5 Easy Ways To Save Big Money At Sephora

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Remember how happy the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory kids looked, running around in Willy Wonka’s place for the first time? That’s how most of us feel when we step inside a Sephora. It’s like a magical wonderland filled with lip plumpers and hair serums and candy-colored perfume bottles.

But a trip to Sephora can be costly if you don't exhibit a little willpower — and if you don't know how to get the best deals. The cosmetics megastore is one of the most generous companies around when it comes to freebies, discounts, and easy exchanges. If you love nail polish and makeup and face creams and high-end straightening irons (and seriously, who doesn’t?), check out these Sephora savings hacks and save yourself some cash the next time you need a beauty fix.

Sign Up For The Rewards Program
It’s free to sign up for Sephora’s Beauty Insider program, and it gets you seasonal promotions, a birthday gift, beauty classes, and all kinds of product freebies, based on how many points you earn. If you do all your lipstick/BB cream/toner shopping there, the points add up quickly. If you spend $350 in a calendar year, you unlock VIB (Very Important Beauty Insider) status, which gets you better deals, like early access to sales and private shopping events. If you spend $1,000 in a calendar year, you get VIB Rouge status, with even fancier perks, including unlimited free makeovers (which means you can show up flawless to every event on your calendar without spending a penny).

Sephora is one of the best places to shop if you need to return or exchange a product. The sales associates can look up your past purchases using your credit card or your Beauty Insider account, so you don't have to stress if you lost the receipt for that hair tonic that made you look like you dunked your head in a vat of olive oil. You never need to worry about wasting money on products that don't work for you, because Sephora is so responsive about returns — even if you’ve already opened (and thrown away) the packaging. Plus, if you don’t live near a store location, you can return items you bought online for free using the prepaid label. (You do need to make the return within 60 days.)

Free Samples
When you order online, you always get three free samples with your purchase: perfume, face masks, primers, etc. When you’re in the store, you can also ask for (small) samples of whatever you want to try — even shampoo or conditioners. (Sure, they put them in tiny plastic bags so they don't last long, and it's kind of messy, but hey — you’re getting to try any product on the shelves, for free!) When you’re checking out, be sure you ask for samples that are behind the counter. They’ll usually stuff your bag with whatever they have on hand.

Do Your Research
People who work at Sephora can be very helpful — and they can also try to sell you a pricey product that might not be that great. (They're salespeople with sales goals, after all.) You’ll save money if you do your own research before you walk in; avoid blindly trusting everything they say. Granted, you can always exchange something, but you’ll save yourself time — and gas money/subway fare — if you just do a little Googling and shop the store knowing what you want to buy (or try). Of course, Refinery29 has plenty of beauty recommendations if you’re unsure where to start.

Ask For Sale Items
Unlike most clothing stores, Sephora doesn't really have a marked-off section with sale items. You have to ask the sales associates where any sale items are, and he or she will show you whatever is marked down. If you click the "Sale" tab on the Sephora site, you’ll be amazed what you can get for a discount — sometimes for 30 or 40% off. (As we write this, there is an Urban Decay eye palette for half off and a Clarisonic Brightening Solution kit marked down $50.)

Follow Sephora On Facebook & Twitter
Sephora frequently shares promo codes and deals via Facebook and Twitter. Yes, following brands is kind of annoying, but the discounts can really pay off. Also, be sure to check the site frequently for ridiculously easy ways to earn points and get discounts. Sephora recently had something called a Beauty Shake-Up that simply involved you typing in your email to earn 150 free bonus points — points that you can use toward a free gift.


More from Work & Money