Sephora can be heaven for some beauty mavens, a chance to try on tons of products and find the exact hue of aqua eyeliner you were looking for. But for other women, the incredibly vast array of brands and items leads to so much anxiety—What do I try first? How many should I try? Which is the better deal?—that that they leave the store overwhelmed and empty-handed.
Take advantage of Sephora’s collection and knowledge and shop without having a breakdown with a few tips from the pros who know best.
1. Just Look First
In the words of Cher from the movie Clueless, “Always make a lap before you commit to a location.” Shannon Van Horn, a makeup artist in Florida, says to scope out if the store carries the brands you’re interested in and where there are any clearance or sales sections. Then keep those deals in mind as you dive in and shop the areas you’re interested in. “No need to lament over an expensive primer if there is one in the back of the store for half price,” Van Horn says.
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2. Make New Friends
When you don’t know where to start, ask a sales associate which brands make great foundations or bright eye colors, says New York-based makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor. Or look around for a savvy shopper. “We've all seen the one with the basket piled full, gracefully going down every aisle, knowing exactly what she wants,” says makeup artist Julia Papworth, who has worked with Cameron Diaz. “Take a glance at what she is looking at and inquire why she likes a certain line or product.”
3. Don’t Be a Brand Snob
Search out new or lesser-known lines—including Sephora’s own Sephora Collection—to find products that might be less expensive and just as high-quality as what you normally use, suggests Washington, D.C.-based makeup artist Erwin Gomez, who has worked with Rosario Dawson. “I was recently flying and all the flight attendants were wearing bright red matte lipstick that complements all skin types and colorings and stayed put through the entire flight. It turned out to be Sephora Collection,” he says.
4. Less Is More
Value sets may seem like a great deal—until you realize a month later that you only use half of the colors and therefore wasted money. “If you weren't planning to spend $50 and don’t need six different eye shadows, then stick to your original wish list of that one purple shadow which will only set you back $18,” says budget expert Andrea Woroch. If you really need a palette of colors, consider one that allows you to customize the shades, she adds.
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5. Say the Magic Words
“Cast members”—that’s what employees are called at Sephora—aren’t allowed to refer you to one brand exclusively, Van Horn says. So instead of asking which lip gloss is their favorite, ask, “Which are the top five performing products in the lip category?”—that is, which products are other consumers buying the most and not returning? “Not only is this language they understand, it is a question that they can answer accurately,” Van Horn explains. “And it allows you to make your own decision instead of relying on someone else’s opinion.”
6. Avoid the Rush
Play hooky from work and take a late lunch to shop. Since weekdays from about 2 to 4 p.m. are slow times, “you can get more attention and valuable recommendations from the staff than when the store is busy,” says La Voila Beauty’s Emmy-winning makeup artist Jovan, who has worked with Heidi Klum, Jennifer Lawrence, and Olivia Wilde. Or take the morning off since weekdays from 10 to 11:30 a.m. are also less crowded.
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7. Make It a Girls’ Night
The best thing about Sephora is that you can test everything out—so take advantage! Take an afternoon and go experiment with your girlfriends, who will be honest and tell you that the coral lipstick just isn’t your color—before you invest $30 bucks in it. Just be sure to use the provided wipes and alcohol sprays at each demo station in order to keep things sanitary. You don’t want to bring home any germy freebies.