Have You Ever Inadvertently Bought Used Makeup?

Published in: Just For Fun, Makeup

Have you ever accidentally bought used makeup?

It all started innocently enough… I was at Sephora last weekend, buying my umpteenth tube of one of my favorite NARS lipsticks, Dolce Vita, a sheer red I’ve been wearing for years.


I’d finished my last tube about a month ago and was so excited to get the new one that I tore into the box as soon as I got home.

I brought the tube up to my lips but stopped when I saw something that looked a little off. Instead of a smooth finish, the tip had ridges and flakes (they looked like flakes of chapped skin) along the edges. Straight up — it looked used.


It may have come from NARS that way, but I’m guessing (no way to know for sure) it was just a return, and that somehow in all of the holiday craziness, a return found its way back to the shelf at the store.

Thank goodness for Sephora’s fantastic return policy because they took it back, no questions asked. πŸ™‚

Has anything like this ever happened to you? Inquiring minds want to know!

Have you ever inadvertently bought used makeup?

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Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. Kelly says:

    Ewwww! No I haven’t, as far as I know! Will you be able to return it?
    .-= Kelly’s last blog post… L.A. Girl Army Green with CND Colour Effects =-.

  2. Kristina says:

    Mine gross encounter was also a Sephora purchase. It was M4E smoky lash that I had ordered online only to open it and find a long hair dangling off the end of the brush. EEEWWWWW! TG for Sephora’s fantastic return policy!

  3. Dao says:

    I am lucky enough not to buy anything used and returned so far. MAC has a fantastic chugging policy when it comes to returned items. However, the inner environmental scientist in me see it as a waste and cry a little bit on the inside.
    .-= Dao’s last blog post… Monday Announcement =-.

  4. Shannon says:

    I haven’t done that. But I tried to buy the tester of a lip gloss the other day at Sephora. The check-out girl looked at me kind of weird and said “Would you like to go pick out a new one?” Duh!
    .-= Shannon’s last blog post… Time for Links =-.

  5. Sephora is usually pretty good about asking if products are used and visually checking them to make sure they are no. In any case, I can see how it happened in the holiday craziness, but still, majorly gross!!!
    .-= Kajal Couture’s last blog post… Lush-ious Skin for the Wintertime =-.

  6. Faye says:

    I’m a Sephora victim too! Last year I bought a palette of eyeshadows — I think it was from TheBalm? — and it turned out each one had been swatched by finger once. Worse yet, I bought this as part of a Secret Santa gift at work! Thankfully the person receiving it is a friend and knew I’d never intentionally give her something used. They took it back at Sephora, but I was MIGHTY annoyed about the whole thing.

  7. Suji says:

    I bought nail polish from a drugstore once, and when I finally got around to try it out, I noticed there was polish crust all over the inside when I opened the cap, and if you looked closely it seemed like there was not as much in the bottle as there should be. It’s not as gross as used lipstick, so I think I’ll keep the polish and use it, but it was still annoying!!

  8. shells says:

    Yup it’s happened to me at Sephora. I bought Lolita from the Kat Von D line. It was used & the bottom part was completely cracked. BAH!

    I’d love to see Dolce Vita lip swatched!

  9. Sylvie says:

    I have a MAC CCB that was purchased in a store and there was a hair in the middle of it. But I wiped it down and used it anyway and now I’ve hit pan and nothing’s wrong with me.

  10. Carol L says:

    My encounter was also at a Sephora. I bought a Benefit creaseless creame shadow at the SF downtown location and when I got home it was swatched. Gross!

  11. Baby Girl says:

    So far I’ve been lucky! When I’m in line at Sephora I open the boxes and double check. So far I haven’t come across anything used. I agree, they have a wonderful return policy.

  12. Livia says:

    Eww that’s gross! Nothing like that has happened to me so far. Thank goodness. πŸ™‚
    .-= Livia’s last blog post… Lauren Luke’s Beauty Book: Look Like A Star Review =-.

  13. gio says:

    I bought an eyeliner pencil once and when I got home I realised the tip looked like it had been used. Ewww! Unfortunately we can’t return makeup here so I was stuck with it πŸ™
    .-= gio’s last blog post… Product Review: Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion =-.

