For someone just getting into makeup, figuring out where to shop can be overwhelming. There are drug stores, beauty supply stores, Sephora, Ulta, department stores and the works. So. Many. Options.
In the U.S., two of the most popular stores for all your makeup needs are Sephora and Ulta. Two stores that are very similar, yet completely different. So, which one do you choose? Which one is better for you? Not sure? Well, this post compares the two makeup giants to help you out. This blog post in particular is going to focus on products that Sephora and Ulta offer and I’ll do a separate post later on that focuses on reward systems, sales, websites and apps.
I do want to note that I am not a makeup guru or a beauty expert or a makeup professional in any capacity. I’m just a person who spends too much money on makeup and would like to share some of the things I’ve learned. OK, let’s get started.
One of the most well-known things about Sephora is the fact that it primarily carries prestige brands. If you’re looking for designer makeup, which is makeup created by brands that also make designer clothes and accessories, like Marc Jacobs, Dior, Tom Ford, BURBERRY, Givenchy, YSL, etc., then this is the place to go.
If you’re looking for high-end/prestigious makeup, this is also a good place to go. Sephora does have high-end makeup that isn’t sold at Ulta, like PAT McGRATH LABS, Hourglass, Huda Beauty, Kat Von D, and Fenty Beauty. It also carries your staple, very popular high-end makeup brands, like Too Faced, NARS, Urban Decay, Benefit, Tarte, Anastasia Beverly Hills, CLINIQUE, Becca, etc., that are also sold Ulta. It’ll be the same price at Ulta, but purchasing at Sephora allows you to earn different rewards, which I’ll discuss in another blog post.
If you’re looking for more affordable makeup products in Sephora, I suggest looking into the Sephora brand. Unfortunately, Sephora doesn’t carry drug store priced makeup products, which is one of the biggest differences between it and Ulta.
As I mentioned briefly before, Sephora does carry products that are exclusive to Sephora and the website of that brand. For example, Fenty Beauty and Kat Von D are offered at Sephora and on their respective websites, but not at Ulta.
Another example is with Tarte. Tarte is sold at Sephora and Ulta, but Tarte only sells their Rainforest of the Sea skincare products (and various other skincare products) at Sephora and not Ulta, which is a little confusing, I know.
Sephora is also home to a wide variety of skincare products, bath and body products, haircare, nail products, and fragrances.
Their skincare section is actually fairly massive in stores and tends to be in a separate section from the makeup. A lot of the skincare products at Sephora are pricey, but they’re usually very good quality and Sephora is pretty good at offering deluxe skincare samples as point perks. You can take a look at Sephora’s skincare section here.
Personally, I’ve never used Sephora for hair care products, but I know they offer a variety of blow driers, curling irons, straighteners, shampoos, conditioners, hair sprays, and more. You can browse their products and brands here.
Sephora also sells perfume and the prices are pretty standard for high-end perfume, which is expensive. You can check out their perfume section here, although I wouldn’t suggest buying online because you can’t smell it (obviously).
Sephora also offers a section near the register that allows you to browse deluxe sample products that are smaller and cheaper than a full-sized product. This is a great way to test out products, especially those you’re buying on a whim, and it is a great way to spend more money than you intended. You can also ask Sephora employees for samples of products, like foundation, if you’re not ready to commit. In addition, Sephora is also available inside JC Penny, so if you cannot find a stand alone store near you, check your local JC Penny, but be mindful that the selection will probably be more limited.
If you want to learn about the services Sephora provides, such as makeovers, classes and iQ services (to match your skin shade, skincare, etc.), click here.
TL;DR: SEPHORA SELLS MAKEUP, SKINCARE, HAIR PRODUCTS, BATH AND BODY, NAIL PRODUCTS, AND FRAGRANCE. ALMOST EVERYTHING IS EXPENSIVE, BUT THE PRICES AREN’T IMPOSSIBLE. SEPHORA BRAND STUFF IS GOOD QUALITY, INEXPENSIVE AND GOOD FOR BEGINNERS. YOU CAN FIND A LOT OF THE BRANDS SEPHORA OFFERS AT ULTA, BUT NOT ALL OF THEM.
Ulta is great because not only does it offer high-end and designer brands, but it also offers affordable, drug store brands. It recently upped its design brand game, and now offers brands like Lancôme and Estée Lauder, however they only offer perfumes in most other designer brands, such as Marc Jacobs and Y.S.L.
I mentioned in the Sephora section some of the high-end/prestigious brands Sephora and Ulta both have in common, but you can check out Ulta’s website for the complete selection. Now, Ulta does offer a lot of cult-favorite brands like Colourpop, Morphe, Ofra, BH Cosmetics, Dose of Colors, Makeup Revolution, MAC, etc., that you can find online but not at Sephora.
Colourpop is a very affordable online-based brand and Morphe is relatively affordable and sells their brushes at Ulta as well. MAC on the other hand is priced as a prestigious brand and have been in the makeup game since the dawn of time with its own stand-alone stores, but is now sold at Ulta.
When it comes to makeup tools, Ulta does offer a full range of brushes by It Cosmetics, which not available at Sephora. Ulta also sells Real Techniques tools, which are very affordable and it now sells Beauty Blenders, which used to only be at Sephora and online.
As I mentioned before, Ulta also offers drug store brands. In stores this section is usually on the opposite side of the high-end/prestigious brands and includes products from NYX, Covergirl, L’Oréal, Maybelline, Revlon, and more. Ulta also has its own brand of products that are low priced as well.
In addition to makeup, Ulta also sells fragrances, bath and body products, skin care, nail products, hair care and even has a salon in most locations. Ulta also has the Benefit Brow Bar where you can get your eyebrows done and a Demalogica Skin Bar where they assess your skincare needs. And it offers makeup lessons through MAC.
Like Sephora, Ulta also has a section near the registers where you can view and purchase deluxe sample sizes of products.
TL;DR: ULTA SELLS HIGH-END AND DESIGNER BRANDS AS WELL AS MORE AFFORDABLE, DRUG STORE BRANDS. A LOT OF POPULAR ONLINE-BASED BRANDS ARE NOW SOLD AT ULTA AND SO IS MAC. IN ADDITION TO MAKEUP ULTA SELLS SKIN CARE, HAIR CARE, NAIL PRODUCTS, FRAGRANCE, BATH AND BODY PRODUCTS, AND MORE. ULTA ALSO HAS A SALON, BROW BAR AND SKIN CARE BAR.
In conclusion, Sephora and Ulta sell a lot of the same brands and products, but there are several brands that are available at Sephora that you can’t find at Ulta and vice versa. Both have relatively afford products in their own respect collections and offer beauty services. Personally, I like both Sephora and Ulta for different reasons. Again, I am not a makeup guru or a beauty expert, I just wanted to share some of the big differences I’ve noticed between the stores because makeup can be overwhelming when you’re just getting started.
Thank you for reading and I’ll catch you next time for part 2.