March 17, 2016

This or That Beauty: Sephora or Ulta

Sephora or ulta

Everyone loves to hate on Sephora because their VIB Rouge membership isn’t all that and a bag of chips. Let’s face it, Ulta is better when it comes to their Platinum Membership because hello, cash back rewards! What’s not to love about that?

Recently, Sephora started offering five samples instead of three and all I could think to myself was, “Woop dee doo!” Ulta does, in fact, have a better loyalty program that’s for sure.

But when you narrow it down which do you prefer?

Sephora or Ulta?

Props to Ulta as I love the fact I can get drugstore beauty and mid to high end makeup, skincare, and beauty in one spot.

But when it comes down to the nitty gritty I’m a Sephora girl all the way!

Sephora has way more variety and they just recently started getting into niche fragrances which is a big plus for this perfume loving girl! I prefer mid to high-end makeup brands myself. Don’t get me wrong, drugstore beauty can be fun but many cases I’m spending tons of money on drugstore makeup and I end up liking one or two things.

Sephora also ships a lot faster (not that much faster, because even Flash shipping is still sometimes a problem) but it’s a lot faster than Ulta. They also package things better. Ulta kinda tosses stuff in a box and doesn’t bother with bubble wrap or even extra paper so things don’t break. I ordered a ton of NYX Spring last year and the eyeshadows and blushes I purchased arrived from Ulta all broke :-/

All in all, Sephora might not have the better royalty program but I’ll take it over Ulta any day.

How about you?

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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  • Carrie

    I’m a Sephora girl through and through. Ulta, while it has the convenience, just doesn’t really do it for me. I do love going there when they have the $3.50 off of $10 deals going but that only ever really applies to drugstore. Sephora is just more my flavor but I do love Ulta for certain things.

    • Pam

      I love Sephora Iam a rouge girl “â™€ï¸ULTA is ok for little things I need … But I do shop at both but I shop at Sephora ALOT

  • Maggie

    Like both so shop at both. Have had good experiences with both. Sephora packs their items a lot better for shipping for shopping online. The loyalty program at ulta is better.

  • Nicole

    I think I prefer the selection at Sephora, but if I can get something at Ulta, I go there. They have better rewards and better customer service.

  • Cara

    I have to go with Sephora because Ulta has no stores here in Hawaii and will charge me an arm and a leg and another arm just to ship here. Personal pet peeve: REALLY hate it when retailers either will not ship here or charge an outrageous shipping and handling fee for orders mailed to Hawaii. We are part of the US, stop treating us like a foreign country!

    OK, I’m off my soapbox now…

    • Lorraine

      I’m in Puerto Rico, and Ulta is only $5 USPS shipping. I find it reasonable and sometimes cheaper than our local tax I would be charged at Sephora or drugstores. The only issue I’ve had with Ulta is some gift with purchase cant be shipped by air because they add perfume or nailpolish. And the birthday freebie is in store only.

      • Cara

        Wow! So unfair –I wonder why they charge so much to ship here in Hawaii?

  • Courtney

    Sephora girl all the way too. Love the variety and i tend to have a liking for higher end makeup personally. I will admit, nothing about sephoras VIB Rouge program excites me. The only thing I love are the semi annual 20 percent coupons they disburse. The samples don’t excite me , neither does their flash shipping, neither does their 100, 500 perk rewards, and neither does their birthday rewards. Geez, I sound hard to please huh??? I promise I’m not high maintenence! Lol. Anyway, I’d say yep, sephora all the way.

  • Christina

    I still prefer Sephora. Yes, their loyalty program is dinky, but you cannot beat their selection of mid to high end brands. Plus, the Ultas in my area never have anything in stock, and since I shop for my drugstore and hair care (typically higher end) at other places, I end up going to Ulta only if something is exclusive or if I have a coupon. I also like that I get my Sephora orders in 2 days max, sometimes even less.

    I guess it depends on your area. I think most of my friends and family prefer Sephora as well.

  • Sheena

    It’s a tough call. I agree that Sephora does definitely package things better but sometimes, sometimes…Ulta has the better gift with purchases. Like they have really generous deluxe sizes. Also it’s nice that they do offer drugstore brands like NYX & other popular drugstore brands. However, the actual physichal locations leave much to be desired, I would much rather visit Sephora any day of the week than an Ulta. Not saying Ulta is no good, I love Ulta, but the customer service at Sephora is amazing! But yeah if you want the best of the best brands, Sephora is definitely your best bet. Again they also have the flash shipping which makes it even better. I’m not sure if Ulta offers anything similar since I’m not not a platinum member.

