Sephora Vs. MAC Vs. Ulta: Which Is The Best Place To Buy Makeup?

The perfect guide to find the best place to buy Beauty and Skincare products
 Best makeup store
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As the beauty industry continues to flourish and new beauty brands emerge and rapidly gain popularity, it can be difficult to choose the perfect place to look for the best products, deals, and services.

Most of us just end up going to the same stores that our moms went to or to a random store that catches our eye. 

However, on entering these stores filled with makeup products of all kinds the feeling of confusion takes over and somehow we end up buying unnecessary products that we’ll probably never use. 

We’ve all been there but with a little more research into what you really need and where to find it, you can save yourself a lot of time and money. 

Let’s compare the most popular beauty stores to see which one’s the perfect fit for your shopping needs. 

Everything you need to know about Sephora

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Featuring nearly 3000 brands and with stores in over 2600 locations, Sephora is one of the most popular retailers of beauty products all over the world.

With its elegant and sophisticated branding, it has gained a luxurious status in the beauty industry.

Sephora offers all kinds of beauty products like makeup, skincare, haircare, nail paints, and even body care products like lotions and fragrances.

Sephora even has its own private label, Sephora Collection which offers a wide range of foundations, lip products, eyeliners, eyebrow products, eyeshadows, face masks, serums, brush sets, and fake lashes. 

Popular Brands in Sephora 

  • Drunk Elephant 
  • Benefit Cosmetics
  • Marc Jacobs
  • Clinique
  • Givenchy
  • Youth To The People
  • First Aid Beauty
  • Dior
  • Kat Von D
  • Estée Lauder
  • Fenty Beauty
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills 

Popular products at Sephora 

  • Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask
  • Tatcha The Water Cream Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturiser
  • Urban Decay Naked Honey Eyeshadow Palette
  • Yves Saint Laurent Water Stain Glow Lip Stain
  • Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look in a Palette Stoned Rose
  • Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
  • Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz
  • NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer 
  • Huda Beauty Nude Obsessions Eyeshadow Palette

Everything you need to know about MAC

MAC cosmetics
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MAC which stands for Make-Up Art Cosmetics is a cosmetics manufacturer that has been widely recognized for its carefully formulated beauty products and sleek MAC stores.

MAC is a favorite among professional makeup artists, leading models, and actresses because of the higher quality ingredients included in its products that make them more pigmented.

The high-end makeup brand offers all kinds of beauty products for lips, face, eyes, skincare along with brushes and tools. 

Popular products at MAC

  • Studio Fix Fluid SPF 15- an oil-controlling formula that offers a natural matte finish with medium to full coverage.
  • Retro Matte lipstick- a long-wearing lipstick formula with an intense color payoff and a completely matte finish.
  • Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation- a one-step powder and foundation that gives skin an ultra-matte finish with medium-to-full buildable coverage that lasts for 12 hours, while controlling shine.
  • Prep + Prime Fix - a lightweight water mist that gently soothes and refreshes skin and finishes makeup.
  • Technakohl Liner- a mechanical pencil-style liner with a soft and creamy formula and intense color.
  • Strobe Cream- a moisturizer that boosts the look of dull skin and aluminizes with iridescent particles.

Everything you need to know about Ulta 

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Ulta Beauty is an American chain of beauty stores that are currently in over 1000 locations, offering products from appropriate 500 brands.

Over the years, Ulta has become one of the most beloved chains of beauty stores because of the wide range of drugstore products it offers.

Ulta Beauty carries all kinds of products including cosmetics, skincare, bath and body products, hair care products, fragrances, nail products, and beauty tools.

If this wasn’t enough, the stores are also equipped with a salon, Dermalogica skin bar, and Benefit brow bar. Ulta beauty collection is their in-house brand that offers affordable beauty and skincare products. 

Popular Brands in Ulta 

  • BH Cosmetics
  • Kylie Cosmetics
  • Mario Badescu
  • bareMinerals
  • Estée Lauder
  • Lime Crime
  • Essie
  • LA Girl 

Popular products at Ulta 

  • KVD Vegan Beauty Tattoo Liner
  • Kylie Skin 3-Step Mini Skin-Care Set
  • Tarte Maneater Mascara
  • Philosophy Ultimate Miracle Worker SPF 30
  • Melanin Haircare Multiuse Pure Oil Blend
  • Too Faced Lip Injection Maximum Plump Extra-Strength Lip Plumper
  • Beekman 1802 Bloom Cream Daily Probiotic moisturizer
  • Kylie Cosmetics Velvet Lip Kit in Red Velvet
  • Bondi Boost Hair-Growth Shampoo
  • Ulta Beauty Collection x Marvel Black Widow Lip Kit

What is the difference between Sephora, Ulta, and MAC?

While Ulta and Sephora are retailers of beauty products, MAC is a cosmetics brand which means that Sephora and Ulta offer products from various brands whereas MAC stores only carry products from their own brand.

All three provide different membership programs for regular customers and offer services like getting a makeover done at their stores. 

Sephora's basic tier is called Insider which free to anyone who signs up while customers who spend at least $350 per year are registered as VIB members and those who spend at least $1,000 per year are considered Rouge.

MAC provides a very exclusive experience for makeup professionals who are a part of the MAC Pro Membership Program. 

Customer Service: Sephora vs. Ulta vs. MAC

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Although customer service experience can differ from store to store depending on the location and management of the store, from my personal experience I’ve realized that even though the staff at Ulta is always very helpful and approachable, the customer service at Sephora is far superior. 

The staff at Sephora simply seems more knowledgeable about the products they’re selling at the store. If you’re someone who is wanting to know more about Skincare and makeup before buying the products, Sephora will be the perfect place for you. 

Which is the best place to buy affordable makeup?

While Sephora and MAC have more high-end products, it is easier to find products of all price ranges at Ulta because Ulta carries both high-end and drugstore brands. 

Ulta is the one-stop-shop for all things related to beauty and offers a wider variety of products for hair care and body care.

It is easier to find sales and exclusive offers on products at Ulta as compared to Sephora which makes it a more affordable place to buy makeup.

Moreover, Ulta has a points system where members earn 1 point for every $1 spent on qualifying purchases, Platinum members earn 1.25 points for every $1 spent on qualifying purchases, and Diamond members earn 1.5 points for every $1 spent on qualifying purchases.

These points can then be redeemed to get discounts on future purchases. 

Which is the best place to buy high-end makeup?

Expensive makeup
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Some people might prefer Sephora for its range of exclusive high-end beauty products that are often trending in the makeup world.

Sephora carries more expensive brands and because of their sleek marketing, the shopping experience at Sephora feels more upscale and luxurious whereas Ulta can often be overcrowded and can make shopping feel like an errand.

However, if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed and confused by all the different products and brands offered at Ulta and Sephora, MAC will be the perfect place for you to buy high-quality makeup and skincare products. 

Even after comparing the prices, customer services, range of products, brands offered, and membership programs, it is difficult to say which store is the best to buy makeup because everyone has different preferences when it comes to shopping.

If you’re someone who likes to stick to one high-end brand of makeup to avoid confusion, MAC is the place for you. However, if you prefer to have more options when buying products, you’ll have to make a choice between Ulta and Sephora where they offer a large range of brands. 

While Sephora offers a more luxurious experience with better customer service and trendier products, Ulta is perfect for someone looking for affordable drugstore makeup. Ulta is unbeatable when it comes to sales and discounts.

Wherever you decide to shop, make sure to take a look at the list of ingredients of the product you’re buying, remember to test the product with a swatch, and most importantly have fun while you shop!

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