January 16, 2015

What If Sephora Sold Drugstore Makeup?

sephora ulta drugstore makeup

One major advantage Ulta has over Sephora is the fact they sell drugstore makeup! Although I don’t really like shopping at Ulta all that much because I don’t really like the lay out of the store (I feel like I can never find anything) and I also dislike they carry don’t carry a bigger selection of both mid-range and high-range brands. They have a great deal of variety yes, but it seems like Sephora has way more brands to choose from. When I think of Ulta, the only mid-range that come to mind are Bare Minerals, Benefit, Urban Decay, and Too Faced….!

What if, like Ulta, Sephora sold drugstore makeup?

How would you feel about?

In France, Sephora sells the entire L’Oreal Makeup Collection! I mean you can pick up Miss Manga Mascara along with your favorite Guerlain foundation!

Do you think it would take away from the quality of the store if Sephora did start selling drugstore brands? Would it make less about luxury for you?

I’ve debated this with myself a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion that if Sephora started carrying drugstore brands I’d likely be paying premium prices for them! Hell, CVS already charges me an arm, leg, and kidney for mascara!


What I would like to see is Ulta get a redesign and to start carrying more mid-range brands other than Benefit, Too Faced, and Urban Decay!

If Ulta started carrying more brands that Sephora did plus keep all the great sales and drugstore makeup I’d be a happy beauty junkie!

How about you?

Do you think it would be cool for Sephora to carry drugstore makeup?

Or would it feel weird?

Do you prefer shopping at Sephora or at Ulta?

Do share!

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Gillie

    To me, Ulta feels almost like a beauty-focused drug store, or maybe a department store. They’ve got the salon, and the products to support that. Then they’ve got drug store makeup, but the collections are more complete than you’d find in a regular drug store. Then, they’ve got the higher-end stuff, too, but not always complete collections.

    What confuses me about Ulta, and what gives it that department store feeling, is the free gift with purchase promotions they have. I’m coming in to buy mascara, so why do I need a free crystal cheese server and a bathrobe with my purchase?

    By contrast, Sephora is more of an upscale boutique. They do one thing, and they do it well. They have a good selection of core brands, and then a nice variety of brands that rotate every few years. For me, Sephora is more of a destination and an experience than Ulta, which is a store I shop at when I need stuff.

    Overall, I like both stores, but for different reasons.

    • Isabella Muse

      hahahahahaha I know. The free gifts are kinda strange. I like their points system as you can gain a lot of $$$ back but giving me wine glasses with my perfume purchase? Weird. fantastic comment Gillie and I agree completely 😀

  • auntymaim

    I buy most of my makeup online and would love this if only because sephora’s website is dramatically more useable than anyplace I’ve shopped for drugstore makeup online. I also think it’d be really fun to have a great retailer who you could count on to stock new releases shortly after launch, rather than having to go to drugstore after drugstore trying to find one that both has the product you’re looking for and hasn’t sold out of it.

    • Isabella Muse

      i couldn’t agree more. for example beauty.com has some great brands but their website is one big mess and I never buy anything because it’s difficult to navigate! AGREED again! One major retailer for drugstore purchases online would be amazing. Harmons is already fab, if they can get newly released products up on their site I’d be a happy girl!

      • Kara

        You talk about Harmons a lot, but I have never seen one before. I live on the West coast. Is Harmons an East coast thing?

          • Kara

            I went to the Harmons website for store locations and it brought up Bed Bath and Beyond as the store nearest me. I thought that was funny. No actual Harmons around out here.

          • Isabella Muse

            bed bath and beyond/harmons/christmas tree stores actually all carry makeup Kara, they are part of the same franchise!

        • Dee

          If you have a Bed, Bath and Beyond you should be able to find the items that Harmons carries.

          • Isabella Muse

            not always 🙁 only some Bed, Bath, and Beyond have a beauty section! Christmas Tree Stores too (mine unfortunately doesn’t carry beauty but some do!).