    • Kelly

      I am a platinum member at Ulta and there are no perks on shipping for us. There’s no Sephora in my area and have been wondering if it’s actually better than Ulta.

  • Liz

    I much prefer Sephora. I like the flash shipping program, I like that you can pick your samples, I love, love, love the favorites collections they put together and I love that they put things on clearance and I don’t mind the point perks. I’m not VIB Rouge so I don’t have a ton of them, but I like to save them and occastionally there are several things I like. I have a bunch of Ulta gift cards from Christmas I haven’t used yet and I wish I could somehow convert them to Sephora cards because my wish list there is pretty long!!

  • sarah

    Ulta, for me. But only because I can’t ever find anything I would really like to purchase at Sephora (and I have tried). I am such a drugstore and mid range cosmetic junkie and I tend to stay away from expensive brands because, I’ve either had bad experiences (I had a Clinique sales girl insist I needed a foundation that was way too dark and yellow for my pale skin) or have been unimpressed with their products. The only “expensive” cosmetic brand I like os Too Faced, and I can get their stuff at Ulta.

  • Lauren

    Sephora forever! Ulta definitely has the better rewards program, but I really don’t mind getting generously sized freebies either. I just ordered a lipstick and got sooo many deluxe samples it was ridiculous. Even Mr. Lauren couldn’t believe I didn’t pay for most of the things in the package. Ulta just can’t decide what they’re doing. They don’t have enough high end brands, and you can alwayd find drugstore products cheaper elsewhere even when they’re not on sale. I’ve only received excellent customer service from Sephora. They ship faster and package items better. Ulta takes about fifty years to process my orders, they usually forget to add my samples, and they often don’t add extra padding when I’ve ordered perfumes or powder products. Also, I really hate that my local Ulta is always a hot mess and never seems to have anything in stock. The SAs at my local Ulta never seem to know what I’m talking about when I ask about the products.

    I don’t know Muse, when I walk into a specialty beauty shop I wanna feel special and fancy, ya know? Apart from ordering basics online, I usually only go into the store to look at something new or to check out something expensive I might be nervous about blind buying. Sephora is all about the luxe experience. My local Ulta usually has screaming kids 🙁

    • Isabella Muse

      Aw Lauren! Ha I hear ya….there are definitely more kids at Ulta versus Sephora 😀 and yes, it is a fanicer feel!

  • Jay

    Sephora for sure…not to say I don’t have a TON of issues with them (rewards program, customer service, product stock, etc) but Ulta is such a nightmare in-store. I live near 5 and every location is a mess. Under staffed, the drugstore makeup is always open, the high end side is poorly stocked. And their shipping…don’t even get me started! I do like the coupons. But their drugstore products have such a high markup it makes sense to offer some incentive. Sephora also has more exciting products, although I do wish they’d stop discontinuing brands and jumping on every single trend.

    • krastins

      Everything you’ve said here is perfect. Ulta never has anything in stock. If I go shopping there, I will not be greeted or helped unless I look like a supermodel. Its ridiculous. Sephora forever.

  • Chelsea

    Sephora is preferred for my online shopping, Ulta for in person shopping. I spend way more at Ulta, I’m ashamed of how close I am to platinum status already this year.

  • Cindy

    Oh don’t get me started! Ulta all the way!! After last year, I refuse to buy anything at Sephora unless it’s something I absolutely MUST have and Ulta doesn’t sell it. I’ve been Rouge for a couple of years now and it’s a big waste of time. Ulta *used* to be slow on their shipping but now their pretty fast. And if something comes broken or isn’t packed right, I e-mail their customer service and they not only re-send the products, but they send me gift cards! Who can argue with that? Sephora *REALLY* pissed me off when they offered the $50 coupon for everyone who couldn’t get in on the “epic rewards” and I didn’t find out about it until 2 months later – they conveniently didn’t notify anyone about it by e-mail. When I emailed them to ask about it, they gave me a cock-and-bull story. I never heard of having to email THEM asking for a coupon. I just hate them. Their customer service is horrific, and their rewards program is garbage. I have 1100 points sitting in my account doing nothing because there is never anything worth cashing them in for. And you are right – 5 samples instead of 3? WHO CARES? Those samples are SUPPOSED to be free and I wind up throwing out most of them anyway. With Ulta’s rewards program I’ve gotten a lot of the big UD palettes for FREE. To me it’s a no brainer – I only want to shop at a store that appreciates my business, and that’s certainly not Sephora! I haven’t spend any $$ there in 2016 and I’m hoping that continues!

