Burning Question: Can You Return Unwanted Or Mismatched Makeup?

I was fortunately born with the gift of the gab. While friends can barely manage a tutt or grumble over a cold coffee, I’m the first one up complaining to the barista and politely demanding a replacement – with a free muffin on the side for the inconvenience. Us Brits are generally incompetent at voicing our dissatisfaction, querying customer service or requesting a refund for a faulty product; often the need to ‘not make a scene’ far outweighs or need for our money back, which frequently leaves us out of pocket and grumbling all the way to next Tuesday. I was frequently embarrassed by my mother growing up, watching her campaign for something she believed in (be it reducing the hedge height on top of a roundabout or extending the pavement by the school gates.) She carried around petitions more often than she carried tissues in her handbag, which taught me to stand up for myself and pipe up when something is not quite right: if you pay money for a product and it doesn’t work how it should, then you’re entitled to a replacement or refund. Although as a nation we’re much more likely to put up with it than return it, you may be surprised to know it is possible to return unwanted or mismatched makeup.

The law states that consumers have basic statutory rights when it comes to making a purchase: the item or service must be fit for purpose, be of satisfactory quality and last a reasonable about of time. If you’re not happy with a product you’ve purchased, for whatever reason, as long as you can provide proof of purchase and an explanation, you may be entitled to an exchange or refund. There are four main examples of when you may be want to return a beauty product, all of which are more than justifiable in the eyes of the law.
1. You’ve been mis-sold a shade or texture of foundation (based on a sales assistant recommendation) that doesn’t work for your skin when you get home.
2. The product doesn’t work as you’d anticipated or provide the results you would expect; i.e. a mascara that clumps, a lipstick that’s drying or eyeshadows that are hard to get out of the pan.
3. The packaging breaks or becomes damaged within a few uses, leaving the product inside open to further damage (i.e. it’s not fit for purpose.)
4. You’ve had an adverse reaction or irritation to the formula, which has impacted on your confidence or ability to go about your daily life.
If you simply don’t like it, it was an unwanted gift or you’ve changed your mind once you’ve got home, you’re not legally entitled to anything other than a hug; however, it’s worth trying your luck as some brands will prefer to offer good customer service and provide a goodwill gesture in return for your ongoing custom. If you’re thinking about returning or exchanging a beauty product, here are some tips to consider to maximise the potential of a successful result…

Keep Your Receipt: Most retailers are more than happy to help – as long as you’ve kept your receipt. Sales assistants are even more suspicious than they used to be, so if you keep your proof of purchase until you’re 100% happy it will make the situation far easier to resolve.

Approach With A Smile: Don’t be a grumpy, rude twat about it – that won’t get you anywhere. Approach the sales assistant with a smile, be polite and explain your case rationally; nobody wants to deal with an unreasonable and overly demanding customer.  

Know Your Rights: Often by standing your ground, knowing your rights and quoting “according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979” you’ll be taken more seriously. It may take time, you may need to speak to a more senior member of staff, but you may well get your refund.

Contact The Brand: If your trip to store has been fruitless and you’re still unhappy with the product in question, often writing to a brand’s HQ directly will bring you to the attention of those with the power to do something. Emailing, tweeting or contacting them via Facebook takes your complaint out of the store and into a public forum, meaning they’re far more likely to action a solution as quickly and painlessly as possible.

From my experience, premium and ‘counter’ brands are much happier to refund or exchange products as purchases are often based upon recommendations from their staff. If it doesn’t work for you in the way it was intended to, they may not have done their job correctly. However, your consumer rights still stand even if you’ve bought a £2.99 lipgloss from Superdrug – if it’s damaged or unfit for purpose then you’re still entitled to an exchange at least. The most important thing is to understand your rights, be polite and ask; if you don’t ask the question you’ll never know if you could have swapped that bright orange blusher for a much more wearable shade and saved yourself £17.00 in the process.

Would you ever consider returning or exchanging faulty or mismatched makeup?

Features PR samples unless otherwise stated. To read my full disclaimer, click here.  




