"Can I Return This, Please?"

by PJ on Tuesday, July 3, 2007

in makeup, skincare, What do you think? Beauty topics and thoughts

Drying lipsticks…mascaras that clump like crazy…moisturizers that break you out…I am sure you have come across things that are simply not good enough for you.

What can you do? Well, apart from putting them on eBay, it depends on where you are.

I live in the UK. Here, in almost all cases, once I open the packaging of a skincare/makeup/haircare product, I am not able to return it and get any money back (not even store credit). I can only get a full refund (within 28 days with the receipt) if the product is unused and the packaging is intact. (One of the exceptions that I am aware of is QVC UK, which obviously inherits the return policy from the US.)

It can be worse than this. I once bought a pressed powder in Debenhams (a chained department store in the UK). A couple of days later, with the outer packaging still completely intact, I decided I wanted to return it.

I couldn’t. I could only have an exchange. Their store policy says that, once purchased, no cosmetics item can be refunded.

I find it rather ridiculous, even though I have always been used to the fact that, cosmetics-wise, once I buy and start using something, I am basically stuck with it.

I have never lived in the US, and I remember being surprised when I came across people from the US on makeup forums saying that they were going to return products they ended up not liking.

I think it probably has something to do with the health and safety regulations in the UK, so I don’t expect things to change overnight. I am also aware that the return policies vary from retailer to retailer in the US. But certainly shops in the US are generally much more customer-friendly in this respect, I have to say…

What about the situation where you are? Any interesting/ridiculous story?

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Izzy Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Awww PJ! That stinks! :( I understand how frustrating it is to get a product you hate and end up wanting to return it!

As lovely as England is I’d do prefer the return policy my side of the pond to yours :(

Maybe it’ll change one day! One can hope!

Hugs for crummy crummy return polices ;)


PJ Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hello Izzy!

I’d like to think it will probably change, but it will definitely take some time…

Meanwhile, I just have to be as sure as I can before I take out my plastic…


R Wednesday, July 4, 2007

I’m an American living in Hertfordshire, so I definitely know the situation on both sides. I am not sure I understand how they can think that not returning used cosmetic products is a health or safety problem (does anyone know?). In the US, it is not as though when you return something that is opened it is put back on the shelf for re-sale (at least not usually!!) – it is usually returned to the distributor or thrown away – someone ends up “eating” the cost of that item the consumer didn’t like. Here in the UK, people would rather keep your £7.99 and lose you forever as a customer – that is just the way that it is – it is not nearly the service culture that America is, and shops don’t seem to care in the slightest that you can take your money and shop elsewhere.

I love practically everything else about it here, though!



PJ Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hello Lisa,

Thank you so much for sharing your view (which I fully agree with)! You are definitely more qualified to talk about the difference between the UK and the US.

The health and safety thing is just a guess on top of my head. It could be any other reason. (Or it could be that cosmetics is in the same category as things like undergarment or earrings.)

By the way, I didn’t mention that in most East Asian countries I know, the situation is the same as in the UK…and I don’t see any change of trend there regarding this…


Meg Thursday, July 5, 2007

That is awful.

I’ve been very impressed with most of the stores around where I live (Florida, U.S.A.). I buy a lot of my products at Walgreens because they are open 24-7 and for some reason I sometimes feel like trying out new makeup at 3am. I’ve never had a problem returning things that didn’t work out – even when I returned about half a dozen lipsticks at once. However, I didn’t even know that I could return opened makeup until a few years ago. I don’t think many people here know that they can, either.


lyn Thursday, July 5, 2007

in australia, if a customer complains about an allergic reaction they MUST get refund. so depends on how someone wants to abuse the system.
they’ll also allow refunds if the product packaging is still intact and product unused.

i worked a few months in retail and came across the most ridiculous reasons for returning something.
“this bottle of perfume doesn’t smell like the one at home” what the hell?

that’s the thing with costmetics, you buy it and you’re stuck with it. i think my wallet will be quite fat if i could return most of the stuff i bought but didn’t like. ESPECIALLY skincare.


PJ Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hello Meg,

Thank you very much for sharing your experience!

This is quite interesting. A friend of mine (who lives in New York City) told me that the Walgreens there don’t really do refunds. So maybe there is some degree of difference across the US…

By the way, you have a good blog. I am going to spend some time reading it!


PJ Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hello Lyn,

Good…now we’ve got the picture from Australia. Thank you for contributing!!