  14. Citrine says:

    I have bought eyeliner from Beauty Crunch that was dried out and eyeshadow that looks used…They don’t accept returns though. Beside that when I used to hunt for discontinued/ LE stuff on ebay, one lip gloss I got has a whole chunk missing and the tube look pretty beaten up. Anyway, my worse experience was not from stores though: I have received something that looks like it belongs to the trash can from a makeupalley swap…

  15. Christy says:

    Unfortunately, yes. I got a NYX trio that had been tested this past summer. I didn’t really notice while rushing through the drugstore. I’ve also gotten a few items on Ebay that have been used. I always ask now if I’m not too sure if it’s new.
    .-= Christy’s last blog post… FOTD: Kat Von D True Love Palette & MAC Siss =-.

  16. Patty says:

    You’ve got to be super careful in stores like Sephora, where all of the stock is out for people to grab (and use). I always, without fail, check to make sure it hasn’t been used. I was digging through a jar of stuff at a CCO once and I found ONE Copperplate, a color I’d been wanting, and someone had stuck their finger in it to swatch it. But I didn’t want to pass it up at $10, so I bought it and just wiped down the top layer when I got home. Luckily powder products don’t have a high risk of contamination. But yes, important lesson. πŸ™‚

  17. Rosemary says:

    I purchased an Urban Decay palette at a Sephora in Dallas while on a weekend getaway for my bf’s bday. I ended up not using it and stuck it in my suitcase (still in the Sephora bag) and when we returned home, I opened it to swatch the colors and there were eyelashes on the eye shadows and it looked like it had been used. I returned it at my local Sephora and the girl at the counter, after explaining it to her, had the nerve to say, “so, why are you returning it!?” as if she didn’t see a problem with it. Then she still opened the package to double check. She was extremely rude and don’t frequent Sephora as must anymore because of it….

  18. AndreaMarie says:

    Yes, one time at Nordstrom I bought a Prescriptives foundation that had already been used. The return receipt was even inside the box!!

  19. Angie says:

    The only two times I’ve ordered from neiman marcus, they’ve sent me used stuff. Bloomingdales has done it once as well. Such a disappointment and waste of time to have to return.

  20. mary says:

    as someone who works for a major dept store in the cosmetics dept, let me just apologize collectively for other salespeople’s errors. We (at least at MY counter) ALWAYS Check every product when returned–And I’ve had people try to scam me by watering down their foundation to get full credit, or put another product in the box, or just try to return an empty jar of product!! It’s wrong to cheat the counter, and it’s wrong to put out used merch to sell. I like the idea of checking it before purchase, so you know it’s clean!!!

  21. Veky says:

    I’ve never bought used products in a store, but I don’t mind buying something that has been swatched (e/s, blush or eye pencil). I do mind that when it comes to lipsticks and especially lip glosses and mascaras. That I would never buy used, no matter if it has been used only once.

    The thing with e/s & blushes is that you can remove the top layer with something, and pencils are something that you can sharp and it’s like new. No harm there. πŸ™‚

  22. Laura F. says:

    Miss Karen… not sure if its my computer or what, but lately I get an error when I vote on your polls. I click my choice, and click “vote”, and an error message comes up an tells me “please select a valid poll choice”. But then, if I click “vote” again, it goes through. Just a heads up! πŸ™‚ Have a fantastic day.

  23. Glosslizard says:

    The worst that happened to me was when I opened an Armani lipstick I had bought and found the end lightly smushed as if someone had opened it to look (but not try) and then didn’t twist it back down quite enough before closing. It wasn’t actually used, so I didn’t return it, but it was annoying! If I’m going to pay that much for a lipstick, I want it in perfect, pristine condition! Perfect, I tell you! πŸ˜‰

  24. Jenna says:

    Once I bought a cargo lipstick from Sephora and well, there was no lipstick because someone smashed it off!! I was so sad! Now, I like to open and check the package despite the dirty looks I get from the salespeople.

  25. Lorena says:

    I totally agree with checking the package before paying so it saves an extra trip back to sephora!

    I find many make-up stores have pretty good return policies…MAC….last time I returned the Prep and Prime SPF 30 because the sparkles in it were too much for me. I just told the sales that it made me break out and she refunded it for me even though I had used it!

