Rant & Rave: Sephora

Tell us what you love and hate about...


Sephora’s house brand has a lot of good products, and I like that they tend to release a slew of different shades, not just “traditional” colors or textures. They reformulate a bit too often, though. As far as the retailer itself, they have such a terrible rewards system that I just sit on my points in hopes that one day they’ll be useful for something. Their shipping costs/thresholds for free shipping are pretty good at my reward level, and they usually ship well, though there’s one warehouse region that ships terribly (crumpled up paper and little else, much like Ulta!). I’ve generally had good customer service when I’ve had issues with orders. They have a vast selection products, and while they don’t have tons of sales, they have them fairly reliably so one can plan, at least.

— Christine

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Good question!

(1) Being able to browse lots of great brands in one store. I’m especially speaking about the freestanding stores, which have more brands, such as Laura Mercier, Armani, Givenchy, and others that are not available at JCP Sephora.

(2) Some of my favorite brushes are Sephora.

(3) Sephora makes some good products, like the Lipstories lipsticks.

(4) On those rare occasions when I have had a good experience with sales associates at Sephora, it is a lot of fun. This is usually at a freestanding store, rather than JCP.

(5) The return policy. I don’t use it often, but it’s comforting to know it’s there.

(6) Being able to get free foundation and perfume samples. This has saved me countless purchases I would have regretted.

(1) I usually have a lot of trouble getting a sales associate to help me. I don’t go out looking sloppy and I wear makeup. I always have great experiences with sales associates at makeup counters in stores like Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, but Sephora SAs just don’t want anything to do with me. Am I too old to warrant their attention?

(2) You can’t use a Sephora gift card purchased in a JCP Sephora anywhere else. And they don’t tell you that when you buy it.

(3) Speaking of JCP Sephora, all the ones I’ve been in have had ridiculously low stock and were disorganized and often dirty. More often than not, when I go to a JCP Sephora to buy a particular product, they are out of the shade I want (and many of the other shades, too).

(4) None of the Sephoras in my area carry Pat McGrath lipstick, so I can’t swatch any of them. Plus any other “online only” products. I really can’t stand “online only.”

(5) The 3-day shipping doesn’t take into account the week to process the order before it ships. And speaking of shipping, they’re not always packed well. I’ve received boxes with broken perfume.

(6) Why let you pick out three free samples if they’re just going to give you three random samples anyway?

I could’ve written this!
I, too, am old enough to be the mother of most of the sales associate and I do not get service easily. I used to work in cosmetics while going to college & have been a makeup junky ever since, so it’s not like I’m walking in naked faced.
I also agree about samples. Choose what you like at check out but they’ll give you whatever the hell they have in stock.
The only product I have from Sephora that I actually enjoy is the waterproof eyeliner pencils that you have to sharpen. Oh and I do have a brush I use daily- Number 57 airbrush concealer. The rest of my brushes I get from beautyLish which I love doing business with; now that’s a customer service oriented company that packages your products like you’re getting a gift!

I just don’t understand the mindset of the Sephora SAs who ignore me. At Saks, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, etc., the SAs can tell right away that I’m someone who knows and buys makeup, and I get great service. (Sometimes a little too pushy, but I’d rather have that than nothing at all!)

The only other place besides Sephora where I get ignored is at MAC counters, whether it’s in a department store or stand-alone (though not as bad as Sephora).

I know you may be uncomfortable replying to this (and frankly, i realize this is kind of rude) but how many points do you have at Sephora? If you don’t want to reply (or post this) I totally understand and i apologize if this offended you. I’m just so curious!

I had 76,000-ish at the highest, but I recently cashed in 10,000 points for the $100 “gift card” things since goodness knows there’s not much else to do with the points! I’ve said it publicly before (and my points amount was published in an article a couple of years ago), but I spend about $50,000 a year on products to review (not just at Sephora!) so I rack up rewards/points quickly.

Wow! I also got one of the $100 spending vouchers, I had about 5k total points and just got one for now since the vouchers expire in 90days, and have a ton of fine print..

When I went to use the $100 spending voucher, the sales associates looked at me crazy and were acting like I was trying to steal from them?