  • Melanie

    I love Ulta! I have a great one in my area newly designed and all associates are helpful and well nice. Ulta is changing they are becoming more and more competitive bringing in brands. If they brought in Hourglass, Dior few higher end lines …. and few more Korean beauty lines I would not step foot into Sephora. Ulta has a great reward program too!!! Everytime I go to Sephora its overwhelmed with associates. I am followed around and its uncomfortable. I tend to do my Sephora shopping online in peace, but most of the time I wait for Ulta to get in a items and rack up my points. Heck I have $120 so far waiting for a raining day. Not to mention once you are platinum with $400 (I think) the rewards get better…. 5x the points on certain lines, double points during your bday month and so on. I am burned out with Sephora and the litter of samples.

  • Erin Ortiz

    I totally agree with you! I love Ulta’s cash back, but their shipping takes forever and they do just throw stuff in the box. I wish they would offer shipping discounts for platinum members. There has been so many times I’ve ordered from Sephora because of their free rouge shipping.

  • Brooke

    The Ulta store near me is awful…they either never have anything in stock, the store is in complete disarray (almost dirty) or the employees don’t seem to know anything about anything….the last few times I have been in there, there have been ladies trying to push people to try different products – and when I say push, they were borderline rude and stalkerish about it…they didn’t appear to be ulta employees but I can’t say for sure because I tried to stay clear of those areas when I saw what was going on. That being said, I do really like their reward program much better than sephora’s. I have tons of points at Sephora because I never see anything that I like to use my points on – I saved them up for their 1000+ point thing they did a few months ago that turned into a huge disaster….needless to say I ended up with nothing. I also feel the rouge is pointless…it’s generally the same perks as the regular vib….total fail. Overall, I find myself going to Sephora stores more so than ulta, despite their crap perks program just because they carry more of what I wear and ulta seems like more of an inconvenience. however if I want/need something from ulta, I usually stick to online because it’s a waste of time to go to the store.

  • Karen

    I’m with you. I love Sephora because I go for the higher end cosmetic brands. I usually only buy Ulta when they have exclusives for the brands I use most.

  • BabyBeans

    Ulta because I rarely online shop and there is only an Ulta near me. Honestly I am wary of buying only high end makeup. Some of it is great, some is a waste of a big chunk of change. It might even just not work with your skin. So I try to find good drugstore and mid range stuff.

  • Maria

    Ulta for me. I always order from them. They have great coupons, cash back and rewards. I am platinum til 2017. I like that I can buy both drugstore and higher end makeup like Too Faced and Tarte and Nyx and Caprice. They have s great variety and add new brands. Shipping is within a week.

  • Cheryl

    Ulta is much closer to my usual weekend shopping destinations (love me some Wegmans!) and carries a much broader selection. The only Sephora within 100 miles is a small “inside JC Penny’s” location and, while the staff there is fabulous, the in stock selection is limited. I sum, I shop at both, depending on what I am looking for. There are a lot of exclusive brands and offerings at both stores and that is often what drives my choice.

  • TropicalChrome

    For me, this is like asking if you’d rather stub your toe really hard or slam your finger in a door. Ulta has amazing clearance in store (I get most of my OPI polishes for less than half price there) and their rewards program rewards even small spenders like me. But for three years running, I’ve had to go to multiple stores to find one that had the birthday gift in stock. And their drugstore section is often messed up and out of stock of half the stuff, and the folks there don’t really seem to know the product. (And no, I do NOT want my brows waxed.)

    I’ve got well over 500 points at Sephora, but like other commenters, I can’t find anything I want to use them for. I don’t like that they’ve reduced the number of sample stations (or whatever you call where you pick up the disposable applicators for trying the products) and hidden them out of the way. It means more people use their fingers. But they’ve been the best about returns and the people who work there have been actually helpful and honest.

