Showdown: Sephora vs. Ulta

Which one is better? This seems like the age-old debate not only amongst our fellow makeup artists, but consumers alike. The two most important factors for any shopper looking to determine where to get product from would be savings/deals and product selection. Let’s take an in-depth look at the savings programs both Sephora and Ulta offer.

Sephora offers a Beauty Insider Program (see chart below) which allows you to earn points and rewards based upon the amount of money you spend in their store annually.

Ulta also offers a Ultimate Rewards program (see images below) that allows you to earn points and rewards based upon how much you spend in their stores overall (also they provide an annual option which they refer to as “Platinum” status).

Seems pretty cool, right? Why wouldn’t anyone want to earn points and rewards from spending money? Let’s analyze these charts to see where we are getting the better “deal.” Let’s start with Sephora…


With Sephora’s rewards program, it should be noted that points being earned does NOT equate to money off of your purchase. Rather, they have a small selection of “samples” and “deluxe samples” to choose from monthly using the points you’ve earned. Their lowest point items for rewards are 100 points, meaning in theory, you would need to spend $100 to earn a 100 point sample/deluxe sample item. That being said, Sephora does run promotions where certain product lines will qualify for 2x, 3x, 4x or even 5x the points, so there are “quicker” ways to earn points. However at the end of the day, the points do not equate to money off of your purchase.

There are definitely other perks that stand out with Sephora’s Beauty Insider Program, such as a free birthday gift, cheaper shipping options when ordering online, makeovers, invites to exclusive events, etc. While these extra benefits may excite some, today’s shopper tends to steer more towards the idea of “instant gratification” and may not necessarily want to invest the time, and certainly not the money, to obtain these perks. This is especially true considering a majority of the points are earned once you spend either $350 or $1,000 annually to become VIB or VIB Rouge status.

Lastly, in the “savings” category for Sephora…. coupons (or lack there of). Sephora DOES have coupons, however they are typically only for VIB or VIB Rouge status members and are only offered semi-annually. Again, the NEED to spend more money to even be eligible for receiving a coupon twice a year.

Now that we’ve delved into Sephora’s perks, let’s take a look at Ulta’s!


Ulta also has their version of an “insider” program, which you can see right off the bat allows the points you earn to equate to money off of your purchases! This appears to be a HUGE perk for Ulta and what draws shoppers in. The idea of getting money back for money you spend vs. having to choose from sample-sized products that you may not even want or need holds more value for a shopper.

Ulta’s first money back opportunity is created at 100 points. Which again, would mean you would need to spend $100 to get $3 off of your purchase. Ulta also runs promotions where certain product lines qualify for 2x-5x the points which will allow you to accumulate points faster. With Ulta, you have the opportunity to accumulate enough points to take $125 off of your purchase. So if you’re a point hoarder, like me, you will agree that the idea of one day walking into Ulta and getting $125 worth of stuff for FREE makes you ecstatic! Even though you are spending 20x that to even get to $125 off (assuming you don’t take advantage of the multi-point promotions), $125 in free product is still $125 in free product!

Also something interesting… when you spend $350 annually at Sephora, you only qualify for the 2nd highest tiered status. When you spend $350 annually at Ulta, you qualify for their ONLY high tier status which is “Platinum”.

Ulta’s Platinum status allows you to earn 1.25 points for every dollar you spend, your points won’t ever expire (CON – points DO expire if you are not platinum status), 2x the points on everything during your birthday month, plus a free birthday gift and a $10 off coupon.

Speaking of coupons… Ulta offers a CONSTANT coupon of either $3.50 off of $10, $3.50 off of $15, $5 off of $15, the occasional 20% off of your entire purchase coupon and many more! The only con to some of the coupons is that they cannot all be used on their prestige (higher end) items.


Which leads us into talking about product selection for both companies…

Sephora and Ulta both sell some of the same brands, but each have their own “exclusive” brands that can only be found at either or. The main difference is that Ulta sells drugstore options as well and Sephora does not. Ulta has also been partnering with major beauty brands of late (Mac Cosmetics, Cover FX, NARS, etc) and seems to slowly but surely be on the path to offering almost every brand that Sephora does.

There are definitely pros and cons to both, however when it boils down to which one is giving you ultimately the better ‘BANG for your buck’, Ulta definitely wins!

 What are your thoughts? Which one do you think is better and why? Chime in below for a chance to be featured in a blog post! 

*A special side note for fellow makeup artists – websites like Naimie’s, Frends Beauty and Nigel’s Beauty Emporium DO have consumer brand products that can be found in either Sephora or Ulta as well and you can get your PRO discount on them = even MORE saving!

Until next Monday! 


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