I told them, I had a screenshot from my email of the voucher, my cell service in the mall is bad so I didn’t want to sit at the register waiting for it to load and it wouldn’t.

They told me I HAD to pull it up from my e-mail, “because the computer can’t scan a screenshot”
(LMAO like the computer knows the difference, I wish they wouldn’t make things up, just say they would feel more comfortable seeing the email jeeez)…

So I pull up the email. Voucher works, both sales associates (the SA needed a manager) looked baffled like they couldn’t believe it worked.

Sigh. Yeah guys I wasn’t trying to pull one over on yall… smh.

I’m glad it did eventually work for you! Yes, they have a lot of fine print that just makes it more annoying to use. At this point, it’s better than just accumulating points, but it’s not impressive. I shop wayyyy less at Ulta and have received significantly more $ toward future purchases.

I have had trouble getting help from associates at Sephora, but then again, it is always crowded. I appreciate the large selection and skincare. I also love Sephora brushes. I haven’t tried any of the house brand makeup though. I do wish, however, that they carry more skincare in the stores. It seems like every time I try to go get something, the item is only available online. As for their rewards – I only like to get the hair kits since I travel for work and those things are perfect for a carry on.

– Shipping!! I love how you can subscribe and get free shipping all year, and that the shipping only takes two days. I spend far more at Sephora thank Ulta, and this is a big reason why.
– Super generous return policy, though on the rare occasion I take something back it’s almost always as an exchange
– Good samples, and I like how you can choose samples (even though half the time they run out and I get stuck with some hair care product or foundation shade I’ll never use)

– The rewards system is laughable
– The sales and deals are definitely not as impressive as those of its largest competitors

On the rave side, I still Sephora as the pioneer store that revolutionized buying makeup, I like the large selection both in store and online, the ease of using the website and also the large number of website reviews, sortable by age-range and other criteria.

But lately, Sephora leaves me mostly in a ranting mood. The last 5 times I’ve ordered from them, I didn’t receive the samples I ordered. Sometimes I received random samples I didn’t want, sometimes none at all. If they want to give out random samples, I’m OK with that, but don’t make us waste our time picking the specific samples we want if it’s just a ruse! Takes part of the fun out of it, as well .

Their customer service is virtually non-existent at this point, at least for on-line orders. It’s all automated and you get no personal response.

And though I don’t have mega points (I’m a regular VIB), the rewards system is hard to use, unreliable and I never seem to get much out of it. (And I don’t like this whole new game-like, time-limited rewards system at all, personally, but admit it might appeal to a younger demographic.)

As other online stores have come to carry more product lines (and as I’ve narrowed down which product lines I trust most!), I increasingly am tempted to bring my business elsewhere. Which is too bad, because Sephora was my first love and I would be loyal if they still seemed to care about their customers.

Sephora New Zealand is an absolute joke.

It’s online only, shipping takes days (I don’t know where the warehouse is, but it’s not in NZ), they are constantly out of stock and the point system is next to useless. The only thing you can “spend” them on is deluxe size samples or a one-off discount – I got so frustrated with them, I gave up using them about 18 months ago, despite the fact I had hundreds of points and was the highest tier insider member. Their customer service is virtually non-existent and the range they offer in NZ is maybe 10% of what you can get in the US. So no thanks!

– Expired make-up for perk points. I know they are theoretically free (although I spend money to earn points), but Sephora has sent me many times products manufactured 3+ years before I received them. I know some people don’t care about expiration dates, but some mini mascara had odd consistencies and one Too Faced foundation mini was so dried that it didn’t come out of the packaging.
– Even if you select the samples you want, you rarely get them. And I’m fed up by perfume samples (especially perfumes I don’t like the smell off) and those cardboard foundation samples which I don’t care using. If I’m to select samples, I usually get skincare or haircare (things I can use for travel).
– They had great make-up products (brow pencil, eye liner); they discontinued them.

– Some of they’re brushes are awesome quality. I have one blush brush which I purchased 4 years ago; it still washes and performs wonderfully.
– Drunk Elephant mini gift with $25/$35 purchase. They have other great deals with those Beauty Offers, like mini setting powders or mini hair care products. Sometimes these are more worthwhile than 15-20% off codes. These offers are the only thing that makes the Free Fast Shipping add-on worthwhile to purchase.
– Predictable sales, although rare.
– Fast shipping and usually great customer service.

