- August 31, 2021
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When it comes to shopping, I've always preferred hunting for my latest product fix IRL versus online. From the age of 5, I've had a thing for sparkling, lacquer-finished stores like Nordstrom and MAC. They were my favorite pit stops to make at the mall, and as I grew older, sleuthing for new and exciting beauty concoctions at other retailers like Sephora, Ulta, and even the drugstore became a kind of tranquility-inducing therapy for me. (Unfortunately, my credit card got the short end of the stick with that one—R.I.P.)
Not only did I simply enjoy strolling through the aisles filled with tempting vials, jars, and bottles, but I also loved swatching and testing to see how shades would (or wouldn't) flatter my skin tone or how the consistency of a serum or oil would lie with my skin. Hygienic? No. Fun? Very much! That said, even though things have opened up since the pandemic, and I can definitely go back to my former brick-and-mortar shopping M.O., I've still been doing most of my investing online. Which, while convenient, can also be a bit tricky. There's a greater risk of not liking a product, and it's disappointing to have to repack and ship back a formula you had high hopes for.
I don't know about you, but it's pretty much my prerogative to avoid online returns at all costs, so I did some Nancy Drew–caliber detective work to significantly slim your chances of returning said purchases. To help streamline your shopping process and to help ensure satisfaction almost guaranteed, I reached out to six popular beauty retailers—Violet Grey, Net-a-Porter, Thirteen Lune, Revolve, Dermstore, and Credo, to see which beauty products get returned the least. Kind of brilliant, right? Keep scrolling for 60 holy-grail beauty products with a near-perfect no-return rate.
U Beauty The Sculpt Arm Compound ($98)
U Beauty Founder Tina Craig really outdid herself when she dreamed up this arm-sculpting compound. The fact that it's rarely returned proves the tightening and toning magic isn't a marketing gimmick.
Nécessaire The Body Wash ($25)
If you think body wash is just body wash, you definitely need this vitamin-rich elixir in your shower, stat. Choose the scent (fragrance-free, bergamot, eucalyptus, or sandalwood) based on the type of at-home spa experience you're looking to channel.
Hanacure All-in-One Facial (Starter Kit) ($29)
What can't this innovative mask do? Just one application smooths, corrects, tightens, firms, lifts, and purges the skin of toxins. The results are temporary yet absolutely perfect before a night out or big event.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Lip Balm ($55)
You'd think finding a lip balm that did what it's supposed to (and then some!) would be easy, but it's actually pretty hard. This one from Dr. Barbara Sturm is a splurge, but so long-lasting and satisfying that it redeems itself.
Shani Darden Retinol Reform ($88)
This retinol serum from celebrity facialist Shani Darden has rendered itself practically holy. Try it and you'll see what we mean.
Augustinus Bader The Exfoliating Toner/The Essence ($85)
Augustinus Bader might be famous for its holy-grail face creams, but this toner-essence hybrid doesn't get enough credit. And yes, it features the same youth-activating TFC8 complex that the rest of the brand's lineup contains. Soft, supple, hydrated skin is just ahead.
Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum ($185)
This face oil's impressive nutrition panel eclipses all others. Think22 of the world’s most nutrient-rich botanicals, bottled for your complexion's benefit.
111Skin Y Theorem Bio Cellulose Facial Mask ($135)
So many sheet masks on the market are just meh—you apply them with high hopes and are only minorly thrilled at the end results. This one, however, will truly transform the look of your skin in one go. Newly reformulated, it's a targeted repair-focused bio-cellulose mask that utilizes key technology from wound-healing medicine.
Revitalash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner ($150)
Lush, longer lashes right at your fingertips.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum ($280)
This might be one of the most jaw-droppingly expensive hyaluronic acid formulas, but according to customers' rave reviews, the high-quality formulas is well worth the plunge if your budget has the bandwidth.
Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream ($265)
This cult-loved face cream will douse your skin with TLC and actually helps trick your skin cells into thinking they're younger. The result? A bouncy, glowing, ultra-youthful complexion.
La Mer Crème de la Mer ($325)
Speaking of face creams, is there a formula more iconic than La Mer's?
Le Labo Santal 33 Eau de Parfum ($285)
Shopping for fragrances online can be tricky, but if I felt safe recommending one and only one to the masses, it would be this MVP from Le Labo. Think notes from cardamom, sandalwood, leather, iris, and violet. It's intoxicating.
UnicSkin UnicLED Neck & Chin Mask ($425)
This high-tech mask uses LED therapy to help contour your jawline and while simultaneously reducing the appearance of sagging, wrinkles, and even a double chin.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 ($35)
Not only is this one of the most popular (and least returned) beauty items in Net-a-Porter's collection, it also happens to be one of Supergoop!'s all-time best sellers as well. If you're in the market for a new sunscreen, this one won't fail you. (Psst! It also works as a fab, makeup-gripping face primer!)
