Turns Out Those 'Free' Samples and Returns at Sephora Are Actually Costing Us an Arm and a Leg

And here we thought we were getting away with something. According to beauty industry analysts, ingredients in your makeup often only account for around 15% of the cost. The rest is packaging, marketing, and the luxury of working with sales associates and then tricking them into refunding a half-used compact of NARS Orgasm blush because you are just so over it, not because there was anything defective about the product itself. Marc Bain at Quartz.com reports:

Where the makeup is sold matters [...] which is evident when you consider the difference between upscale brands carried at retailers such as Sephora and Ulta and mass-market brands sold at drugstores.

Karen Grant, the global beauty industry analyst at research firm NPD, says they’re two different models, and consumers pay for that difference. At higher-end stores, you “pay for the display areas and the people who are helping to sell the product, whereas in a mass environment it can be sealed up behind a package and sit on a shelf,” she says. High-end shops also often make tester items available, and may accept returns even on used items. It simply costs a retailer more to be profitable in that environment, and those costs are factored into the price tags on the products.


Looks like the jig is up.

Not really related: Where does the idiom “an arm and a leg” come from? The internet cannot decide.

Contact the author at jane.marie@jezebel.com.

Image by Bobby Finger; blood via.


The great return policy is why I’m a loyal Sephora customer (and soon to be VIB Rouge). I just received my 20% off VIB purchase card and can’t wait until Friday for it to take effect.

Anyone here try Bite Beauty? I’m allergic to many lipsticks/balms, but I’m giving this a try because I heard its made of “food-grade” ingredients. But if I get itchy swollen lips, I know I can return it. Thanks, Sephora!