These are my opinions on Sephora Canada.

RAVE : 1) Some of their beauty products I’ve tried are very good for the price (their eyeliners, lip glosses and lipsticks, brushes). They also have some great tools ; they might seem gimmicky for some but they proved very useful to me: the silicone pad for cleaning brushes, the silicone lip scrubber and the silicone face mask applicator (dual-ended for applying & removing the masks).

2) They carry brands that are not available elsewhere in Canada or at least where I live (Montreal area). Latest example is Charlotte Tilbury. We don’t have Ulta, Target, Nordstrom (closest Nordstrom store is in Ottawa).

3) The convenience of trying and sampling so many products. The Sephora store where I usually go is big (inside a mall); you can stay and try and not be bothered and when you ask for assistance/help from the SAs, they are knowledgeable and helpful. They are also diverse (female & male MUAs, young/not so young, slim/not so slim). Concerning the SAs, I think it’s more a question of store managers. There is another Sephora store closer to me, with direct entry from outside and it would be more convenient/reliable in terms of swatches in natural light, but the SAs there are unbearable. Differential treatment if you’re young and slim, harassment to buy. I don’t care if I am personally treated well , I don’t like the lack of diversity and the fact that they display a differential treatment towards other customers. So I prefer to spend the extra time on the road to go to the other store and spend my money there. I smile the moment I get there.

4) Their return policy. I usually avoid it (used it 3 times) but it’s good to know it’s there.

5) Fast shipping. Usually the next day the order is shipped. During the busy periods (VIB sales, holidays), the order is shipped after 48h.

6) The new reward system for VIB: it’s good that you can exchange the 2500 pts for a $100CAD card and that you can choose between a birthday gift or 250 pts. It can be improved of course, but at least there is an improvement.

RANT: 1) Packaging. You order two eyeliners and they come in a standard box. Waste of packaging. Or the products are not properly wrapped (I ordered the LE MJ O!Mega Bronzer and it came broken into pieces; the case was opened like when someone opened it and didn’t close it. The box was also opened at one end).

2) Sephora Canada should expand its offering re: products not available elsewhere. They had a poor tentative with ColouPop; a few products were offered and not the most looked for; after a couple of weeks the brand was discontinued.

3) Products available online only. This is especially annoying for me with respect to the lipsticks. I want to try the PMG lipsticks but the colours are tricky. I don’t want to take the risk of ordering online for the price, then trying it, not liking it and retuning it. I find the lipstick swatches to be tricky because of the artificial light. What seems to be rosy or muted rose/pink on some bloggers, it is often too brown or purple on me.

4) The last VIB Holiday Preview Event was a joke compared to last year’s. They advertised “First access to Charlotte Tilbury” and the only available products from the brand were the lipstick and the lip liner in Pillow Talk. Also, many of the newly launched products (Hourglass compact, YSL new mascara, Bite Beauty, MJ etc.) were not available. Some Holiday kits were in limited quantity.

RANT 4): I’m referring to the in-store Holiday Preview Event. The Starbucks coffee and the eight types of French pastries welcoming those who RSVPed and showed up between 8.30-10.00 am on a Saturday cannot make up for the lack of products.

This is my third straight year as a VIB ROUGE at Sephora. The last time I exchanged something in the store (unopened/unused with receipt) a slip printed out from the register informing me “I had an excessive amount of returns/exchanges” and from now on they may not accept them!!! I was shocked! I spend SO much money there and do they have a return policy or don’t they? Where does it say there is a return/exchange policy limit???

Beth, I feel you. Sephora Canada has a return policy limit. Under “Returns Policy” there is the following statement: “Sephora monitors return activity by customers, from abuse, and if we detect what we consider to be excessive or potentially fraudulent return activity from a customer, that customer may be notified in writing that Sephora will no longer accept any returns from that customer. with or without a receipt. All returns are subject to validation and approval at Sephora’s discretion. ” Now the key words are “abuse” and “discretion”, namely when the returns by a cx are considered abuse of the return policy and to which length Sephora’s discretion goes. You should try to talk to them on the phone about their refusal (VIB Rouge concierge line).


