Beauty Store Wars: Sephora vs Ulta

A good friend of mine (#SO to Corinne) suggested I do an in-depth exploration on Sephora vs Ulta. To me, this blog post is truly difficult because both stores mean so much to me. I grew up on Ulta, and yet I learned the way of Sephora from my icon vloggers on YouTube. You see, I think there are pros and cons to both stores. However, there can only be one winner. Let the games begin!



To me, Sephora is like the Saks of the beauty world: when you walk in, anything is possible. The walls are lined with high-end beauty brands of makeup, skin care, hair care and professional beauty tools. Perhaps one of my favorite parts of Sephora is the variety of makeup swatches. It’s easy to go around the store and sample palettes with a simple swipe of powder on the back of your hand. Equally desirable, the beauty brands don’t stop at the big names like NARS and Smashbox. In fact, some of the best beauty brands are the less popular ones like Kat Von D, Perricone MD and  Sephora’s own collection of makeup and brushes.

To add to the store’s aesthetic pleasure, Sephora’s website is one of my favorite to shop on. It’s user friendly, great for finding specific products and the “Friends and Family” annual sale is great for shoppers looking to stock up.

One thing that sets Sephora apart from most other makeup stores is their great selection of “Sephora Favorites” value sets. Each set includes deluxe-sized samples of the most popular products offered in the store. Each set has a theme, such as a set entirely full of mascaras, or a set for the best summer colors.


Unfortunately, Sephora has its downfalls as well. For one, I can’t regularly afford many of the brands Sephora offers. Most of Sephora’s products, though high in quality, seem absurdly priced for someone who eats Ramen on the reg. To me, customer service is a huge factor in whether I feel like buying products.

More often than not, I find that some of the employees in Sephora are looking for a certain type of customer to assist. This customer looks nothing like the young, natural looking, college-aged student with American Eagle jeans on. On multiple accounts, Sephora workers have ignored me to pursue a wealthier looking woman in her 30s with an MK handbag. I don’t find this sales tactic unattractive (I do agree that it could be a great way to increase profits), however it makes the environment cold, almost like I need to get in and get out as fast as I can.



Ulta is the store my mother raised me on. Every time we needed anything related to beauty, Ulta was the answer. This made my love and knowledge expand, and over the years, I feel as if I know each and every location by heart. The best part of Ulta is its practicality. The store carries high-end selections, drugstore beauty products, hair care, skincare and their own salon. I feel like Ulta is one of those stores (like my fave place ever, PierOne) where I can walk around for hours and find the store’s best hidden treasures.

Even more, Ulta has the most amazing weekly sales. Ulta provides a great weekly flyer with sales on high-end and drugstore products like “buy two get one” and discounts on professional power hair tools. With these sales, unlike Sephora, prices don’t add up too fast and end up being a fiscally irresponsible shopping trip. Ulta’s Black Friday sale is always one of my first stops of the morning, offering great stocking-stuffers and cheap high-end samplers.

Sometimes the most enjoyable part of my trip at Ulta is the checkout line. As opposed to the off-putting and often cheaply made products that commonly appear in store check-out lines, Ulta carries great deluxe samples for all kinds of products. I absolutely love samples because they allow me to try out beauty items before committing all my money into them. This is how I found my favorite hair serum and eye shadow primer (both high-end products that ended up being great investments).


Sadly though, Ulta doesn’t offer the amount of high-end brands I wish it could. When it comes to some items, like eyeliner and foundation, quality reigns most important. The limited selection of high-end products makes it difficult to find a good variety to choose from and sometimes, the BB creams I like aren’t the ones offered in the store.

As well, Ulta is not always the best in beauty expertise. Unlike Sephora, I feel as if I sometimes know more than the sales clerks. On several accounts, I was the one telling the store clerks about new products on my wishlist or taking uneducated advice from the sales clerk. This doesn’t help when I need to find the best product suited for my skin type or hair color and the store isn’t rightly informed on the items they carry.

The Winner: ULTA

I firmly believe the winner of this debacle is decided upon personal preference. The winner in my eyes is and always will be Ulta. For a girl like me, who uses both high-end and drugstore products, Ulta is the best one-stop shop. Personally, the store carries more of the brands I use (since I am cruelty-free). I think that Ulta has the best room for expansion. Where as Sephora might be forever stuck in the world of expensive beauty products, Ulta can always add on more to their high-end section and improve their requirements for employment.

What is YOUR preference over these two beauty stores? Let me know in the comments below!


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