Yes, especially skincare! I can’t tell you how many times a face moisturizer I bought would have to become a neck or a body cream just because I really hated it on my face (especially when I first started using skincare products and was trying to find ones that worked).

What a waste of money…


Tammy Saturday, July 7, 2007

In Japan you can’t return anything. There’s not much understanding of the “return policy” here… You buy something and you’re pretty much stuck with it, and that goes for makeup too. Which is a real bummer because cosmetics cost more here. I didn’t know you could return makeup in America… I’m definitely going to take advantage of that when I go home!


PJ Saturday, July 7, 2007

Hello Tammy!!

Very nice to hear from you again.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that people can’t return cosmetics products in Japan. The consumer culture is very different there, as I am sure you have noticed, and I think this is one of the examples…

Nonetheless, hope you have been discovering some gems over there!


Anonymous Sunday, July 8, 2007

I live in the US and some companies with generous return policies are LUSH, Sephora & Guthy-Renker. (And QVC, as you mentioned.) LUSH & Sephora will accept returns even after you’ve used the product(s). LUSH refunds money within 30 days with receipt or exchanges product after 30 days and/or without a receipt. The requirement is that there must be 2/3 or 3/4 (I forget the threshold proportion) of the product remaining. Depending on the product, LUSH either throws away the returned item on the spot or stows it in the back for employees to take home as testers. (LUSH requires its employees to try most, if not all, of the products so they can speak knowledgeably about the items.) I don’t know the details of Sephora’s return policy, but I read all the time about customers returning used products. Both LUSH and Sephora are also very generous with free samples without purchase if you chat up the sales associate(s) and/or ask nicely.

Guthy-Renker companies/product lines include Proactiv skincare and Sheer Cover mineral makeup. If the products don’t work out for you after 60 days, Guthy-Renker refund you in full (minus shipping & handling), even if the containers are empty.

In general, most companies in the US will accept returns if the product is unopened and in original saleable condition. It’s very rare in the US to encounter retail outlets of any sort that don’t accept returns. The supermarket even accepts food returns! If you discover that the food is spoiled or it spoils before it should, the supermarket will refund you. Amazing, isn’t it?


PJ Sunday, July 8, 2007


Thank you very much for taking the time to contribute to this topic!! I really appreciate it.

You mentioned the Guthy-Renker lines, and yes, their return/refund policy is basically the same here in the UK.

We have Lush here. I rarely shop there so I am not 100% sure of their policy. But I doubt if it is too much different from other shops here.

Also, about the receipts. In the US, people can get away with no receipts. But here, no receipt, no service…

And the sample thing. I have always heard that SA’s in the US are generally quite generous with samples with purchases and sometimes without purchases. Here they are a bit less generous. It is hard to get samples if we don’t buy anything. For me, I tend to stick with the same SA’s when I buy things, so I can feel a bit more confident when I ask them for samples of the latest products.

Tammy (from above) has mentioned the return policy in Japan. Sample-wise, my experience is that the SA’s there are quite generous. I remember one time I bought a travel-size toner from Shiseido and I got about 20 sachets of different samples from the rest of the line! I was very impressed.

I think I will probably compare sample-giving later on my blog…

Thank you again!!


lyn Tuesday, July 10, 2007

PJ in response to your comment where you said you end up using it on your body instead of face, that’s what i do too!!! i end up using it on my legs during winter 0_O

i have learnt of another useful method, that is to use moisturiser to polish furniture.

i agree with what you said about US being more generous with samples. i hardly get much samples here in australia. in malaysia, they are quite willing IF you buy lotsa things from them. i buy my makeup mostly from SAKS NY (mail order) and i get TONNES of samples, it is amazing. i have received so many la mer and revive samples not to mention the tonnes and tonnes of perfume vials i get as well.


PJ Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hello Lyn again!

Ha…that’s definitely another way to use up moisturizers!

I can imagine your furniture might have soaked up the essence of some of the most luxurious face creams!!

I am happy that you get a lot of samples from SAKS NY. I am sure there are always some nice surprises.

In the UK, though, I have not yet heard of any department store that is generous with samples when it comes to on-line orders.

If people let us try them and we like them, we’ll want to buy them!