-Their in-house brand is solid for the price

-There’s a wide assortment of brands, so it’s easy to swatch and compare anything when I go in store

-The sales associates on the floor have been helpful to me and have given me generous samples to try out

-The birthday bonus gifts have been really nice lately…I haven’t tried the Bite gift yet, but the Nars lip pencils from a couple years back are still holding up nicely for me


-I don’t mind the rewards system as much as many people here because my points always been to expire at Ulta before I can use them…that being said, Sephora is almost always out most of their point perks when I go there, so I wish they would at least keep them better stocked

While Sephora has taken (itty bitty) baby steps to enhance their rewards system, as another comment or mentioned, it is still very limited to the point of being game-like. I can assure you most people at every age are frustrated by this, as there are whole Sephora Community threads dedicated to people attempting to cash-in their points by setting timers on their phones and having three different devices ready to add the item (MOST rewards, not just popular ones) to their cart at the exact time it goes live. Needless to say, most of them walk away empty handed. There are, however, threads dedicated to “Reward Experiences” in which the lucky person who got to go to LA and meet with beautyblender or create his/her own bite beauty lipstick describes his/her experience (mostly positive & exciting to read about). The very few customer service issues I’ve had were easily rectified with online orders via telephone; in-store, also rare and almost always difficult. The sales I typically reserve for two to three things: Sephora Collection brushes, bite beauty, and/or Drunk Elephant skincare. Everything else I can purchase any other time of the year (especially Black Friday) at a better sale price from a different merchant. Most direct merchants offer a 15-20% off code for first-time purchasers (Laura Mercier, Armani, YSL, tarte, Too Faced, Urban Decay, etc). Sephora’s recent switch to Laser Ship has significantly affected the amount of time it takes to receive packages (if at all), which has mostly been the main reason I’ve cut back from Sephora by about 75% in the past year and increased my Ulta purchases by about the same. Sephora’s app is still way easier to navigate and their website is more aesthetically pleasing than Ulta’s in ways I can’t describe. Also, you can stack GWPs at Ulta (and many other retailers) since one does not need to use a promo code in order to receive a GWP. One simply needs to purchase the brand/item/meet the $ threshold/ and the GWP is automatically added to the cart. (This is another gripe I have with the VIB sales, as I am a sucker for a good GWP.)

Laser Ship is one of the reasons I stopped ordering from Sephora. I paid the $15 for two day shipping and I ordered skincare & waited & waited. My package was delivered at 10pm ( I was asleep just had a baby and could not stay up) and it was winter in CT and my stuff froze. I also didn’t like having to search my property looking for where ever they decided to dump my package. Also the Sephora in JCP is always out of stuff and always dirty. The one in CT & the one I now live near in VA. I live near a pretty awesome Ulta with a MAC counter so I don’t shop at Sephora any more.

I’m glad to know that I am not the only one with Sephora issues! I love (most) of the staff at my local Sephora. I think their rewards program stinks. Ulta has definitely passed them up in that area and they are increasing their luxury products. They are also bringing in makeup artists. However, Ulta doesn’t have free samples. That being said, they have mini’s that are given fairly regularly for their platinum members. I have used my Sephora rewards only to get home & find the product dried out. I usually get products for my granddaughter (who also gets many of my Play! by Sephora products). I think Sephora really needs to step it up if they want to remain on top.