  1. Katherine L
    February 26, 2015 / 2:56 pm

    Great article. We're lucky in Canada, where places like Murale, Sephora, and Shoppers Drug Mart almost always allow for you to return makeup, even if it's used. I've only had the occasional problem, but nothing a bit of coaxing of the sales associate can't fix. Great article. Hopefully UK brands will be a bit more accepting. -Katherine http://thegreenbows.blogspot.ca

  2. Philippa
    February 26, 2015 / 3:16 pm

    Interesting read! I've always thought it was my fault if I bought something that broke very quickly etc (:ABlogByPhilippa

  3. Ting Yn
    February 26, 2015 / 4:55 pm

    I've only returned products where I've had a reaction. I never considered taking things back really; just saw it as one of those things. Ting | The Ting Thing

  4. Anonymous
    February 26, 2015 / 7:24 pm

    I had this issue with a benefit mascara that had no brush on the end of the wand, took it back and was offered a replacement plus a little bundle of trial sized products for my troubles. Your own attitude towards the problem definitely makes a difference though, being stroppy to the sales assistant will get you nowhere. Like they say, don't shoot the messenger.

  5. Kylie Jenkins
    February 26, 2015 / 8:18 pm

    I've taken a Mac foundation back to swap the shade after buying the wrong one in an airport. I think you're right about the way you approach a situation, if you're nice and polite you're more likely to get a positive response http://Www.delphineblu.com

  6. Hannah Boxall
    February 26, 2015 / 9:31 pm

    I'd never thought about the process of returning makeup so this was lovely to read xHannah | Heyitshannaah

  7. Catherine Sayer
    February 26, 2015 / 9:42 pm

    I never knew you could do this! I always think I would be too nervous to even ask for a refund though! xhttp://cocoamay.blogspot.co.uk

  8. Mandy S
    February 26, 2015 / 9:53 pm

    Finally! Someone understands where I'm coming from! I'm a law student and it annoys me so much how most people do not think they can return products which are unfit. I once had a huge confrontation with a manager at a store because they said that I cannot return a foundation because it was 'used'….it made me look orange and I broke out in a huge rash. I did get a refund in the end because I stood my ground (..and also quoted a few sections from the Act) but it really annoys me how most people think they cannot ask for a refund or an exchange or the store is not willing to do so. xFARFROMPERFECTIONXO

  9. cinabar
    February 26, 2015 / 11:29 pm

    I returned a Mac eyeshadow once…it was hard work. The hinge on the set had broken. I had a receipt, "and you actually bought it from here, this very store, because if you had you'd be on the computer…are you sure it's isn't a fake you picked up from the market?" They said accusingly. I was on the computer as it happened too and I did get my refund but geez.

  10. Kiss & Make-up
    February 27, 2015 / 10:16 am

    Switzerland's return policy sucks. And so did Belgium's. Actually, everything sucks here. Not only do we not get to return products but we also don't get the amazing deals that people in the US get. Not fair! Not fair I'm telling ya! I don't feel bad about returning a product so if I could I definitely would.

  11. Emily
    February 27, 2015 / 10:29 am

    I usually put up with a product rather than go back to the shop, however the one time I did exchange a lipstick I was pleasantly surprised. It was Rimmel lipstick and I got home to try it out and it was broken already, I went back and the sales assistant was lovely and happy for me to exchange it with no trouble at all. UK Beauty and Lifestyle Blogxx

  12. Ali
    March 2, 2015 / 3:47 pm

    A great deal depends on the retailer and/or brand. As a former No7 consultant, I heard every excuse under the sun and I lost count of the number of times product that was years old or, worse, stolen, was brought to the counter with demands for a refund. Boots were having problems with shoplifters going from one branch to the next, stealing product, then bringing it in for a refund, saying it was a gift to cover the lack of receipt. Personally, I only return product if I have a receipt and its unopened. Maybe I've been lucky, but I can't remember the last time I had a product that I later decided wasn't suitable.

  13. Anonymous
    March 3, 2015 / 3:38 pm

    Sephora has a company wide policy that you can return anything that doesn't work for you no questions asked, if you have a receipt – even if it's used. I do often and never run into any issues. This is a big reason why I continue to shop at Sephora.

