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Sephora vs. Ulta – Who Wins the Makeup Wars?

Eager to test out the latest mascara that is creating a buzz on Instagram or TikTok? Or are you running low on your go-to moisturizer? These are the moments when you find yourself at a crossroads—Sephora or Ulta?

Sephora is sought-after by beauty aficionados and makeup mavens visit because of its emphasis on luxury brands. On the other hand, Ulta Beauty is popular among beauty enthusiasts due to its focus on both drug-store and higher-end brands. 

With both Sephora vs. Ulta being the best in the industry, how do you decide between the two? Scroll down to find the answer! 

Battle of the Makeup Brands: Ulta vs. Sephora

Let’s check out the difference between Sephora and Ulta Beauty. 

1. History 

Ulta Beauty, also known as Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance, Inc., was founded over three decades ago in 1990. Noteworthily, Ulta Beauty has more than 1,300 stores spread across the 50 states in the country since its inception. 

Sephora, on the other hand, launched its first store in 1998 in New York City. The brand currently has more than 500 stores spread across the country.

Oldest Store: Ulta Beauty

2. Number of brands

Which of the two stores offers more in terms of variety and brands?

Obviously, Ulta Beauty because it features a large mixed inventory of high-end brands alongside affordable mass-market products. Beauty enthusiasts and suburban shoppers flock to Ulta Beauty because it is home to thousands of products from more than 600 established and emerging brands. 

A few notable brands you’ll come across at Ulta Beauty are Anastasia Beverly Hills, Burberry, Bobbi Brown, Coach, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Dyson, Dior, Foreo, Fenty Beauty, Givenchy, Hourglass, Olaplex, Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo, and Yves Saint Laurent. 

Among the prestigious brands exclusively available at Ulta Beauty are UOMA Beauty, Moschino, Michael Kors, Kylie Cosmetics, Kate Spade, and Elemis. 

Sephora, like Ulta Beauty, offers over 25,000 products but from only 340 brands. Instead of drug-store products, Sephora concentrates on luxe lines, including exclusive-to-the-store brands like GXVE BY Gwen Stefani and Dr. Jart+. 

Besides their in-house products, you’ll find offerings from beauty names like Anastasia Beverly Hills, Boy Smells, bareMinerals, Bumble and Bumble, Charlotte Tilbury, Dolce & Gabbana, JLo Beauty, Ole Henriksen, Simihaze Beauty, Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez, Urban Decay, Versace and many more. 

Store with maximum brands: Ulta Beauty

Also Read: 10 Affordable Online Stores Like Princess Polly in 2023

3. Salon and Makeup Services

Imagine walking into a beauty store where salon services are also available. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But guess what– Ulta Beauty and Sephora offer various services in their stores. 

The Salon at Ulta Beauty offers facials, wax and brow services, lash extensions, texture and conditioning treatments, blowouts, cuts, color services, and makeup lessons and applications. So, you can walk into any of its stores and pamper yourself with one or more of its luxe services. 

Not to forget, Ulta Beauty does offer in-store piercing services, but only at select locations. 

Source: Stephanie Milite’s Beauty Collection on Carrot

While you can test makeup products at Ulta Beauty’s brick-and-mortar stores, trying makeup online has always been an issue. But thankfully, Ulta Beauty’s virtual try-on makeup experience, Glam Hub, takes the guesswork out by allowing you to try new products. Be it lipstick, eyeshadow, or foundation, you can try products on your face before adding them to the cart. 

Even better? Throughout the store, there are QR codes that allow customers to try on more than a thousand products via their phone cameras. You can access this feature via the Ulta Beauty app. 

In regard to salon and makeup services, Sephora is no less than Ulta Beauty, as it offers a variety of services to its customers. However, there’s a catch: the skincare and makeup services aren’t free, so you’ll have to pay to access them. 

Paid makeup and skincare services range from quick-fix facials to touchups and makeovers. These services usually last between 15 and 90 minutes. 

Sephora also offers a hair care finder quiz which you can take online to discover the best solutions for your tresses. In their brick-and-mortar store, you’ll find a Color iQ, an AI matching tool that factors in your undertone to help you find the right makeup shades. 

Best in-store saloon & makeup services: Both

Also Read: The Most Iconic 70s Makeup Looks And Where To Buy Them

4. Store Atmosphere

For beauty junkies, factoring in the atmosphere of beauty stores is crucial. That’s because it contributes to either a pleasant or a bitter experience. In regard to store atmosphere, both Ulta Beauty and Sephora don’t disappoint us. 

Ulta Beauty stores are ultra-approachable and have a laid-back vibe. Perhaps, that’s why it isn’t hard for bargain hunters and beauty mavens to find what they’ve been searching for. And as you enter, you’ll be greeted by a helpful associate, making your experience more pleasant. 

On the other hand, entering Sephora feels like stepping into the vibrant pages of a contemporary beauty magazine. And as you enter, you’re surrounded by enticing displays of all popular names that lure you right in. 

The beauty advisors of Sephora stores are smart and incredibly knowledgeable about offerings, their ingredients, and application tips. So, you can turn to them for suggestions. That’s not all; beauty advisors are available during online shopping, too. 

Best in-store atmosphere: Both

5. Deals, Discounts, and Loyalty Programs 

Scoring a deal on makeup and beauty products at both stores is also not difficult, as both run seasonal sales and Black Friday Sales. 

Ulta Beauty’s Black Friday sales are live from October 27 to November 19. From 50% off on selective products to free gifts and massive discounts on gift sets, you’re in for a treat if you stock up on products in the Black Friday sale. 

Besides, it holds 21 Days of Beauty sale every year on a seasonal basis. Throughout the 21-day period, Ulta offers 50% off on five beauty deals. 

Sephora, too, has plenty of sales spirits up its sleeve. It holds Holiday Savings Event in November, where customers can save up to 20% on their fave makeup products. However, there’s more to Black Friday Sales at Sephora, as you can grab products at half the price throughout the site from November 21 to 28. 

When it comes to Ulta vs. Sephora, both companies reward customers for loyalty.  

Customers earn one point for every $1 spent on products or services at Ulta Beauty, thanks to its Ultimate Rewards loyalty program. Once they reach a certain level, you can redeem the points. 

Sephora’s Insider Program offers three membership tiers, each of which rewards members points they can redeem on products of their choice. 

Best In Deals: Both

Also Read: 7 Pro Tips on Finding The Best Deals Online

Is Sephora Better Than Ulta Beauty? 

So, Sephora vs. Ulta- who wins the makeup war? It’s impossible to decide because both stack up nearly eye-to-eye in key areas, such as deals and discounts, loyalty programs, and product offerings.

Sephora takes the crown if you’re seeking products from prestigious brands and true makeup connoisseurs. However, Ulta Beauty gains the edge if you’re after a one-stop-shop store that offers drug-store brands and salon services. 

Also Read: How Carrot Can Help Influencers Double Their Revenue

The Ultimate Shopping Tool To Help You Save Money

Instead of cutting corners, we’ll get straight to the point– all your Sephora and Ulta Beauty faves are available at Carrot. So, why go through the hassle of shopping for them from different places and losing sight of your carts?

With Carrot, you can save and organize your favorite makeup and skincare products in shoppable collections that you can collaborate and share with your friends easily. And that’s not all! Carrot also notifies you of inventory changes and price drops so you never miss a good deal. All this and more for FREE!

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