Somewhat off topic, but the Rouge Concierge line…they still have it, right?…is fabulous way to right the wrongs you are facing. They even placed an order or me once. Also, if you start to return a bunch of stuff and are afraid of getting dinged, take a merchandise credit. It does not expire, and you will use it eventually, without being labelled an overreturner, and losing the privilege. When Sephora was a great, new concept, (circa 1998?) it truly was amazing. The brands represented were far more unusual, like Paul and Joe. European and Asian brands that weren’t even seen at Neiman’s or Saks. Now, they have almost the same line up as the standard department stores. Does anyone need EL products in 4 stores in the same mall? As I read in an article recently, Sephora is far more mainstream and less luxury than at its US beginning. It’s easy to miss some of their d/c’d lines, when their existent products are everywhere. For me, S shipping has been a nightmare, since they outsourced it to private contractors. Laser ship? My patootie! 3 weeks from a hub that is under an hour away? I get better shipping from Zoeva. CS is uneven. The disaster store has improved, but the better, smaller store sometimes gets the rude, self-absorbed staff from the bigger store, and it ruins the whole experience. I know that T readers are sort of self-selected investigators of cosmetics, but damn it, Sephora employees should know more about their website and product line up than a 70y.o. old broad. And they DO NOT. That says bad training and poorly committed employees. At present, I only use Sephora for things that have reviewed well here, and are S exclusives. I get that they cannot represent all lines in all stores, but for the pricier items, we ought to be able to see/swatch. When you think about it, blind buy at >$100 is a foolish behavior, even if Christine gives its stellar reviews. If I lived in an Alaskan outpost, I would understand an accept it, but its is suburban Boston. S, baby, the thrill is gone! The late, great BB King was right.

I had one single customer service experience with Sephora and didn’t buy anything online for two years afterward. They kept me on the line for over half an hour while they debated shipping a replacement order for an order I never received. Then they told me that they wouldn’t reship because if I didn’t get the order the first time, I might not get it the second time either — and refunded my money. Didn’t feel too confident after that.

I think that the Sephora brand has some great products hidden in it but it doesn’t get enough attention. They have some great brushes, skincare and makeup. They do carry brands that I can’t always get in other places except maybe on the brands specific website. They have a very forgiving return policy. These are all wonderful things.

Thankfully that forgiving return policy is in place because with so many online exclusives and horrible sales people it can be difficult to be in a position to try before buying. I do love that you can get samples of any product in the store but you have to find a sales associate who is willing to acknowledge your existence and not be judgemental and just be open to helping all customers. Often times I shop on my rare days off and am makeup free and usually in something casual like jeans, Chucks and a t shirt. I usually don’t even get a hello or welcome, then if I can’t find something I have to seek someone out to ask. Otherwise I grab my purchases and head to the checkout because after they enter my email address and see that I’m Rouge through the next two years they are more willing to help. Only then can I be safe and ask for that sample I wanted or if a specific product is in the back. It so frustrating! Yes, I am not wearing makeup but I also do every other day, was a professional makeup artist for years, have a makeup IG page, etc. The judgment and assumptions are astounding to me still.

Also, contrary to another person who commented, I get better service in the JCP Sephora’s where I live. The sales associates are typically WAY nicer and often times they are not sold out of the product I’m looking for vs. the main Sephora in the popular mall.

The reward system is a joke. It’s horrible and borderline insulting at times when you see what is offered for points. Anything that looks remotely good is gone 10 United after the reward is posted on Tuesday or Thursday. Most of them are the same items that are in the Play box. I cancelled that after 3 months of it not getting better. As someone who spends a few thousand dollars on makeup a year I made a decision last year to buy everything at Ulta unless Sephora was the only place it was available. Every time Ulta adds a new brand to the roster I love it because that means I get makeup money back. It’s not some limited time $100 B.S. either, just all the time for every customer no matter how much you have spent there. So now I only buy Sephora exclusive brands at Sephora because of the reward program. Ulta also gives me a few times a year that I can get 20% off of anything, not to mention other random sales.
I will always shop at Sephora but it’s honestly only because of the availability of certain products and the forgiving return policy.

I live in India so I’m going to be R&R ing about Sephora in India:

Points & membership card are WORTHLESS. The program is always changing for the worse.
Stock is often short-dated, shopworn, dusty, damaged and disorganized.
You never know what brands they’ll be carrying this week or NOT- This month Indian Sephora may carry the entire line of Nyx (only to be discontinued next month) or maybe MUFE might show up for a month or two.
Most of the luxury brands carried at Indian Sephora (Estee Lauder, Shiseido, Clinique) can be found in stand-alone shops usually in the same mall as Sephora.
Prices are 20-30% higher than in the US.

Lots of staff, some more knowledgeable than others but always helpful!

