Kelly Bryant | 

Ulta vs. Sephora: Which Is Better?

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Throughout history there have been many great rivalries. The Capulets vs. the Montagues (Romeo & Juliet), Jets vs. Sharks (Westside Story), Coke vs. Pepsi...but nothing gets beauty aficionados quite so riled up as the Ulta vs. Sephora debate.

In Ulta’s favor you can champion those Ulta coupons, the Ulta Beauty Rewards program, and all the ways to hack Ulta sales, like the Semi-Annual Beauty and Gorgeous Hair events. 

But it’s hardly like Sephora is a slacker. The Sephora birthday gifts are a great perk, not to mention the ease of Sephora at Kohl’s, plus the sales when those sly dogs at Sephora match Ulta deals.

Suffice to say, both Ulta and Sephora have their shopping benefits, but we’re going to break down how they stack up against one another in terms of savings. After all, we’ve got our mind on our money and our money on our mind. So let’s get into it. 

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Why do people shop at Ulta vs. Sephora?

The answer to a lot of this is personal preference. But some people prefer Ulta over Sephora because Ulta almost always has a coupon in place, like $3 off a $15+ purchase. They also carry a lot of less expensive brands, like Garnier or Got2b. That's a nice option to have if you’re a high-low shopper (meaning you like a bargain but you also love a prestige product). 

On the other hand, Sephora has perhaps a sleeker in-store aesthetic and tends to get exclusives with prestige brands first. But we’re not here to debate whether the monochrome Sephora experience is better than Ulta’s bright orange color and pink scheme. We’re interested in dollar signs and freebies. 

Ulta vs. Sephora: Sales


Both retailers have their own trademark annual or semi-annual sales offering up to 50% off select items. Sometimes these deals rotate out daily during a sale, sometimes they remain consistent for the entirety. Let's dig into the biggies:

Ulta Sales

The biggest sales include the following:

Love Your Skin Event

  • Takes place in: January

  • Duration: 21 Days

  • Sale includes: 50% off skincare items, like serums, moisturizers, and sunscreen; each deal is one-day only, then replaced by a new deal the next day

Semi-Annual Beauty Event

  • Takes place in: March and August

  • Duration: 21 Days

  • Sale includes: 50% off beauty products across all categories Ulta sells; each deal is one-day only, then replaced by a new deal the next day

Gorgeous Hair Event

  • Takes place in: May and October

  • Duration: 21 days

  • Sale includes: 50% off haircare products, like shampoo, conditioner, stylers, and hot tools; each deal is one-day only, then replaced by a new deal the next day

Sephora Sales

With the exception of the Sephora Savings Event, you'll see a lot of overlap with Ulta here:

Sephora Savings Event

  • Takes place in: April and November

  • Duration: 10 days

  • Sale includes: 30% off Sephora Collection products and, depending on your Beauty Insider tier (that’s their rewards program), you get 20% off, 15% off, or 10% off everything else in the store. 

Oh Snap! Sale

  • Takes place in: March and August

  • Duration: 21 days

  • Sale includes: 50% off beauty products across all categories Sephora sells, each deal is one-day only, then replaced by a new deal the next day

Sephora Oh Hair Yeah! Event

  • Takes place in: May and October

  • Duration: 11 days

  • Sale includes: 30 - 50% off a rotating list of haircare brands, each deal is one-day only, then replaced by a new deal the next day.

The Bottom Line

Both retailers have great sales. Ulta's seem the most generous at first glance, but Sephora is always at the ready to compete by placing the same products at the same discount on the very same day.

Ulta vs. Sephora: Rewards Programs

Both retailers have free rewards programs, each with three tiers. The base level of both is free for everyone, the next two tiers are for members who spend a certain amount in a given year. 

It’s easiest to compare the base (aka free) level of each rewards program with a chart, as you can see below. 

Ulta Beauty Rewards vs. Sephora Beauty Insider

The most significant differences between the Ulta vs. Sephora rewards programs are shipping and redeemable rewards.

Ulta Beauty Rewards

  • $35+ free shipping threshold on orders

  • Redeemable rewards start at 100 pts, but for dollars-off options only

Sephora Beauty Insiders

  • Offers free shipping with no minimum purchase at every level

  • Redeemable rewards start at 100 points, but for sample and travel-size products only

The Bottom Line

Again, the two rewards programs are comparable. That said, Sephora has an edge with that no-minimum free shipping.

Ulta vs. Sephora: Coupons


Listen y'all, Ulta loves a coupon. And, obviously, we love coupons. The Ulta standard is a $3.50 off $15+ purchase promo. It's almost always on their coupon page. And if it isn't, then it's probably replaced with an even better coupon, like $10 off a $50 qualifying order — a 20% off discount.