  • Deb

    For me there is nothing particularly upscale or luxury about Sephora. Maybe it’s because I remember the days of the dirty stores, always out of stock, disgusting testers and unorganized displays….you know what I’m talking about. While my local stores have improved a lot, to me they are just another department store. Gillie said it well about the differences between Ulta and Sephora.

    As to Sephora selling drugstore makeup; why not? It sure would be convenient. I don’t know how it would happen though. Not sure about the floor space. I’ve been to some fairly large Sephora stores in other cities but my local ones don’t have the room to add in drugstore stuff. And I live in a very large city. They would have to move to a bigger space or sacrifice other brands to have the room. And I would not like a reduction in what is already in the store to make way for drugstore brands.

    • Liv

      My local Sephoras are too small and would not have the space to also have drugstore brands. But if they could sell it online I’d like that.

  • Bonnie S.

    We don’t have Ulta in Canada. I get most of my beauty products from Sephora and from Shoppers Drug Mart. Shoppers is a pharmacy and their Beauty Boutique is very high-end (Dior, Clinique, Stila, Lancome, Guerlain, Clarins). I like that I can get a high-end product and a drugstore product (I love Gosh and Bourjois) together in one location.

    Therefore, I don’t need drugstore products at Sephora. What I’d like to see them carry is a wider selection of brands. There are lots of niche brands I read about that I’d like to see on Sephora shelves, and I’d like to see a wider selection of cruelty-free brands too. In addition, I’d like a wider range of fragrances. I mean, my local Sephora doesn’t carry my favourite perfume – Stella. So – no to drugstore products and yes to way more variety. Sephora I hope you are reading this!

  • tracy

    i have been to sephoras in europe (it’s not just france that sells drugstore stuff, other european sephoras do too) and let me tell you it doesn’t take away the luxury feel of sephora because the displays are as intricate as the other sephora displays and the prices are lets just say not drugstore if you are paying 10 euros for an eyeshadow. plus the lines they sell at the sephora are products not available in the US, some higher quality shadows and the display is not the full regular line either. just my 2 cents

    • Isabella Muse

      yeah I have too and the prices are on par with what you’d pay for mid-range or higher. Same holds truth for shopping at Boots, I always dry to avoid drugstore makeup if I’m in Europe or Canada, I just can’t wrap my head around how costly they are!

  • Eraser

    Sephora in Europe is truer to its roots, i.e. a traditional perfumery type of store. A perfumery is generally a smaller shop where women go for most of their beauty needs. You have to remember that our huge drugstores and big-box discount stores don’t exist in most European countries. Also, department stores aren’t very popular either outside of Great Britain and perhaps France to a lesser extent, at least notwithstanding the great emporiums of Paris. They just don’t like big stores or malls and would rather buy from the neighborhood perfumery where they get personal attention. Therefore, they don’t draw the sharp distinction between ordinary and luxury that we do.

    Getting back to Sephora, they carry different brands including many that aren’t available here, especially French brands. However, the last time I was in Italy I noticed that the “big” Sephora in Rome (about half the size of our mall stores)seemed to be positioning itself as the place for trendy American brands, most of which can’t be found elsewhere in that country – there seemed to be more American brands than anything else.

    The other thing about L’Oreal is that when it came to the U.S., it was kind of a niche brand sold at department stores and back then, all of it was made in France. Yes, I’m old enough to remember that!

  • Dee

    I like the points on Ulta and it really is a “time to stock up” type of store. lol The gifts really do make you think…wait, wha????” Although I am enjoying my free robe.

    We don’t have a Sephora super close, so when I go it’s truly an experience. With Ulta I try to get in, grab my stuff and then get out as fast as I can.

  • maddy

    Even if Sephora sold drugstore products, I probably wouldn’t ever buy any. There are soooooo many good sales and deals whenever you buy makeup from the drugstore and I am pretty sure 90% of the makeup I bought was from a discounted price. And everyone knows how often Sephora has deals or sales… : P
    and being from Canada, we don’t have an Ulta :'(

  • Kris

    If Sephora would carry the IT Cosmetics and Mally makeup lines, I would be a happy camper. But not interested in having drugstore brands at Sephora.

