Sephora carries beauty care products, including makeup and skincare from more than 200 brands. Is it worth it? We reveal the good and the bad to help you decide if Sephora is right for you.
Shopping For Beauty Products
Shopping for beauty products can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. First, you must decide where to shop. Drug stores, department stores, and specialty stores all sell makeup and beauty care products online. The prices can vary from store to store. Sometimes, price is not the only important factor, though. Many shoppers also want:
- Customer Service
Sure, you could hop online at almost any big box store and purchase makeup, but what if you want more? Advice, more options, and free samples may rank among the things you look for when shopping for makeup and beauty products.
What Sephora Offers
Looking at the different brands at Sephora, they have varying prices that range from inexpensive to quite a splurge. Their brands span the spectrum of designer, indie breakthroughs, and their own Sephora brand. If you use more than one brand of cosmetics, Sephora offers this on a grand scale. This means you have many options.
Sephora is wildly popular for many products. Here are a few favorites:
- Beauty Blender: It’s possible to have flawless application of foundation, concealer, or cream blush? Yes, please.
- Anything Marc Jacobs: The ratings say it all. Not one Marc Jacobs’ product has less than 4 stars.
- Palettes: You get multiple products in one palette for a fraction of the price of one full-size product. Why not try something new?
- Beauty Tools: You won’t believe your eyes when you try some of Sephora’s unique beauty tools. Take your makeup application to a completely new level.
- GLAMGLOW: This skincare line promises to make your skin feel brand new. You need a good framework to apply your designer makeup onto, right?
Keep in mind, Sephora also offers their own brand. This “knockoff” brand may be what you consider generic. However, the Sephora Collection delivers quality at a fraction of the price of its competition. Need more reassurance that the “knockoff” brand is worth it? If one of Sephora’s products does not receive at least a four-star rating from the market, they remove it. They either stop selling it or re-formulate it and try again.
Knowing what Sephora offers, is it the best place to shop for your makeup and skincare needs? CreditDonkey put them to the test, and here is our review.
What You Need To Know
At first glance, Sephora can seem overwhelming. On their homepage, you find Editors Picks, Just Arrived, and Value Sets, just to name a few. Before you get overwhelmed, you can navigate directly to your product’s category. The site is easily mapped out between their various “homes”:
- Skin Care
- Bath & Body
Choose a section and either browse or go directly to the brand you need. If you don’t have a specific brand in mind, be prepared to scroll. For example, they carry 176 different mascara products alone. If you want to narrow down your options, refine your search. You can search by benefit and/or specific ingredients, such as paraben-free or fragrance-free.
If you want to do more than shop at Sephora, there is plenty of help. Do you want to learn how to create a specific look? You can do this at home in your pajamas. Sephora’s Virtual Artist tool allows you to upload a picture of yourself. This gives you the chance to “try on” different products.
Don’t want to upload your picture? There are various tutorials allowing you to watch how to create a specific look on a preloaded model. The tutorials help you create looks like the “nighttime smoky eye” as well as other looks.
Sales Are Exclusive
Sales at Sephora are top secret. Unless you are a Beauty Insider, you won’t have access to them. Actually, unless you are a VIB Level Member, meaning you spend at least $350 a year, you won’t save as much. The exclusive VIB Sale occurs twice a year, in April and November. During the April sale, Insiders save 15% on anything in store or online. In November, Insiders save 20% on anything in store or online. Each sale usually lasts 3 days.
Why We Like It
- Free Samples: Need I say more? Everyone can receive 3 free samples with every purchase. There is no minimum purchase required. Even before you place your order, you can peruse the free sample options. They generally offer around 12 choices. You may find samples of makeup, skincare, and fragrance on any given day.
- A Fourth Free Sample: Many people don’t realize you can score a fourth free sample when you shop online at Sephora. Check back weekly on their Weekly Specials page to see what offers are available. Most samples are free with a $25 purchase, but make sure to read the fine print to see how to qualify for this extra freebie. Just enter the code provided on this page and you have a fourth sample.
