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Sephora vs. Ulta: When I Shop One Over the Other and Why

Sephora and Ulta, in my opinion, are two of the most recognized beauty stores (in the world? country?) and although they sell similar products they are (again, in my opinion) very different.

Rewards Programs

Sephora: Beauty Insider, VIB, Rouge

Ulta: Member, Platinum, and Diamond

Both Sephora and Ulta offer rewards programs with 3-tiers of status. They are both similar in that the higher you are in status, the more money you’ve spent, the more perks associated with your membership. Right now, I am Rouge status at Sephora and on the verge of losing my platinum status at Ulta (simply because I haven’t been shopping there as much as I used to).

I LOVE being a rouge member. I can get my make-up done for free for a whole year. Every Tuesday and Thursday I have access to the Rewards Bazaar which just means they release the new rewards for that week. And my absolute FAVORITE part about being rouge is that once I accumulate 2500 points, I have the chance to snag a $100 rewards certificate to use on ANYTHING I want.  Sephora also releases a coupon (I believe twice a year) to all of it’s members, but the difference is that Rouge members get 20% off instead of the standard 15% (this really makes a big difference when you’re buying pricier products).

When I lived in NJ, there was an Ulta about 7 minutes from my apartment. I was always there. I got my hair cut there, my keratin done, I purchased all of my hair products there (still do), and it’s where I purchased (still purchase) most of my make-up.  I share all that to explain why I reached platinum status.  To reach platinum at Ulta, you have to spend $450 in a calendar year, to reach Diamond status you’d have to spend $1200 in a calendar year. Platinum members receive 1.25 points per dollar and diamond members receive 1.5 points per dollar spent. Each tier receives a $10 birthday coupon, a free birthday gift, and 2x the points during your birth month (not too shabby, right?). Diamond members get a $25 certificate to spend towards a beauty service.

Salon Services

As I said, one of the things I love MOST about being Rouge at Sephora is getting my make-up done for free. I have never left Sephora unhappy after having my make-up done. It always turns out exactly how I imagined or better.  I trust any of their artists to do my make-up because, as far as I know, Sephora doesn’t just hire anyone to do make-up and so I go in confident that whoever completes my service really knows what they’re doing.

Ulta also offers make-up services in their salons. Now, I’ve only ever had my make-up done at Ulta once and unfortunately it did not turn out well at all. Nothing against the person who performed the service, but I don’t think they had much experience with make-up. The service was very rushed and I left having spent $50 on something I was really unhappy with. That experience left me feeling like they will hire anyone as long as they have a cosmetology license, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a seasoned make-up artist. Even I learned how to apply make-up when I went to school for esthetics, but trust me, you don’t want me doing your make-up for a big event or at all actually (LOL – I’m not great at it). The point is that when I go to a salon and I’m paying for a service, I expect it to be done well.

However, unlike Sephora, Ulta offers other services. I’ve had a pleasant experience with a few of their hair stylists (shout out to Joey who used to work at the Clifton location, he’s amazing!). I’m very picky when it comes to my hair and I don’t trust just anyone to cut it or even blow it out. My hair is naturally very curly and I get it treated with Keratin so unless my keratin treatment is fresh and my hair is easy to straighten/blow out, I won’t let anyone come within 10 feet of it with a blow dryer (lol). Anyway, Ulta offering services really sets it apart from Sephora. It’s a full service beauty stop. You can buy your products and get your hair done all in one place and earn points for it!

Products

The Essence ($95)

Now for the good stuff: Whenever I get a coupon from Sephora I go HARD. I pick up my facial cleanser (The Deep Cleanse by Tatcha), The Essence by Tatcha, Exfoliating Pads (Dr. Gross Alpha-Beta Extra Strength Peel), and a couple of face masks (TLC Sukari Babyfacial Mask by Drunk Elephant and Rose Face Mask by Fresh).  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE all of these products, but the price tags are kind of on the pricier side so I’m all about getting 20% off.  I should also add that none of these products are available at Ulta. I could buy them online at other stores or on the individual brands websites, BUT I wouldn’t accumulate any points to use toward rewards!

Rose Face Mask (3.3 oz $62 at Sephora)
Dr. Dennis Gross Peel Pads ($88 at Sephora- if you buy the 30 pack, you get 5 bonus treatments)

You may be wondering why I don’t buy my make-up at Sephora. Why don’t I use my coupons towards that!? Well, Ulta also releases a few great coupons a couple of times per year and I can also snag a few great products during their 21 days of beauty (their usually 50% off!). Whenever Ulta includes the Prestige Brands in the coupons I make sure to pick up some foundation, concealer and of course, hair products. I buy ALL of my hair products at Ulta. As I said earlier, my hair is keratin treated (Brazilian Blowout) so I’m very particular about what products I use (sulfate and paraben free all the way). My absolute favorite shampoo and conditioner duo is by AG hair (Keratin Repair Refuel) it smells absolutely amazing and it leaves my hair feeling like silk. Ulta also has a sale (I think twice a year) on a few of the jumbo size bottles of shampoo and conditioner. I usually wait for that sale to buy shampoo and conditioner. The products lasts me 6-8 months because the bottles are so big! And who doesn’t love paying nearly half the price for a product they love?!

Image result for ag hair refuel shampoo
AG Hair Keratin Repair Shampoo ($24 – $58 at Ulta)

Needless to say, I love both of these stores for different reasons. As it turns out, many other people feel the same way. They buy certain things at Sephora and certain things at Ulta. It all depends on what they’re buying!

Let me know which store you prefer and why or if you love both and what your reasons are!

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