Dr. Lara Devgan Platinum Lip Plump SPF30 ($50)
This is one of my favorite beauty products o all time. I apply it every day and am not afraid to say I'm addicted. Oh, and you probably already know this because I find a way to wax poetic about it in almost every single story I write for WWW. You need this!
111Skin Sub-Zero De-Puffing Eye Mask ($77)
Under-eye puff can be stubborn, but no matter the severity of your late-night festivities, these cooling and tightening eye patches zip up the bloat so it's only a distant memory.
Dr. Dennis Gross Limited Edition Pewter DRx SpectraLite FaceWare Pro ($435)
I know LED masks like this popular one from Dr. Dennis Gross can seem gimmicky and ungodly expensive, but perhaps my personal testimony (and the fact that using the blue setting cleared my acne in a couple of days) will convince you otherwise.
Prados Beauty Prados x Steven Paul Judd Eyeshadow Palette ($38)
If you invest in one eye shadow palette this season, make it this whimsical one from Prados Beauty. We (literally) can't take our eyes off of it.
Charlotte Mensah Manketti Hair Oil ($55)
This beautiful hair oil instantaneously transforms the look and feel of stressed-out strands. Think enhance shine, less frizz, and some essential scalp TLC.
Glosshood Holyyy Gloss Balm Hybrid ($22)
"Holyyy" is right! This organic gloss-balm hybrid is beyond in every respect. Try it and experience the addictiveness yourself.
Liha Beauty Idan Oil ($47)
It's hard to pinpoint what we love about this decadent oil, but its versatility is a top contender. Pour some in your bath, slather it onto dry, split ends… The sky is really the limit, which makes the splurge all the more worth it.
Naturally Drenched Rebalance Restorative pH Hair Treatment ($36)
This is such a brilliant treamtnet. Use it before you condition your hair to seal in extra nutrients, malnourished strands will lap up with glee. Oh, and it will also help rebalance the natural pH of your hair which translates to more shine and moisture. Wins all around.
Buttah Vitamin C Serum ($39)
The best antioxidant-rich vitamin C serums don't have to have crazy-high pricetags to do wonders for your skin. This concoction from Buttah is proof.
Bomba Curls Bomba Beauty Bites ($20)
Healthy hair never tasted this delicious. Warning: You'll want to down the whole bottle in one sitting, but please don't!
Marie Hunter Beauty Leather & Suede Signature Candle ($48)
Trust—this heavenly candle from Marie Hunter will send you into another world entirely. Plus, it's versatile enough to put anywhere in your house.
The Established Elixa Bath + Body Serum ($36)
One huge perk of this oil-based serum is how quickly it sinks into your skin, leaving it soft and silky but not slippery or greasy (my biggest pet peeve.)
Sundree Cooling Facial Globe ($14)
Store this in your fridge, and puffy morning skin will be a thing of the bast. It's a self-care must and also happens to look really cute to boot.
Gisou Honey Infused Hair Oil ($90)
If you think all hair oils are the same, think again. This one from Gisou is enriched with the highest quality honey from founder, Negin Mirsalehi's family bee garden. The elixir brims with hair-healing minerals, amino, acids, and antioxidants. One dose will satisfy whatever it is that your hair has been craving recently.
Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector ($28)
This restructuring strand treatment is so good, it's not the only time you'll see it on this low-return list.
Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum ($185)
Boasting 100% natural ingredients, this luxurious serum-oil hybrid is the ultimate skin antidote for all skin types. This is another formula you'll meet again, below.
Supergoop! Unseen Invisible Sunscreen SPF 40 ($34)
See? We weren't kidding when we said this invisible, feather-light SPF was insanely popular.
LightStim For Acne Device ($169)
LightStim's FDA-approved LED light therapy device emits UV-free light rays that stimulate your skin cells and the body's natural regeneration protocol. The blue light eradicates acne-causing bacteria while the red increases healthy blood circulation.
Ziip Beauty Ziip Device + Golden Gel ($495)
Essentially, this travel-friendly, palm-sized device (think a far chicer version of a Mac mouse) delivers the same benefits of an in-office electrical nano current facial from the comfort of your home. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston swear by these kinds of facials for their taught and glowy skin, by the way.
Using nano currents (think teeny electrical currents that sync to your body's own frequency) the device actually communicates with your skin cells to generate more collagen elastin (plumpness!), decrease the onset of breakouts, boost circulation, accelerate wound healing, and heal and repair compromised skin tissue.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum ($300)
Meet the hyaluronic serum of all hyaluronic serums. If you're not sure what formula to choose from, you can't lose with this investment.
