Since the doors opened to its first flagship store in Champs-Élysées in 1997, Sephora has turned the department-store makeup shopping experience on its head. Where perfume, skin care, and cosmetics were once preserved in glass cases guarded by pushy sales reps who intimidated you into buying shit you didn’t need in exchange for commission, the Sephora model encourages the opposite. It wants you to enjoy the products rather than just gaze at them on display — it’s an experience, not just a trip to the store.
But even better, over the last 20 years, Sephora has been home to many of the world's most powerful female CEOs, entrepreneurs, and scientists. Each of the store’s 400+ locations is packed with offerings from companies big and small that are owned and operated by women. Sephora isn’t just for women, it's dominated by them. In fact, the entire beauty industry is — and that's a very important thing.
Among the longtime stalwarts is Benefit Cosmetics, which has one of the most legendary origin stories of all: Twin sisters Jean and Jane Ford, who’d opened up shop in San Francisco’s Mission District in the mid-‘70s, concocted their classic Benetint lip-and-cheek stain after an exotic dancer requested a nipple tint that would leave her looking flushed all night. Then there are the newer additions, like Briogeo, a hair-care line helmed by the youngest African American woman to ever launch a line at the beauty destination.
And if all the brilliant entrepreneurs who started these brands had been told that a woman’s place was not in the chemistry lab where products are formulated, or at the head of the table where they get conceptualized, then the Sephora we know and love would be pretty damn empty. On that note, here's an A-to-Z guide to the Sephora brands we love that were founded by women, as well as our favorite items from each if you choose to support them today. We can't imagine what the store would look like without them — and we honestly don't want to.