- Return Policy: At first glance, the prices at Sephora might seem steep. However, their forgiving return policy may make up for it. Sephora’s general policy is if you really don’t like a product, you can return it. This means used products too. They even make the return process easy. You have the option to return the product directly to the store if you have one near you. If you don’t, you can send it back using the prepaid shipping label they provide. However, you will not receive a refund on the shipping charges you paid when you purchased the product.
- Savings Card: It pays to be a Beauty Insider with Sephora. First, it’s free and you get so many benefits with it. A few of the freebies include a birthday gift and beauty classes at the lowest level. If you are a big spender at Sephora, you get even more freebies. They may include additional savings opportunities and handpicked gifts. No matter the “level” Insider you are, you can “purchase” samples with your points. Every dollar you spend equals 1 point. The reward categories are 100 points, 250 points, and 500 points.
- Price Guarantee: There is nothing more frustrating than seeing an item you just purchased go on sale. If this happens at Sephora and it is within 2 weeks, the difference is refunded to you. All you have to do is call the customer service number and tell them the product you purchased. They will take care of the rest.
Why You May Shop Elsewhere
- Prices: It’s no secret that Sephora’s prices are steeper than your typical beauty store. We know you get what you pay for, but sometimes a product you really want might be out of your budget. If you are a Beauty Insider, wait to grab it in November or April, during their semi-annual sale.
- Online Customer Service: Sephora is known for their incredible customer service in the store. Their employees are “cast members” and the floor is a “stage.” The cast members bend over backwards to give you free samples and help you with a makeover. Unfortunately, shopping online does not provide the same experience.
- Travel Sizes Aren’t Worth It: If you are anything like me, you always want to try something new. Many of Sephora’s products are available in “mini” size. They call it “On-the-Fly Favorites,” marketing the products for travelers who need TSA-approved sizes. Don’t fall for it, though – the travel-sized items are always overpriced. It is a much better deal to purchase the full size and return the product if you really don’t like it.
- No Drug Store Brands: If you are loyal to a specific drug store brand, don’t expect to find it at Sephora. They stock designer and indie brands, along with their own brand. They don’t offer L’Oreal or Revlon. If you want one place to purchase all of your beauty products, Sephora will not be it.
Who It’s Best For
So who should shop at Sephora? Hands down, any makeup fanatic would have a field day at this store. If you love options and always like to try new things with your beauty care regimen, then Sephora is a great choice. Someone with a tamer taste for makeup may feel overwhelmed, though.
If you love to research products, you could do well at Sephora. YouTube, beauty blogs, and fashion magazines are a great way to read about new products. Why not use the resources you have available to see what others say about the products? Then you can hop on over to Sephora and try the products yourself.
If you like experimenting with different products, Sephora is a great choice. The ability to return products you don’t like is great. The 3 or 4 samples with every purchase also get new products in your hands.
If you prefer a smaller selection and lower prices, you might be better off at a big box retailer. They offer more predictable products at lower prices.
Luckily, Sephora is not the only beauty retail shop available. You don’t have to give up and shop at Target or Walgreens (although there is nothing wrong with either of these stores). There are a few alternatives.
- Ulta: If you love the “superstore” feeling, but don’t want such an air of sophistication, try Ulta. They provide a great mix of drugstore brands along with designer brands. They also have a rewards program similar to Sephora. However, they provide cash off your order rather than using your points for free samples.
- MAC: If you prefer a one-brand type store, then MAC is a great alternative. They seem to offer many more colors and variations than Sephora, but they only carry one brand. Unless you shop in-store, you won’t get much in the way of trying on different products. However, MAC lets you return used products that you don’t like. They also have a great recycling program. If you bring in six empty MAC containers, you may receive a free product, usually lipstick or eye shadow.
Do We Recommend Sephora?
If you love makeup and always want to see the latest trends, then Sephora is a great option. You can browse the products, see what you would look like with the Virtual Artist, and get plenty of free samples.
If you are not a “designer gal,” Sephora may be a little overwhelming for you. They definitely carry mostly high-end products or the little known products trying to be the next big thing. If you are not experimental, you might prefer department store brands. If you have temperamental skin, you might want to stick with tried and true brands that you know work as well.