  14. Anonymous
    March 4, 2015 / 6:16 pm

    Its a shame makeup is non refundable here I have bought every drug store foundation in the last year trying to find one that has the coverage of double wear and still cant find a oilfree "dupe" most make my skin greasy and change colour by the end of the day a lot making my skin crawl and eyes sting and after spending hundreds of pounds looking terrible, failing dismally, and ending up with drawers full of useless products Im going back to high end makeup ..I cant understand how they refund in some countries and not in others .

  15. Nikki Millar
    March 8, 2015 / 3:44 pm

    I returned a Burberry foundation to TK Maxx the day after I'd bought it (with the receipt) and it took three staff members inspecting it and looking me up and down (I'm assuming to see if I looked dodgy) before I could actually return it. It made me feel so uncomfortable that I generally just give things to my sister now. Nikki xQueen Ginge

  16. Anna
    March 10, 2015 / 8:00 pm

    I've just moved back to London after living in America for 2 years and beauty shopping there was a dream! You could literally return any make-up for whatever reason, whenever. They would barely even ask you why. It's effortless and they don't make you feel embarrassed at all. Not sure I would try it here, unless I had a really bad reaction to something. Interesting post!

  17. Jasmine Stewart
    March 19, 2015 / 7:53 pm

    I've found that all high-end brands will let you return makeup (even if you've mis-placed the receipt, often!) and to be honest I wouldn't bother returning something unless it had set me back quite a bit and been a pretty huge disappointment. Beauty is an area where you can't know if something will work for you until you've tried it and it's especially annoying when the assistant tells you your foundation shade, it looks fine under the fluro lights then you get home and realise you wasted £30…xx Magpie Jasmine

  18. Farhana Nina
    February 2, 2016 / 8:39 pm

    i just bough a Dior forever foundation whihc cost me £40 in the shade 040 and Ive opened it to test it but I'm not happy with the shade as I had The sales assistant apply it onto my face and after a while it oxidised and my face looked really dark and orange and thought maybe if I take the make up off and try the foundation in my normal lighting how would it look.. It looks like I have no make up and blends in but when it oxidised earlier was the issue.. Would I be able to return it for a lighter shade as it doesn't brighten up my complexion as much as i wanted it to.

    • Hayley Carr
      February 29, 2016 / 10:27 am

      If you were sold it off the back of a sales assistant recommendation/match then it's their fault, so theoretically they should swap for you.

  19. Anonymous
    February 12, 2016 / 2:47 pm

    Thank you very much! It gives so much relief! Because no doubt if a product is good noone will give it back! Now, thanks to you, I know my rights!

  20. Rose Fisher
    February 21, 2016 / 3:56 pm

    Just tried this with inglot in London Westfeild shopping centre and got a big fat no because I had used it. Even though the consultant had given me the colour choice she still wouldn't even go an exchange let alone a refund. I was left feeling embarrassed. http://roxxanarosemua.blogspot.com

    • Hayley Carr
      February 29, 2016 / 10:26 am

      Was it a foundation mis-match? If so then you're entitled to an exchange at least.

  21. stacey czerwinskyj
    February 28, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    Someone please reply back to me!,I bought Estée Lauder double wear today as nearly out of my other bottle and when I got home and took out my handbag I have been sold the wrong shade I wanted nw2 sand I've come home and I've been sold shell 1n0 I've took out of box and yes it's the wrong shade white as anything it's the palest they do I wear honey in benefit so you can imagine my horror £30 and YES I do have a receipt.the girl on the counter did say she was not qualified but I said that was fine as I know what shade I want so she got it for me and it's wrong!,I bought this today at 3.26pm GMT if I take back tomoorw will I be able to get the correct shade as I'm gutted someone who knows please get back to me Thankyou in advance x

    • Hayley Carr
      February 29, 2016 / 10:26 am

      Go back and ask Stacey! I can't be held responsible for individual stores or their policies, but theoretically they should change this for you.

