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.


2 thoughts on “Ulta V. Sephora: Pros and Cons

  1. As someone whose disabled and can’t go out to the actual brick and mortar stores as often, (I have either my caretaker pick up what I need or order online) not being able to get samples is ridiculously high on my cons list. I live 10mins away, yet because I can’t physically get to the store myself 90% of the time due to my health problems, I’d love to be able to try some foundation colors that are similar to get a correct match, or try even just maybe 3 days worth of a primer, or even less, maybe as small as enough to just get the feel of it and see if it blurs, fills pores, illuminates, hydrates, mattes, etc.. all of which is something that 1 could do IN store sampling on hand. Or seeing other cream and liquids or powders and if they have the right pigment, texture, opaqueness, etc..
    INSTEAD, I’m forced to ask my legal caregiver to drive to Ulta, buy each product in the shades I think match, and if they don’t, send her back to return it and choose another shade or whatever product I think I’d be happier with.. this might take 3-4 tries if I’m trying to get a concealer, foundation, and concealer or foundation to assist in beginning stages of contour.
    Customer Service? There’s about 5 Sephora’s in a 15-20min radius of me, and ALL of them but 1 has a majority of girls and guys employeed (though I find most of the estheticians nice) who are busy gossiping on the floor when customers are needing assistance, they’re not knowledgeable about their products, they can be rude, they have attitude (my mom asked a male associate if that Ulta sold Lorac (pronounced it Lorack), he laughed at her and said “it’s LAHROCK”.. we aren’t easily offended or find things big deals, this wasn’t a big deal, but you’re going to laugh at a 67yr old woman for mispronouncing a company, then expect her to want to continue shopping in a store where she was mocked? She does cuz she feels bad for rude people, but alot wouldn’t.
    Online shopping- Sephora offers 1yr shipping for like 10.00
    Samples- Sephora offers them
    Ulta MasterCard- huge interest for almost no perk. Your points don’t go up substantially, you don’t even go up a rank for subscribing.
    I do like that Ulta has good BOGOs and sells drugstore brands


    1. I greatly appreciate your feedback, it’s good to hear the opinions from shoppers outside of my inner circle. I agree with you Ulta should provide samples in store and I feel with just enough feedback, the company should consider to start at least within the prestige brands.
      In regards to customer service, it’s really up to the person to build their customer service skills and provide excellent service within the field, and I feel like I do when I’m working with so many different types of people. I recommend you file a complaint so that the district could help better that, and if not find people who want to pursue their career in beauty while also helping guests.
      Online shopping, well I don’t do much of it, but I haven’t had much issues with ordering online but I also don’t order from Sephora often.
      And as for the Ulta MasterCard, it’s definitely a commitment, but the perks are that you get 20% off your first purchase with the card (so if you’re making a huge purchase that’s 100, you’ll be paying 80, and you can combine one coupon and your points with the card usage), your points are doubled for every time you use the card so you get to redeem faster, which works out because if you spend more, you can go up a rank faster. But once again I see a lot of people decline the card mainly because of the fear of ruining credit.
      Once again, thank you for this feedback, I appreciate it!


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