We adore Sephora. Every beauty lover does. (Excuse us while we state the obvious.) Wall-to-wall lipstick, lotion, luminizers—what’s not to love? 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; apparently, there are some things even years of visits won’t teach you.
We did some sleuthing and spoke with a Sephora Beauty Director, David Razzano, to uncover some little-known facts about the brand. Keep scrolling to learn some interesting facts about our favorite makeup mecca.
Meet the Expert
David Razzano is a Beauty Director at Sephora. He attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and became a Sephora Pro Artist in 2014 after a rigorous audition process. He has keyed shows at New York Fashion Week and lives in New York City.
Fact #1: It's not a store
Shakespeare said it first: all the world's a stage, and so it is at Sephora. The sales floor is called the “stage,” and everywhere else is “backstage.” Sales associates are “cast members,” and managers are the “directors.” Uniforms are "costumes."
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 in New York City. 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 isn't technically a real word
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: It changed how we shop for makeup
Can you imagine shopping for makeup any other way than we do now—with products out for you to touch and swatch? Before Sephora, the standard method of operation was an old-fashioned department store model, with products locked away behind cases and nary a tester in sight. Mandonnaud pioneered the "assisted self-service" model we think of as standard.
Fact #5: Don't worry about remembering your samples
“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. Cast members have the ability to scan your samples right into the Sephora app on your phone and file them directly underneath your Beauty Insider (more on that below) profile. No more struggling to read tiny, makeup-smudged writing on minuscule labels.
Checking out online? Right now, all orders also come with two free samples, which also go straight into your profile.
Fact #6: Rouge isn't just the blush they sell
Sephora's rewards program, Beauty Insider, has three different tiers, and the top echelon of spenders are referred to as "Rouge" members. If you drop $1000 or more on products in a year (which is shockingly easy to do), you gain access to exclusive events, early product drops, expedited shipping, special Rouge-only shades of cult-favorite products, meet-and-greets with brand founders and other makeup bigwigs, and the chance to trade in rewards points for gift cards. Sometimes, it pays to be on top.
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: It can basically provide makeup on-demand
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—and it's free if you're Rouge. Members can also choose overnight shipping for $6. Need something sooner than that? Postmates offers Sephora delivery straight to your door in many major cities.
Fact #9: 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, which will help you sleuth out new favorites based on skin type and scent preferences, respectively.
Sephora has six "TIP Workshop" locations ("TIP" stands for Teach, Inspire, Play). They feature interactive tools like cutting-edge versions of IQ technology, virtual try-on, and more. Visit one the next time you're in Boston, New York, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco (where Sephora is headquartered), or Santa Clarita Valley, Ca.
Fact #10: French shoppers love Sephora
It started there, and the French support their native beauty space. The Sephora at Champs-Élysées in Paris attracts over six million people each year.
Fact #11: The Rewards Bazaar is the place to be
Now that you're a Rouge (we know you are, and we are, too), how exactly do you reap your rewards? Head over to the Rewards Bazaar, where you can pick up deluxe samples, cute accessories, and more. If you've been stashing those points for a while, trade them in for even cooler goodies, like autographed face charts, full-size products, branded swag, and even trips to events.
Fact #12: The Beauty Insider Community is here for you
If everyone in your life has cut you off from waxing poetic about lipstick shades, don't worry: Sephora's Beauty Insider Community has your back. Post breakdowns of your looks, talk formulas with other fans, and join discussion groups about your personal product passions. There's nothing like being among your people.
Fact #13: Getting your travel makeup bag ready has never been easier
Anyone who's ever wandered around a drugstore in vain searching for the travel minis will appreciate this: Sephora has a dedicated section to all things TSA-compliant, called Beauty on the Fly. You can normally find it as you snake your way to the register (thanks for enabling our impulse shopping!). If you pick up three travel-sized products, you also get a free clear zipper bag to stash them.
Fact #14: Giving back is very important there
Sephora's philanthropic arm, Sephora Stands, is doing a lot to make the beauty space more inclusive and diverse. It supports women-owned brands with its beauty incubator Accelerate, offers Classes For Confidence to teach makeup application to cancer patients and transgender community members, and have developed SephoraIN as a support network for employees in situations of domestic violence. There are other diversity, sustainability, and accessibility initiatives as well.