep an unopened product. In some cases, you may be able to return products you've tested. Cons: If you've used a product, the fate of your refund is up to the manager. Also, shipping and handling are not covered. Cosmeticsmall.com Return rating: 6 Return/Exchange policy: Most items, including products that have been tested, are accepted for refund (minus shipping costs) within 30 days. Exchanges are not available, although you can reorder an item. Sale items, special orders and certain personal care items are not eligible for return. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: You can test out your products for 30 days, so you can shop with confidence. Cons: You have to cover shipping costs for returned items. And there's no going back if you buy something on sale. While 30 days is plenty of time to test and decide if you like most products, it may not be long enough to decide on skin treatments, which can take weeks to show results. CVS Return rating: 8 Return/Exchange policy: All items, sampled or not, can be returned or exchanged with a receipt for a full refund within 60 days. Store credit is issued after 60 days or without a receipt. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pr os: You can test products for 60 days before you decide whether you want to keep them. Cons: None. Dillard's Return rating: 2 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened products are accepted for refund, exchange or store credit with receipt or with the yellow Dillard's label intact within 30 days of purchase. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: If you don't open your item, you can take it back within 30 days. Cons: You can't test the products at home before committing to them. And if you remove store labels, it pays to keep your receipt handy. Drugstore.com Return rating: 5 Return/Exchange policy: For most personal care items, unopened products are accepted for refund within 30 days with receipt. However, makeup items marked with a "100 percent color guarantee" logo on the site are accepted for refund if opened and tested within 30 days. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: They'll accept unopened items within 30 days, so if you decide the product isn't what you imagined, you're not stuck with it. And if your item has the guarantee stamp, you can return it after you've tested it. Cons: The guarantee stamp is only offered on a few products, which means only a small percentage of the items on the site can be returned if tested. Duane Reade Return rating: 2 Return/Exchange policy: Generally, products that have not been opened can be refunded or exchanged within 30 days. Receipt needed: Yes. Pros: If you don't open your item, you can take it back within 30 days. Cons: You can't test products out before you decide to keep them. Folica.com Return rating: 6 Return/Exchange policy: All opened and tested products other than perfumes and fragrances are accepted for refund or exchange (minus shipping costs) within 30 days. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: You can test a product for 30 days before you decide whether to keep it. Cons: After 30 days, you're stuck with the product no matter what. And for returns made within that time limit, the shipping cost is on you (unless the return is due to their error). Fred Segal Return rating: 2 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened items are accepted for return or exchange within 30 days with receipt only. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: At least you can return products. Cons: You can't test products and return the ones you don't like. Kohl's and kohls.com Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: Products bought in the store or online are accepted for return, exchange or store credit with a receipt at any time, even if open or used. Without a receipt, store credit is issued. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit (or credit to your Kohl's account). Pros: You can test the product several times before you decide whether it's right for you. And there's no time limit. Items bought online can also be returned to the store. Cons: You pay shipping for items returned by mail. Kmart and kmart.com Return rating: 6 Return/Exchange policy: Opened and unopened items bought online will be accepted for exchange or refund within 90 days of purchase. Products purchased in stores have a 30-day grace period. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: You've got some time to decide whether you're satisfied with your purchase. Cons: Don't lose that receipt. And if you're returning through the mail, you pay shipping costs (unless the return is due to store error). Lord and Taylor Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: Generally, products are refundable any time, including those that have been opened and used. However, some counters will not accept products that are more than half-used. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit (or credit to your Lord and Taylor account). Pros: You can test products to find out if you love or hate them. Cons: If you don't have a receipt, you may only get a partial refund in the form of store credit. (You'll get the lowest store price offered for the item during the last 30 days.) MAC and maccosmetics.com Return rating: 7 Return/Exchange policy: Generally, all products purchased in a MAC store are refundable or exchangeable within 30 days, even if opened or used. All purchases made through the Web site are refundable or exchangeable at any time (minus shipping costs) when the unused portion is sent back. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: You can test most products purchased at the store for 30 days to see if they're keepers. (The policies vary by store, so ask about the return policy before buying.) Buying online gives you more time to decide. Cons: You have to cover shipping costs for products returned through the Web site. Products bought in store can't be returned online and vice-versa. Macy's Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened items can be returned for a refund with a receipt within six months of purchase. After six months or without a receipt, store credit is issued. In some stores, if a product has been opened, it may only be exchanged. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You can test a product for half a year before deciding whether it's a keeper. Online items can also be returned at retail stores. Cons: Some stores only allow exchanges on unused items. Retail store items can't be returned online. Neiman Marcus Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened items are accepted at the store where they were purchased at any time. It's up to the individual store to determine whether used products are refundable. Receipt needed: Yes. Pros: There's no time limit on unopened items. In some cases, you may be able to return products you've tested. You can also return online purchases at stores, with the exception of clearance items. Cons: You're stuck with a used product if the store manager decides it's not refundable. Also, items returned after 60 days might result in a lower refund. Nordstrom Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: All items (including products that have been opened and tested) can be returned for refund, exchange or store credit at any time with a receipt. Receipt needed: Yes. Pros: You can test a product several times be fore you decide whether it's right for you. And there's no time limit! You may also return online purchases at stores. If you're making an online exchange, they'll cover the shipping. Cons: If you bought the product online, your original shipping cost isn't refundable. If you use their pre-paid return label to ship back an online return, they'll deduct five dollars from your refund. Pure Beauty and purebeauty.com Return rating: 1 Return/Exchange policy: Final sale on clearance items, opened cosmetics or items that go on skin or nails (including waxes and nail polishes). Haircare items, except accessories, combs, brushes and extensions, can be returned within 30 days with a receipt. Appliances can be returned for a refund within 14 days with a receipt only, unless the item is defective. If the product is defective, you have 30 days to return it with the receipt. Beyond 30 days, the store may or may not take it back, depending on the manufacturer's guidelines. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: You can exchange or return most unused items within 30 days. Cons: Once you've tried makeup (or anything else that could be contaminated by exposure to skin and hair), you're stuck with the product no matter what. And you only have 14 days to figure out if new appliances, like hair dryers, make the grade. QVC and qvc.com Return rating: 6 Return/Exchange policy: Items (including products that have been opened and tested) are accepted for refund or exchange within 30 days with receipt. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: You can test products for 30 days before you decide whether they're right for you. Postage may be reimbursed for some returned items. Cons: Although 30 days is plenty of time to test and decide if you like most products, it may not be long enough to test skin treatments, which can take weeks to show results. Rite Aid/Brooks/Eckerd Return rating: 7 Return/Exchange policy: Items (including products that have been tested) may be returned with a receipt for a refund or exchange within 30 days. Store credit is issued if you don't have a receipt or after 30 days. Ask if the store follows the Rite Aid Cosmetics Money Back Guarantee, which allows you to take back cosmetics you don't like. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You can test a product for 30 days before you decide if it's really what you want. And you can still return it for store credit after that. Cons: If 31 days have passed since you bought a product, you're stuck with store credit, which may be problem for products that take longer to show results. Sally Beauty Supply Return rating: 9 Return/Exchange policy: Some items, including those that have been opened and tested, are accepted for refund with a receipt at any time. Without a receipt, store credit is issued. For items marked "all sales final," returns are not accepted for any reason. Electrical items and scissors will be refunded or exchanged to customers with receipts within 90 days. Receipt needed: Yes for refund. No for store credit. Pros: There's no time limit on some products. And there's a long 90-day grace period for electronics. Cons: Some specially marked products are never accepted for exchange or return, such as clipper blades and some hair items like hair color. Customers with electronics that konk out after 90 days must take it up with the manufacturer. Saks Fifth Avenue and saks.com Return rating: 4 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened, saleable merchandise is accepted for full refund or exchange within 60 days with receipt. After 60 days, refunds may be reduced if the price of the item has been reduced. Products bought online can be returned at the store or by mail. Receipt needed: Yes. Pros: There's a nice long 60-grace period for saleable items. Cons: You can't test products. Returns after 60 days fetch the current retail price. If you're returning an online shipment via mail and use their pre-paid shipping label, the store will deduct five dollars from your refund. Sears Return rating: 5 Return/Exchange policy: Opened and sealed items can be returned for a full refund within 30 days, with a receipt. