Sephora really does have it all: a massive inventory of beauty products, knowledgeable sales associates, and fantastic customer service. True, the prices aren't always budget-friendly, but one of Sephora's best features is the store's generous policy when it comes to product samples.

All Sephora online purchases come with the choice of three free samples (they rotate regularly), but in addition to the free samples offered with online purchases, shoppers can get samples of nearly every product sold at the store.

Sephora sales associates, called "Cast Members," are trained to be experts on the products they sell. This includes offering generous samples of most products to help customers decide whether they like something enough to purchase it. While it can seem like a splurge to shop at Sephora, a $15 investment can yield samples of high-end products that would normally be out of the question. Ever wonder how Dior BB Creme would feel on your face? At $44 for an ounce, it's not likely to become part of my regular routine, but I can sample it for a few days by deploying some smart strategies. Here are some guidelines to getting high-end Sephora samples:

Sample strategy

Keep in mind, many products are already available to sample in-store. Don't request a sample for an eye shadow that is readily available to test out in front of a mirror. The purpose behind asking for a product sample to take home is to see how it works for a more extended amount of time (think foundation rather than lip gloss, for example). Any product in liquid form can be made into a sample to take home. This includes:

  • Cleansers and scrubs
  • Night and day cremes
  • Eye creme
  • BB creme
  • Foundation primer
  • Eyelid primer
  • Liquid foundation
  • Fragrance
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Conditioning treatments
  • Styling products

Go in with a clear focus

It’s a good idea to choose one area to focus on at each visit (skin care, makeup, or hair care). For example, plan to purchase a tube of mascara (the Sephora Collection Outrageous Volume Mascara is $15). After placing the mascara in one of Sephora's shopping baskets, tell an associate you are interested in trying some new cosmetics, but you'd like to see how they react with your skin before purchasing them. BB creme and primer require only a dab to use effectively, so a sample will last for a few applications.

Ask questions

Cast members are trained to educate customers about the products Sephora sells, and part of this includes offering samples. But don't act as if your only mission is to get a bunch of free stuff. Express an interest in the product and ask about the following:

  • How does the product interact with different skin types (or hair types if it is a hair product)?
  • Will it last all day? Explain that by taking home a sample you can see how it looks or feels at the end of a day.
  • How does this product work on people with sensitive skin or allergies? Tell the cast member you like to try products before purchasing to ensure there won't be a negative reaction.

In addition to asking about the product, show you are a responsible consumer. Tell the cast member you like to try products before buying in order to avoid returning something later (this shows them you have their best interests in mind).

Don't be shy

Sephora has a strong emphasis on customer service, and it's likely a cast member will approach you to offer help without any prompting on your end. But if no one offers assistance, go ask an associate to help you with a specific product.

This winter I went to Sephora to spend a gift certificate on a day when a representative from Phyto happened to be there. I had never tried Phyto products, so I asked her a few questions and then decided to purchase an anti-frizz serum. To help me learn more about the Phyto line, she gave me two samples of Phytopolleine Scalp Treatment (normally $38 for one ounce). The samples came in two .13 ounce glass bottles, and since it only takes a couple drops for each treatment, I still have one full bottle three months later.

What to get

Here are some of the best products to sample at Sephora:

  • Yves Saint Laurent Le Teint Touche Eclat Illuminating Foundation SPF 19: $55 for 1 ounce
  • Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35: $39 for 1 ounce
  • Korres Pomegranate Mattifying Primer: $33 for 1 ounce
  • Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser: $33 for 16 ounces
  • Philosophy Hope in a Jar Moisturizer: $40 for 2 ounces
  • Coach Love Perfume by Coach: $92 for 3.4 ounces
  • Bumble and Bumble Thickening Shampoo and Conditioner: $57 for 33.8 ounces (shampoo) and $25 for 8 ounces (conditioner)

Get even more samples

Sephora shoppers can get samples with in-store purchases by joining the Beauty Insider program. It's free and comes with a bunch of perks (a birthday gift and rewards points, for example). Beauty Insiders earn one Beauty Bank Point for each dollar spent. Every 100 Beauty Bank Points earned nets a sample with purchase at a Sephora store, and the samples are typically larger than the online samples (think travel-sized and enough product for multiple applications/uses).

How to Get the Best Free Samples at Sephora