    I still shop at both, but they both have their weaknesses.

  • Annie

    Lol! This is a question I find myself thinking about all the time. I’ve come to a conclusion that being a makeup addict is hard work. I can’t discriminate, they both have my heart! 🙂 But, I guess I usually go where I can find good deals. This month Ulta has my heart. (21 Days of Sales makes me feel like a kid in a candy store.) But with Sephora’s VIB sale next month, and Ulta’s 40% off drugstore brands week, they will both be getting a lot of love.
    Today I swung by Ulta during my lunch break to pick up the UD Sheer Revolution Lipsticks in Liar and Rapture. I also picked up two Pssst! Dry Shampoos which were bogo free and have $1 off peel off coupons, which I was able to use when paying.

  • Sun

    I’m VIB Rouge and Platinum at Sephora and ULTA, respectively. I really prefer shopping at ULTA whenever possible. One, the fact that I can also get drugstore brands there. Two, the loyalty program is WAY BETTER and I love that I can accumulate my points for a big discount towards a future purchase. I also like that ULTA has a lower threshold to attain Platinum status ($400) versus Sephora’s VIB Rouge ($1000). Three, their semiannual “21 Days of Beauty” events where prestige items are discounted on average 50%; Sephora has nothing comparable. I only go to Sephora when I can only get certain items or brands there (BeautyBlenders; MUFE; Marc Jacobs) or if I’m feeling lazy because it is closer than the ULTA.

  • Sun

    Forgot to add that I hope that ULTA becomes more competitive with Sephora in terms of offering more exclusive brands. I know they already do so with IT Cosmetics and the newly-launched Fiona Stiles Beauty, but I’d like to see more brands that you can only find at ULTA.

  • Deanna

    Pros & cons to both. Love the Ulta rewards program and platinum perks but you can’t get samples in store, terrible shipping, lame bday reward, YOU have to bring up the gift w/purchase, and they just don’t carry certain brands. Sephora gives great samples online and additional weekly specials are available through the app. I love doing online orders so I can get my rewards freebies, promo freebie, AND samples! I just wish all those perks were available in store as well. Plus their shipping is pretty fast and I’ve enjoyed the bday rewards. I try to buy what I can thru Ulta & then exclusive brands at Sephora.

  • Michelle

    I prefer Sephora over Ulta. Sephora offers free 2-day shipping with VIB and I am sorry that is a MUCH better perk than Ulta. Ulta shipping uses UPS Surepost (which takes 7-12 days to get your stuff and that including of USPS in shipping makes me cringe as they are sooo slow)

    For in store Ulta is closer to me and I can get drug store items as well, but if both stores carry the same thing I buy from Sephora.

  • Yen

    I have both a sephora and ulta near me, but I tend to go to sephora more since I work near it. It only takes a minute to walk there from work! I haven’t used my sephora points on anything within the last 1.5 years and I have a lot of points just sitting around. All of the 100/500 point perks make me say, “meh, I spent so much money and that’s all?”

    I do enjoy going to ulta since it’s the only place that carries a big selection of nyx. I love nyx and buying it at ulta lets me use their $3.50 off $10 coupon. But aside from Nyx, I like being able to find IT cosmetics, Fiona stiles, along with zoya polishes.

    I personally shop at both places but I like sephora for carrying niche fragrances and Korean brands. My sephora carries too cool for school and chosungah which is great since I love being able to see Korean brands in person.

  • Elizabeth

    Ulta!!! Sephora rarely has sales or codes. They have many times messed up my shipments, with no samples in the box. When they run out, they send you zip. While ULTA will send you samples no matter what. Sephora has gone down hill since they introduced their loyalty programs. Much preferred it when everyone was treated the same and was offered the same exact sales. You can get almost the same products at Nordstrom’s and they will price match all Sephora sales, and you don’t need to be Rouge to get 20% off at Nordstroms. Rarely shop at Sephora anymore.

  • CherylR

    Sephora. The Ulta locations near me seem to hire the rudest people and I have social anxiety and cannot deal with that. I have slowed way down on my makeup-buying the past few years for budgetary reasons so when I do buy something it’s a special treat and I want it to be a good experience. I prefer not to order online so I can have immediate gratification and so I can play with a tester and make sure it’s what I really want. I have a regular Sephora 2 minutes from me but sometimes I drive a little further to a JCP Sephora because the girls there are super sweet and I really like the lady who seems to be their manager. I don’t think I spend enough these days to rack up too many Ulta rewards anyway, so Sephora it is for me.