Osea Undaria Algae Body Oil ($48)
The best pick-me-up when your limbs need a naturally-enhanced glow-up. If you're a body oil devotee (or even if you're not), you need this staple in your collection.
Supergoop! Glowscreen SPF 40 ($36)
If you love glowing skin, there is no better SPF formula to pick up than this relatively new launch from the goddesses over at Supergoop!
Olaplex No. 4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo ($28)
Revolve calls this multifunctioning shampoo "ultimate breakage insurance," and as someone who regularly bleaches the heck out of my hair, I have to agree.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($166)
It's a splurge, but if you're going to own one investment piece within your skincare routine, make it this cult-favorite serum from SkinCeuticals. It's the stuff of legend for a reason!
SkinMedica TNS Eye Repair ($102)
This anti-aging eye cream helps iron out fine lines, dial-up brightness, and boost hydration in one fell swoop.
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment ($85)
You'll love this serum if you're looking for instant gratification when it comes to smooth, ultra-glowing skin. Remember what your skin looked and felt like five, 10, or even 15 years ago? Think of Good Genes as a time capsule back to that.
IS Clinical Cleansing Complex ($44)
Beauty editors, celebrities, and skin experts alike salivate over this practically perfect cleanser from IS Clinical. All of a sudden, washing your face yields the same type of retexturizing results as a fancy in-office facial.
Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus Sub-Dneck ($135)
There are a lot of neck-firming formulas on the market, but according to shoppers, this is the one to hold on to if you're seeking legitimate results.
NuFace FIX Line Smoothing Device ($149)
Consider this handy-dandy tool from NuFace a gateway to tauter, line-free skin. This particular model is especially great for targeting smaller areas like the eyes, mouth, forehead, and nasolabial folds.
EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 ($37)
This beloved sunscreen goes above and beyond, so it's no wonder that it's one of Dermstore's greatest hits in the no-return arena. Not only does it provide an invisible shield from damaging UVA and UVB rays, but it's also fortified with lactic acid to unclog pores and sodium hyaluronate to keep your skin balanced and moisturized.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($150)
A two-step exfoliating treatment that's the next best thing to a professional facial.
Revision Skincare Revox Line Relaxer ($145)
Dare we say this line-erasing serum is practically filler in a bottle?
PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum ($117)
A high-quality hyaluronic acid serum is a must for maintaining healthy skin. This one plays nicely with all skin types.
REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic ($38)
The dynamic duo of lactic and azelaic play fairy godmother to dull, rough skin. Say goodbye to dead cell buildup and hello to a sparkly, super-refined finish.
By Terry Baume de Rose Lip Care ($60)
I used to think forking over $60 for a lip balm was ludicrous. (Hey, just being honest!) And then, I tried this lip balm. All of sudden, makeup artists' and celebrities' rave reviews made perfect sense.
Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector ($28)
This popular pre-shampoo treatment works miracles on damaged hair—regardless of its tone or texture.
Obagi Medical Professional-C Serum 20% ($133)
Trust us—in 10 years (and also, like, tomorrow) your skin will thank you for this potent dose of youth-enhancing vitamin C.
Christophe Robin Cleansing Purifying Scrub with Sea Salt ($53)
This two-in-one scalp exfoliator and shampoo is enriched with sea salt to blast away residue and buildup while sweet almond oil and limnanthes seed oil feed essential hydration and nourishment back into your strands and scalp.
Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil ($56)
This gloss-inducing hair oil is just as decadent as its gilded name suggests.
Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($30)
People go absolutely bonkers for this cell-sloughing toner from Paula's Choice. Salicylic acid goes to work by triggering cell regeneration to minimize the appearance of blemishes, redness, large pores, even fine lines and wrinkles. Meanwhile, green tea calms inflammation and protects your skin against environmental damage.
Ilia Limitless Lash Mascara ($28)
This best-selling mascara yields such spectacular results, you'd never guess how clean the formula is.
Marie Veronique Vitamins C+E+Ferulic Serum ($90)
This oil-free powerhouse serum brightens by day (be sure to top it off with a high-quality SPF!) and repairs and rebuilds your complexion at night.
One Love Organics Botanical B Enzyme Cleansing Oil + Makeup Remover ($42)
A lush, botanical-rich formula that can double as either a makeup remover or cleansing oil.
Osea Undaria Algae Oil ($48)
Victoria Beckham loves this seaweed-enriched body oil from Osea. Do you really need any more information than that?
Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser ($34)
Indie Lee's radiance-enhancing cleanser is practically legendary within the beauty industry. It's great for all skin types and leaves your complexion dewy and topped-up with moisture never stripped and dry.
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