Your Ultimate Guide To Buying Beauty Products Online

Buying beauty products online can be a tricky business. Whether you're shopping for something you haven't tried before, or attempting to get the best bang for your buck at your favorite retailer, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the options (or fall into a hole of looking at swatches to determine whether that shadow will really work with your eyes). Throw in the fact that star products tend to sell out faster than ever these days, and it's enough to make you want to slam your laptop shut.

But we're here to help. We tapped a few of our favorite beauty retailers and asked them the questions every savvy shopper needs to know: "When do sales happen?" "What's your rewards program like?" Can we come raid your stockroom after hours? Ahead, find our road map of the wonderful world of beauty e-commerce. Happy shopping!
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
New Stock
According to Shelley Haus, VP of brand marketing at Ulta Beauty, there is a constant flow of new stock — not just on one specific day of the week when new arrivals show up online — so you've got to check back regularly to discover newness.

Sales
While products aren't regularly discounted, when the retailer does hold sales, they are pretty major. Ulta Beauty hosts two yearly 21 Days of Beauty sales, where you'll find products with markdowns of up to 50%. There's also the Gorgeous Hair event, which takes place in May and October, and offers deals on hair-care products. Ulta's Glowing Skin event happens in January, when it offers deals on prestige skin-care brands like Dermalogica, Philosophy, and Mario Badescu.

Rewards Programs
Ulta's reward program is called Ultamate Rewards, and it gives special offers to members based on products and services they love. Membership is free, and you accrue points based on how much money you spend. You also receive exclusive offers, email coupons, and a free gift during your birthday month.

Return Policy
If you're unsatisfied with a product, Ulta gives you 60 days to return it — even if the package is opened.

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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
New Stock
The site is constantly updated with new products. Pretty much every time we visit it — and that would be way more often than we care to admit — there's something new to discover.

Sales
The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is the stuff of beauty dreams. It happens every July, and is known for incredible markdowns and limited-edition offerings. Nordstrom also has a Half-Year sale each spring and fall, which also offers great deals on beauty.

Where Nordstrom really pulls ahead, however, is with its price-matching policy. The store will meet a competitor's pricing if you find an item it offers, in the same color and size, available at a similar retailer. There are stipulations to that, of course — if you got the product from an outlet or an auction, no dice.

Rewards Programs
There are two ways to get rewards at Nordstrom. Its membership program, called Nordstrom Members, is free, and you get one point for every dollar you spend. Once you hit 2,000 points, you'll get a $20 Nordstrom Note to spend.

If you have a Nordstrom card, you'll earn points even faster — two per dollar when you pay with the card. Plus, you'll get early access to the anniversary sale, get reimbursed in Nordstrom Notes for alterations, and more.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
Sales
Target is almost always running some kind of sale. The best way to see what's discounted is to check the "Deals" tab on the site's main beauty page. There, you can filter by sale type — clearance, BOGO, gift with purchase, etc.

Rewards Programs
There are a few ways to save at Target. If you pay with your REDcard, you'll save 5% every time you shop. If you buy your products through Target Subscriptions, you'll also save 5% and get your loot delivered directly to your door. It's also a good idea to download Cartwheel, which is Target's couponing app. There, you can get discounts between 5 and 50%.

Return Policy
Target has an almost too good to be true return policy — you have an entire calendar year to return unopened products. Popped the top? No worries at all. You have 90 days to return it if you have the receipt, and 120 days to return it if you paid with a REDcard.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
New Stock
SpaceNK updates its site every time a new item becomes available.

Sales
The retailer isn't known for deep discounts. It'll occasionally feature limited-time offers, to which rewards members receive early access. Its seasonal sales are also not set in stone, but there's typically one right after the holidays and one during the summer.

Rewards Program
The brand's free rewards program is called N.dulge, and offers members one point for every dollar they spend. Once you reach 100 points, you'll receive a $5 N.centive. You'll also be the first to know about special offers, in-store events, and new product launches.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
New Stock
Birchbox updates its stock once a week.

Sales
The site has a Customer Appreciation Day (which is coming up on September 15) that offers discounts and special offers. And throughout the year, the brand offers curated boxes at discounted prices.

Rewards Program
Everyone who shops at Birchbox will get one point for every dollar they spend. Birchbox Ace members get special discounts, free shipping, and exclusive shop offers.
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Illustrated by Aimee Sy.
Rewards Program
The beauty giant offers the amazing Beauty Insider program. You earn points toward certain products for every dollar you spend, and you get a free birthday gift. Insiders also get exclusive offers, invitations, and are able to attend beauty classes. The program also has different tiers that give you more perks depending on how much you spend each year (VIBs are $350 and up, VIB Rouge is $1,000 and up). Higher tiers in the program get first access to products, invitations to private events, and unlimited access to the Sephora Beauty Studio.

Return Policy
You can return products — even opened ones — up to 60 days after purchase.
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