  • Peggy

    I would love the convenience of it if it were sold through Sephora because the website is significantly easier to navigate than ulta’s in my opinion. I would love to be able to see if items are in stock before running out the door. I think it would detract from Sephora’s image as a whole. I imagine it’d be harder for the employees to retain so much knowledge about so much products and companies. Not to mention that it’s be expensive to have stores so large in malls and other key locations.

    I think it’s really interesting how in Asia, L’oreal is featured in department stores as is Maybelline. I know there’s different products from the U.S. and it’s definitely pricier. I’m guessing the branding is a lot different’

    • Isabella Muse

      off topic but I always feel like the offerings from Maybelline and L’Oreal within Asia are so much nicer and interesting!

    • Lisa

      OMG, Ulta’s website is a disaster! I can’t believe a company that size in 2015 can have such a difficult to navigate website. They revamped the whole thing last year, but somehow didn’t make it any better. WTF!

  • Brittany

    My main concern would be getting caught up in the experience and buying the drugstore items for more than I usually would. I tend to purchase drugstore items when there are sales and when I have coupons ready. I don’t think purchasing the drugstore items through sephora would allow for either because sephora already rarely has sales. I do prefer ULTA to sephora mainly because of the availability of gift with purchases. I only begun to shop though sephora within the past 4 years, whereas I’ve shopped with ULTA for over 7 years. My main problem with cosmetics is being unable to find a proper foundation or concealer match for my darker complexion. I would appreciate if more options were available for people of color in terms of foundation and concealer. I would like to also see more targeted variety like cruelty free cosmetics and skin care and favorite sets that catered to specific skin tones at both sephora and ULTA because a lot of the nudes in the lip sets look very ashy against my complexion. 😞

  • Lauren

    Our Ulta has a few more lines than that. They also have Bare Minerals, Lorac (which Sephora does not carry), It Cosmetics, Butter London (makeup, not just nails), Smashbox, and a few others that I can’t remember off the top of my head. to be honest, each store has some brands that the other lacks. I buy Hourglass, and I know I have to get that at Sephora. Lorac… Ulta. Same with It Cosmetics.

    That said, I still prefer Sephora. I find Ulta to be overpriced without a coupon compared to Target for drugstore and the store has a more downscale feel. I do shop at both – I am Platinum at Ulta and VIB at Sephora – but I like Sephora the way it is.

  • Ame

    I would like to see It Cosmetics hit Sephora, and Japonesque brushes. But I am good with the separation.

  • Jojo

    I know I’m going to look very snob but I very RARELY buy drug store make up and every time I read the ingredients (after years of beauty shop work) I get traumatized quite a lot 😀 Sephora feels like a safe place to me right now and I’d rather if it remained like it is 😀
    ps I lolololove this blog 😉

    • Isabella Muse

      aw thanks jojo so glad you enjoy Musings. I totally understand, I’m the same way! for many years I just avoided drugstore makeup completely but really, sometimes you catch a winner 😀

  • ElKay

    I’m not really interested in Sephora carrying drugstore brands. I prefer shopping online at Sephora. I’m not much for customers helping themselves to the products. My local Sephora is always a mess. I really prefer department stores like Nordstrom where the cosmetics are behind a counter with a MUA to help you.

  • Chynna

    Nope, no thanks. It’s not about luxury, it’s about space. Most of the Sephora stores near me are a small fraction of the size of Ulta stores, making shelf space a premium. There are lots of things I can only find in a Sephora store and the idea that they would lose space so that a Revlon lip butter rack could go in makes me mad. I can find drugstore products everywhere, why would I need them in a Sephora?

