My two favorite places to shop for cosmetics is Sephora and Ulta. Both offer an inviting environment, and most importantly tons of products to try and fall in love with. In this post, I will break down the differences between the two retailers.
Sephora: Walk into any Sephora and you will notice two things right away. First, there is usually an employee dressed in their red and black uniform standing to offer you a basket. (Disclaimer: The Sephora I frequent most often is very busy. Smaller Sephora’s, like those inside of JC Penney may not have someone standing waiting to hand you a shopping basket.) The second thing that stands out to me is the color scheme. All stores have a black and white color scheme. The lighting is also dim, with the brighter, LED lighting focused on the product bays. When you purchase products, their shopping bags are also black and white. Sephora will also let you sample anything. They will dram a product of your choice right there on the spot.
Ulta: When I patron an Ulta store, I notice their stores are bright and white. The lighting is set to mimic day light. Ulta employees wear all black. The Ulta shopping bags are Orange with ‘Ulta’ in white letters. You can only sample prestige products. You are not able to sample any of the drug store products.
Sephora: Sephora carries fragrances, makeup, hair products, and skin care. You can find most prestige brands in Sephora. They also carry lines exclusive to Sephora like Makeup Forever. If you shop for cosmetics in department stores, you will be able to find most of the same products inside. For example, if you shop for Lancôme products you will be able to find the top Lancôme skus, usually the top 10 best sellers. On the contrary, Sephora will also carry products exclusive to Sephora. For example, Estee Lauder just released a new product line that you can only find inside of Sephora. The department stores will not carry the products at all.
Ulta: Ulta carries fragrances, hair products, makeup, and skin care. Unlike Sephora, they also have a full service salon located within each of their stores. You can also purchase a few prestige brands and drug store brands at Ulta, although they do not carry as many prestige brands or skus as Sephora.
Sephora: Free to sign up, the Beauty Insider program at Sephora allows you to earn 1 point for every $1 you spend. Once you reach 100 points, you can redeem them for a deluxe sample that is travel size. At 500 points, you can redeem them for a mini-makeup kit that changes from month to month. Sephora also offers coupons, private sales and shopping events several times through out the year for their rewards members. There are three different levels: Beauty Insider, Very Important Beauty Insider (VIB) and VIB Rouge. I have a VIB status with Sephora. The levels are based on how much money you spend in a calendar year. Having VIB and VIB Rouge status allows you access to private shopping events, free shipping on their website and first dibs on new product releases.
Ulta: The ULTAmate reward program (you see what they did there?) works similar to Sephora’s. Also free to sign up, you earn 1 point for every $1 you spend. However, unlike Sephora, Ulta allows you to cash in points for money off of your purchase. Once you accumulate 100 points, that is worth $3 off of your purchase. They also have coupons available to use every week of either $3.50 off of a $10 purchase, or 20% off your entire purchase, which usually only work for drug store brands. Ulta has two different levels to its reward program: ULTAmate reward member and Platinum ULTAmate reward member. The levels are based on how much you spend during a calendar year. I am a platinum member at Ulta. Having platinum status allows you to accumulate points faster – 25% more on each transaction. In addition to that, you also get 3x points events, as well as free shipping, exclusive offers and access to private shopping events.
Sephora: During your birthday month, Sephora will give you a deluxe size sample product. It could be makeup or skin care. For my birthday month, they were giving out two NARS Velvet Matte lip pencils.
Ulta: Ulta will give you a full size product. For my birthday, I received a Bare Minerals lip gloss. Having a Platinum status will also give you an extra $10 off coupon that you can use on anything in the store, including prestige brands.
KAYLA’S FINAL THOUGHT
This post is not meant to be about which store is better – although Ulta has a better rewards program in my opinion. I love that I can get money off of any purchase (including prestige brands) just by accumulating points. With Sephora, I have only redeemed the 100 point reward once in five years. I just let my points accumulate because I am not a fan of their offerings. I just wanted to compare the differences between the stores, as I love them both equally.
Do you prefer Sephora over Ulta, or Ulta over Sephora? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.