What would the budget beauty girl do without Ulta? We have a sincere appreciation for the crowd-pleasing beauty retailer, which does its best to make sure our product addiction is satiated without completely ruining our budget. (Even top makeup artists are in love with Ulta. Even singer, actor, and producer, Selena Gomez is an Ulta fan.
But what about Ulta’s own product line? We’ve talked about how underrated Sephora-brand products are in the past. So, now, we are interested to see if the same goes for Ulta’s affordable in-house collection.
We gathered a group of discerning beauty gurus from our office. Women who have no patience for low-quality makeup, to review the top 10 best-selling makeup products from the Ulta range. Some hit it out of the park, and others not so much. Want to know which Ulta-brand products we love most? Keep scrolling to read our honest Ulta makeup reviews.
We feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland every time we walk into Ulta Beauty, mainly because of the flood of both joy and fear that fills our bodies. Joy because of the vast array of products before us just waiting to be tested and swiped, and a twinge of fear for the damage soon to be inflicted on our wallets. Luckily, there are a few key shopping secrets that will temper the latter emotion. Whether you are an Ulta Beauty regular and have separation anxiety with your Ultamate Rewards card, or have only ventured into the megastore once (or never), we hope you’ll find this guide helpful.
After all, the more you save… the more money you have for other beauty products, right? Or, you know, something like that.
Get Gifts With Purchase
Gifts with purchase are one of our favorite parts of the Ulta Beauty shopping experience—like buying a cake then having someone be like, “Here, take some ice cream too!” Not every gift with purchase may be advertised in store, so make sure to take a look at this section of Ulta Beauty’s website to see all the promotions before stopping in. Another tip? If you get a gift with purchase then end up returning the original purchase, you can keep the gift. Does this mean you should only buy beauty products only to get the gifts with purchase, then return them all?
Definitely not—that’s a hassle and could result in loss of return privileges. Instead, simply think of it as a gesture of goodwill—one that you wouldn’t want to take advantage of lest it gets taken away.
If you prefer to buy your beauty products from the comfort of your couch. We’ve got some motivation for you to get off your butt. According to this Ulta Beauty employee, stores may mark down certain products (up to 75%!). That aren’t selling well to make way for new inventory—price reductions that aren’t usually reflected online.
Twisted Volume Mascara
“The coolest part about this mascara is that, as its name suggests. You can twist the tube to change the shape of the wand from straight to coiled. There are four settings to the wand shape, which promise to increase the drama of your lashes with each one. I found that the first setting where the wand is straight and thick with small bristles creates the most flattering, separated look. The final setting, where the wand is completely coiled, made my lashes a little too clumpy for my liking. But it might work better for someone who already has thick lashes.
The mascara is a bit tricky to remove, but not impossible. All in all, I think you definitely get your money’s worth with the product.” — Amanda Montell, Byrdie contributor
“Other than lipstick, blush is pretty much the only makeup product I use. As much as I love the peachy pink shade of this blush, the glitter in it just doesn’t do it for me. I prefer something that’s more matte. If you like a sparkly cheek, this might be a better fit for you, but it doesn’t quite work for everyone.” — Maddie Sensibile, Byrdie contributor
Adjustable Coverage Foundation
“I must admit I largely prefer cream foundations, which I’ve found have more blending and staying power. However, I can still appreciate this pressed powder foundation for its silky, finely milled consistency. It didn’t offer as much coverage as I usually like, but it did give my complexion an even, natural look. I’ll definitely be popping this in my bag for midday touchups in weeks to come, especially since it rids my skin of excess oil and shine.” — Kaitlyn McLintock, Byrdie contributor
“I only contour occasionally, save for swiping a little bronzer in the hollows of my cheekbones every day. (After all, full-on contouring is out, haven’t you heard?) So although I can appreciate the gorgeous contour palettes out there, I don’t usually have a real need for one. As for this Ulta version, I appreciate its drugstore price and the variety of contour and highlight shades. Which come in the form of highly pigmented powders. (The powders deliver some fallout, but nothing too objectionable.) Personally, this won’t be replacing my daily bronzer. But if you’re into contouring and want an affordable option, I’d recommend this.” — Kaitlyn
“It’s tough finding a lipstick that glides on well—but Ulta does the job. It doesn’t dry out my lips, either, which is a major plus, as I often forget ChapStick. Aside from this pink, the lipstick comes in an impressive variety of shades that I’m now excited to try. To me, it’s absolutely worth buying, especially for the price.” — Maddie
Hydrating Face Primer
“I am exceedingly picky with primer and I don’t consider it crucial to my daily routine, so I’m a very tough critic. But I can see someone who relies on primer day in and day out appreciating this product. The no-frills formula is clear, unscented, applies smoothly, and it does improve the coverage and staying power of your makeup. But, the formula is also very silicone-y, which you either like or you don’t. I think this product would work best for oily skin types who are looking for a budget option.” — Amanda
