We love Sephora. Every beauty lover does. (Excuse us while we state the obvious.) Wall-to-wall lipstick, lotion, luminizers—what’s not to love? It’s like Disney World, only with copious amounts of cosmetics to play with. And don’t even get us started on the feeling when you walk up to your doorstep and see a little (or not-so-little) box with the Sephora logo on it. Despite our longstanding love affair with the beauty emporium, there’s actually a lot we didn’t know about our favorite shopping destination. From programs, to return policies, to freebies, apparently there are some things even years of VIB status won’t teach you. We did some sleuthing and spoke with a Sephora pro artist to uncover some little-known facts about the brand.
Fact #1: It's not a store
Let’s start with some basic vocabulary. At Sephora, the sales floor is called the “stage,” and everywhere else is “backstage.” Sales associates are “cast members,” and managers are the “directors.” And the red-trimmed black dress the cast members wear is a “costume” (not a uniform).
Fact #2: It's an empire
Dominique Mandonnaud founded Sephora in France in 1970. In 1997, it was acquired by Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, and one year later, it opened its first North American store. Today, Sephora employs over 20,000 people in more than 2500 stores in over 32 countries. Those stores, which carry over 250 beauty brands, generate over $4 billion in revenue a year.
Fact #3: Sephora is a real word (kind of)
The name is a combination of the Greek word sephos, meaning beauty, and the name Zipporah, the exceptionally beautiful wife of Moses in the book of Exodus.
Fact #4: The samples are free
“The rumors are true—you can get up to three samples of any product in store made for you each time you visit,” Sephora Beauty Director David Razzano confirms.
Fact #5: Online orders come with free samples too
Checking out online? Right now, all orders also come with three free samples, which are updated weekly. And there are plenty of other codes on the Beauty Offers page that’ll score you free goodies.
Fact #6: The return policy is generous
If for some reason you’re not completely satisfied, Sephora will accept any new or gently used item for a full refund within 60 days of the purchase date both in-store and via mail. If you’re returning an item by mail after the 60-day period, or if your item was paid for with a Sephora gift card, online store credit, or your PayPal account, you have up to 90 days for the warehouse to receive your item from the date of purchase, and you’ll receive a full refund in the form of an online store credit. Click here for the full return policy.
Fact #7: Sephora is made up of "worlds."
Every Sephora has three worlds: fragrance, skincare, and color cosmetics. “At Sephora, we want every client to have the best experience possible, so our cast members are hired, trained, and certified to be experts in a specific world, like fragrance, color, or skincare,” Razzano says. “For the most part, cast members are stationed in their world. If you’re looking for a fragrance, it’s best to ask someone standing in the fragrance section for advice.”
Fact #8: Sephora has its own version of Amazon Prime
A few years back, Sephora launched its Flash program. Flash shoppers in the continental U.S. get unlimited free two-day shipping with no minimum purchase requirements for the low price of $15 per year. Members can also choose overnight shipping for $6. If you’re a VIB Rouge member (meaning you spend over $1000 at Sephora a year), the subscription service is free for you.
Fact #11: Color IQ applies to more than foundation
“Color IQ is Sephora and Pantone Universe’s exclusive foundation-matching technology that allows each client to find the scientifically precise foundation match for their skin tone and narrow it down to find the best one to fit their lifestyle and skin type,” Razzano says. “And now that device does more than just scan your skin for foundation matches. It’ll also help you find the right concealer and lip color.” And the technology doesn’t stop there: There’s also both Skincare IQ and Fragrance IQ.
Fact #12: French shoppers love Sephora
The Sephora at Champs-Élysées in Paris attracts over six million people each year.
Fact #13: Sephora has its own subscription box
Play! By Sephora is a monthly subscription beauty-box service that coms in different tiers: $10 for six samples, or occasionally $20 for luxury samples. However, unlike the boxes you’re probably used to, this program is more exclusive. Spots are awarded on a first come, first-served basis. The monthly boxes are curated around a theme, like the recent Beauty Staycation box.
Next up, check out these useful shopping tips from former Sephora employees.
This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated