5 Warnings to Shoppers From Ex-Ulta Beauty Employees
Former associates say there are a few key things you should be aware of when shopping here.
Beauty supply stores are full of colorful selections and different brands, all promising to give you that dewy or defined look you've been hoping for. Ulta Beauty is no exception—these shops are chock-full of the latest and greatest beauty products, and unless you have a predetermined list of purchases, there's a chance you might end up with some impulse buys in your basket. But beyond just overspending, former employees say there are a few things you need to know about shopping at Ulta. Read on to find out the five warnings ex-employees have for shoppers, from the return policy to some sanitary issues.
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Don't keep products you don't want.
It's not uncommon to buy or order something and later decide it wasn't the right choice. This happens even more often with makeup, as you never know what kind of scent or shade will work best (unless you use a tester, but more on that later).
But if you buy something from Ulta that you don't end up loving, former employees say that there's no reason to hold onto it.
"You can return anything and everything for up to 6o days, even without a receipt or the box even," says TikToker @rocio.roses, an ex-Ulta employee. This even applies to makeup that you've used.
However, there are a few stipulations, former associates point out. First, you need to have a loyalty account through the Ultimate Rewards program, @rocio.roses says.
Second, you need to have used less than 10 to 20 percent of the product, according to @greeneggsandglam, TikToker and former Ulta manager. In an April 2021 video, she holds up a serum bottle with little to no product left, using it as an example of something Ulta won't refund you for.
The testers may not be the cleanest.
One way to avoid purchasing the wrong product is by using an in-store tester. Ulta associates might offer you a sample, but even if it's from a cotton swab, think twice before applying it.
"There's no real way of sanitizing those lipsticks," TikTok user @xo.xo.darlin says, stating that she's worked at Ulta, Bloomingdales, Macy's, Sephora, and Nordstrom. "Once a cream or a liquid powder has been contaminated, there's no real way that a beauty advisor can sanitize it with a little bit of alcohol."
For this reason, the ex-associate says you should never put these products on your lips. "You can swatch them on your hands if you want to, but honey, don't put that on your lips."
In the comments section, another ex-Ulta employee echoed this warning. "[It] is so bad the way they sanitize the makeup area and samples barely use alcohol."
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Not everyone is a makeup expert.
When you're just getting into makeup or need an expert opinion, you might look to the store associates at Ulta for some tips. But according to Jomayra, another alleged former employee using the TikTok handle @justjagain27, you'll want to be careful about who you consult.
"Let's say you go out on the floor and you… ask someone a question. You may encounter one of three people," Jomayra explains. "You may encounter a Prestige Consultant, someone that was trained by Ulta to know about makeup and to understand things—brands come in and teach them and they get freebies from the brand, so they get to try the makeup…they know what they're talking about."
However, you might also ask someone who's a Beauty Advisor, according to Jomayra, AKA someone who is only trained to be a cashier and not trained in makeup by Ulta. The TikToker claims she was hired as a beauty advisor and used her own experience to recommend products if asked by customers. (Although she also warns that if a shopper asked about a product she was wearing that wasn't from Ulta, a manager instructed her to lie and say that it was.)
The third person you can meet is a brand representative, Jomayra says. "[At] certain stores it's pretty obvious—if they have a Clinique counter or Lancôme counter or Bare Minerals or whatever—they have someone that works that counter, they are paid to mostly push that product." However, sometimes "guest representatives" might be dressed like a "regular Ulta employee," but are strictly there to sell for a brand.
"So if someone's weirdly just telling you, 'Oh, you should really get Juice Beauty,'…and this and that, they may just be a brand representative there to sell as much of their product as possible," Jomayra says.
Be selective about what you use your points for.
If you do have an Ultimate Rewards account, you're probably familiar with Ulta's point system. As ex-associate and TikToker @EricaSaysStuff explains, there are a few key things to know about Ulta's three-tier program, which she says is "far better than any other point system."
For reference, A free Ultimate Rewards membership has no spending requirements and earns you one point per $1 spent, while a Platinum membership has a $500 spending minimum and earns you 1.25 points per $1. Diamond members have a $1,200 spending requirement, but earn 1.5 points for every $1.
The TikToker recommends downloading the Ulta app as a quick way to track sales and activate points, but cautions shoppers against using these points "in small increments."
"If you're a frequent flyer, use them in 2,000-point increments. That's how you get the most bang for your buck," the TikToker says, noting that 2,000 points are equal to $125. It's worth the wait, as 100 points are equal to just $3 off and 1,000 points are worth $50.
You should also pay attention to when Ulta is offering five times the points on purchases, as you'll rack up more points and reap the benefits later on.
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Don't spend more than you should.
In addition to conserving your points, former employees also warn you not to spend more than you need to.
There are plenty of TikTok videos where Ulta employees share their opinions on products that are worth your money, versus those that aren't, but if you have your heart set on a specific item, one TikToker says you might be able to find a coupon by typing "coupon" into the search bar of Ulta's website or the Ulta Beauty app. When you do this, an offer and a scannable barcode should populate if a coupon is available.
Another former employee recommends shopping through the app if you're looking for some of the biggest discounts. "This is a secret from an ex-Ulta employee," TikToker @Kimmydoodlecakes says. She recommends opening the Ulta app, clicking Shop, then Sale and Coupons, then Sale, which will take you to a page with all of Ulta's sale products. Simple enough, right? However, the real trick is how you view the products.
"When you hit sort, you're gonna [select] price from low to high," the TikToker says. In the video, products pop up that are on sale for as low as six and 12 cents. "Look at all those hidden gems that are on sale right now—like 90 percent off half of them. Go get 'em before they sell out."