23 Insider Hacks from a Sephora Employee

1. Buy discounted JCPenney gift cards to save up to 20% at Sephora.

sephora jcpenney gift cardLet me tell you, nobody knows this secret. But it’s the number one way to consistently save at Sephora. Buy discounted gift cards (used gift cards that somebody else is trying to unload) and use them to save on your next purchase. Buying discounted Sephora gift cards is a good idea for savings around 11%. But buying a discounted JCPenney gift card at 20% off is a great idea! At Raise.com (it’s free!) you’ll automatically receive a $5 credit to spend on any gift card of your choice when you sign up through this link. 

The secret?? You can redeem that JCP gift card at any Sephora location inside JCPenney OR (even better in my opinion) at JCPenney.com! Orders over $99 ship free, or you can avoid the charge altogether and ship any order over $25 to your nearest JCP location. A consistent 20% off on Sephora products is unheard of, you guys! JCPenney gift cards cannot be redeemed at regular Sephora locations (hence my recommendation to shop online).


2. Get FOUR free samples with every online order.

sephora free samples

I love shopping at Sephora.com for the free samples! I get three samples with every order with no Sephora coupon code. But the best part (the one that not everybody knows about) is the fourth free sample. There’s always a variety to choose from. Just bookmark this Sephora weekly promotions page to select the freebie and get the coupon code. I chose Free Smashbox Camera Ready Cream mini with $25 purchase.

Limit one Sephora coupon per order.


3. Follow Fan Fridays on Facebook for free stuff.

sephora facebook fan friday

Every company will tell you to follow them on Facebook, but it’s actually a good idea to “like” Sephora because of their Fan Friday freebies, like this Bobbi Brown Face Blender Brush Mini, free with $25 minimum purchase.


4. Get a free take-home sample of nearly any product in the store including foundations, loose powders, lipsticks and perfumes!

sephora sample

As a Sephora associate, I was trained to ask customers if they’d like to take home a sample of any product, so don’t be shy about asking. There is no purchase required. Choose up to three samples per world: color (makeup), skincare and fragrance.


5. Find the best (most expensive) samples to request from Sephora.

sephora best samples

Ever wonder what a free sample could be worth at Sephora? Which products provide the best sampling value? Well, I analyzed the price per ounce of the entire Sephora industry and found the top ten samples. This  Perricone Cold Plasma Eye Cream costs $196/oz and ranks number four on my top ten list.

Check out the full list: Ten Surprising Samples You MUST Request at Sephora.


6. Get paid $5 for uploading a $50 Sephora receipt to Ibotta.

sephora ibotta

Use a coupon code, plus a discounted gift card, and don’t stop there! Get the free Ibotta app and get $5 back on your next $50 purchase. This is a rebate, so it doesn’t conflict with any of the other savings methods!


7. Get two Free NARS lip pencils when you become a Beauty Insider.

sephora free nars

Sephora Beauty Insider is the in-house loyalty program that’s free to join and assigns points to dollars spent in-store and online. Sign up and get two free Nars lip pencils on your birthday!


8. Let your points accumulate—they never expire.

sephora beauty insider

100 points earns your first reward, but before you go and spend it all, keep in mind the 250 and 500 point perks. If you’re a saver-in-your-core girl, stockpile those points and cash them in for a fabulous, hand-curated 500 point reward. See Nars lip pencils birthday gift (tip 7) pictured at right.


9.  Get free gifts without making a purchase

sephora free sample

At Sephora.com you must make a purchase to redeem points, but in stores, no purchase is required. Perks in-store are often different from online. Make sure the perk item is larger than the free sample you could just request. Some say point perks are better online.


10. Spend your Sephora money in January.

sephora vib rouge

Spend $350 in a calendar year and earn VIB (Very Important Beauty-Insider) status. Spend $1000 to earn the uber-exclusive VIB Rouge status. Here’s the thing nobody knows: if you spend $1000 in January, you’ll get VIB Rouge status for the rest of that calendar year, plus the entire next calendar year. That’s 23 months of perks like free shipping on all orders and free unlimited access to the beauty studio (aka free full-face makeup applications to get you through wedding season).

