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Should you shop at Ulta or Sephora?

As a makeup enthusiast, finding the best deal in a myriad of options can be difficult.

Shopping bags for Sephora and Ulta stores. Photo by Victoria Bradley/The Telescope
Shopping bags for Sephora and Ulta stores. Photo by Victoria Bradley/The Telescope

Sometimes the favorite Anastasia Beverly Hills product may be cheaper at one store versus another. This is

exactly why stores such as Ulta Beauty and Sephora were created—to put together tons of different makeup, all different prices and qualities, all in one place. The question is, which has better perks?

Years previously, it was cheaper to shop at drugstores to buy decent makeup. CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid carried walls and walls of it, and provided anyone, even semi-interested, with a great selection which included Maybelline, Loreal, NYX, and many others. Here you could put together foundation, blush, primer, eyeshadow—the works – for less than $50.

Some brands, such as Too Faced and Kat Von D, are both cruelty free, are carried at Ulta and Sephora, not major drug stores. Of course, there were always better brands out there, such as MAC (which tests on animals, so I refuse to use it) Anastasia Beverly Hills, Estee Lauder—the higher end brands of makeup, that would do wonders for your skin and overall look, but cost too much, and were hard to find in stores. So, what did they do? They created the ultimate makeup lover’s dream, and created entire stores completely stocked with only the best makeup products, giving way to common brands and creating them not only cruelty free, but Vegan based.

Sephora launched in 1969, and was originally only perfume. It was the way in which the owner, Dominique Mandonnaud, sold his product that tipped him over the rest—he would take the perfume and cosmetics out for customers to try to experience it for themselves.

Online price comparison of Sephora vs. Ulta product. Photo illustration by Victoria Bradley/The Telescope
Online price comparison of Sephora vs. Ulta product. Photo illustration by Victoria Bradley/The Telescope

Today, Sephora not only gives you unlimited free samples anytime you come in, for any product, but offers other services as well: color matching, which matches the correct foundation color to your skin tone, and has high end brands as well as drugstore. If you sign up for their mailing list, you receive additional perks, which consists of points every time you buy products, and redeemable codes for being a Sephora member. Sephora has also come out with their own brand, called The Sephora Collection, which offers its customers a chance to buy better quality products at a more affordable price.

Ulta Beauty came out with a different quest in mind: to make makeup fun. While you might argue that Sephora is about that as well, when Ulta came out, they made everything bigger and better, with additional perks: in-house salon, warehouse size stores, and different levels of perks. The more you spend, the more you earn in rewards, and this pulled people in by the thousands.

Ulta first started out as a Salon, Cosmetics and Fragrance shop in 1990 by Richard E. George. Today, Ulta leads the charge in store sales by 49 percent, according to consumer reports, while Sephora has doubled their sales online, but has yet to see an increase in stores. Note, Ulta also carries drugstore brands and has it’s own bath and body, fragrance, and cosmetics line.

The verdict, however, is up to you. Some may like the big store feel Ulta provides, while others will always love Sephora, as its seemed to become the unwanted stepchild we’ve all come to love.

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