Originally published April 17, 2017, updated November 2, 2020.
Unpopular Opinion: The Sephora Sale is Overrated
I realize that as a beauty blogger I’m supposed to put together a shopping inspo post to help fill your cart, but I’ve just never quite gotten into the Sephora sale. You might be able to get better deals on certain products by shopping creatively.
I originally published this post back in 2017, and I stand by the argument more than ever today.
Reason 1: U.K. beauty sites can be cheaper due to a weak pound and no taxes
Cult Beauty offers free shipping on your first order. If you’re based outside the EU, VAT is deducted from the prices posted on their site and shipping is extremely reasonable (free shipping is offered for orders of £50 or more). I also shop with FeelUnique in the UK, which has a ton of brands and even cheaper shipping. While getting the link for this post, I was served this ad by FeelUnique; clearly we’re thinking the same things.
Reason 2: deluxe sample codes don’t work during the sale
Sometimes the deciding factor in a Sephora purchase for me is the chance to select a deluxe sample of something I really want to try without buying the full-sized product. During the sale, the promo code slot is occupied with the 20% off (VIB Rouge), 15% off (VIB), or 10% off (Beauty Insider) discount code, so there’s no chance of adding that deluxe sample to the cart. In the past, I’ve actually skipped the discount during the sale in order to be able to use a different promo code to get a really good deluxe sample.
Reason 3: sample and Beauty Insider reward offerings are weaker during the sale
Sephora basically gets ransacked during this sale, so the odds of them releasing the really good samples and Beauty Insider rewards AND of those samples and rewards actually being around when your order is packed are lower.
Reason 4: the risk of clusterfucks and disappointments is historically high
Remember when the Sephora was alleged to have deleted the accounts of customers with Asian last names and/or foreign email addresses in 2014 as their site crashed due to interest in the sale? A class action lawsuit was filed shortly after the sale on behalf of Sephora customers; it resulted in a voluntary dismissal without prejudice. Anyway, that was some messy shit.
Since then, Sephora has split the annual sale into two, but normal, to-be-expected disappointments like sold out items happen.
Reason 5: The cash back rate drops during the sale
Cash back sites like TopCashBack and Rakuten dial their rates way back during the sale. Whereas you can sometimes receive 8% cash back if you click on their button before shopping, the rate tends to sink while there’s a big sale, especially in the early days.
Reason 6: Shopping on brands’ own websites can result in better discounts
As a person who cares a whole lot about credit card points and miles, I’ve noticed that consumer credit cards — especially American Express cards — have some pretty awesome statement credit offers if you shop on brands’ own websites.
Example: right now my AmEx Gold card has a Spend $50 or more, get $10 back for Kérastase hair care. That’s a credit card statement credit that I can stack with other discounts. I can add 7% cash back from TopCashBack plus a 20% first order discount to get a vastly better deal than the Sephora sale.
If you’re not feeling the Sephora sale spirit, that’s totally fine and normal
The Sephora sale can offer some steep discounts, but the beauty buying landscape has really changed since The Sale crashed websites and launched lawsuits. More UK shops are shipping internationally and more department stores and online beauty retailers are offering across-the-board sales with minimal brand exclusions.
I’m really passionate about budgeting (after some wild spending disasters including the year I spent $6,000 on beauty products and didn’t feel like I had much to show for it), so my take is that it’s fine to just budget for the stuff you want and even buy it full price so that the purchase isn’t motivated by sale FOMO. It’s ok to let this sale sail by.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Clicking those links before you shop means that fan-b receives a small commission, which helps to support the blog. Please see my full disclosure for more information.