So, while I’m not making a case for paying more than your mortgage payment for cosmetics in one month, I am saying that if you’re gonna do it, early in the year is the best time. Plus, Sephora’s after-holiday sales on holiday gift sets are legit–usually an additional 40% off.

Lastly, don’t go and be a sleezeball after I tell you this, but returns do not disqualify your status. Repeat. Do not be a sleezeball.


11. Get unlimited free 2-day shipping.

sephora delivery

Sign up for Sephora Flash–it’s Sephora’s version of Amazon prime. Free to VIB rouges, $10 for everybody else, 2-day shipping usually costs $10.95 for one order, so this is a great deal! Plus, imagine the possibilities of dividing up items in your order to maximize the number of deluxe freebies (see tip 2) you can get for free. Mmmhello! It’s tempting to place an order every Friday (see tip 3).

Related: 29 Genius (and Accurate!) Kohl’s Shopping Hacks


12. Return ½ used products for store credit with no hassle.

sephora returns

The return policy may just be the number one reason to shop at Sephora. Seriously, it’s amazing. Return any item, any time, for any reason. Even without a receipt, your returns will get you store credit (sometimes quantities may be limited). For exchanges without receipt, bring ID.

And if you don’t want us to talk about you behind your back when you leave, might I suggest you not return products that are more than half used. Come on, ladies. Keep it classy.


13. Stock up at twice annual sales in April & November.

sephora stock up

Every April and November Sephora holds its semi-annual sale for beauty insiders. In mid-April, expect to see 10% off for beauty insiders and 15% off for VIBs. In early-mid November, look for 15-20% off, respectively. The sales last about a week. However, November’s semi-annual sale runs almost right into Black Friday and holiday sales.

Speaking of Black Friday, don’t waste your time at Sephora on that crazy day. Sure, there are lots of gift sets valued at 20-$35 selling for $10, but you can continue to buy them anytime between Black Friday and the holidays.


14. Find hidden sales in stores.

sephora beauty steals Our sale sections here at Sephora are sometimes lackluster, but checking them often can pay off! We change up sale items every week. The Beauty Steals are usually located at the end of a row, and there are often at least two designated endcaps in each store, so go hunt them down.

And, if you’ve got a Sephora inside your local JCPenney, it’s definitely worth going to look at the sale items. JCPenney Sephoras tend to mark down their inventory more rapidly.


15. Buy value sets for some of the best deals.

sephora value sets

Search for value sets to get more for your money. Sets usually originate from one brand like Tarte or contain a hand-curated mix of brands under the label Sephora Favorites. The savings is usually advertised on the package and can be up to 70% off. See Tarte After-Hours Statement Essentials (value $137) Only $60.


16.  Makeup Palettes are where it’s at.

sephora nars palette

Makeup palettes offer savings just like value sets. This NARS blush + lip palette is a $103 value and sells for $59. Don’t dismiss that just because you don’t love one color! The palette may make each item look small, but the blushes and lip are nearly the same size as their full-size counterparts.


17. Avoid travel size products, as they’re some of the worst buys in the store…

sephora travel size

Don’t make eye contact with Sephora’s Beauty on the Fly section while standing in line. Danger awaits. Why are you tempted by the small bottle? You want to try something new? You need a small container to take on a plane? Go ask for a free sample of any product in the store and save yourself $15.


18.  …Except for when they’re not.

sephora skincare

There are easily over a hundred travel size items at my Sephora store, and nearly every one is a total rip-off. Take Alterna Bamboo Volume 48-Hour Sustainable Volume Spray: the full size product costs $5.95 per ounce, and the travel size costs $11.76 per ounce. That’s near double the price!