  • quinctia

    Ulta all the way! it’s a bit of a shame, because the girls at my local Sephora are very nice. But it’s just a JcP Sephora, so it doesn’t have hardly any of the brands Ulta doesn’t. And now that Ulta’s got Buxom, I don’t even have to go to Sephora for mascara.

    I do most of my major beauty purchases at Ulta. I can almost always hold out for a good deal, they give me a coupon good on anything plus a present on my birthday, and my points are actually worth something. Plus I do enjoy the extended selection of…I guess beauty care products is a good way to put it? I made an order last night to take advantage of the $11 Urban Decay lipsticks, but threw in some leave-in conditioner and Aquaphor in there, because I needed them, and I COULD.

    The only thing that sways me away from Ulta is Urban Decay’s website deals. And they’ve recently introduced a rewards program there. I probably spend more on UD’s website than at Sephora in a year, despite making most of my purchases at Ulta, so I’m probably going to get more out of UD’s rewards program, too.

    I will give you this: Ulta’s shipping sucks. I do have to be mindful of what I’m ordering together. I ended up with a broken Electric palette once. But I do most of my shopping with Ulta at physical stores.

  • Kitten

    I feel more comfortable shopping at Ulta (people are way less naggy/pushy there), but frequently I have to go to Sephora for what I want. Good example was I wanted a bottle of Roses de Chloe, Ulta didn’t have it in stock so I had to go into Sephora…..and in the 10 minutes I was in there I was hounded by 3 seperate SAs. Wish I was invisible when I go into Sephora V_V

  • Traci

    Ulta. The store is closer to my home, plus I get more coupons and deals from Ulta. I get my skin care services and products (Dermalogica) from Ulta, which adds to the amount of points and coupons that I receive.

  • Christina D.

    Hands down and without a second thought, I prefer Sephora. Yes, it’s nice to get cash as a reward from Ulta, but even being a Platinum level member, I still have to deal with Ulta’s $50 minimum for free shipping more often than not. I’m VIB Rouge at Sephora so shipping cost is never an issue. Sephora’s customer service puts Ulta’s to shame as well…yes, I very much prefer Sephora.

  • Gillie

    I find it’s not really a “this or that” question between these two, for me. They both have their pros and cons, but neither replaces the other.

    Like, the other day, my mom wanted to check out It Cosmetics, so we went to Ulta because Sephora doesn’t carry the brand. Mom was really happy, and even picked up some non-prestige items while we were there, too. Thank goodness I read your blog, though, Muse. No one would help us with the It Cosmetics line because the girl who was assigned to that station had left for the day. I was able to talk intelligently about the It stuff from what I remembered from your blog. 🙂

    I prefer the shopping experience at my local Sephora, though. It’s cleaner there, and the associates seem to have better cross-brand knowledge, though it’s clear each person specializes in a preferred brand. I know, if they sold It Cosmetics, Mom would have been sent home with a generous sample dollop of the CC Cream she was looking at. Online at Sephora, I can find additional coupon codes that give me a ton of deluxe samples, too, over and above the standard 3 or 5 (whoop dee doo!), so that always makes me happy. I never, ever get samples at Ulta.

    So, I have room in my life for both, and I would be hard pressed to choose only one!

