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Post in Besides Beauty

Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I've been a VIB for a few years now, and my local Sephora is within walking distance of that "other" brand. I've heard rave reviews about their rewards program, most especially about their generous giving of free product with each new level reached and not samplers.


Today, I headed to my Sephora store for the VIB event, got my bag loaded up, and then...went to Ulta. I was actually there to get a tube of NYX lip gloss since I've heard so much about it, but I went through the whole store out of pure curiosity.


The verdict? While Ulta does carry drugstore brands and their rewards are pretty lofty in comparison...Sephora has my heart. Ulta felt too "superstore-ish". No offense, but a little...below...the standard and prestige of Sephora.

So, Sephora, heed our call! Amp up our VIB rewards. Tidy up the shelves and demos in your stores (our store is a tad lacking in that dept.). And, keep up the great work! = )

RE: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Personally I prefer Sephora over Ulta. It has nothing to do with the makeup. It’s the staff. We only have a SJCP so there’s less than a free-standing Sephora, but the cast members make you feel as if you’re the most customer in the store, even if they have a number of people there. They know me by name. I like that. There’s also a man who works there and he gives me tips and helps me pick out colors that look good on me. I don’t get that kind of treatment at Ulta. Sometimes it takes a while before someone even notices you’re there. That’s even when there’s a few people in the store. Nobody gets to know me. I go to Ulta just for the MAC counter, but other than that I don’t shop there.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I used to be Sephora "All Day, Everyday," hence the name, but for the past few years, I have been all about Ulta thanks to their rewards program. Although I love getting samples and trying new things, what I want most is getting the products I already love for a discount or for free.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Isn't Ulta always embroiled in reselling controversy? I have seen no less than a dozen or so Ulta employees come out saying they resell returned items and have never heard anything of the like from Sephora. Sephora may be pretentious and never have sales, but at least they seem to follow basic hygiene rules...

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Unfortunately, I recently had to return a product to Sephora because it had been used.  There was lipstick all over the applicator.  However, Sephora immediately replaced the product and instructed me to throw away the used one I had received.  Not holding it against Sephora, but just letting you know that it can happen.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Yeah, that was a big news item not long ago, but to be fair, I've seen plenty of complaints right here in this community about people receiving used makeup from Sephora over the years. Personally, as neither company has a policy to intentionally sell used product, I don't worry too much about it and am simply careful with what I purchase. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict



From Ulta's site:



Quality is super important to us-we take protecting the integrity of the products we sell very seriously. Ulta Beauty's policy does not permit the resale of used, damaged or expired products. Our policies, training and procedures are aimed at ensuring that only the highest quality products are sold in our stores and online. Our associates are trained to inspect and then properly dispose of any returned items that have been used, damaged or expired.






to the end of their url, to see the statement from the Chief Store Operations officer.

RE: Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Are you serious? Of course their official policy is going to state that they don’t do it. Come on. Nobody is stupid enough to state otherwise. The fact is what they state don’t match what they do. And I’m talking from personal experience.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I shop about 70% Sephora, 20% Ulta, 10% ‘other’. Rouge at Sephora, Platinum at Ulta.



-Has more high-end brands I love

-salespeople at my local store are so nice and helpful

-Has a darn good store brand with solid makeup brushes, skincare, basic products, to name a few. The citrus brush cleaner is a thing of beauty. 

-Has innovative products and sample kits like the perfume sample kit with coupon for full size, to name a few.

-Has great industry partnerships and exclusive deals/product listings

-love services like popping in for a mini facial or booking an appointment to learn a new technique

-Carries 90% of the brands I love, innovative skincare brands, and has a really good sample and rewards program if you hit it right



-Offers good sales on trendy makeup brands, has a good (but confusing) points reward system, and is a convenient place to order things like tweezers, nail files and other beauty basics Sephora doesn’t bother with

-My local Ulta has a wizard working at the Benefit brow bar

-offers pretty decent blowouts for a fair price 

-contains a good selection of high-quality nail products and brands (OPI, China Glaze, Butter London, to name a few)

-Stores can be kind of disorganized and haphazard

-Skincare selection leaves a lot to be desired for me, as does some of their makeup selection beyond ‘of the moment’ brands 

 -Can order basics for my husband, like shaving cream and shampoo 

Sephora has my heart, but I do pay attention to where my money goes and I actively price compare. I wish Sephora would price-match or offer 20-30% off more frequently. 


Honestly, liking Dermstore more and more. High-end skincare and frequent deals. Will probably shift some business from Sephora to Dermstore if they continue to be this good.  

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

i'll just leave this here since it's not really a gwp and the "all things ulta" thread seems unused (oops pun). there was someone saying exactly this in the other thread too. uh-oh ulta!

