9 Shopping Secrets Ulta Employees Don't Want You to Know

We feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland every time we walk into Ulta Beauty, mainly because of the flood of both joy and fear that fills our bodies. Joy because of the vast array of products before us just waiting to be tested and swiped, and a twinge of fear for the damage soon to be inflicted on our wallets. Luckily, there are a few key shopping secrets that will temper the latter emotion. Whether you are an Ulta Beauty regular and have separation anxiety with your Ultamate Rewards card, or have only ventured into the megastore once (or never), we hope you’ll find this guide helpful. After all, the more you save… the more money you have for other beauty products, right? Or, you know, something like that.

ulta shopping tips

Get Gifts With Purchase

Gifts with purchase are one of our favorite parts of the Ulta Beauty shopping experience—like buying a cake then having someone be like, “Here, take some ice cream too!” Not every gift with purchase may be advertised in store, so make sure to take a look at this section of Ulta Beauty’s website to see all the promotions before stopping in. Another tip? If you get a gift with purchase then end up returning the original purchase, you can keep the gift. Does this mean you should only buy beauty products only to get the gifts with purchase, then return them all? Definitely not—that's a hassle and could result in loss of return privileges. Instead, simply think of it as a gesture of goodwill—one that you wouldn’t want to take advantage of lest it gets taken away.

Buy In-Store

If you prefer to buy your beauty products from the comfort of your couch, we’ve got some motivation for you to get off your butt. According to this Ulta Beauty employee, stores may mark down certain products (up to 75%!) that aren’t selling well to make way for new inventory—price reductions that aren’t usually reflected online.

Check Ads

To stay on top of the newest products, it may actually be best to go the old-school route: by checking Ulta Beauty’s advertisements. You’ll find them in the pages of your favorite magazines, but also feel free to find them all in one place right here. These ads are particularly helpful when Ulta is having a big sale event, because you can see everything in one place.

Check Sales

Ulta Beauty is always, always having a sale—even when it’s not having a sale. What do we mean? There are always discounted products in the store—you just have to take some time to look for them. Or better yet, ask an associate to show you. In terms of major sales, always check in during Ulta Beauty’s 21 Days of Beauty sale, where one item is marked down at a greatly reduced price for one day only (this happens twice a year, usually during spring or fall). There’s a high chance you’ll find one of your favorite luxury products marked way, way down.

Take Advantage of the Return Policy

Ulta has a great return policy, which is as simple as "if you don't like the product you can take it back within 90 days." This includes something being the wrong shade for you or making you break out. It's particularly great if you have a rewards card, because then they don't need a receipt at all. However, all items have to be returned with everything (boxes included). You can return products by mail or in-store.

Ulta will put a limit on your returns if they believe you're abusing the system in some way.

Find Coupons

Coupons might bring to mind images of old ladies furiously clipping and snipping pages of newspapers, but guess what—they’re still totally relevant, and Ulta Beauty has some great ones. If you sign up for its Ultamate Rewards program, you’ll most likely get mailed the much-coveted 20% off coupon at one point or other. (Also make sure to sign up for its emails, since the brand often sends email-only coupons). Ulta Beauty also accepts some third-party manufacturer coupons (i.e., coupons from the beauty brands, which you can find in magazines or newspapers), which you can pair with an Ulta Beauty store coupon to save even more. Just imagine the money you’ll save (and beauty products you’ll accrue).

To make sure you always have the most recent Ulta Beauty coupons, you can always download the free Ulta Beauty app.

Get Birthday Points

We know we’ve already said this, but we’ll say it again: You should really get an Ultamate Rewards card. You’ll get one point for every dollar (or 1.25 after $450, or 1.5 after $1200) you spend, and with more points come more discounts. One little-known fact: Whatever beauty products you buy during the month of your birthday will be counted as double points. So treat yo’self.

Shop Clearance

We know we’ve talked about Ulta Beauty’s sales, but the clearance section will save you major money too. Don’t leave the store without taking a look at its clearance section, which will usually house a wide variety of products. Want the first pick? Ulta Beauty stores do inventory a few times a year, and that’s when their newer items go to clearance. To find out exactly when, just ask an employee. Another fun fact: Your coupons apply to clearance items too.

Always Ask

The best way to save money at Ulta Beauty? Just ask the employees. When you’re checking out, always ask if any of your products qualify for a gift for purchase—don’t expect that they’ll always tell you first. Ask employees about clearance items, inventory dates, current promotions and coupons, and more. Do not hold back—that’s what they’re there for, after all.

Grace Kim/Byrdie 

Keep scrolling to shop some of our current Ulta Beauty favorites.

ABH Sun Dipped Glow Kit
Anastasia Beverly Hills Sun Dipped Glow Kit $40.00

Over a thousand people gave this product five stars, and we’re here to say that the hype is real. You get four super-blendable metallic gold powders for a really pretty glow.

Skinlongevity Vital Power Infusion Serum
BareMinerals Skinlongevity Vital Power Infusion Serum $42.00

It’s no wonder this product has a nearly five-star rating. Patented Long Life Herb Extract promotes skin rejuvenation and hydration, so skin is left soft, renewed, and completely beautiful in just one step.

OGX Coconut Curls Styling Milk
OGX Coconut Curls Styling Milk $8.00

We like this styling milk as an alternative to a styling cream, which can sometimes be heavy and weigh down curls. This product has a light texture that encourages curls and hydrates strands, so hair is left effortlessly bouncy and frizz-free.

This story was originally published on March 4, 2016 and has since been updated.

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