  • kellly

    I can’t really say I prefer one over the other because to me, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.
    For loyalty program, it’s Ulta all the way. They carry less expensive brands, which my budget appreciates and they have those coupons so frequently, I can get drugstore brands, get money off, build my money back loyalty account AND get makeup at the same time! How much cooler can you get? Cons: yeah, their stores (especially the house Ulta brand stuff for some reason) is ALWAYS a mess and very low on stock. It takes the Ultas in my area a long time to get new releases, so I’m going in and asking if they have the new “x” yet, and the staff doesn’t even know what I’m talking about! You’d think they’d read beauty blogs in their spare time, no? And no testers/sampling available, which would really be awesome. They could take a lesson from Sephora there.
    Sephora carries higher end brands (YSL, Dior, Bite Beauty, etc) than Ulta, you can sample pretty much everything AND get samples to take home before deciding to buy. Their staff pretty much knows to leave me alone when I go in so I can play with makeup for a while and try things before deciding what works best for me. I totally love that they don’t hover because I will walk out buying nothing when someone annoys me like that. I can spend 2 hours in that store playing around with colors! The Sephora house brand cosmetics are generally good quality at affordable prices. Cons: of course, their loyalty program could stand a major overhaul. I generally don’t spend enough to even get to higher levels and even when I had my better paying job, I never got to VIB Rouge. And a big con for my local store recently, they only had NINE of the new 35 Bite lipstick colors in the display. Their store LIGHTING is horrible. I practically feel like I need a miner’s lamp to see whether a color is good on me or not. WHAT is up with that?!? Also I’ve seen girls in there applying lipstick testers directly to their lips EEEEEWWWW and no store employee stops them to offer one of those doe foot thingies.
    Ok, that’s my take on those two stores. They both fill a niche for me, so I can’t say I choose one over the other because for me they offer different things.

  • Dora

    Sephora! It’s a bit of a nonquestion for me since I live in NYC and there’s no ULTA — well, I have been to one in Queens, but none that are convenient and I can easily get to a Sephora. I just get a different feeling walking into Sephora — like that “kid in a candy store” feeling that I don’t get with ULTA. As far as drugstore products, I can just . . . go to the drugstore since there are a zillion of them in the city.

  • Eraser

    I shop at both for different things. In my humble opinion, they both have stingy loyalty programs and the birthday gifts are laughable. Honestly, Rite Aid gives me 20% off every day so that’s where I go for my budget brands. The other thing that really bothers me is that there’s so much crossover, not just between each other but also with the department stores. When Sephora first came to this country, they had all sorts of European brands that I never saw here, and I was so happy to find all the goodies that I got overseas. Now it’s mostly things that I can find everywhere with a few exclusives thrown in the mix. As for the stores themselves, my local Sephora is always crawling with pushy mothers letting their children monopolize the testers and Ulta is perpetually under-stocked, with the staff being clueless about whether they’re getting another shipment. For the special discounts, which are very few and far between, the loyalty programs aren’t worth it any more so I’ll probably let mine lapse. There’s too much competition for my beauty dollars these days.

  • Kitty Kat Does Makeup

    That’s tough!! But honestly I have to say Sephora because of the two day shipping. It always gets to my house in one day. I am so impatient. Ulta’s shipping is the worst!!!!

  • Lauryn

    Hands down I prefer Sephora. After too many costumer service issues with online orders last year and instore experiences with horrible SA who didn’t know their information or were being pushy with a certain product I swore off Ulta unless I absolutely needed something and I didn’t set foot in one or order until earlier this week. All of the employees at my local Sephoras are sweet and truly seem to enjoy their jobs at the Ulta the manager acts like everyone should be so grateful she works there. I don’t wear much drugstore stuff, mostly concealer , brow pencil and mascara occasionally I will pick up a pretty eyeshadow. So Sephora is my Jam, totally jealous of the poster above who has the Sehora with TooCoolForSchool and Chosungah in store.

  • Sjofna

    I am totally a Sephora girl. I think if Ulta had a free shipping program like Sephora does I would spend more there, but I don’t want to pay shipping every time I feel like ordering one or two things. The closest store is about 45 minutes away, and that’s if there’s no traffic. Also, Ulta’s website is not the nicest to browse. As far as getting drugstore items, CVS sends me so many incentives I get much better deals there. Ulta does have a much nicer rewards program, but personally the negatives outweigh the one positive.

  • Jean

    I shop at both. I started with Sephora and had a bad experience with an Ulta worker so I’m leaning towards Sephora, but Ulta has more sales and more coupons. Also cash back rewards! I buy from them more often. With Sephora you can choose the samples you get. That’s about it. Its easy to become platinum at Ulta, not easy to become Rouge. So I’d say Ulta even though somehow I feel like I like Sephora more.

  • Tabitha

    Sephora girl! Everything I want at Ulta is coupon excluded which is annoying. I very begrudgingly purchased the Peanut Butter and Jelly palette there though. Ugh. And their website was glitching as I did, which made me smirk. Sephora has a more visually pleasing website, and it’s more user friendly. I’ll admit it, I prefer things glittery and sparkly.

