23 Insider Hacks from a Sephora Employee

Let me tell you, nobody knows this secret. But it’s the number one way to consistently save at Sephora. Buy discounted gift cards (used gift cards that somebody else is trying to unload) and use them to save on your next purchase. Buying 

You can redeem that JCP gift card at any Sephora location inside JCPenney OR (even better in my opinion) at JCPenney.com! Orders over $99 ship free, or you can avoid the charge altogether and ship any order over $25 to your nearest JCP location. A consistent 20% off on Sephora products is unheard of, you guys! JCPenney gift cards cannot be redeemed at regular Sephora locations (hence my recommendation to shop online).

I love shopping at Sephora.com for the free samples! I get three samples with every order with no Sephora coupon code. But the best part (the one that not everybody knows about) is the fourth free sample. There’s always a variety to choose from. Just bookmark this

As a Sephora associate, I was trained to ask customers if they’d like to take home a sample of any product, so don’t be shy about asking. There is no purchase required. Choose up to three samples per world: color (makeup), skincare and fragrance.

Ever wonder what a free sample could be worth at Sephora? Which products provide the best sampling value? Well, I analyzed the price per ounce of the entire Sephora industry and found the top ten samples. This  

100 points earns your first reward, but before you go and spend it all, keep in mind the 250 and 500 point perks. If you’re a saver-in-your-core girl, stockpile those points and cash them in for a fabulous, hand-curated 500 point reward. See Nars lip pencils birthday gift (tip 7) pictured at right.

At Sephora.com you must make a purchase to redeem points, but in stores, no purchase is required. Perks in-store are often different from online. Make sure the perk item is larger than the free sample you could just request. Some say point perks are better online.

Spend $350 in a calendar year and earn VIB (Very Important Beauty-Insider) status. Spend $1000 to earn the uber-exclusive VIB Rouge status. Here’s the thing nobody knows: if you spend $1000 in January, you’ll get VIB Rouge status for the rest of that calendar year, plus the entire next calendar year. That’s 23 months of perks like free shipping on all orders and free unlimited access to the beauty studio (aka free full-face makeup applications to get you through wedding season).

So, while I’m not making a case for paying more than your mortgage payment for cosmetics in one month, I am saying that if you’re gonna do it, early in the year is the best time. Plus, Sephora’s after-holiday sales on holiday gift sets are legit–usually an additional 40% off.

–it’s Sephora’s version of Amazon prime. Free to VIB rouges, $10 for everybody else, 2-day shipping usually costs $10.95 for one order, so this is a great deal! Plus, imagine the possibilities of dividing up items in your order to maximize the number of deluxe freebies (see tip 2) you can get for free. Mmmhello! It’s tempting to place an order every Friday (see tip 3).

The return policy may just be the number one reason to shop at Sephora. Seriously, it’s amazing. Return any item, any time, for any reason. Even without a receipt, your returns will get you store credit (sometimes quantities may be limited). For exchanges without receipt, bring ID.

Every April and November Sephora holds its semi-annual sale for beauty insiders. In mid-April, expect to see 10% off for beauty insiders and 15% off for VIBs. In early-mid November, look for 15-20% off, respectively. The sales last about a week. However, November’s semi-annual sale runs almost right into Black Friday and holiday sales.

Speaking of Black Friday, don’t waste your time at Sephora on that crazy day. Sure, there are lots of gift sets valued at 20-$35 selling for $10, but you can continue to buy them anytime between Black Friday and the holidays.

Our sale sections here at Sephora are sometimes lackluster, but checking them often can pay off! We change up sale items every week. The Beauty Steals are usually located at the end of a row, and there are often at least two designated endcaps in each store, so go hunt them down.

Search for value sets to get more for your money. Sets usually originate from one brand like Tarte or contain a hand-curated mix of brands under the label Sephora Favorites. The savings is usually advertised on the package and can be up to 70% off. See 

Makeup palettes offer savings just like value sets. This NARS blush + lip palette is a $103 value and sells for $59. Don’t dismiss that just because you don’t love one color! The palette may make each item look small, but the blushes and lip are nearly the same size as their full-size counterparts.

Don’t make eye contact with Sephora’s Beauty on the Fly section while standing in line. Danger awaits. Why are you tempted by the small bottle? You want to try something new? You need a small container to take on a plane? Go ask for a free sample of any product in the store and save yourself $15.

When I first saw a perfume sampler, I thought, “Well, there’s a stupid idea.” Why would anyone spend $55 to get a bunch of samples I could make them for free? Then I had a customer come in and redeem a scent certificate from the perfume sampler and I had an ah-ha!

Sure, you get ten or twelve samples, and honestly they’re a little bigger than the ones we fill as samples, but you also get a certificate for a bottle of any of the fragrances in the box. So, I can spend $55 on a perfume sampler and redeem the certificate for a $95 perfume, plus I keep all the other samples. Not bad!

It always makes my day when a customer asks for a Mini Makeover, so don’t be afraid to ask for one! Step in for a Smoky Eye before a dinner date. Sure, I’ll tell you the products I use, and if I do my job well, you’ll be tempted to buy something. But whether you do or not, the service is totally free.

If the obsession is real for you, like it was for me, consider a part-time job with Sephora. Employees save 20% on all brands and 40% on Sephora brand. But don’t try to start up a side business on eBaby. We’ve all got a limit of $500 in purchases each month.