You may want to give your new makeup compact a second glance.
QVC is defending itself against customer claims that the home-shopping giant sold them previously used cosmetics, raising questions about what actually happens to unwanted beauty products.
Just a few days ago, an irked customer posted a message on QVC's beauty-forum boards complaining that a Laura Geller blush she had purchased arrived on her doorstep used, The Frisky first reported.
After she called customer service to complain, QVC apologized and told the poster to return the product.
Reactions to the post within the QVC forum have been passionate, yet split.
About half of the crowd are fervent QVC customer fans, who say the brand known for "quality, value, and convenience" would never intentionally send a customer used cosmetics and that the issue must have been due to human error or misjudgment on the part of the poster.
But others claim that resold used makeup is an issue that has cropped up before for QVC.
A board member who goes by the handle of eyeluvbe writes: "About a year and a half ago, this was happening very frequently on here. They were sending out returns, especially if someone waitlisted something. Not saying this was a condoned practice, but it was happening. Some people were getting face creams with finger marks in them and hairs in the cream and there were tons of posts on the boards about it. So a lot of us on the boards decided to start emptying the containers and marking a big black 'x' on the jars when they were sent back so that people processing the returns wouldn't re-send them to others. Yuck."
However, QVC tells StyleList, "It is QVC's policy to destroy cosmetics and skin-care products that have been returned to us."
So could the hiccup be due to the honest mistake of an employee or is it a customer's vivid imagination at play? It's impossible to tell.
Return policies on cosmetics can vary dramatically from one retailer to another. QVC and HSN, along with beauty powerhouse Sephora, all have a no-questions-asked return policy and take back used cosmetics if customers aren't satisfied with their performance. Other retailers, like Target, only accept brand-new and sealed cosmetics returns or defective merchandise like broken bottles and cracked makeup.
Yet some women actually go out of their way to swap used cosmetics with others.
Makeupalley.com is the largest cosmetics-swapping site of its kind, with thousands of active users online at any one time perusing swap lists and messaging other members to set up potential trades. After all, most women are left with a cabinet full of gently tested products that didn't work just right yet weren't exactly cheap. So following the logic of the old axiom, "One man's trash is another man's treasure," swappers aim to clean out their drawers while scoring items they're lusting after or could really use instead.
After trades are completed, members leave one another positive, neutral, and negative tokens -- similar to eBay's feedback system -- as a credibility rating future swappers can reference.
Most swappers sanitize compacts and lipsticks with spritzes of alcohol, and the general rule of thumb is that items like mascara and lip gloss that are impossible to disinfect are not traded unless they're brand new and sealed.
Sephora fans created a discussion board on their Facebook page to swap cosmetics, though most items tend to be sample-size or new products that customers received in a larger kit but weren't interested in using.
But a recent exposé in the LA Times put a major damper on swapping -- or even sampling cosmetics via in-store testers.
The article stated that used makeup is often so germy, it can spread serious bacteria like E. coli and pinkeye and even infectious diseases like the herpes simplex virus. In fact, a study by Rowan University found that 100 percent of cosmetics testers examined in drugstores, department stores, and specialty chains were tainted with bacteria that could make you sick.
"Wherever you see E. coli, you should just think, 'E. coli equals feces.' That means someone went to the bathroom, didn't wash their hands, and then stuck their fingers in that moisturizer," Dr. Elizabeth Brooks told the L.A. Times.
So while it's impossible to discern the truth from the debate on whether a customer received used cosmetics from QVC, one thing's for sure: we're going to closely inspect our newly bought makeup from now on.