Earlier this summer, not only did I have the misguided idea to go one shade darker with my usual CC cream, but I also let the department store sales person convince me that two shades darker was what I actually needed. Basically, when I applied the highly pigmented color on at home, I came out looking like Ross Geller after his spray tan fiasco ("I barely even got to three Mississippi!") or Snooki circa Jersey Shore. Considering that I dropped $55 on the product, I had to at least try and get my money back — even if the policy on the back of the receipt wasn't welcoming of used and opened products.
After strategizing my argument, I trekked up to Fifth Avenue — turns out I didn't have to stress so hard in the first place. Even though the store's official return policy doesn't make mention of allowing returns of opened beauty products, the associate at the sales counter really did want me to be pleased with my purchase. I exchanged my CC cream for the original color and even scored a couple of free samples.
After doing a little digging, it seems that store isn't the only establishment that doesn't explicitly explain its return policy regarding used products. And, by the way, I'm talking about returning for legit dissatisfaction reasons — like the shade doesn't match your skin tone, you had an allergic reaction, it's not as effective as promised, etc. Not because you used that eye-shadow palette once for your BFF's wedding and won't ever do smoky eyes again. We don't advocate that.
So to save you research time after your next beauty purchase regret — and for reference before you buy — here's a comprehensive list of which multi-brand beauty retailers do, don't and kinda allow for returns on opened items, plus all the important small print you need to know.
From your local drugstores to high-end makeup counters to those online K-beauty sites you've bookmarked, it's all here in alphabetical order — and with direct links to the full return policies, if you need more reading material:
Barneys New York: According to a company representative, Barneys does not have an official policy regarding cosmetic returns, the store "will always honor a return for our customers if they are unsatisfied with a product for any reason." Just make sure you submit your return within 30 days of purchase for a full refund, minus original shipping costs.
Beauty.com: Yes, you can! Beauty purchases are covered by the 100% Satisfaction Guarantee, which allows returns of opened beauty products within 30 days of delivery for a refund or in-store credit. A pre-paid return shipping label is included with your order, but the original shipping fees won't be refunded (unless it's their mistake).
Beautylish: Yes, you can return opened beauty products within 30 days of purchase for a full refund, minus the shipping fees. You'll need to contact customer service directly at email@example.com to process the order. Beautylish doesn't technically offer exchanges, but customer service will help you with a return and purchase of a new, comparable product.
Bergdorf Goodman: Nope, based on the return policy online and a call to customer service, the store will only accept returns/exchanges on "unused, unopened, and in original packaging" items.
Birchbox: Here's the two-part answer: Yes, returns are allowed for opened full-size products, within 90-days of purchase. All orders also come with a pre-paid return label, but original shipping and handling fees will not be refunded. However, returns aren't accepted on the monthly boxes or samples. Although, if anything was damaged in the box, Birchbox will ship you a new one.
Bloomingdale's: The return policy on the website is a bit general (and nonexistent on the back of a paper receipt), but a call to customer service cleared up the question quickly. Yes, opened products — purchased in-store or online — are accepted for refund or exchange, at any time. Online purchases come with pre-paid labels and you can return at a store location, too.
Bluemercury: Yes, opened products can be returned for a full refund within 30 days of purchase. If your return is within 31 to 60 days of purchase (or paid for with a Bluemercury Gift Card), you'll receive a Bluemercury Gift Card for the price of the item in return. After 60 days, forget it. For online orders, you'll need to coordinate your return through customer service at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-355-6000, and original and return shipping fees are your responsibility.
Cos Bar: The website does state that products must be "unused, unopened and in the original packaging" for return, but customer service assured us that if the product is purchased through a store location or the store website, returning "won't be a problem." For online store orders, you must request a credit memo via email@example.com within 60 days of purchase for a full refund, minus shipping costs. In-store returns for online purchases are not accepted and after 61 days, you're stuck with the item. Also note, if you purchased a Cos Bar item through Amazon.com, then you're probably out of luck.
