My Thoughts On Sephora Having Been There Once For Approximately Five Minutes

Context:  I am traveling for work in the Rockies. Somehow it is dry and 60 degrees colder than it is in the Northeast. Plus TSA wouldn’t let me bring my Aveeno. Desperation brings me to this Sephora, because my face is blotchy and peeling like a banana from the hotel lotion and the nearest Walgreens is a quarter mile away through what is basically polar vortex weather.

This place is overwhelming.

I can’t tell where anything is supposed to be. Also the color scheme is intimidating. Do I belong here? Then again, does anyone really belong anywhere?

A nice lady asks if I’m looking for something in particular. Lotions?, I say declaratively but with the question mark.

She leads me through the aisles as if she actually wants to help me. You know, like a pal. It makes me very uncomfortable. I think I’ve been living in the Northeast for too long.

She brings me to the L’Occitane shelf and offers to walk me through the different lotions. She even brings out new little samples from a hidden drawer under the shelf. My mind is blown. Where did that drawer come from. Better yet, where did it go?

Where do we all go?

She places a little jar in my hand. The jar is beautiful. If I was a jar, I’d want to look just like this jar. I would be smooth and pleasantly weighty and fit just right in my own tiny palm.

The jar is 1.7 oz.

It costs $34.

Oh, there must be a mistake, I think to myself. This must be the sample size for the larger jar. That larger jar costs $34, right? Where’s that larger jar? I wonder. I know, it must be in the hidden drawer.

And then I realize: no, this tiny jar really is $34 of lotion.

I’m not going to be here that long, I think to myself. Why don’t I put this tiny jar back and reach for one of those even tinier tubes?

The tube costs $28.

I am now in a crisis. I needed lotion and then came here and then this nice lady placed a tiny jar of lotion in my hand. If I put this back on the shelf and don’t buy anything, will I be rejecting that nice lady’s help? Even worse, will I be denying myself my own needs?

Because, by this point, I have convinced myself that I need this lotion. It has 25% shea butter in it and I’ve heard that stuff is great for your skin. Shouldn’t I let myself splurge on this lotion? Think of all the opportunities, all the shea butters I’ve turned down because of the vulgarity that is money.

Down with capitalism, up with shea butter.

As I wait to be rung up at the register, I am ushered through a tiny hallway of perfumes. Ten different sample size, about four squirts each, for $25. What a deal, I think to myself. If only perfume didn’t make me break out I would buy it. Because, like the tiny jar of lotion, I am now imagining what it would be like to be such a tiny delicate spritzer.

I pay the $34. The cashier seems almost insulted I didn’t buy more. I feel ashamed. The couple in front of me bought multiple bags worth of stuff. Why can’t I be so carefree as they are? I think. I bet they don’t deny themselves shea butter.

I am now sitting at the airport on my way back home. My face is no longer peeling, the red jagged cracks in my hands have closed. A tiny $34 jar of lotion sits in my bag. It serves as a memento of my trip through Sephora. A strange journey through the Twilight Zone that I am too afraid to repeat. A frail human such as myself cannot traverse such spaces so wantonly. I fear it’ll tempt the spirits. I fear I may become lost.

A tiny $34 jar of lotion sits in my bag.

I cannot tell if it is my trophy or I am its.


16 thoughts on “My Thoughts On Sephora Having Been There Once For Approximately Five Minutes

  1. I bought a travel sunblock at Sephora once (there was a mall at the conference and I was out). Way overpriced, reeking of perfume, and didn’t even work that well– it was super thick and stopped protecting me from the sun long before a free travel sunblock I got at a hotel in Arizona did. Never again! (It has since been replaced with a small bar of travel sunblock from Target across the street from a conference in San Francisco.) On that Sephora trip I also bought a small travel hairbrush that my daughter uses (it hasn’t really held up that well either) and I got a airplane travel bag for liquids that was free with the purchase of the other travel stuff that is still in really good shape, surprisingly.


  2. This is timely for me, as I almost wrote a post about beauty products for the week. I don’t go to Sephora anymore without a specific purpose. I usually do research online and then I make a beeline for those products: test them, get samples, etc. But when I was younger, I would just wander in when I’m bored and end up spending money on stuff I didn’t need.

    In terms of whether or not it’s worth it, I generally think beauty products are a scam, but I do spend more on foundations/tinted moisturizers, because I have a hard-to-match skin tone, and I find drugstore versions are limited. The same thing with eyeshadows–higher end ones will most like be more pigmented. But if you don’t care about nuances and don’t have problem skin, then drugstore stuff is fine!


    1. I’m not a beauty product sort of person (very sensitive skin that can’t take makeup or anything perfume) but I can understand why some people might be. I often wonder about the efficacy of the high end stuff versus basic drug store brands for the basics like lotions and soaps.


  3. I used to spend so, so much money at Sephora, ack. (And since I stopped almost cold turkey without feeling deprived or anything, I know those purchases weren’t bringing me much benefit!) I always used to shop online, setting me up for extra add-ons to get to the free shipping threshold, rather than in person because the in-store experience was always pretty overwhelming. In my limited experience their associates aren’t too great at making recommendations if you don’t have a good idea of something quite specific you’re looking for, maybe down to knowing what brand you want to buy from.

    I generally use Sephora price point makeup and I do think it’s worth it. I wear it so rarely, though, that I barely need a refill a year for most items. I’m also willing to spend a lot on skincare, more because of the number of items I use than the price point of my products, but I generally don’t buy at Sephora. I don’t think most very high-end skincare is worth it, as there’s so much that’s good at the drugstore-ish price point. For the most part, I doubt that a lot of the extra “frills” in super high-end skincare – weird botanical extracts for instance – are actually good for people’s skin.


    1. I almost signed up for Sephora birthday freebies a few years back and I’m so glad I didn’t end up doing it. I can so easily see getting sucked into spending more and more for the loyalty points, etc.

      I’m not much of a makeup person (skin is too sensitive) but it’s good to hear I’m not missing out on much in terms of skincare. In general, I’m pretty happy with my current regimen, and I guess that’s all that matters. I can’t say the fancy stuff isn’t enticing though.


  4. I bought Shea butter, locally, at the “Footwash” in Uniontown (google it) for $3.00 from a vendor at the celebration. Shea butter is good stuff. I understand being desperate when traveling. I get overwhelmed in stores like that also. I just know where to go locally.


  5. If you stick with holy grail quality make up and don’t buy a ton of it, sephora makes sense. I only own like 5-6 make up items, but have done a lot of research and don’t mind paying 30 bucks for each item. It does make a big difference I think. But for skincare, generally sephora is a rip off for overhyped ingredients that probably cause more harm than good. If you need something little, stick with the sample size aisle by the cashier. Usually they offer the best sellers / better products there anyway.


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