  • Cindy

    I wouldn’t mind if Sephora carried drugstore brands. What I *really* have a beef with is Sephora’s complete and utter crap customer service and their godawful rewards system. I make a point to shop at Ulta WAY more than Sephora and only buy at Sephora when I want a brand that Ulta doesn’t carry, due to being burned by Sephora over and over again. I wish Ulta carried more high-end brands so I wouldn’t have to shop at Sephora at all. I really don’t care about the free gifts Ulta has one way or the other, but their rewards system with getting cash to apply towards ANYTHING in the store always wins. I managed to get Naked on the Run for $1 and I think I might be able to get another big palette release that’s coming up for almost FREE from there. I also like to shop on Sephora’s website better than in-store because the sales associates in Sephora come at me like vampires and don’t leave me alone. I don’t need to be stalked while I test out makeup. If I have a question, I’ll ask!! The stores are also VERY poorly stocked and they are always out of everything. Also, if you want one of the lame 500 point gifts, they are ALWAYS out of those.

    I do use the Benefit Brow Bar at Ulta and most of the SA’s are friendly and know me so they let me do my thing. It’s much more pleasant that way. I do more of my Ulta shopping online though because I get cashback from Discover or EBates and it adds up. Ulta’s customer service on their website is fantastic if you use e-mail. They’ve went above and beyond to apologize and make up for some complications that happened with a few orders over the Xmas season, which Sephora would NEVER do. It’s always “oh well, too bad” with them.

    Forgive me if I sound too venomous but I went for a medical treatment today that involves a steroid IV and it makes me rage a little for a few hours. Haha!

  • Lisa

    meh…if Sephora carried drugstore products, they’d probably be overpriced like they are at Ulta. I never buy drugstore at Ulta since it’s always much cheaper at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or Walmart or Target–unless I have one of those irritating Ulta coupons that can only be used on drugstore products.

  • Lisa

    On another note, I’ve always viewed Ulta as a more low-end store, not because they have drugstore but because they don’t carry any of the luxury brands, or even brands like NARS and Laura Mercier. This means I almost always buy from Sephora so that I can find more of the brands I like (though it is a bummer that Sephora no longer stocks Lorac and the Balm). But I think I would always shop at Sephora because of returns. Sephora’s return policy is just a thousand times better, since they give you unlimited time, and you don’t even have to have the receipt, whereas Ulta only gives you 60 days, you have to have the receipt, and they hassle you if you no longer have the original packaging. Add to that the fact that Ulta has so few locations, while Sephora is everywhere, and I usually buy from Sephora just so I don’t have to try to return by mail.

  • koolchicken

    I prefer for Ulta to stay Ulta and Sephora to stay Sephora. If they were to do anything to make me happier it would be for Sephora to adopt Ulta’s rewards system and free gifts. Granted some of Ulta’s free gifts over the years have been odd (a wine server? I don’t even drink!). But others like all those little deluxe samples and tiny sets, those SHOULD be free. I just can’t stand behind Sephora’s decision to hold them ransom for hundreds of points. Ulta also give coupons (that sometimes CAN be used for prestige brands) and you get rewarded with actual store credit. I literally have $180 to spend in their store. Just because they not only offer 1.5 points for platinum members (and lets be honest, it’s not hard to become platinum) and they also offer bonus points all the time. I will often wait until their doing a 5x’s the bonus points promo to make a purchase. It’s always worth it.

  • shiro

    I think i would like it if Sephora carried drugstore brands, even if they were at a higher price. The major frustration with buying drugstore makeup is that i can’t test/swatch anything, so if i end up not liking a product then i have to return it and that’s a big waste. I assume that Sephora would have little tester palettes and such if it sold drugstore makeup, which would be a huge convenience.