Credo: Depends. The website states that returned products must be "in an unused and salable condition" for store credit and that products cannot be returned, period, if they are "substantially used." A customer service representative corroborated the last part, telling me over the phone that a product ordered online could be "opened, but not substantially used" and returned within 30 days of receipt for a refund, minus shipping fees. In-store returns are for store credit only.
CVS: Yes. The retailer's 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and Beauty Guarantee policies allows for opened beauty products to be returned within 60 days of purchase, "no questions asked." Make sure you save your receipt or invoice because if you don't, you'll receive store credit. If you're returning an online purchase via mail, call 1-888-607-4CVS to arrange your return. Or take it to your nearest CVS location. (For reference, the Beauty Guarantee covers: cosmetics, skin care, nails, healthy skin care, sun care, hair care, hair accessories, hair color, ethnic hair care and fragrance.)
Dermstore: Yay! So the Money Back Guarantee allows for refunds for opened product returns within 30 days of purchase. (If you're returning for store credit only, then you get free return shipping.) Returns within 31 to 60 days of purchase can be made for store credit only and if you finally remembered after 61 days, try your luck at 1.800.213.DERM (3376) or live chat. There's also the Color Match Guarantee that covers opened eye shadows, foundations, etc. if the hue isn't right for your skin tone or taste.
Drugstore.com: Sort of. The only opened products allowed for returns, within 30 days of receipt, must fall under the Makeup 100% Color Guarantee category — so basically any sort of beauty item with color: nail polish, lipstick, foundation, etc. To confirm if you're purchase is covered, look at the orange "this item qualifies for" banner at the top right of the product page to see if "100% Color Guarantee" is listed and you're good. Even better: items under the guarantee also qualify for free return shipping.
Glow Recipe: The K-beauty e-tailer will accept returns of opened products up to 30 days of purchase, minus original shipping fees. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for both a complimentary return shipping label and access to the "Test for the Best" program. Once you request a return, customer service will offer to send you samples to help find the best product that's right for you.
JCPenney: Customer service confirmed that opened products purchased both at JCPenney proper and Sephora Inside JCPenney can be returned or exchanged for the original purchase price with receipt. If you're returning an online order, a pre-paid return shipping label is included, but original shipping fees are not reimbursed. The customer service agent did emphasize that you'll get yo' money back faster by returning in-store.
Kmart: Customer service confirmed that returns are accepted for refund or exchange on open products as long as you have your receipt. Returns must be made within 30 days of purchase, via the website.
Kohl's: The retailer's "No-Questions Asked — Hassle Free" policy covers returns on opened products. In-store returns with a receipt (or if purchased on a Kohl's charge card) are eligible for full refunds or exchanges, at any time. If you don't have a receipt, you'll get store credit. For online returns via mail (no exchanges allowed), you will be responsible for shipping and handling charges, so go to a store location to avoid those fees.
Lord & Taylor: The return policy on the website states that products must be in "salable condition" to be eligible for returns. Hm. A call to customer service was quite open to interpretation, too. Basically, "if you opened up a foundation and squirted it on your finger," that's OK. But if you stained the applicator on your BB cushion, then that's a no-go. That said, your best option would be to attempt your return in person at a Lord & Taylor store location. If online is your only option, full refunds (maybe) will be issued within 90 days of purchase, minus original shipping fees and a $6.95 return mail fee.
Neiman Marcus: Yup! Returns are accepted on opened products, in-store and online. If you ordered online, you can return in-store with a receipt or other proof of purchase (like your packing slip). If that's not an option, your return shipping fee is complimentary if your product was shipped via SmartLabel and the item is returned and received within 15 days of delivery. After that deadline, shipping will be deducted from your refund.