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: There's a 30-day grace period for unopened items. And in some cases, you may be able to return products you've tested. Cons: Then again, you may not be able to return a product you've tested -- it's the manager's call. Sephora and sephora.com Return rating: 8 Return/Exchange policy: Most store locations will accept products for a full refund, exchange or store credit with receipt at any time, regardless of whether the item has been used. However, note that some locations (and the Web site) have a 60-day limit on refunds. Without a receipt, store credit is issued. The same policy applies to online purchases, which can be returned to store locations or by mail. Receipt needed? Yes for returns. No for store credit. Pros: Online purchases can be returned in stores, and you can test products before you commit to purchase. For most stores, there's no time limit for refunds. Stores that have a time limit on refunds have no time limit on store credit. Cons: Online, refunds must be requested 60 days from the date of purchase, not date of receipt. Shipping and handling isn't refundable. Sephora at JCPenney Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: All items (including items that have been opened and tested) are accepted for return or exchange at any time if purchased from a Sephora at JCPenney store with receipt. Products purchased at non-JCPenney Sephora stores or without a receipt will receive a JCPenney gift card for the purchase price. Receipt needed? Yes for refunds. No for store credit. Pros: You can test a products, and there's no time limit. They'll even accept some of the items bought at regular Sephora stores for store credit. Cons: They'll accept some, not all, of the items bought at regular Sephora stores. Target Return rating: 4 Return/Exchange policy: Unopened makeup and other personal care items can be returned for refund or exchange within 90 days with a receipt. Store credit may be issued without a receipt. Makeup that has been opened is not accepted. However, the store will accept returns on any item that poses a health risk at any time with or without a receipt. Receipt needed? Yes for refund. No for store credit. Pros: If you find the item causes any sort of allergic reaction, you can return it at any time. There's a long 90-day grace period for unopened items. Cons: You can't test and return products -- unless it gives you a rash or presents other health hazards. Ulta and ulta.com Return rating: 7 Return/Exchange policy: Full refunds are issued on unopened merchandise (bought in a store or online) within 60 days of purchase to customers with receipts. After that time, store credits or exchanges are issued. Most stores will accept returns if the item has been opened and tested, if it is defective. Products bought online can be returned to store locations for exchanges or store credit. Receipt needed: Yes. Pros: You have 60 days to decide if you want to keep your purchase. And in some cases, you may be able to return products you've tested. Cons: You'll eat shipping charges on items returned to the warehouse unless they are defective, recalled or misshipped. Victoria's Secret and victoriassecret.com Return rating: 10 Return/Exchange policy: Items (including products that have been opened and tested) will be accepted for full refund or return within 90 days with receipt. After 90 days, store credit is issued. Receipt needed? Yes. Pros: You can test products. There's a healthy 90-day grace period for refunds and no time limit on store credit. Cons: Those ordering online should check the Web site for shipping details, as certain fragrances cannot be shipped out of the U.S. Walgreens Return rating: 5 Return/Exchange policy: Items (including products that have been opened and tested) will be accepted for full refund or exchange within 30 days with receipt. Without a receipt or after 30 days, the store's manager determines whether items can be returned for store credit. Receipt needed: Yes for refund. No for store credit in some cases. Pros: If you don't open your item, you can take it back within 30 days. And in some cases, you may be able to return products you've tested. Cons: Then again, you may not be able to return product you've tested -- it's the manager's call. Wal-Mart Return rating: 7 Return/Exchange policy: Cash refunds are issued on purchases (including items that have been opened and tested) priced under 25 dollars within 90 days. For purchases of more than 25 dollars, the customer has the option to receive a Wal-Mart shopping card for the amount of the purchase, a credit to the original credit card used or an exchange. Individual stores will determine if items will be accepted without a receipt. Receipt needed: Yes for refunds of more than 25 dollars. No for store credit. Pros: You have 90 days to test the product. Cons: No cash refunds for items totaling more than 25 dollars. Items without a receipt may or may not be accepted -- it's the manager's call. Updates and revisions Revisions or suggestions? Feel free to e-mail us . The Nice Girl's Guide to Pushy Salespeople The Right Skin Care for Your Age Luxe vs. Less Nail Polish Subject Subject Subject Message Message Message http://www.google.com
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Amazon will not take hair color back. Wal-mart will not give a refund for hair color without a receipt, not even store credit, and will only exchange hair color for hair color, whether unopened or not. Happened to me yesterday.

by jenny_gould_gibbs_mertes Saturday, July 27, 2013 at 05:46PM Report as inappropriate

Avon and Yves Rocher also have satisfaction guarantees.

by Helmi Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 06:34PM Report as inappropriate

Nice thanks for this

by jessicaviolett Friday, May 31, 2013 at 03:50PM Report as inappropriate

Good info to know.

by MissPurple Friday, January 25, 2013 at 01:14PM Report as inappropriate

This was pretty informative. I didn't know about a lot of these!

by NillaButterfly Sunday, December 23, 2012 at 04:29PM Report as inappropriate

Noticed that some of the high end department stores have pretty good return policies. I'm impressed!

by Lamexicana1 Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 04:42PM Report as inappropriate

Thank you for sharing! Very informative!

by robyne00 Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 04:18PM Report as inappropriate

The only place I didn't see was Lush, but other than that, this is a great list!

by GingerDrink Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 03:43PM Report as inappropriate

I just returned an opened makeup product to target yesterday, the lady was nice enough to take it back no questions asked

by rachaellh13 Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 03:09PM Report as inappropriate

This was very helpful. Usually, if i don't like the product I give it to my mom or sisters. They might appreciate it or make it work for them

by darkangel81 Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 05:57PM Report as inappropriate

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