Recently, I’ve become rather disenchanted with this once-wondrous store. A year ago, Sephora was the pinnacle of quality, class, and accessibility for makeup and skincare; now, it’s begun to pander more to the casual consumer, lowering its quality and exclusivity in exchange for cheaper pricing and flashier displays.
Back then, I would walk into Sephora, and feel privileged. The salespeople were always well groomed and looked flawless (a must for someone who represents a beauty corporation), and spanned a great range of ages, which I appreciated. They were always very pleasant, and seemed more wanting to genuinely help than just make a sale. Asking for a sample was easy and painless, and more often than not, I was offered a freebie or tester even when I just idly mused over a product. When I had questions, someone in the store always had the right answer, and tailored their response and advice to my needs. Getting color-matched was a breeze, and I rarely returned anything.
Every single product was of superior quality and was obviously selected to fit the brand’s image. Packaging looked and felt expensive (even on Sephora’s own housebrand), and I took some pride in displaying anything I bought there on my cabinet as opposed to drugstore products which go in the drawers. Not to say that I couldn’t simply have purchased these brands from the parent company. But there was a simple pleasure in being able to walk into a single store and be surrounded by a complete range of products that all radiate elegance.
And the store itself was almost medi-grade clean. It seemed as if every day, someone had wiped off the tops of the lipsticks, droppered a bit of alcohol onto the eyeshadows, and washed the sample brushes. The mini trash bins always seemed freshly emptied; the tester tools were always well stocked.
Now, I walk into Sephora, and feel assaulted. Harsh fluorescent lighting that I’m sure is custom-made refracts off the various bottles, jewels, and spilled glitter, making one’s skin look a thousand times worse than it does anywhere else (a clever marketing ploy, but not one I appreciate). I’m always having to hunt down a tester tool receptacle, only to find it devoid of lip gloss doe foot sponges or disposable mascara wands, and must constantly be on the watch for stray trash (sticky disposables, dirty tissues, used makeup remover wipes) on the floor (at least they aimed in the direction of the bin.) Some vile, synthetic scent that I suppose was meant to resemble vanilla is pumped through the air vents, spilling out in a noxious cloud that makes it difficult to test all but the most potent fragrances, and frankly, sets me in the beginning stages of a migraine.
A too-chipper painted lady greets me at the door, asking if I’ve heard of some promotion or other and shoving a flyer that I’ve already gotten in their newsletter into my hand. When I actually am in need of assistance, looking around the store is like seeing double. Nearly every saleswoman looks exactly the same: white, mid-twenties, heavy foundation, eyeshadow to the browbone, and too long nails. Occasionally I see the one older woman (who I extremely like) lingering in the skincare section in the back, though these encounters are rare. The younger tarts now employed here really don’t seem to know much beyond whether a product is “pretty” or “totally hot on me”. I’ll ask for a product recommendation for oily skin, and they hand me something whose primary ingredient is hyalluronic acid; I ask where a certain brush is located, and they say they don’t even carry it (it takes me less than a minute of searching to find it). I no longer even attempt to ask for shade recommendations after I was twice paired with a foundation that was not off by just a shade (which is completely understandable, due to those awful lights), but was the completely wrong undertone and either two shades too light or four shades too dark (I wish I was joking.)
And the products… Where did my beloved elegance go? While many of the same products I used to lavish in are still there, the displays they reside on are punctuated garishly by cheaper, flashier containers. This… “extravagance”, comes at a cost though: quality. Sephora’s own house brand has taken to this trend and splashed color on many of its products, trying to lure in the less sophisticated market with bright packaging and lower price points. Case-in-point: the new Hello Kitty line. Honestly, the packaging is shiny and supposed to be cute, but the quality of the products housed inside would fail to impress even in a drugstore setting. And really. Has anyone else tried the new I.T. line of brushes? They shed terribly, lose pigment when washed, don’t distribute product evenly, and are just plain scratchy. But, hey! They’re pretty!
I don’t know. I still shop there, but I’m turning more and more to online retailers and professional supply companies to fill my kit. I’m still glad for the accessibility and the ability to be to able to nab a tester or a swatch of a product before purchasing. I guess I’m just disappointed. My previously exclusive makeup haven has now been installed with a gift shop and fluorescent lighting, and done away with the quiet elegance and sense of exclusivity. Heavy sigh, lights down.