I’m an alien in New York City, having just recently moved here from London. Of all the hugely exciting things in the states — massive food helpings, people who actually smile, those paper toilet seat covers you pull out of the wall in public
loos restrooms (genius!) — I knew the best by far would be Sephora.
A trip to the beauty chain was at the top of my priority list when my plane touched down — because what I'm about to tell you might surprise you: I, a 25-year-old beauty writer, had never been. Ever. See, we don't have Sephora in the UK (and while Boots is nice, there's really no comparison).
As you can imagine, the day I planned to go was a big occasion. I treated it like I would any other tourist attraction, carefully mapping out my route to the nearest one, packing my camera, and setting aside a whole afternoon for the excursion. I hadn’t been this excited since the prospect of meeting Minnie Mouse at Disneyland, twenty years prior.
Strolling through Union Square, I could see it in the distance. The classic black lettering, the crisp pin-striped canopy flapping in the wind. I needed a moment — it was all too much. I paused when I got to the front of the store to take the obligatory Instagram shots of the outside. I almost considered asking a passerby to take a photo of me, but reminded myself that I had just moved to the city and needed to play it like a cool New Yorker.
But that didn't last long. Once inside, I was completely overwhelmed, power-walking up and down the aisles and grabbing random things — spray-on blush! charcoal face wipes! foam dry shampoo! — like a hyperactive kid in a toy store. I lapped the store about five times in this mad, undignified frenzy.
Most exciting was the fact that many brands in the US aren't available in the UK and even if they are, we tend to get new releases much later. This was like a VIP preview. The biggest difference I noticed was the sheer scale of all the product lines (I lost count of the number of Sephora eyeliners — there wasn’t a color I could’ve thought of that was missing), and the diversity of brands. The amount of niche brands next to mass and global offerings from Asia and Europe — all under the one glamorous roof — was something I'd never seen before. And as this was technically a tourist attraction, it only seemed fitting I buy a souvenir (or 10).
As a skin care enthusiast, I bee-lined for the cleansers. I bought the charcoal face wipes purely for the novelty factor and later used them as a toner rather than cleanser — the slightly rough texture on one side gently exfoliated my tired, city-worn skin and left it super-soft. I also bought the Erborian Black Cleansing Oil. My skin has suffered from the change in environments, so it needed a deep cleanse. As you lather this on with warm water, it goes from being a silky oil to a milky emulsion, and you can actually see makeup running off your skin.
But perhaps my favorite buy was a double-ended concealer from Wander Beauty. There's a matte, full coverage lipstick-like bullet at one end, and an illuminating liquid concealer at the other. This is a godsend if you need something heavy enough to cover acne, but also want something lighter for the undereye area.
I left exhausted, dizzy from the excitement (and scent of all the perfumes I sprayed with abandon on my body), and with a lighter wallet (the exchange rate is terrible at the moment, so everything seemed a lot more expensive). My husband gasped when I walked in the door — I'd forgotten to wipe all the color swatches off my hands and arms, so I looked a bit like a bleeding rainbow.
Since then, I’ve been back to Sephora nearly every day (with much more decorum, I should add). Like Disneyland, the magic just never seems to fade.