  • Karen

    I am lucky and have both of them very close to me. I love the shopping experience at Sephora. Just feel special. When i am looking for a shade /color match, they know their stuff. Lets call it a much more yuppy experience .

    But i love the sales that Ulta has. I can get many more products and spend less than Sephora. Very often it is more fun to shop at Ulta because you can see everything new, drug store included. I have my favorites, most higher end, but i still love trying new make up trends and products. I am a true junkie.

  • Rachel Runyan

    For me it’s a draw between the two.

    Ulta has the better rewards program, but I don’t get to take advantage of it as much as I’d like. I have not been able to order from their website for months now. I’m not the only one with the issue, either. Ulta is aware a large number of their customers, including Platinum member like me, cannot order online, and Ulta CS & tech support justbasically say, “Sorry. We don’t know what’s wrong. Too bad.” Well, they say that after claiming you did something wrong first. I’ve tried about 6 different forms of payments, 3 different browsers, and 4 different computers, and my payment methods are rejected every time. I’ve complained to Ulta multiple times, but they just feign sympathy and do nothing.

    So I’m Platinum, but I can’t take advantage of the advance access, extra perks, and extra points that come with ordering online. I really have no motive to be Platinum any more, except my points don’t expire.

    So, if I’m ordering, it’s more and more done through Sephora Both Ulta and Sephora are a minimum of a 30 min. drive for me (that’s with light traffic), so I do most of my shopping online. I get free flash shipping with Sephora, and they package my orders better than Ulta did. Their point perks program is kind of sucky for the small products you get, though. Sephora’s mega-point perk events are a complete joke. I don’t even try to participate any more.

    In-store, I like Sephora better. I think the associates are more knowledgeable. Sephora has a better floor plan, and is kept neater. Both stores have really nice staff, though. I like that Ulta also carries drug store items.

  • Amanda

    I used to be such a Sephora girl (I made VIB rouge in December). If I wanted a high-end product, I’d be buying I at Sephora. Now, I’m honestly becoming an Ulta convert. I’m platinum at Ulta and the rewards program is a lot better. I’d rather be able to get points that equal money I can spend on an actual full size product than points I can spend on a little sample size product. Plus, Ulta now sells First Aid Beauty (my fave skincare brand) so I can just buy it there. I love being able to get free shipping on any order no matter the price like I do at Sephora, so I’d love if Ulta started a program like Flash shipping subscription.

  • Zovesta

    ULTA all the way. I can’t stand the snob appeal Sephora seems to have – the only Sephora we have is in a JC Penny and is super tiny and always packed and all the workers hover around you and sneer at you constantly. ULTA’s workers rarely bother you and are always friendly and down to earth. So I’ve started to build a growing hatred for Sephora. =P

  • Carolyn2

    While I am hard press not to walk in to either if I am near one … I prefer to shop Sephora.

    I sometimes can’t find want I want in stock. And there’s been too many times when sales associates don’t know products they carry ( when they launched Soap & Glory or Fiona Stiles are a couple of examples ) which makes me think the friendly sales associates are not getting product training as much as they should

    Plus…. Their website sucks. I gave up shopping online.

    But not to be a basher they do have a great variety of brands, good coupons, BOGO, and platinum rewards are great!!! I like ulta a lot ( just prefer Sephora ).

    Agree that Sephora’s perks are lame-o.

  • Rachel

    I shop at both, but I’m hardcore Ulta. Yesterday alone I earned $53 in cash back from a single trip thanks to 5x points for my Platinum anniversary. Plus, they carry so many more brands that I personally use, namely It Cosmetics and Lorac. Since the vast majority of my makeup collection comes from those 2 brands, it’s a no-brainer for me!

  • EliCaroline

    I use to shop Sephora exclusively and never Ulta, but I’ve recently started going to Ulta more and more.
    The biggest thing I hate about Ulta is that they are always out of stock of stuff that I want. Always!

  • Amber K

    Definitely Sephora. The shipping is faster, the website is MUCH nicer. Also, you can track online and in-store purchases on your account, which with Ulta you can only see online orders. The samples and promos with Sephora are very nice, and the return policy and wonderful.

  • Kerri

    Sephora in Australia is a joke. 1 sample per purchase, and even being a VIB I have to spend $120 to get a deluxe sample with purchase. We also have to spend over $55 to get free shipping.