  • laura

    I don’t buy drugstore because its too expensive in canada but canadian biggest drugstore chain carries mid end and even some high end, not all locations, but quite a few premium ones 🙂

  • Lisa

    If Sephora chose some well edited yet excluse to Sephora drugstore brands I would be interested. Freanch pharmacies carry some wonderful lines like Bioderma, Emboylisse, LaRoche de Posay, etc. The Bourjois makeup line (owned by Chanel I think) is no longer sold in the US. They have a great line. I do not want to do into Sephora and be showered with aisles of Wet n’ Wild. I don’t shop at Ulta because they are not very discriminating with the lines they sell. It’s like shopping in a warehouse. The Ulta brand is horrible. Conversely, lok how hard Sephora works to keep up there makeup line with the mid to high-ends they sell. I definitely don’t think they should be taking their cues from Ulta!

  • Joan

    I remember years ago when Ulta stores first opened, they only carried drugstore brands. Little by little they started carrying what they call the “prestige” line of cosmetics. That made me very happy. Then they started getting more and more of those lines in. For a while I didn’t have a Sephora close by and when one opened in my mall, I was thrilled. I shop in both stores, but probably more in Ulta. One day I had $130 worth of products and my bill when down to $50 with my points. I don’t think I would like to see Sephora carry drugstore brands because I think some of the brands they now carry would disappear to make room for those drugstore brands. When I want those brands, I shop at Ulta, although I really don’t own any drugstore brand cosmetics anymore. I guess I’m spoiled. LOL.

  • Karyn kirke

    Why would you buy drugstore makeup at Sephora when you can always catch a great sale at a drugstore and pay WAY less? Scratching my head in confusion. Rite Aid often has 40% off certain brand sales as well as buy one get one 50% off and CVS has Extra Bucks as well as BOGO 50% off.

  • Karyn kirke

    I never even buy drugstore makeup at Target unless it’s on clearance because they never offer the awesome sales like a true drugstore.

  • fancie

    I would love it if Sephora sold drugstore products to give people a little more variety/accessibility. However, Sephora doesn’t do sales too often. So we’d probably end up paying full price whereas with Ulta or a drugstore you can catch great sales and coupons

  • Pamela

    I’ve never been in a Sephora store. I just buy online. I do like my three free samples because I only choose the frangrances and put them in a large crystal bowl in my bathroom and tell my friend to be sure and take a couple if they go in there and they love it.

    And why chose any other samples because what can you learn about them in one try? They are too small to get anything out of them, Thus we have THE MUSE. Thank you Muse.

    I have been in an Ulta store and only go for one thing. Dermadoctor DD cream. I mix that with my Dior nude foundation and it always feels better than just foundation. I also have bought some small things to fill bags for gifts and those go over well. Like crazy colored polishes and those roller ball fragrances.

  • Pamela

    P. S. I kind of forgot the question, sorry. I would think Sephora should NOT carry drugstore cosmetics. I really think that would drive up the prices.

  • Lola

    I think the only reason I’d like it is because all my points would be accumulated in one place! XD

  • Mary

    Hmmm…drugstore brands at Sephora, interesting thought for sure. They probably would jack up the prices. I totally agree about Ulta. I hate the Ulta lay out, especially on the drugstore side. It used to be better IMO, but it seems they’ve all switched to the same confusing design. I think Sephora has better customer service also. I’m not sure if you’ve ever dealt with Ulta.com customer service. I’ve had several bad experiences.

  • Erin

    I’m Rouge with Sephora and have spent just as much with Ulta. I like them each for different reasons. I prefer Sephora for free samples and Ulta for sales and their rewards program (I’ll take $ over sample collections any day). They each have specific brands that I go there for. My local Ulta carries Lipstick Queen which is TO DIE FOR and Lorac. They also have the full Nyx range which I can’t find at a drugstore (my drugstores have some Nyx but not much). While my Sephora has OCC and MUFE. It would be convenient for Sephora to stock drugstore stuff but I’d prefer to get that stuff somewhere with more sales and coupons.

  • Veronica

    Considering how pricey most drugstore makeup is getting? Not at all. American stores could really benefit from having testers for things like foundation or concealer.