RE: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Ulta’s rewards program is nice but they don’t carry any brands I’m interested in. I will occasionally restock on a handful of ABH and Origins products there, but that’s pretty much it. So between the two, Sephora gets most of my business, but then I also spend quite a bit of money on green and luxury brands that Sephora doesn’t carry (then it’s fair game - whoever offers a better deal gets my business). I also like a couple British retailers for European brands - they tend to be significantly cheaper there.

Re: RE: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

@fantaji, I agree! I always compare between Bath & Unwind (the best Euro site i’ve found), Sephora and Dermstore for the best deals on Euro brands and products. What is your favorite site?

Re: RE: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I monitor feelunique, cult beauty and bath&unwind! 

RE: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I’m in Canada. No Ulta here sadly. And ordering online I won’t do from them.. minimum $50 and then when the package arrives you have to pay customs and duties fees. No thanks. I live about 5 minutes away from my local Sephora store! It’s great! I enjoy shopping in store for items I really want to swatch before buying like lipsticks, eyeshadow palettes, foundations. But for everything else I order from their website. I love the promos they offer online, like the sample bags! Love em! And my orders arrive in 2-3 days. I’m Rouge too so free shipping is nice. I do hear that Ulta’s rewards system is wayyy better, so I do hope one day Ulta decides to open stores in Canada though!

Re: RE: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I wish we had Ulta too. They have 50 percent off daily deals for Instyle Magazine. 50 percent off for tarte and other good brands! We would never get access to such a good deal in Canada. We are ripped off so much here by shipping fees and duties that shopping online isn't even worth it. I don't care if Ulta is considered more "bargain store" than Sephora. The deal is everything. I shop online at Sephora Canada. I don't go to a store to have a fancy pants experience. I buy from Sephora because most beauty companies do not have free shipping to Canada on their brand websites, so those deals are useless to me too. By the time you factor in duties, shipping costs etc. it won't be a deal anymore. 

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I like ordering stuff from Ulta more than actually browsing the store in person. the last time I was there the heat was turned way up, makes for sweaty shopping! so far all my orders always come with the right type of samples (I prefer fragrances), although sometimes they send the same samples again. Sephora just straight up gets it wrong with the samples, they should let you know ahead of time when something's run out so that you can choose another sample. I couldn't even shop at Sephora online before they corrected the site's script errors.


Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I find their website buggy as well.

For me, Sephora is still the place getting 99.5% of my bu...

For me, Sephora is still the place getting 99.5% of my business. Makeup and beauty whatnots are my only non-work-related hobby anymore, so it's safer, wallet-wise, to focus my shopping at a store centered on that and not Macy's or Nordstrom's! Even though I do most of my Sephora shopping through the app it's nice to be able to drop by on the way home from work, or go downtown if there's a special event.


Returns aren't what they used to be, but honestly I only care about getting store credit. I was going to spend $x on that mask/palette/highlighter/travel bag anyway, it's just this particular one that isn't working for me after all.


For the points/rewards angle, it's easier for me to keep all my spending (and banked points) inside one program, even if it's a little tighter with the comps. Frankly, if keeping a high point balance gets me marginally better treatment/perks in-store, I'll keep leaving them in the bank and just focus on getting freebies with online ordering. I do care a lot about those, so I appreciate that there is a lot of variety in the online Beauty Offer bucket right now, and I'm thankful that my orders have always come through without the missing item/shipping delay issues other people encounter. One example: I signed up for a class at an out-of-town store, and afterward the cast member packed me the sweetest little gift bag with samples based on our side conversations, not even just the demos. And yes, sometimes employees act differently after they read off my points balance at the register. Maybe it shouldn't be that way, but it is, and I would be diluting my... investment? cred? (eye-roll) by splitting up my purchasing among a few different department stores just to chase a few coupons here and there.


I also travel a fair amount, and Sephora is better on that front too, location-wise (and I buy myself souvenirs that I actually use now!). I went to Vegas the week of Thanksgiving, and checking out the five(!) different Sephora storefronts on the strip was a fun scavenger hunt. I am sure I'd feel differently if I still lived in a part of the US where I couldn't throw a rock without hitting an Ulta, or if I only bought prestige brands once in a while, or if my only experiences with Sephora were online orders. But if I'm their target market, they're doing a pretty good job on multiple fronts, and I'm not going anywhere.

Holy wall of text, Batman! Apparently the app strips out...

Holy wall of text, Batman! Apparently the app strips out line breaks. Sorry, y'all.

Re: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

I’m platinum at Ulta and always felt more comfortable walking into an Ulta store versus Sephora for the longest time. I have $161 in Ulta reward points right now and think the reward system is so much better than Sephora’s. However, Sephora is a treat for me and carries products I like that aren’t carried by Ulta. I try to exclusively purchase Sephora only products from Sephora and everything else from Ulta.

RE: Sephora vs. Ulta - The Verdict

Sephora; I really can’t get into Ulta I don’t know if it’s how the website is set up, or the lighting in the store or what but I just don’t shop there often.
251 Replies