February 7, 2017

Sephora Reviews: Makeup Worth the Money?

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Sephora carries beauty care products, including makeup and skincare from more than 200 brands. Is it worth it? We reveal the good and the bad to help you decide if Sephora is right for you.

Shopping for Beauty Products

© Bruno Cordioli (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Shopping for beauty products can be exciting and overwhelming at the same time. First, you must decide where to shop. Drug stores, department stores, and specialty stores all sell makeup and beauty care products online. The prices can vary from store to store. Sometimes, price is not the only important factor, though. Many shoppers also want:

  • Selection
  • Quality
  • Customer Service

Sure, you could hop online at almost any big box store and purchase makeup, but what if you want more? Advice, more options, and free samples may rank among the things you look for when shopping for makeup and beauty products.

What Sephora Offers

Looking at the different brands at Sephora, they have varying prices that range from inexpensive to quite a splurge. Their brands span the spectrum of designer, indie breakthroughs, and their own Sephora brand. If you use more than one brand of cosmetics, Sephora offers this on a grand scale. This means you have many options.

Sephora is wildly popular for many products. Here are a few favorites:

  • Beauty Blender: It's possible to have flawless application of foundation, concealer, or cream blush? Yes, please.
  • Anything Marc Jacobs: The ratings say it all. Not one Marc Jacobs' product has less than 4 stars.
  • Palettes: You get multiple products in one palette for a fraction of the price of one full-size product. Why not try something new?
  • Beauty Tools: You won't believe your eyes when you try some of Sephora's unique beauty tools. Take your makeup application to a completely new level.
  • GLAMGLOW: This skincare line promises to make your skin feel brand new. You need a good framework to apply your designer makeup onto, right?

Keep in mind, Sephora also offers their own brand. This "knockoff" brand may be what you consider generic. However, the Sephora Collection delivers quality at a fraction of the price of its competition. Need more reassurance that the "knockoff" brand is worth it? If one of Sephora's products does not receive at least a four-star rating from the market, they remove it. They either stop selling it or re-formulate it and try again.

Knowing what Sephora offers, is it the best place to shop for your makeup and skincare needs? CreditDonkey put them to the test, and here is our review.

What You Need to Know

At first glance, Sephora can seem overwhelming. On their homepage, you find Editors Picks, Just Arrived, and Value Sets, just to name a few. Before you get overwhelmed, you can navigate directly to your product's category. The site is easily mapped out between their various "homes":

  • Makeup
  • Skin Care
  • Fragrance
  • Bath & Body
  • Nails
  • Hair
  • Tools
  • Men's

Choose a section and either browse or go directly to the brand you need. If you don't have a specific brand in mind, be prepared to scroll. For example, they carry 176 different mascara products alone. If you want to narrow down your options, refine your search. You can search by benefit and/or specific ingredients, such as paraben-free or fragrance-free.

If you want to do more than shop at Sephora, there is plenty of help. Do you want to learn how to create a specific look? You can do this at home in your pajamas. Sephora's Virtual Artist tool allows you to upload a picture of yourself. This gives you the chance to "try on" different products.

Don't want to upload your picture? There are various tutorials allowing you to watch how to create a specific look on a preloaded model. The tutorials help you create looks like the "nighttime smoky eye" as well as other looks.

Sales Are Exclusive

Sales at Sephora are top secret. Unless you are a Beauty Insider, you won't have access to them. Actually, unless you are a VIB Level Member, meaning you spend at least $350 a year, you won't save as much. The exclusive VIB Sale occurs twice a year, in April and November. During the April sale, Insiders save 15% on anything in store or online. In November, Insiders save 20% on anything in store or online. Each sale usually lasts 3 days.

Why We Like It

  • Free Samples: Need I say more? Everyone can receive 3 free samples with every purchase. There is no minimum purchase required. Even before you place your order, you can peruse the free sample options. They generally offer around 12 choices. You may find samples of makeup, skincare, and fragrance on any given day.

  • A Fourth Free Sample: Many people don't realize you can score a fourth free sample when you shop online at Sephora. Check back weekly on their Weekly Specials page to see what offers are available. Most samples are free with a $25 purchase, but make sure to read the fine print to see how to qualify for this extra freebie. Just enter the code provided on this page and you have a fourth sample.

  • Return Policy: At first glance, the prices at Sephora might seem steep. However, their forgiving return policy may make up for it. Sephora's general policy is if you really don't like a product, you can return it. This means used products too. They even make the return process easy. You have the option to return the product directly to the store if you have one near you. If you don't, you can send it back using the prepaid shipping label they provide. However, you will not receive a refund on the shipping charges you paid when you purchased the product.

  • Savings Card: It pays to be a Beauty Insider with Sephora. First, it's free and you get so many benefits with it. A few of the freebies include a birthday gift and beauty classes at the lowest level. If you are a big spender at Sephora, you get even more freebies. They may include additional savings opportunities and handpicked gifts. No matter the "level" Insider you are, you can "purchase" samples with your points. Every dollar you spend equals 1 point. The reward categories are 100 points, 250 points, and 500 points.