Net-a-Porter: A representative told us that Net-a-Porter "technically has a no-return policy" regarding opened beauty products. However, in some cases — like allergic reactions, wrong color/product received — they might make exceptions. So you could try pleading your case with customer service at email@example.com. But do so within 28 days of delivery and, if approved, returns and exchanges are complimentary.
Nordstrom: A company rep gave us the lowdown via email: "At Nordstrom we stand behind all our products (including beauty) and really want our customers to be happy with what they purchase. We don't have a return policy. We handle returns on a case by case basis with our ultimate goal to always do our best to take care of customers. Our philosophy is to treat everyone fairly and reasonably, and we hope they will do the same with us as well." That sounds promising.
Peach and Lily: Yes! You can return opened products within 30 days of purchase for a full refund. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free return shipping label. The K-beauty e-tailer also has an "Ask Lily" service for complimentary personalized recommendations about your skin-care regimen.
Ricky's: No returns or exchanges on opened or used products. No exceptions.
Rite Aid: Yes, any opened or used beauty product can be returned for a full refund with a receipt. Online purchases must be returned within 30 days of the ship date, minus shipping and handling charges, and cannot be processed in-store. For reference, the beauty categories covered are skin care/depilatories, sun care, bath/soap, hair care (shampoo, conditioner, styling and professional), hair color, cosmetics, ethnic beauty aids, fragrances, cosmetic organizers and personal care appliances.
Saks Fifth Avenue: The website states that products eligible for return or exchange must be in "salable" condition, but a call to customer service revealed that, yes, you can return beauty items, but as long as no more than 5% to 10% of the product was used. For online orders, the return shipping fee will be deducted from your refund or just return at your nearest store location.
Sephora: Yes, opened products are accepted for returns or exchanges along with receipt. For online orders, you must return the item to Sephora.com within 60 days of the purchase date for a full refund — minus original shipping fees, but a complimentary return label is included in the original packaging. Returns within 61 to 90 days of purchase will be refunded via gift card or store credit and after 90 days, you're outta luck for mail returns. If you're returning in-store, bring your order shipment form, plus credit card used for purchase.
Soko Glam: Yes, the K-beauty e-tailer will issue a full refund, minus return shipping fees, on both new and unopened products within 30 days of receipt. After 31 days, you'll receive store credit only. Just email email@example.com to process the return.
Space.NK: Sort of. As long as you have proof of purchase, you can exchange an open or used product for an item of equal or greater value within 21 days.
Target: Yes, "most" opened beauty products can be returned to Target within 90 days of receipt or up to 120 days if you bought it on your REDcard. (The "most" part means there are some exceptions, like limited edition offer items.) But, all Target-owned brands, like Sonia Kashuk and up&up items, can be returned for a full refund up to one year after purchase as long as you have your receipt. For online orders, just create a complimentary return label online or return to your nearest store location.
Ulta: According to Ulta's Guest Services page, any product can be returned within 60 days of purchase or online process date. Just keep the receipt. After 60 days you'll be issued a store credit rather than a refund. For online returns, you're responsible for both the return and original shipping fees. (Note: this entry has been updated to reflect current policy.)
Urban Outfitters: Nope, confirmed by a call to customer service.
Violet Grey: The policy does state that items must be "unused, undamaged and unopened" to be eligible for returns and exchanges. But you could try emailing a Client Service representative at firstname.lastname@example.org to review your specific situation.
Wal-Mart: Per the policy stated on the website, health and beauty items in "its original package" must be returned within 90 days of receipt and online returns offer free return shipping. In regards to opened beauty products, a forthcoming customer service representative said that those returns "should not be a problem" in-store or online and if it is, call customer service. However, for in-store returns or exchanges, the final decision is up to the store manager as locations in "high risk theft areas" may not be as liberal in allowing returns on opened products.
Walgreens: Maybe. Per the website and company representative, returns of opened beauty and cosmetic products are at the discretion of your store manager and "usually in the form of a Walgreens card." Womp womp.
This story has been updated with an official statement regarding the Barneys New York open product return policy.