If you see nothing wrong with eating ramen for weeks so long as you can get the newest foundation on the market, you might be a Sephora addict. As often as you’re in there, however, there might be a lot about the store that you don’t know.
If you consider yourself addicted to all things makeup, there’s a good chance you find yourself in Sephora pretty frequently. You might end up dropping a pretty penny on the products you’ve been lusting after, but there are plenty of tips and tricks to help make your experience better no matter how much you spend. Before you drop your next paycheck on makeup, check out these secrets that any Sephora addict should know.
There are samples galore.
You may walk in Sephora looking for a specific item without even thinking of seeing what else they might have around the store. But Sephora employees have said that one of their goals is to get customers to leave with “something new, something they haven’t used before and want to try.”
If you’ve had a certain product in mind for a while but don’t know enough about it to actually make a purchase, mention that to the employee helping you in store and a sample of it may come shortly after.
Speaking of samples…
You can get a sample of pretty much anything in a Sephora store other than mascara and eyeliner, but you should be cautious with using anything someone else may have touched. We’d all like to think that other shoppers would use the disposable applicators when it comes to sampling products, but many don’t, and the consequences of this are pretty disturbing.
When swabs dipped in sample makeup were tested, 20 percent of all of the swabs were found to contain bacteria, yeast, mold, and even fecal matter.
Foundations are said to be among the worst, probably because customers often put the opening of the pump directly on their finger or hand for testing. Imagine if someone decided to test out some makeup with an open cut on their finger—yikes.
Armed with this knowledge, only take samples of things that have been or can be sanitized, and ask an employee to help you get one so you don’t add your own bacteria to the mix for other shoppers.
It’s a place for teaching.
You can definitely walk into any Sephora and have an employee put together a makeup look for you, but their ultimate goal is to help you with your own technique.
The next time you’re in, ask them to do a “half face” for you—this means that they’ll show you how to do a look, but they’ll only do it on half of your face. When they’re done, it’s then your job to recreate the look on the half of your face that they didn’t touch.
Certain things are complimentary.
Getting someone to do a full-face of makeup on you won’t be free, but there are smaller makeup services that will be done free of charge at all Sephora locations. They include lipstick application, putting on false lashes, acne treatment and concealing, and putting on the perfect smokey eye.
Of course, they’re only free when you’re just getting one of these done—don’t think you can trick them into doing service after service until you’ve got a full face of makeup.
Brands sold there have to keep creating.
Those who shop at Sephora often think of it as the place that they can go to get anything trending in the makeup world, and there’s a reason for that. Yes, companies already try to not only keep up with trends but to start them, but Sephora actually requires them to do this.
The stores expect any brand that they sell to give them something new every three months to keep things fresh and the demand for these products high. “We always think something can be better—that the most amazing mascara can get even more amazing, or the lipstick can be even more hydrating,” says Ben Bennett, founder of Hatch Beauty in Los Angeles.
Sephora has its own worlds.
This sounds a little dramatic, but what it means is that every Sephora store is divided in three distinct “worlds”—skincare, fragrance, and color.
Each employee tends to have an expertise in just one of them, so don’t be surprised if you catch someone who doesn’t know a ton about makeup (although they’ll definitely try to help you out no matter what).
“New!” doesn’t always mean much.
Although Sephora may always have each big brand’s newest products in stock, they’re not always truly something people have never seen before. Products are often touted as being new even when they’re existing products that have just had a slight tweak to their formula. It’s the company’s way of making you interested in something, even when you’ve seen it before.
“Many women may want to try something that others haven’t tried yet so they can have an edge,” says Lars Perner, PhD, a University of Southern California assistant professor of clinical marketing. “There’s also a certain amount of time and maybe even discomfort that comes along with some products, so the promise of a newer version working more quickly, less painfully, and with better results is appealing.”
Companies also use this trick when there’s a new ingredient on the market that’s super popular, just so customers are aware it’s in their product.
The work day is a production.
Sephora is just a store to all of us, but for the employees, going through the day is like putting on a production. They actually refer to the sales floor as their “stage,” and everything in back is the “backstage.”
The employees refer to themselves as “cast members” and their managers are the “directors” of their makeup-themed show. Although the employees don’t have a specific uniform, they refer to their outfits as their “costumes.”
Employees can’t recommend one brand.
Let’s say you go in a Sephora store looking for a new foundation, but you’re not quite sure what you want. You can describe your needs to an employee and they can give you recommendations, but they’re actually not allowed to sell you on one brand only.
This is likely to ensure that they’re not affecting sales with their personal bias in favor of one specific brand, but it’s also what’ll get you to try the most stuff and find what works best for you.
New products are up top.
Any new products (which also means they’re more likely to be the most expensive offerings) will be placed toward the top of a shelf. This is because it puts them at eye level, and you’ll be more likely to see them and want to check them out.
Although Sephora doesn’t always have sales, look toward the bottom of the store shelves to find things that might be cheaper.
Packaging is everything.
You might think brands pick their packaging just for a specific look, but it’s also meant to convey a certain message to customers.
Black packaging is intended to give off a strong, sleek, sexy vibe, whereas gold packaging is meant to look more classic and appeal to older customers. Blue radiates a sense of calm and cleanliness, and silver gives off a more modern, updated feel. Purples and pinks are both meant to seem a little more feminine and youthful.
Need an exact shade match?
If you’re having trouble finding the perfect foundation for your skin tone, don’t hesitate to ask a Sephora employee. They have a device called the Color IQ at their disposal, and it can essentially take a photo of your skin and match it to anything in their inventory.
Every foundation the company sells corresponds to a certain Pantone number, and the machine can easily help you find yours.
Anything can be returned.
You might think that all hope is lost if you need to make a return and don’t have a receipt, but that’s actually not the case. As long as you have a valid ID, anything you buy in a Sephora store can be returned without a receipt, although you’ll only be able to get store credit for it.
With a receipt, though, you can return pretty much anything, even if it’s used. You might get a few eye rolls from employees if the product is half empty when you give it back, but they should still take it.