  • Tonya

    I used to be a bit of a snob and would only buy high end makeup. I’ve since discovered some drugstore gems that don’t have loads of bad ingredients. I’ve also started to try DIY beauty so I can know what’s in my products. I don’t think it would be all bad if Sephora sold some drugstore brands. I’m kinda over the whole Sephora thing because I think their customer service is seriously lacking so change might be good for them.

  • telle

    this is interesting…i’d have to say i’d agree with you muse, and the drugstore brands wouldn’t get the sales that various box retailers who currently carry them, offer. in canada, shoppers drug mart is probably the closest thing to ulta….carrying some luxe brands and drug store brands, but pales by far, in comparison to ulta. i’d love to see sephora canada carry IT cosmetics, and more of the selection that one can get from existing brands that ulta and nordstrom carry. 🙂

  • Rachael

    I hate shopping at Ulta – at least the ones near me. The stores are always a mess, they are out of everything and sometimes they don’t even carry all the shades for a particular product! The customer service that you receive at Sephora vs Ulta is like night and day. I could wander around for a half hour looking for someone to help me at Ulta, whereas in Sephora, ever other sales person is asking if I need help. I also feel the sales associates seem a little more knowledgeable about brands and make up in general. They are always willing to give you a sample of something too.

    Testers for drugstore brands would be great – but Ulta doesn’t do that either. And, the coupons are NEVER good for the brands that you could really use coupons for in terms of price.

    The last consideration? Ulta takes back your points for purchases when you return things. Sephora does NOT!

  • Chocolate

    Hi from France!
    As far as I know the only drugstore brand sold at Sephora in France is L’Oréal Paris (at least for now). I guess that can be explained by the brand willingness to improve its image and be perceived by European consumers as a higher-end brand rather than a mass-market one. That is why L’Oréal Paris has also opened its first retail store a few months ago in Europe.
    But I’m not sure this strategy would work in the US as I believe the brand is truly perceived as a drugstore brand by US consumers (products are way cheaper in the US – in France a L’Oreal Paris mascara costs 15€ / 18$ and a foundation 20€ / 23$ – and in the US you get lots of deals and coupons, while in France we usually don’t).

    But overall I find it surprising because L’Oréal Paris and Sephora private label products are in the same price range, so why would Sephora brings direct competition to its own private label by carrying L’Oréal Paris…?!

    • Isabella Muse

      hi Chocolate! I’m actually hearing a lot of interesting things about that retail location lately! Have you been? Too true! The L’Oreal is considerably highly priced in Europe compared to the US plus the quality is a bit better in Europe I’ve found. Mmm..I think Sephora is more about variety and not so much competition. Each brand has it’s own offerings and variety so not so much competitive in my opinion!

  • andrea

    I prefer sephora….i work at Penneys so i get an employee discount in the sephoras inside JCPenney. 🙂

  • Liz

    I get my hair cut at Ulta so I pick up some drugstore brand stuff when I’m there and have a coupon, and I also get IT Cosmetics there but I dislike how when I’m looking around and want honest advice about makeup and skin care, the beauty consultants always try to push their own line rather than suggest what would work best for me across different brands. The salon staff are great but at our location, the Ulta sales associates all seem to actually work for/represent a specific brand and are on commission or other bonuses for pushing their brand only. They also won’t make samples on request at Ulta. I’ve started shopping more at Sephora because of all this, if they would start carrying IT Cosmetics my beauty life would be (almost) complete!

  • lara

    this is so interesting. i would love to see a drug brand do a prestige’ish capsule collection at sephora. so many of the top guns are inspired by prestige recently, anyway. or maybe sephora could do something like their “beauty to go” section where they offer a curated selection of products? the ones makeup artists/bloggers are always recommending? that could be fun!

  • Allie Lynch

    I love Ulta and have gotten better service from them during this time then Sephora. I won’t reach Diamond this year because I haven’t gotten my colors done. I get some massive points at the salon. I also like the fact that Ulta seems to support indie brands more so then Sephora. I know Sephora does have some, but Ulta seems more open to them. I wish Ulta had Hourglass.