Sephora, on the other hand, isn't so coupon-friendly. They have more of an "offer" vibe, like 10% off auto-replenish on your first three subscription deliveries of a specific product.

The Bottom Line

Ulta takes the upper-hand when it comes to coupon savings.

Ulta vs. Sephora: Free Samples


Here's what we'll say: Ulta is certainly working on upping their sample game with their sample vending machines. The gist is that each week Ulta Beauty Rewards members can visit one of these machines in-store and choose one of four free samples. You can get one sample per week. Unfortunately these machines only exist in a handful of stores across the country, with plans to add machines to more locations later this year.

Sephora is like a sample shangri-la. You'll be hard-pressed to walk out of a physical location without at least one free sample. And at checkout on they're practically begging you to choose a little something. Personally we collect these for travel toiletry and makeup bags, because they're handy to have around and add up to quite a bit of product, albeit in tiny sizes.

The Bottom Line

Sephora samples are far more plentiful than Ulta. Hands down.

Ulta vs. Sephora: Free Birthday Gifts

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Looking at Ulta vs. Sephora in terms of free birthday gifts is interesting, because Ulta recently revamped their gifting process.

Currently Ulta Beauty Rewards members have six deluxe sample or travel-size product options to choose from for their free birthday gift. They range in estimated value from $7 - $23. Previously Ulta had a designated gift for each month of the year, and there was no choice in what you received.

Sephora birthday gifts have always offered a choice, with a pick your poison kind of sitch. In 2024 they have five options available, but one is only for VIB and Rouge loyalty members. They range in value from $5 - $26.83 (by our calculations).

The Bottom Line

It's a toss-up. It is important to note that you can pick up your Sephora birthday gift at Sephora at Kohl's locations, but you cannot do the same if you visit Ulta Beauty at Target.

Ulta vs. Sephora: House Brand Prices

There's the Ulta Beauty Collection house brand of makeup, skincare, and beauty tools like eyelash curlers and tweezers. And then there's the Sephora Collection house brand of the similar items. As you can see in our chart, prices on some of the basics are typically within $1 of each other. The exception to that is foundation — Sephora's house brand foundation is 30% more expensive than Ulta's, and you get a little less for that price.

Ulta Beauty Collection vs. Sephora Beauty Collection Price Comparison
The Bottom Line

If you're looking for the bigger bargain, Ulta edges out Sephora. Both retailers tend to put their house brands on sale, so you should never pay full price for either. You can always use that $3.50 off $15 Ulta coupon to bring their products down in price. And Sephora runs their Savings Events twice a year during which members of their rewards program can get 30% off Sephora Collection items.

Ulta vs. Sephora: Beauty Services

This isn't the easiest to compare because Ulta operates a full-service salon in their stores, with hair color, cuts, extensions, etc. Sephora, however, does have facials, waxing, and makeup application services.

When it comes to the services both retailers provide, Sephora is actually a touch cheaper than Ulta.

Ulta vs. Sephora Beauty Services Price Comparison
The Bottom Line

As you can see above, a brow wax at Ulta is 18.5% more expensive than it is at Sephora. This high price may be attributed to Ulta's service being provided by the Benefit Brow bar. Still, if you want to pay $5 less for a brow shaping, head to Sephora.

Ulta at Target vs. Sephora at Kohls


Not be overly dramatic, but the difference in experiences visiting Ulta at Target vs. Sephora at Kohl's is almost shocking.

Surveying our KCL staffers, only a couple said their Ulta at Target locations have a dedicated employee to answer questions. And in many Los Angeles locations, the majority of Ulta at Target merchandise is in a locked cabinet, so you need to ring for help in order to add anything to your cart.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, Sephora at Kohl's feels like you have a Baby Sephora store inside a larger retailer. There's an employee specifically dedicated to the space to provide assistance, and a separate register so you can make your Sephora at Kohl's purchases within that department of the store.

In the case of both, you have to link your Ulta Beauty Rewards account to your Target account and link your Sephora account to your Kohl's account in order to receive rewards points for each retailer.

The Bottom Line

While we're trying our best to be Switzerland here and let the facts speak for themselves, Sephora at Kohl's is simply an easier shopping experience. Between the dedicated Sephora at Kohl's sales associate to the separate register to the design of the space, it easily wins this battle.

Note: Both Sephora at Kohl's and Ulta at Target feature the same deals as their standalone counterparts. So you can find the Sephora Savings Event in Kohl's locations, and the 50% off Ulta Semi-Annual Beauty Event deals in Target's that have an Ulta.

Which one is better, Ulta or Sephora?

Both stores offer pretty generous rewards programs, competitively priced house brands, free birthday gifts, and regular sales with up to 50% off top beauty brands. We recommend shopping both to get the best deals on the products you use routinely using our Ulta savings hacks and Sephora tips. Because as long as you're paying well below MSRP, everybody wins.

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