14 Sephora Shopping Secrets Every Makeup & Skincare Addict Should Know

published Mar 15, 2018
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(Image credit: labs Incorporated)

Ah, Sephora. Like the rest of the world, it seems, I’ve recently gotten really into skincare, so there’s no place I’d rather blow my paycheck right now than Sephora. And Sephora will take my entire paycheck, if I’m not careful. Those serums and toners don’t seem to come cheap.

Fortunately/unfortunately, my skin is loving my new regimen. So I’m busy finding ways to get the products I love at as much of a discount as I can. The most unlikely source for smart makeup shopping tips? Reddit. Seriously.

If you get the chance, spend a few hours digging in on the /r/makeupaddiction, /r/skincareaddition and /r/sephora subreddits to glean advice from the pros addicts who really know best. Or keep reading for some of my favorite sephora hacks and facts from across the Reddit universe.

Some things are cheaper in travel size

Generally, buying higher quantities means lower prices, no matter what store you’re in. But certain things at Sephora can be cheaper, by weight, in small travel-size packaging — including Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, Dr Brandt Pores No More primer, and Smashbox Photo Finish primer. One Redditor, probably_apocryphal, on /r/MakeupAddiction put together a massive Google Spreadsheet of travel sizes to buy and avoid.

Always Google before you buy

Even if you’re subscribed to emails and a regular on Sephora.com, you might be missing out on unadvertised deals. RetailMeNot is a personal (and Sephora fan) favorite, but you can find deals and coupons just by searching “sephora coupon code.”

You should try out Sephora collection

Like most store brands, many products are actually top name brands in disguise. Redditor and Sephora Employee kileycleckner confirmed: “Okay, so the low down on sephora brand cosmetics is to mimic the top selling items in the store, but sell them at a lower cost. These cosmetics are made in the same factory as Marc Jacobs, Laura Mercier, Dior, Benefit, and MakeUp Forever. They are in no way lower quality, they just don’t have any crazy branding and don’t go through a 3rd distributor.”

Keep an eye on the gift sets

Sephora Employee kileycleckner also shared shared this clever tip: “Gift sets save you SO much money it is ridiculous. If the item you want to purchase is inside a gift set 9 times out of 10 you should just buy it. Use them as stocking stuffers if you don’t like them!”

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Go crazy with samples

As long as you’re patient and kind, Sephora employees in several threads agreed that you should take home samples to see what you like.

You can expect testers and samples to be sanitary

I mean, we’d hope so, but it’s great to hear a Sephora employee confirm the process…

Hang on to samples, even when they don’t “work” for you

Redditor StuartPurrdoch confessed to being a sample hoarder, but explained that stashing samples — even the “bad” ones — can come in handy. “I’m not a big fan of skin oils,” they explained. “But just recently I found that face oils mix well with foundation and other liquid MU products to thin them out.”

Even foundations that don’t match your skin tone can be useful. “One day you’ll get a sample of foundation where you LOVE the formula, but the shade might be a bit off. That’s when you whip out your trusty samples… find a shade that works to lighten, darken, or color correct your sample. Likewise, if your complexion changes seasonally. Samples can help adjust your daily shades.”

Check out more of StuartPurrdoch’s smart sample tips in this thread.

Anyone can order in-store with free shipping

Redditor and Sephora employee give-em-hell-kid fact-checked a Sephora tips video in this comment and confirmed that any shopper can access free shipping by ordering in-store — helpful when the thing you want isn’t in stock and you need to save a buck.

“The best part is, that this goes for ANYTHING Sephora carries,” they added. “My store is a small location that doesn’t carry every brand so we do a lot of these orders. Even if you aren’t a Rouge/don’t have flash shipping, you can order anything right there in store and not pay shipping. These transactions are debit/credit only FYI.”

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Sephora addict and Discover card holder?

Plenty of makeup addicts rejoiced in this thread about Discover’s cashback deal with Sephora: 5 percent cash back on all purchases, forever. If you already have a Discover card, that’s a major perk — and just might make up for the fact that nobody else takes Discover.

Ebates does cash back, too

Plenty of Sephora addicts on Reddit said they take advantage of Ebates referral service (it’s free for customers — the stores give Ebates a kickback) to earn 4 percent cash back on their Sephora hauls, and even sometimes up to 8 percent cash back on double cash back days.

Sephora has a generous return policy

Reddit is filled with “you won’t believe this” tales of crazy returns. So yeah, if that foundation wasn’t quite the right shade or the primer made you break out, hit the counter for a return. Just don’t abuse the system — plenty of Sephora employees explained their stores keep records to track serial returners.

Here’s what happens to returned products

One Sephora employee answered this question in an AMA:

(Image credit: Becky Starsmore)

But, I mean, there’s always this classic advice

Yes, I recognize the irony of including this tip in a round up of Sephora shopping tips. But hey, you can’t hide from the truth.

And sometimes you don’t even want to shop at Sephora

Better deals abound elsewhere. Always shop smart!