We recommend Sephora to anyone who loves to switch things up with their beauty routine. Even if you tend to be more frugal in some areas, splurging on an item or two a few times a year is fun! You can even grab some rewards with their Beauty Insider program. After spending $100 (which is not hard to do), you get a free reward.
We encourage you to try Sephora and see what you think. The worst that can happen is you don’t like the product and need to return it. Luckily, Sephora will take it back.
The Best Of Sephora Collection
12 Hour Contour Pencil Eyeliner
Not all pencil eyeliners are built the same, and Sephora Collection’s 12 Hour Contour Pencil Eyeliner is in a league of its own. Not only does it have 15 wide-ranging and fun shades, ranging from matte to glitter to shimmer, meaning it’s more than just an eyeliner—it can be used as an eyeshadow stick, too. It’s what we all want and need in an eyeliner—you can use it to tightline, define the eye, or do an extreme graphic liner look.
Sheet Face Mask
These sheet masks are one of the most reliable products in the makeup industry—they come in all kinds of variations of formulas, and the budget-friendly price means you can stock up without really hurting your wallet. Perfect for on the road or at home, these sheet masks are ultra-thin. What that means is you don’t have to worry about it slippy-sliding off of your face—meaning you know that you’re getting all the beneficial active ingredients during your masking experience.
Cream Lip Stain Liquid Lipstick
If you’ve heard of any Sephora Collection product, it’s likely this one. Any makeup aficionado likely has one of these in their repertoire in one shade or another because it comes in over 80 shades. It’s a cult favorite for a reason: a creamy, weightless lip stain that covers your lips in a transfer-proof, full-coverage, flawless color. From your morning coffee to your evening cocktail, you won’t have to worry about reapplication. Trust us.
Long Lasting Eyeliner High Precision Brush
One of the things Sephora succeeds at is eyeliners—all of them are hits, and this extra-black liquid eyeliner is great for cat-eye beginners. For anyone with a shaky hand or a tentative approach, this is perfectly buildable and isn’t so intense that when you apply it, it’s there until you choose to remove it—it’s perfect for anyone just starting, touch-ups, or a beautiful, sharp wing.
Retractable Brow Pencil
This brow pencil is great for on-the-go fill-ins and touch-ups. The extreme-fine tip can pretty much do everything: fill in sparse areas, create shape, and even mimic the look of actual brow hairs. The wide-ranging neutral shadow colors—the Neutral Gray Black color is a cult favorite—mean that there’s a shade for everyone, even those who struggle to find their shade in other brow pencils. But the best part: The pencil is waterproof, meaning you don’t have to worry about your brows disappearing midway through the day.
Best Skin Ever Liquid Foundation
Yes, you can get the Best Skin Ever for only $20, and I know that’s a big promise to live up to. But this medium-coverage, natural-finish foundation is likely the best one of its kind you’ll find at that price point, and yes, your skin will look drastically different. It gives more of a second-skin effect and, according to the brand, it has a unique anti-pollution formula clinically shown to reduce signs of stress and fatigue and make your skin better with each wear. If you want a deeply hydrating foundation, this is absolutely where you want to be. Oh, and it’s environmentally friendly, too—every bottle is made up of 30% recycled glass.
Sephora PRO Face Palette
Every makeup artist knows the truth: all you need is one palette you can use everywhere, and the Sephora PRO palette is just that. It fulfills many needs—highlight, blush, bronzer, and contour, even eyeshadow. The PRO palettes were formulated for specific complexions, and these palettes perform honey. They’re super-pigmented, the pans are enormous, so it’ll last forever, and the color pay off will have you glimmering the entire day long.
House of Lashes x Sephora Collection Lashes
Sephora knows not all lashes are built the same and collaborated with lash brand House of Lashes to make a line of handcrafted, cruelty-free synthetic fiber falsies for every scenario. They’re easy to apply and don’t feel heavy on your lids.
PRO Crease Brush #26
Sephora Collection makes incredible brushes. The product design team at Sephora looks at brushes all day, so they know a thing or two about what qualities make good ones. This rounded, fluffy crease brush is great for experts and beginners, perfect for blending creases and making a gorgeous, diffused eye look.