  • Price Guarantee: There is nothing more frustrating than seeing an item you just purchased go on sale. If this happens at Sephora and it is within 2 weeks, the difference is refunded to you. All you have to do is call the customer service number and tell them the product you purchased. They will take care of the rest.

  • Indie Brands: If you do not care for the big box brands, you might feel forced to shop little known websites. This seems to be the only way to find fabulous indie brands. Sephora often carries these brands, though. If you want to try a lesser known brand, you can purchase the product and see if you like it. If you decide you hate it, you can send it back. Oftentimes, they offer samples of the lesser known brands to get them into the hands of more people too. This gives you an option to try new products for free.

Tip: If you have a local Sephora, you can nab lots of freebies. You are allowed three samples from each "home." This means 3 samples from makeup, 3 from skincare, 3 from nails, and 3 from hair care. You can ask for samples from the most expensive products too. You can even get a free mini makeover. Want a smoky eye look for date night? How about perfect lips for your mom's night out? All you have to do is ask a cast member for your mini makeover. It's free.

Why You May Shop Elsewhere

  • Prices: It's no secret that Sephora's prices are steeper than your typical beauty store. We know you get what you pay for, but sometimes a product you really want might be out of your budget. If you are a Beauty Insider, wait to grab it in November or April, during their semi-annual sale.

  • Online Customer Service: Sephora is known for their incredible customer service in the store. Their employees are "cast members" and the floor is a "stage." The cast members bend over backwards to give you free samples and help you with a makeover. Unfortunately, shopping online does not provide the same experience.

  • Travel Sizes Aren't Worth It: If you are anything like me, you always want to try something new. Many of Sephora's products are available in "mini" size. They call it "On-the-Fly Favorites," marketing the products for travelers who need TSA-approved sizes. Don't fall for it, though - the travel-sized items are always overpriced. It is a much better deal to purchase the full size and return the product if you really don't like it.

  • No Drug Store Brands: If you are loyal to a specific drug store brand, don't expect to find it at Sephora. They stock designer and indie brands, along with their own brand. They don't offer L'OrĂ©al or Revlon. If you want one place to purchase all of your beauty products, Sephora will not be it.

Who It's Best For

So who should shop at Sephora? Hands down, any makeup fanatic would have a field day at this store. If you love options and always like to try new things with your beauty care regimen, then Sephora is a great choice. Someone with a tamer taste for makeup may feel overwhelmed, though.

If you love to research products, you could do well at Sephora. YouTube, beauty blogs, and fashion magazines are a great way to read about new products. Why not use the resources you have available to see what others say about the products? Then you can hop on over to Sephora and try the products yourself.

If you like experimenting with different products, Sephora is a great choice. The ability to return products you don't like is great. The 3 or 4 samples with every purchase also gets new products in your hands.

If you prefer a smaller selection and lower prices, you might be better off at a big box retailer. They offer more predictable products at lower prices.

Tip: Don't have a Sephora close to you? Check your local JCPenney. More than 500 stores have a smaller Sephora located inside. You can still find their signature brands and most popular products. You can even grab a free mini-facial or beauty consult at Sephora's Beauty Studio.

Alternatives

Luckily, Sephora is not the only beauty retail shop available. You don't have to give up and shop at Target or Walgreens (although there is nothing wrong with either of these stores). There are a few alternatives.

  • Ulta: If you love the "superstore" feeling, but don't want such an air of sophistication, try Ulta. They provide a great mix of drugstore brands along with designer brands. They also have a rewards program similar to Sephora. However, they provide cash off your order rather than using your points for free samples.

  • MAC: If you prefer a one-brand type store, then MAC is a great alternative. They seem to offer many more colors and variations than Sephora, but they only carry one brand. Unless you shop in-store, you won't get much in the way of trying on different products. However, MAC lets you return used products that you don't like. They also have a great recycling program. If you bring in six empty MAC containers, you may receive a free product, usually lipstick or eyeshadow.

Tip: Love Sephora? There's an app for that. Download the Sephora to Go app and have everything Sephora offers online at your fingertips. With the app you can:

  • Shop on-the-go
  • Track previous purchases
  • See newly released Beauty Insider Rewards every Tuesday/Thursday
  • Get exclusive mobile offers
  • Use the Virtual Artist
  • Watch makeup tutorials

Do We Recommend Sephora?

If you love makeup and always want to see the latest trends, then Sephora is a great option. You can browse the products, see what you would look like with the Virtual Artist, and get plenty of free samples.

If you are not a "designer gal," Sephora may be a little overwhelming for you. They definitely carry mostly high-end products or the little known products trying to be the next big thing. If you are not experimental, you might prefer department store brands. If you have temperamental skin, you might want to stick with tried and true brands that you know work as well.

We recommend Sephora to anyone who loves to switch things up with their beauty routine. Even if you tend to be more frugal in some areas, splurging on an item or two a few times a year is fun! You can even grab some rewards with their Beauty Insider program. After spending $100 (which is not hard to do), you get a free reward.

We encourage you to try Sephora and see what you think. The worst that can happen is you don't like the product and need to return it. Luckily, Sephora will take it back.

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are those of the author's alone. Please support CreditDonkey on our mission to help you make savvy financial decisions. Our free online service is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content.

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