My complaints are largely the same as others: Samples are missing or completely different from what was requested, rewards aren’t very good, and in my case, I tried to buy something on sale and even though I checked out with it online, I got a message saying it wasn’t available about a day later. That really hacked me off. That should not happen, ever! The point of computer inventory systems is to prevent problems like that! I haven’t ordered from Sephora since, and my ordering experience with Ulta has been far superior in the last year.

amazing customer service
store associates always friendly and helpful however, takes a long time to get help
great return policy
always coming out with new products
Rouge free shipping is great
great beauty & skincare sets
great samples in store and online
unlimited makeovers for VIBR

rewards system still sucks
products take forever to come back in stock (online AND in store)
sometimes online it says product available in store but when you go in store the product is out of stock/ isnt carried there at all

Rave: lots of brands, reasonable return policy.

Reward point system: Insulting limited number of higher-quality-point rewards; only allowing Rouge level members to convert points to gift cards.

Packing: poor or nonexistent packing, resulting in broken products–Memphis TN is probably one of the worst distribution centers. (I plan to wait until Sephora opens its Las Vegas distribution center until I order online again because what’s the point in ordering things that will come broken from TN?)

Shipping: the third party shippers they use deliver way too late in the day (10 PM at night), throw packages onto the porch or into the bushes, etc. Also if you’re not Rouge level and want flash shipping, you have to agree to be charged annually for this–a don’t want to subscribe to something like this!

Website: bugs on their pages, such as the annoying opaque box that blocks out part of the page. Sephora’s deletion of all Qs & As on its product pages is especially annoying — I don’t want to chat with someone for an answer when a Q&A database would be more convenient and helpful (like the one they used to have that they trashed).

I think my biggest gripe is all the minis and freebies that are ONLY available with online purchases. I prefer to do my shopping in person. Even though I’m Rouge, I’m saving them on their delivery costs and such by using my gas and my vehicle and going to make my purchases in their store. I’d like the same sort of treatment, the same sort of “code” minis and freebies that those shopping online get.

My other gripe is that my local store used to have such nice managers and their leadership seemed to “trickle down”. Now the women who manage the store are kinda like harpies – they’re not very nice and they’re both dismissive and aggressive at the same time. And the staff turnover (perhaps because of these managers) is pretty high too.

Finally, the way they discontinue their house brand of wonderful products without any warning at all (why not let devoted users know ahead of time; it is, after all, your site and you could boost the sale of products about to be phased out if only folks like me knew….)

Rave: they carry many brands that aren’t available anywhere else where I live. I like that you can ask for samples to try out at home (though their sample containers, which have always sucked because they can pop open way too easily, are also becoming so minuscule as to be ridiculous). And their own house brand of skin care, tools and colour cosmetics is really excellent (though the reformulation of their eyeshadows is a bit of a travesty).

My neighborhood store is terrific. I love this store. No problems ever — even with a return. I do not order online anymore for all the reasons everyone has ranted about.

My opinion about Sephora Australia
Rave – That we actually have a Sephora quite close to where I live is a bonus.
We are now getting brands that a few years ago, I only read about on this blog and had to take a chance on ebay.
Wide range available

Rant: Yep, I have trouble getting someone to serve me there too and I probaly know more about makeup than the SA’s do (thanks to this blog).
2. Their prices are quiite high and they have very few sales – nothing like what you have in the US.
No best of skincare brands at Christmas, no lipstick/mascara deals etc.
3.Online – only a third of their products are online and then they are mostly sold out.

I’m not even sure I can add to this, I like shopping there due to the selection and usual cleanliness but everything else is lacking.

As Norweigan shopping from the US Sephora site, I can tell you it’s a pain! I get teased with VIB sales, samples, points… But none is appliccable to Norwegian customers. Discount codes don’t work, if I add samples they are removed from my basket when checking out… You get the idea. However, the mails they send does not reflect that I am not eligible for discounts etc, so I can see all the goodies, samples etc. American customer gets ><
Also, there are quite a few brands that are not shipped overseas,, but I can live with that as long as I can get the Drunk Elephant products I like.
Which brings me to why I like Sephora: tha brands not otherwise available i Norway (or Europe), the quite reasonable shipping time and cost, the fact that they fix the taxes for me, and all the sample sizes and curated sets they make.

So, there’s a lot to love, but I wish they would treat their overseas customers better 🙂

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