  22. Anonymous
    March 12, 2016 / 11:16 pm

    Back in late November eirly December I brought a makeup set from a mail order company and like most of us girls I have a lot of makeup so only gave it a quick look over I.e no shadow had crumbled or the case it was in was broken it looked fine popped it back in it's box and put it up. Well it came across my mind today and I thought I'd try some of it out and on more detailed inspection some dirty so n so has used it as you can see on the eyeshadow brush reminants of eyeshadow where it hadn't been totally cleaned off and they've used one of the lipstick brushes granted I won't be using any of these brushes as there those cheap ones you bin after a couple of uses. My problem is has the person who's used it anything wrong with them I.e a cold sore eye infection I really don't want to bin it I'm hoping the company I brought it from will replace it otherwise it's an expensive lesson to learn as I won't ever use it for hygiene reasons. I'm really angry at myself I should've checked it better when it arrived but I'm even more so at this company for selling me a used item when I brought brand new I just don't know what my rights are. Failing the company I brought it from if they won't replace or refund I'll have to contact the makers and see what they'll do about it

  23. Dreamer
    May 6, 2016 / 10:22 pm

    I bought a Diorskin forever yesterday from Boots and when the assistant tested the shade on me it was fine in the store. But when I got home I found that it was actually really orange and a shade darker than my actual skin. Will I be able to exchange it at least?

  24. Tasnim
    May 21, 2016 / 3:59 am

    I hate buying makeup in stores. It's annoying how there are offers online that sale consultants don't tell you about because they want their commission. Literally just spent over £100 on benefit makeup and I went online and saw they have a better deal online with free samples and free makeup set. Not fair at all. Store should do offer this aswell.

  25. Eleanor
    July 22, 2016 / 6:01 am

    I'm having problems getting Dior to refund my money on a mascara which made my eyes sore, itchy and red. They didn't respond to a message I left on their customer service line, and the explanation I got was that their office in Paris was closed because it was Bastille Day. Shows how much they value their British customers. Eventually they said they'd replace the mascara. Oh yes, so I can get ssore eyes all over again? Waiting for a response from John Lewis who are usually very good about makeup returns. Not Dior.

    • Anonymous
      July 31, 2016 / 5:54 pm

      I sympathise with the allergic reaction problem, but are you seriously implying you expect French offices to stay open on a national holiday just in case some Brit calls up with a problem? Get real.

  26. wildbunny111
    August 10, 2016 / 7:02 pm

    Hiya, I found this article really interesting since I have something that I want to return to MAC. I was looked into this a little more and it seems that the Sale of Goods Act has been replaced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Do you think this changes anything?

  27. Anonymous
    December 1, 2016 / 9:42 pm

    I live in England and I have now taken 3 foundations back to the Estee lauder counter at boots all I say is "its the wrong colour" and they exchange them even without proof of purchase they ask if I used them I say yes and they say that's fine and change it. I am not sure what they are like with refunds.

  28. Shanina Khanum
    November 5, 2017 / 2:01 pm

    Interesting article. I brought a kat von d foundation yesterday, i was colour matched with 3 shades the sales assistant recommended a shade for me and i had said to the sales assistant that the colour was too orange for my skin and did not match, she insisted that it was the perfect shade, though I still wasn't happy with the shade, I brought it feeling pressured to buy that shade. Id took it home excited to try it and as I suspected it was orange, like i had applied fake tan only to my face! It completely did not match at all! I took it back today asking if I could have the shade exchanged for a better matching shade, i had the reciept to prove i had brought it from them and they said they could not do anything for me because i had used a pump, I explained to them that it was necessary for me to do that to test the shade myself at home and they explained to me that because they couldn't re sell the item I couldn't get an exchange or a refund. I had spoken to the manager and the floor manager for Debenhams So now i am stuck with a completely unusable product and have lost out on money.

  29. December 2, 2018 / 6:55 pm

    So I’m in a bit ot a sticky situation. Bought an Anastasia Beverly Hills (i.e. expensive) liquid lipstick from Tk Maxx the other day. Got home and realised that it had been opened already..Can I get a refund? Will hey even believe me? Should I come up with another excuse just in case (e.g. the shade didn’t match me)? Any people with Tk Maxx return experiences who can help? PS I do have the receipt 🙂 Thanks x

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