Drugstore Cosmetics: It Pays to Know the Return Policy

Many moons ago, I was a beauty product snob. I bought pricey cosmetics at sleek department store counters and had an extensive makeup collection that read like the aisles of Sephora.

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that the humble local drugstore offers a bounty of decent — and uber-affordable — cosmetics. The secret lies in figuring out which products are winners and which ones are best left on the shelf.

That, unfortunately, requires a bit of trial and error. And we’ve all been down that road. Who wants to waste money trying out a new foundation only to find out you bought the wrong color or it makes your face break out?

The good news is that most of today’s major drugstore chains understand our reluctance. And most of these retailers have excellent return policies — some offer a refund even if the product is opened. So it makes sense to familiarize yourself with your local store’s return policy for cosmetics and beauty items, because I’ve found that sometimes even the cashiers aren’t sure what the policy is.

Rite Aid

Rite Aid offers a “100% Risk-Free Beauty Guarantee” for all in-store purchases. According to the Rite Aid website, any opened or used beauty product of any brand name can be returned for a full refund when accompanied by a receipt. The policy applies not only to cosmetics, but also a wide variety of “beauty categories” including: 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. Whew. That’s quite a list.


CVS also offers 100% satisfaction guarantee which states that customers should “be 100% happy, or receive 100% money back on any beauty product.” If you are dissatisfied for any reason, you can return the beauty product (opened or unopened) along with your receipt or invoice to any CVS store. They will refund the full purchase price, no questions asked.


Walgreens requires that all returns are made within 30 days of purchase. Cosmetics can be returned opened or unopened. If you have a receipt, Walgreens will offer a full refund. If you don’t have a receipt, you can receive a store credit at whatever price the product is currently scanning in the system.


These web retailers have a policy that differs slightly from your average mass market drugstore. All products must be returned within 30 days of receiving them. Opened/used cosmetics do not qualify for return unless they are damaged, defective or fall under the site’s 100% Color Guarantee. The Color Guarantee allows you to return the product for a full refund (minus shipping costs) if you are not satisfied with the color. But, here’s the catch: in order for the product to qualify for the guarantee, it must display the 100% Color Guarantee logo on the product information page. So, purchase with care.

Are there other mass-market retailers y’all know of with excellent return policies for cosmetics or beauty products? Are there some stores you’re best to avoid? If so, be sure to share in the comments.

And don’t forget to check out Trina’s vlog from yesterday. She features her Top 10 Drugstore Picks Under $10. If you’re keen to discover some of the treasures available at your local drugstore, that’s a great place to start.

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About Melissa

Written by Melissa Angert, editor of this fashion blog and author of Girlymama. You can also find her on Twitter as Melissa Angert. She is a mom of 3 living in Providence.


  1. Ironically, drugstore return policies are actually the reason I DON’T buy cosmetics at the drugstore. Because, you know. USED MAKEUP. Gross.

    (It happens. I’ve seen them put my used lipstick back on the rack. Be careful. Make sure the stuff you buy is sealed!!)

  2. the idea of used makeup is gross. I never think about returning something because i didn’t like the color or result. it would probably save me a ton of money i’m sure.

  3. This is a great post! Especially on the heels of my video yesterday! 🙂 COuldn’t have planned it better huh?

    I feel bad returning opened products, but the policies are there and legit, so I have returned things on a few occasions. I like knowing if a product disappoints me I’m not stuck with it.

    I think most people would notice if a product on the shelf had been used. Its normally pretty obvious, so I don’t worry about buying used makeup.

  4. Wal-Mart will also take back open cosmetics if you have your receipt. In fact I think you can return anything you buy at Wal-mart with a receipt. The plus is IF they carry the makeup you want it is always cheaper there than anywhere else. The flipside is they don’t have the selection that Walgreens or Ritaide has. I always check Wal-mart first though and I always keep the receipt and packaging inside the store bag and stash them intil I am 100% posistive the makeup/skincare works for me.