  • Gillie

    I laughed and thought of this post, yesterday, when I got an e-mail from Sephora offering 100 points for filling out an online survey on their rewards program. Maybe they read this post! 😀

    (I doubt it, really)

    From what I gather, they are exploring a Sephora Visa, where you can earn points on non-Sephora purchases. The survey also asked about interest in expanded skincare offerings, including a machine that analyzes skin at a cellular level.

  • Jeanine McAuliffe

    SEPHORA! Us sephora girls stick together. I feel like Ulta always tries to live up to sephora but never will.

  • Alecto

    [sigh] Tough one. I prefer Ulta’s loyalty program, and honestly, if I can find something at both places, I go to Ulta for it.

    Some of my likes and dislikes for the two are strongly affected by my local circumstances: I drive by two Ultas on the way home from work, so I rarely need to bother getting anything shipped to me (but even if I did need it, it’s extremely rare that I purchase online for less than $50, so their shipping deal works for me). Both are relatively recently built stores (one less than 6 months old), so they’re clean and neat, and generally well-stocked. Some people complain that Ulta is half drugstore lines, so why go there when they can go to a drugstore? But I love that they have those lines, because most of the time when I see new NYX, L’oreal, etc., products being reviewed online, I CANNOT find them — ever! — in a drugstore, whereas Ulta seems to carry the whole line for most of the brands, including recent LE.

    The closest Sephora is out of my way. It’s in a mall (which I hate). In general, Sephora has more brands that I’m interested in, but the two brands that I tend to window-shop most are KVD and UD, both of which are situated so that they’re near the exit and hidden from the center of the store, and both displays get mercilessly picked over by thieves — they’re almost always empty! I can’t walk 5 feet without an SA trying to talk to me (though it’s hard to fault them for that, since I’m positive that’s corporate-driven and they’re trying to be good employees). I’m just not interested in all the new brands they’re tacking on (though to be fair, I can’t say I’ll never be interested … who knows). I made it to VIB Rouge and beyond without using any of my points because I just couldn’t find anything I was interested in. The two-day free shipping would matter more to me if I ever desperately needed something in two days (which I don’t), but I don’t buy online from Sephora without spending at least $50, so if they had the Ulta deal, that’d work fine.

    I’m not definitely for one or the other, but when I get annoyed by one, it’s usually Sephora. [shrug]

  • Justin

    Ive been liking Ulta a little more lately they’ve gotten more upscale and niche lines. I’ve platinum 2 years in a row and in that time frame I lapsed on my Sephora VIBR status (but for real 1000 to qualify is insane vs 400 for ulta). I agree with shipping. I’ll order online from Sephora before ulta and Sephora usually has a higher ebates percent too. I do agree that Sephora has a better variety of fragrance where ulta is mostly typical department store stock

  • emily

    I am going to stick to Sephora. I have been a loyal Ulta customer for a long time, but I am not treated well by the employees there. It also is disappointing that their rewards points expire. I don’t ever feel like I get to use my points. At least Sephora rolls them over. Sephora employees have always always been really friendly and helpful to me. I feel I am watched at Ulta. Its uncomfortable. Sephora has always given me really awesome gifts for my birthday rewards. Sephora just has overall better customer service, items, and a great shopping atmosphere. Ultra has just slowly lost me as it has more of a drugstore feel to it and the employees contribute to that.

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  • Rachel

    I used to only go to Sephora for the sheer fact that there weren’t any Ulta stores in my area, but Ulta has won me over! They both carry different brands so if there is something I want that isn’t at Ulta I will get it at Sephora but if it is carried at both I’ll go to Ulta over stupid Sephora any day! Their loyalty program is basically not a program at all, like what the heck am I getting?! And never have coupons the way ULTA does. Ugh and the workers are snobby and have ugly makeup most of the time.

  • Marta

    I think I’m starting to lean towards Ulta. They have better sales, the employees are friendly but let you browse without being intimidatingly friendly, and their reward system is fantastic ! I’m both VIB and Platinum, and I’d rather have cash off than samples. Plus since I get my hair done at Últa i get major points!

    Finally, yes Sephora has more variety, but I shop cruelty free and Ulta has most of those brands, so that’s not much of a boon in Sephora’s favor.