Stop the on-again, off-again relationship with your products

You ditched a product because….

1. It left your face red and irritated. Some ingredients, like retinol, inflame skin on purpose (to shed damaged outer cells or kick-start production of skin-plumping collagen), and it can take four to eight weeks to build up a tolerance, says Jeanette Graf, M.D., a dermatologist in NYC. Stop using it until skin returns to normal, then “reintegrate it into your routine, using only a pea-size drop every other night followed by a gentle moisturizer,” says Dr. Graf.

2. You didn’t see results. “On average, you won’t see a visible skin change for about four weeks,” says Amy Wechsler, M.D., an NYC dermatologist. If, after that, you still see zilch, schedule a quick trip to your dermatologist’s office (or see a trusted aesthetician) to be sure it’s right for you.

3. You didn’t like its smell or texture. Playing with the product in-store (via a communal tester or requesting a single-use sample) is your best bet. Other ways you can curate: Sephora.com’s Skin Care IQ (an online consultation that helps you zero in on new faves by calling out ingredients, types, textures, and fragrance-free options) and the OG product-reviewing website MakeupAlley.com

4. You found something newer and cooler. Indulge your impulse-purchase habit with samples. A monthly subscription service (like Birchbox or Glossybox) lets you test-drive products and spring for a full-size version of something you love. Also helpful: Sephora.com, which includes three free samples with your order.

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If you just hate it, these retailers offer the best return policies- even for opened products. Just stash your receipts.

1. CVS and Walmart: full refund, no questions asked.

2. Sephora: full refund within 60 days; store credit up to 90 days.

3. Macy’s: full refund for unopened or barely used products.

4. Target: exchange on a case-by-case basis.

5. Nordstrom and Walgreens: refund or exchange on a case-by-case basis.

6. Ulta: full refund within 60 days; store credit thereafter.

This was originally published as “Playing the Skin-Care Field?” in the August 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan

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