  26. Jessica says:

    I am pleased to say that I can’t recall this ever happening to me. But….I always have this worry in the back of my mind when I buy products like mascara or lip gloss or anything of liquid consistency. If someone took an illegal swipe of these products, the bacteria in there is having a little jamboree and I’ll never know about it. I don’t use many drugstore brands, but one thing I like about it is their hardcore, sealed up, Fort Knox style packaging. When you buy higher end brands from the counters or Sephora its usually just in a box. Anyone can slyly open a box and help themselves.

  27. Ashley says:

    GRRRRR. I HATE people who try & cheat the counters! What is wrong with THOSE people!? Don’t they realized that they’re not only hurting a workers pay cheque but also fellow shoppers?! There is a TESTER for a reason, use that & NOT new product. And don’t buy something, swatch it & then return it! If you want to get your money back, go on Craigslist & say selling SWATCHED make up! You won’t get the full price but seriously, how much of a (b word) do you have to return used make up!
    I have had this happen to me way too many times…. Seriously. I always double check now! I wish company’s would start using the circle tape to show the box has never been tampered with in any way!
    .-= Ashley’s last blog post… Almost December! =-.

  28. Barbara says:

    Here in Portugal there are no returns, if you buy it , you keep it! πŸ™

  29. Caitlin says:

    I accidentally bought a mascara from Victoria’s Secret. It was a tester and I didn’t notice it until I got home. πŸ™ But I don’t use mascara that much…

  30. Ciambella says:

    NYX is my favorite drugstore brand, but they don’t seal their lipsticks and teenybopper girls love NYX as well–and when some teenyboppers test the lipstick colors, they do it very, very discreetly by twisting the lipstick all the way up and swiping a swatch from the very base. I used to just open the lipstick cap to make sure the tip wasn’t messed up until I bought one, opened it at home, pushed it all the way up and saw a little teenybopper fingerprint right on the bottom of the lipstick. Suffice to say, I haven’t bought a NYX lipstick directly from a drugstore since.

  31. BlovetBeauty says:

    nope, i have yet to buy used makeup … but I shall one day. All it takes is some good sterilisation with alcohol and tissue …
    .-= BlovetBeauty’s last blog post… IVY =-.

  32. Ack ewww I hate when that happens. It’s one of the problems I run into a lot with drugstore lipsticks (I love Rimmel). They’re not sealed, so a lot of people ‘test’ them out. Usually, (and this is only with drugstore lipstick since I get what I’m paying for), I’ll pick one that doesn’t look too bad, and wipe/clean it before I use it. Ooh a sheer red. Sounds pretty. Is it a more blue based red or an orangey red?
    .-= Makeupmorsels’s last blog post… Fragrance Requests: Paloma Picasso =-.

  33. ilona says:

    i voted i’ll tell u in the comments because once i bought an eyeshadow off ebay. (i know i shouldn’t do that). it didn’t say used, and assuming the seller followed ebay’s policy, it should have been NEW. but of course I can spot if a MAC eyeshadow has been swiped every so slightly and it sure was! luckily it didn’t look too bad. but i did end up swapping it away. Melody was way too bring on me!

  34. ilona says:

    whoops, i meant to say too *bright*

  35. Judy says:

    Macy’s sold me an used Shiseido eye cream. The box had a very old and yellowing return sticker and the box looked old too. Lucky thing I didn’t use it but it makes me scared to think what if someone tampered with the product inside with something dangerous to your eyes.

    Reading everyone’s comment here I feel like buying only sealed products from now on but almost all products sold at dept stores or Sephora are not sealed. I will definitely purchase mascaras from drugstores now. Sealed ones only.

  36. Roxan says:

    i ordered 2 palettes from hautelook.com and one of them was the skull palette and the other was the get baked palette (you reccomended it&i love it) well the skull palette had finger prints in some of the shadows! like if it was swiped for swatches or something! it was weird. and hautelook doesnt take refunds on cosmetics, so i had to keep it. luckily i like the colors in that palette so i do use it still, just had to wipe off the “extra finger prints” off some of the shadows πŸ™ haha

  37. Eileen says:

    eww yess! back when sephora was having their calvin klein sale on beauty products, i bought a gel liner to find that it was all tampered with! looked like someone mashed their thumb in it.. blechh. i brought it back but since i had gotten the last one, i couldnt exchange it for another one πŸ™

  38. adelina says:

    luckily I haven’t had that experience, probably because I always grab the 2nd or 3rd box when I want to buy something so that doesn’t happen to me. The first box is probably the one that’s been used. So always reach for the 3rd one in line πŸ™‚
    .-= adelina’s last blog post… fotd & betterworldbooks.com =-.