But, there are exceptions. So, to avoid being called out for not being thorough, here are the most notable travel size items that are significantly cheaper per ounce than their full-size counterparts.

Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-Hour Primer
Full Size: $36 for 1 fl oz, $36 per fluid ounce
Travel Size: $14 for 0.5 fl oz, $28 per fluid ounce
Total Savings: 22%

Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer
Full Size: $44 for 1.7 fl oz, $25.88 per fluid ounce
Travel Size: $21 for 1 fl oz, $21 per fluid ounce
Total Savings: 19%

Cover FX Mattifying Primer with Anti-Acne Treatment
Full Size: $38 for 1.0 oz, $38 per ounce
Travel Size: $16 for 0.5 oz, $32 per ounce
Total Savings: 16%

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer
Full Size: $36 for 1 oz, $36 per ounce
Travel Size: $16 for 0.5 oz, $32 per ounce
Total Savings: 11%

Related: 8 Surprising Ways to Use an Old Mascara Wand


19. Just focus on price per ounce.

sephora cost per ounce

It’s not rocket science. But be advised, with the expensive price of the products at Sephora, it’s vital that you take the time to do the math. This is like high-stakes grocery shopping.

Philosophy Purity Made Simple, 8 oz $24 ($3/ounce)

Philosophy Purity Made Simple, 16 oz $36 ($2.25/ounce)

Philosophy Purity Made Simple, 24 oz $44 ($1.83/ounce)


20. Don’t buy fragrance unless it’s from a perfume sampler.

sephora perfum sampler3

When I first saw a perfume sampler, I thought, “Well, there’s a stupid idea.” Why would anyone spend $55 to get a bunch of samples I could make them for free? Then I had a customer come in and redeem a scent certificate from the perfume sampler and I had an ah-ha!

Sure, you get ten or twelve samples, and honestly they’re a little bigger than the ones we fill as samples, but you also get a certificate for a bottle of any of the fragrances in the box. So, I can spend $55 on a perfume sampler and redeem the certificate for a $95 perfume, plus I keep all the other samples. Not bad!

Pay $55 for this Sephora Favorites Perfume Sampler and redeem included certificate for one of the below:

Bulgari Omnia Crystalline spray, 2.2 oz eau de parfum $95.00
CLEAN Skin spray, 2.14 oz eau de parfum $69
Armani Sí spray, 1 oz eau de parfum $75
Gucci Flora By Gucci-Glorious Mandarin spray, 1.6 oz eau de toilette $77
Juicy Couture Juicy Couture spray, 1.0 oz eau de parfum $54
Marc Jacobs Daisy Dream spray, 1.0 oz eau de parfum $52
Narciso Rodriguez Narciso Rodriguez For Her spray, 1.0 oz eau de toilette $55
Prada Candy Florale spray, 1.0 oz eau de toilette $54
Stella Mccartney Stella spray, 1.0 oz eau de parfum $48
Tocca Simone spray, 1.7 oz eau de parfum $68
Tory Burch by Tory Burch, 1.0 oz eau de parfum $65


21. Get free shipping on any Sephora item not stocked at your store.

sephora free shipping

Something you want out of stock or not sold at your store? There’s a silver lining! We’ll ship it to you for free!


22. Fifteen-minute makeup services like contouring or a smoky eye are complimentary.

sephora mini makeover

It always makes my day when a customer asks for a Mini Makeover, so don’t be afraid to ask for one! Step in for a Smoky Eye before a dinner date. Sure, I’ll tell you the products I use, and if I do my job well, you’ll be tempted to buy something. But whether you do or not, the service is totally free.


23. Get a job for 40% off Sephora brands and 20% off everything else!

sephora employee discount

If the obsession is real for you, like it was for me, consider a part-time job with Sephora. Employees save 20% on all brands and 40% on Sephora brand. But don’t try to start up a side business on eBaby. We’ve all got a limit of $500 in purchases each month.

Related: 16 Insider Secrets from a Seasoned Gap Employee