Beauty · Blog

Ulta V. Sephora: Pros and Cons

As an Ulta Beauty employee, I started to notice how often a customer asks for a product. Our store, indeed, carries both drugstore and prestige products. One thing I also noticed was that people sometimes mistaken Ulta for Sephora.

I will admit, there are occasions where I have been asked “alright so where’s Fenty?” or “do you sell Kat Von D here?”. I have also been treated rudely after I apologized to this woman because Ulta does not give out samples, but I’m not here to complain about a difficult five minutes working, I am here to talk about both Ulta and Sephora. Everything I have been asked above were products and things that Sephora does and Ulta doesn’t, HOWEVER, there are other things that Ulta has and does that Sephora doesn’t. I’m here to tell you all the differences, and not just the differences; I am also going to tell you the pros and the cons of each store.*

*Before I get started, every con will not be to lash at the store, because I love them both in different ways, but they will be something that is either fact or something that they can work on improving. Constructive criticism is what helps the world improve!

Pros of Ulta Beauty:

  • They are literally “all things beauty, all in one place”. Ulta is known for carrying prestige products such as Urban Decay and Too Faced, but they aren’t just prestige. Ulta carries drugstore brands that you find at your local Walgreens such as Maybelline and NYX Cosmetics. They also have electronic hair products (blow dryers, flat irons and curling wands), bath products, fragrance, both drugstore AND salon haircare, drugstore AND prestige skincare, and even a section for men’s hair and skincare. I know it sounds like there’s a lot going on there, but trust me when I say Ulta has it covered.
  • They do carry Ulta exclusive products. If you see the word exclusive anywhere on a post, it means that that specific store will carry the product. Ulta carries pretty much all of Tarte’s Double Duty Beauty collection which consists of their Shape Tape concealer and foundation. They also carry the Peanut Butter and Honey palette from Too Faced, Ulta carries MAC (if you’re in Chicago, please go visit the Michigan Ave location because their MAC section is breathtaking), and Ulta has brands that make products specifically for the store like IT Cosmetics Brushes and CHI.
  • Ulta has their own makeup/skincare/brushes/bath/nail collection. It comes at a reasonable price and I must say, I was shocked by how much products they carry made specifically by them. So. Much. Product. The products aren’t even bad! I actually love the formula from their new foundation sticks and their bath products are my ride or dies.
  • Loyalty. Loyalty. Loyalty. Ulta probably (who am I kidding, they do) has one of the best loyalty systems, and this was something I knew before I worked there. There are three levels of loyalty, which are Member, Platinum, and Diamond. Within each level, there are increases in perks, like birthday gifts and you do get your points faster once you upgrade levels. Plus the more points you rack up, you can use them when purchasing something.
  • Ulta is all about making sure the customer leaves/gets their package with satisfaction. Customer service is very reliable in case a receipt is missing or you didn’t get double the points on your birthday month. They usually send the missing receipt within five minutes.
  • You always get notified of sales and discounts immediately. Sales signs are always put up in store and if you have a loyalty, you get a catalog and emails on what’s going on online and in store.

Pros of Sephora:

  • Sephora focuses on prestige products and have a slightly wider range of those products than Ulta does. Sephora does indeed carry brands like Fenty, Kat Von D, Huda Beauty, Marc Jacobs Beauty, etc. They also include some salon brands like the Drybar, fragrance and a lot more prestige skincare. I recalled most stores in Chicago carry all of Clinique skincare AND makeup, the Fresh brand, and all of the Glamglow brand.
  • Their Rouge level in loyalty has a LOT of perks revolving around Sephora. They include free makeovers whenever you please, which is something Ulta does not have since they have a salon (however once you hit Diamond, you get a gift card annually, and 15% off your first service). Rouge level also gives you access to a private hotline and invitations to events exclusive to only Sephora. That level, to me is something I would want to achieve, specifically for the events and free makeovers.
  • Sephora has an incredibly modern and sharp aesthetic. Everything about their store is black and white, bright lights and modern day pop music. All beauty advisors wear either black or black and red which is very unique in what makes them Sephora.
  • Sephora carries a Beauty Bazaar, which gives you a look at which free gifts you qualify for. In stores, you are offered the free gifts at checkout and online, you can go through the Bazaar and add the gift to your basket.
  • Sephora gives out free samples when you’re skeptical of a product and are unsure on whether to buy it or not.

Cons of Ulta Beauty:

  • One thing for sure that Ulta does not do is give out samples. I am not sure what’s the case behind that but I can kind of understand since the store has so much range of products that it seems like handing out testers would be a scary move. Ulta, does however, have testers, and give out color matches and let you try out the product in store.
  • A lot of customers that ask for these products always ask why we don’t carry them. To the people who wonder why Ulta Beauty does not carry Fenty or Huda Beauty, I do not know the answer to that. Would that be cool and would that make Ulta the greatest store ever? Probably. Do I personally wish they carried it? Yes but I wouldn’t demand it. I feel like Ulta is perfect the way it is since it carries drugstore and prestige all in one.
  • The customer service can get a little backed up at times. I’ve had instances where people have waited more than fifteen minutes to get off of hold and speak to an actual person and not a machine.

Cons of Sephora:

  • When you download the Sephora app or opt in for emails, they don’t really send you a lot on their services unless it’s for a new product. Aside from that, I don’t get much notifications. I’m not sure if that’s something going on from my end, but if it’s not, then I would like to hear more about Sephora and other things they got going on.
  • Their point system tends to confuse me but I only say that because I’ve been shopping at Ulta more than Sephora. I would assume if I shopped there more, I would have a better understanding.
  • Sometimes I go to their store, they don’t have much of their products in stock. For example, when I go to look for a Huda Beauty product, I can’t find my shade, because it’s not available. I don’t know how often they sell their products but this has happened literally every time I go to Sephora.


Okay, so now everyone knows I personally prefer Ulta Beauty, but I don’t have any hate towards Sephora! Ulta and Sephora have cons I wish they could improve, but their pros weigh the cons down for sure.


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