Christine Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I believe that all returned makeup/cosmetics in the US are returned to the distributor. I’m pretty sure they aren’t just thrown away, at least not at the retail level. I know that Macy’s cosmetic counters have to perform routine return processing to go back to the distributor or warehouse, where it is then done something with – perhaps recycled in some form? I’d like to think that, at least!


PJ Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hello Christine again,

Thank you for your comment and letting me know what you know!

Yes, I’d think the returned products go back to the distributors. Hopefully they are recycled properly!

I have very little idea about how the returned products are dealt with here in the UK, since there must be relatively much fewer of them. I’d be interested to find out more in the future…


Anonymous Saturday, January 5, 2008

I am from America and work part time in a department store (I am a university student). We allow return of used make up but NEVER never ever re-sell it!! That would be gross and unethical, it could spread infections etc. and in our lawsuit filled world, it could end badly for the store! We actually ship it off to headquarters which cleans it up and either donates it to charity or sends it to the outlet version of our store.


PJ Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hello there,

Thank you for taking the time to leave your comment!

I see. I certainly wouldn’t think that returned items would go back on the shelves. It is good to know what companies do with them from someone that works in a department store.

Thank you very much for visiting my blog and sharing your experience!


Anonymous Monday, April 14, 2008

Well, here in Thailand, you can’t really return anything. Just have to really make a good decision before buying.

I like the US policy too!


PJ Monday, April 14, 2008

Hi there,

Thank you very much for contributing to the discussion and letting me know about the policy in Thailand. It seems that it is similar to the policy in most other countries in Asia. It is generally the same in the UK as well…

I do prefer the policy in the US too!

Thank you for stopping by my blog! :)


Anonymous Sunday, March 21, 2010

I think it is ridiculous to expect to be able to return a used cosmetic! Companies would make a huge loss if people were able to do this as and when their products went out of fashion.

You would not expect to be able to return a pair of jeans that you had worn and washed twenty times only then to decide that you don't quite like the way that they look on you or that your weight has changed and they no longer fit. Would you?

Hence the reason you have to think about spending your money before you do so.

With a bit of common sense, you'd only purchase things that you intended on using and keeping.


PJ Monday, March 22, 2010


Sometimes, things that we bought that we "intended on using and keeping" didn't turn out to be what we expected them to be. Do you not think you should have the choice to get the money back from items you purchase that do not meet your expectation?

I don't think it is ridiculous at all to expect to be able to, within reason and within a certain length of time, return a used item. I also don't think it has anything to do with frivolous spending (again, this post is not about things we pay for with no intention of keeping) or the lack of common sense.

First of all, in a consumer-driven culture (such as that in the US), companies should only take money from customers for things that they are perfectly happy with. If they are not, they should have the option of getting their money back.

Also, in most cases, I really don't think companies will make losses. (Otherwise parts of the US economy will be non-existent.) I think the consumers will be a lot more willing to make purchases and keep what they like instead of not making any purchase. It is a way for businesses to encourage purchases and, more importantly, to build costumer confidence and customer loyalty.

Thank you for your comment.


Erika Thursday, June 16, 2011

I work at a macy’s deptartment store and we have a really good return policy. Actually, people abuse it a lot. In cosmetics every return we get has to be damaged, we cant keep it or re-sell it, and most of the returns go in a huge tall waste bin. I know sometimes the retailer will ask for the products back, but not too often. We actually get customers that try to return things when they are empty, or have no receipt or proof of purchase from our store (return label) we see this a lot after our free gifts with purchase, customers will try to return items purchased to get the free gift, only to keep the gift and return the items. Luckily we decided to start marking return lables with highlighters, that way we dont get ripped off. A customer once tried to return a cream, and once we checked the cream we noticed it was lotion inside. We also get those customers that return, and purchase, return, and purchase. And most of the time the items are half full. And we have to return the items, even if theyre over 6 months old, and give store credit/or whichever method they paid with. I do believe all stores should have a return policy, but a basic one, like 30 days with a receipt and store credit without. I guess being on the other side really changes the view of things!


PJ Monday, June 20, 2011

Hi Erika,

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and experiences! I really appreciate it.

It is very unfortunate that some people abuse the return policies, and I certainly understand how frustrating it can be. I suppose a small number of people will always attempt to abuse them, no matter what they are.

But I generally do prefer the return policies in the US, which allow returns of used beauty products. I also like the fact that the general idea in the US is that people only pay for what they really want, which is far from the case in the UK when it comes to beauty products.

Thank you again for posting your comment! :)


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