"Like a kid in a candy store!" is the cliche which comes immediately to mind if asked how I feel upon crossing a Sephora threshold. With a beauty rep acting as my cosmetic Willy Wonka, we stroll gaily through an array of powders, creams, and liquids promising to transform me from a much more dull, boring self to a more vibrantly enhanced version of me. Their shelves glimmer, sparkle, shimmer with promises, hopes, and dreams stored in cleverly packaged tubs, jars, and tubes. Sephora is pretty much like a Sally's or Planet Beauty beefed up on steroids and has been my one-stop-shop beauty store. Our relationship was briefly threatened when Ulta was introduced to my area of Orange County. After visiting the store a couple of times though, I wasn't won over.
The main difference between the two make up meccas is while Sephora specializes in offering exclusive higher end products of a little over 200 brands such as Chanel, Benefit, and Nars, Ulta comes in boasting over 10,000 products from more than 400 brands. A majority of products offered at Ulta are drugstore brands such as L'Oreal, Revlon, and Cover Girl but without the wallet friendly prices. Of the 26 products in common, the most notable brands are Bare Minerals, Stila, and Smashbox to name a few.
Also, both stores offer their own namesake beauty line and I have sampled products from both. Thumbs up for the Sephora brand. Their products can keep up with the best of them. However, the same can not be said of the Ulta brand. Once upon a time, I bought a train case packed full of a variety of different products from nail polish to lip stick to blushes to eye shadows. Within a couple days I trashed the brushes without a second thought. I have used brushes with synthetic bristles before, but the Ulta brand brushes were extremely stiff and plastic-y. Kind of like you're using those fiber optic light toys to apply make up. Ugh! I shudder at the mere remembrance of the feel! The products are comparable to NYX products though and the train case is awesome, I still use it today.
At Sephora it seems that the reps are a lot more knowledgeable in make up product purpose and application technique. However, it may be hard to get all the specifics on a certain brand unless a specialist of that brand is in attendance the day you decide to visit. Ulta reps are more like cashiers than beauty experts. Most of their knowledge may be based upon their own personal experience. Or maybe it's just the ones I have come across because I recall on one occasion I asked an Ulta rep for a product suggestion and was referred to a competitor without a single suggestion of a product carried at Ulta.
Of course, the above is just one make up addict's opinion. Either way, it's still fun to peruse the aisles and look for one off sales or deals that justify the purchase of yet another tube of lipstick so don't take my opinion to heart. Check them both out for yourself and let me know what you think!