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Ulta employee reveals what really happens to returned beauty products

Ulta employee Bianca Ann Levinson filmed a TikTok video that shows what happens after you return makeup, hair and skin care products.
Bianca Ann Levinson filmed this now viral TikTok video last year.
Bianca Ann Levinson filmed this now viral TikTok video last year.biancaann5/ TikTok
/ Source: TODAY

Ever wonder what happens to those beauty products you return to the store? One Ulta employee recently took to TikTok to give shoppers a firsthand look, and her post has quickly gone viral.

When Bianca Ann Levinson started working at the Ulta store in Wichita Falls, Texas, last year, she was trained on how to handle product returns. She was surprised to learn that many returns are simply thrown out or destroyed, an industry process referred to as "damaging out."

During her first week on the job, Levinson filmed a short video of herself destroying a series of returned products, including an eye shadow palette, a Redken hair product and a Kylie Lip Kit. "This is what we have to do so that people don't dumpster dive and steal it," she said in the video.

Levinson showed her followers how she removed eye shadow from a palette using scissors, snapped a lip pencil in half and squeezed a hair product out of its tube. It was a process the Texas resident told TODAY Style she was surprised to learn when she started her job: "I was shocked. I had no idea this is what happens, and I have been a person that returns things so it really opened my eyes and made me realize I shouldn’t if it’s not necessary."


How returns are handled at the best beauty store ever💕 (I love my Ulta fam) ##ultabeauty ##workdistractions ##fyp ##checkthisout ##foryoupage

♬ original sound - biancaann5

So, what types of products get trashed after you return them? And what's the idea behind "damaging out?" As it turns out, the process is actually intended to protect customers in two ways.

"When we damage out products, it’s because they have either been used, have fingerprints in them, or have a broken seal. We don’t want the chance of someone using it and spreading any type of infection," Levinson explained. "We also have people who will take products and put cheaper products in the container to return it so they can still use the good products and get their money back, and we don’t want to be selling our guests items that aren’t truly what they are or possibly give them any sort of infection."

Ulta stores are currently closed during the coronavirus outbreak, but Levinson felt compelled to share her video now to encourage shoppers to think twice before making impulse purchases they will likely return.

"I just want to spread awareness and hopefully open up people's eyes. If you’re only looking for one eye shadow color, ask for help. The employees will be more than willing to help so there isn’t a need to return things after using it once,” she said.


ANSWERING A FEW QUESTIONS EVERYONE HAS! Thank you for the support and likes! ##ultabeauty ##fyp ##foryoupage ##checkthisout

♬ original sound - biancaann5

Levinson's video currently has more than 4,700 comments and more than 643,000 likes, and she also posted a follow-up video explaining that Ulta can't donate returned products for fear of cross-contamination.

The Texas resident, who estimated around 45% of her customer interactions are returns, said she's received both positive and negative reactions since posting the video. She also clarified that Ulta isn't the only company that disposes returned products and that she loves her job.


To answer a lot of your questions that you have about the makeup video. Also stop hating and being rude I did nothing to you ##ultabeauty ##fyp

♬ original sound - biancaann5

An Ulta Beauty spokesperson offered the following statement to TODAY Style: “The health and safety of our guests is a top priority and we want to ensure an exceptional shopping experience for all. As part of that, we take protecting the integrity of the products we sell very seriously. Our policies and practices do not allow the resale of returned, used or damaged products to avoid any issues, ensure product integrity and guest safety. We value Bianca's commitment to Ulta Beauty, her passion for our brand and her team locally. We connected with her as this all came to life to share our corporate media engagement policies and to remind her that we look forward to welcoming her back when it is safe to reopen stores in light of the current COVID-19.”