  39. Stacie says:

    Years ago, when my friend and I were looking at lipstick in Wal-Mart (can’t remember which brand), she pulled one off the rack and tried it on. Not swatching it on her hand, oh no, directly onto her lips. Then she put it back on the rack. Disgusting! I think we were about 13. Even at the time I was shocked and appalled at her. For years after that I only bought the lipstick with the clear, sealed packaging over the tip. I try not to think about the possibility of lipgloss having been used, or mascara. I sleep better at night that way! πŸ˜‰

  40. amy says:

    Yes I have accidently bought used makeup. I was at Save on Foods buying NYX trio palettes, it was the last one so I took it. The sticker was still in tack but when I opened it at home it was FINGERED! The supermarket doesn’t take back open packagings, even though it was not opened by myself. I end up soaking cotton pads with rubbing alcohol overnight to kill any germs.
    .-= amy’s last blog post… NOTD (Nails of the Day): Coach Exclusive Holiday Nailpolish Set =-.

  41. Jenny says:

    Unfortunately, I feel your pain. It’s happened to me, too!! I bought a smashbox palette from Ulta. When I got home, I opened up my palette to see little finger markings on most of the eyeshadows. I was so upset. I exchanged it for another palette hoping that the new palette wouldn’t be used. Once I exchanged it, I opened the palette in my car. Sure enough, another set of finger prints πŸ™ I was so frustrated.. but I really, really wanted it! So I went back into Ulta and opened about 4-5 Smashbox palette boxes in the store just to find an UNUSED palette. Can you believe that? I felt pretty bad opening up those beauties, but it had to be done. Perhaps it came from Smashbox that way, but it’s super weird. It made me wonder if Ulta was selling makeup that people returned/exchanged. Ick.

  42. Jenny says:

    Hmm, I’ve read the comments and am confused. From what I remember, MAC throws the product out if a person returns it, right? Does Sephora or other Dept. Stores do this? It sounds like they resell items that were once returned if it’s looks “new”? Anyone know their policies on this subject?

  43. KC says:

    the same thing happened to me! I thought I was the only one! well, mine was a Napoleon Perdis foundation stick. I got it at a department store in Canada when Napoleon Perdis was moving out of the store so everything was at least 50% off. I was grossed out when I opened the foundation stick to find it to have fingerprint all over the container (since it’s a glossy black finish), and to have the top of the foundation to have marks on it! Needless to say, I went back to the counter the very next day.

    The lady there told me it must be mistaken from the return items since she is the only one that works for that counter, and when she has that day off, sales from another counter will help customers. she basically said that they didn’t know what they were doing. and I was just happy to get a NEW foundation stick!

  44. Ellalthea says:

    I work at a cosmetic counter, and I get people returning things all the time saying that “it is ok, I only tried it once.” Ewww!

    If it hasn’t been used, we are supposed to put it back out to sell. My rule of thumb is that anything liquid or creamy (like mascara or moisturizers) automatically goes into the return box regardless of whether or not it looks used because I don’t want to be responsible for spreading bacteria. Anything solid gets thoroughly looked over, and if it doesn’t look pristine it goes into the return box as well. Putting out used merchandise is bad customer service.

    Unfortunately some salespeople don’t always check before they put back merchandise. Some mornings I come into work and there are mascaras left on the counter, and I have to figure out if they are stock that got left out or returns.

  45. Trystan says:

    Its for this very reason that I *alwayalways* check to make sure. It is soooo annoying to have to do all that back and forth stuff, and as a shopaholic, it really takes away from that omg I have something new how exciting mindset.
    .-= Trystan’s last blog post… Finals Suck =-.

  46. Jenn says:

    THANK GOD I read this post.

    I was at the Sephora in Valley Fair today picking up a tube of YSL’s Rouge Volupte in #13. The SA found me a box that was all beat up– the last one, she said. Again, thank goodness I had read this post and remembered to check. So I opened it; and to my horror, there was dust all over it! I immediately told an SA that it was used and if I can have another one, but there was no more. πŸ™

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