Mineral Powder Foundation
“I tried this loose powder foundation twice, both with the Ulta primer and without. I can confidently say that the primer vastly improves the experience; it improved coverage and lent extra staying power. Just like with the pressed powder, this loose variety is silky and as light as air. I was also able to build coverage rather easily, something that’s not always possible with cream or liquid formulas. As long as I have my trusty new primer with me, I can see myself reaching for this in the future.” — Kaitlyn
Matte Lip Cream
“I’m not usually one to reach for a liquid lipstick. I much prefer tubes and usually struggle with the blotchy, heavy, all-around-mucky consistency of most formulas. However, I was willing to give Ulta’s best-selling formula a shot since reviews spoke so highly of its finish and texture. For the most part, I’m impressed. The texture is super lightweight and mousse-like and not claustrophobic-feeling on my lips at all. That said, it didn’t last as long as I wanted it too and my lips felt a little more parched than. I would have liked by the time I reached my end of day spin class.” — Erin Jahns, former assistant editor
“I was already in the market for a sparkly (but not too sparkly) purple eye shadow. So I was excited to try Ulta’s shadow in Hopeless Romantic. They have a very pretty selection of these eye shadows. Which come in matte, shimmer, and glitter finishes, and mostly neutral or muted colors. I know ‘glittery’ eye shadow sounds risky, but when applied, this appears more iridescent, which was lovely. It goes on sheer at first, so you have to build it up to get a high-impact look. (I also recommend wetting it if that’s what you’re going for.) But it blends very well, and as an everyday eye shadow, I definitely recommend it. It even earned me several compliments, which is always nice.” — Amanda
Gel Eyeliner Pencil
“I have to be honest here. I’m a die-hard liquid liner fan, and I’ve struggled to find any formula. That will replace the monogamous relationship I maintain with my go-to pen. That said, Ulta’s gel formula this delicious velvetiness (that a word?), and I’m equally enchanted by the pretty shade range. I want them all and am duly impressed by the liner’s staying powder—something I often take issue with when it comes to any gel-based beauty product. I’m a fan! And dear, Ulta: Can I get one of each?” — Erin
To stay on top of the newest products, it may actually be best to go the old-school route: by checking Ulta Beauty’s advertisements. You’ll find them in the pages of your favorite magazines. But also feel free to find them all in one place right here. These ads are particularly helpful when Ulta is having a big sale event. Because you can see everything in one place.
Ulta Beauty is always, always having a sale—even when it’s not having a sale. What do we mean? There always discounted products in the store—you just have to take some time to look for them. Or better yet, ask an associate to show you. In terms of major sales, always check in during Ulta Beauty’s 21 Days of Beauty sale. Where one item marked down at a greatly reduced price for one day only (this happens twice a year, usually during spring or fall). There’s a high chance you’ll find one of your favorite luxury products marked way, way down.
Take Advantage of the Return Policy
Ulta has a great return policy, which is as simple as “if you don’t like the product you can take it back within 90 days”. This includes something being the wrong shade for you or making you break out. It’s particularly great if you have a rewards card, because then they don’t need a receipt at all. However, all items have to returned with everything (boxes included). You can return products by mail or in-store.
Coupons might bring to mind images of old ladies furiously clipping and snipping pages of newspapers. But guess what—they’re still totally relevant, and Ulta Beauty has some great ones. If you sign up for its Ultamate Rewards program, you’ll most likely mailed the much-coveted 20% off coupon at one point or other. (Also make sure to sign up for its emails, since the brand often sends email-only coupons). Ulta Beauty also accepts some third-party manufacturer coupons (i.e., coupons from the beauty brands, which you can find in magazines or newspapers). Which you can pair with an Ulta Beauty store coupon to save even more. Just imagine the money you’ll save (and beauty products you’ll accrue).
Get Birthday Points
We know we’ve already said this, but we’ll say it again: You should really get an Ultamate Rewards card. You’ll get one point for every dollar (or 1.25 after $450, or 1.5 after $1200) you spend, and with more points come more discounts. One little-known fact: Whatever beauty products you buy during the month of your birthday will counted as double points. So treat yo’self.
We know we’ve talked about Ulta Beauty’s sales, but the clearance section will save you major money too. Don’t leave the store without taking a look at its clearance section. Which will usually house a wide variety of products. Want the first pick? Ulta Beauty stores do inventory a few times a year, and that’s when their newer items go to clearance. To find out exactly when, just ask an employee. Another fun fact: Your coupons apply to clearance items too.
The best way to save money at Ulta Beauty? Just ask the employees. When you’re checking out, always ask if any of your products qualify for a gift for purchase—don’t expect that they’ll always tell you first. Ask employees about clearance items, inventory dates, current promotions and coupons, and more. Do not hold back—that’s what they’re there for, after all.