I Got Holiday Makeovers At Ulta And Sephora & There Were So Many Differences

Instagram/nikkietutorials
Instagram/nikkietutorials

When I say the words "holiday makeup," you likely conjure up one very specific image: Perfect skin. Red lips. And you can never have too much glitter.

This is likely your go-to look for every holiday party you're invited to — it sure is mine. And because it's the giving season, you might want to treat yourself to a holiday party makeover at your favorite beauty counter. But which one can pull off the look the best?

In a mission to find out, I brought the country's two biggest beauty retailers a fun little challenge. That's right — it's a holiday makeup challenge!

  • At Sephora, full-face makeup is supposed to take 45 minutes. The cost of a "makeover" depends entirely on your membership status.



    sephora
    iStock.com

    Because I'm a VIB Rouge member, I have access to an unlimited amount of free makeovers per year. VIB members are limited to one free makeover per year. Insiders and non-members must spend a minimum of $50 on products for a 45-minute makeover.

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  • I simply told my Sephora artist I was about to go a glitzy holiday party and that I was open to what she found fitting. 

    Revelist/Brittany Fowler
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    The look she landed on was not at all what I was expecting.

    Some extensive skin care and a full face of foundation, contour, eye makeup, and lipstick took just over an hour, and I honestly felt I could have accomplished more in that time frame myself.

    When describing this look to my coworkers, I didn't once use the word "holiday." I believe my exact phrasing was, "Kate Middleton goes to the club."

  • To give credit where it's due, my complexion felt phenomenal after this appointment.

    sephora
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    The artist cleansed, exfoliated, and moisturized my face with First Aid Beauty products before going in with Guerlain's Primer Perfecting Pearls ($74, Sephora) and Baby Glow Sheer Liquid Foundation ($54, Sephora). She highlighted with NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer ($30, Sephora), illuminated and contoured with Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders ($46, Sephora), and bronzed with Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer ($30, Sephora).

    It was radiant and totally perfect for everyday wear, but very subtle for an evening event.

  • But the rest of the look let me down big time in the holiday glamour department — the silver smoky e

    sephora
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    She selected a silver, five-pan smoky-eye palette by Sephora Collection to complement my eye color, but it looked far more metallic in the pan than it did on my eyelid. 

    Where is the glitter? Where is the sparkle? Where is the GLAMOUR? Sigh.

  • The most shocking choice of all was that she opted for a nude lip instead of red, a holiday staple.

    lippie
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    What you're seeing here are two Melted Matte lipsticks by Too Faced ($21, Sephora) layered on top of each other Again, they look just fine — but they don't scream "classic holiday glamour," which is what I wanted.






  • All in all, Sephora left me feeling pretty — but not quite ready to start singing "Jingle Bell Rock.

    nicola
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    Walking out, I couldn't help but think this look could've been perfect if she'd given me a shimmery red lipstick or patted some glitter on my eyelids.






  • At Ulta, "makeovers" are also 45 minutes.

    ulta beauty
    iStock.com

     They're serviced through the brand's professional salon, where prices depend on the experience level of your specialist.

    The artist I booked at random also happened to be an experienced skin technician, so I'm assuming her rate is a little higher than most others'. The makeup service, one pair of drugstore falsies, and a tip totaled around $70. Woof.






  • I gave Ulta's specialist the exact same parameters as Sephora's and left feeling MUCH more ready to 

    nicola
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    The only problem? It took a full 90 minutes. Sure, there was some light skin care involved, but my artist spent a majority of her time blending and correcting eye shadow.






  • This artist decided to complete my complexion after the eyes — and it paid off.

    ulta
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    After completing the eye, my face was covered in glitter fallout, which is impossible to avoid. Thankfully, she was able to wipe all the excess away before covering it all up without having to start from square one.

    She used NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation ($49, Ulta) foundation and added color to my face with a variation of Tarte and IT Cosmetics blushes and bronzers.

  • The Ulta artist did NOT disappoint with my eye look. When she reached for a gold Stila Glitter & Glo

    eyes
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    The outer corners were achieved with NARS' Loaded Eyeshadow Palette ($59, Ulta), but all that glitter you're seeing on the lid and inner corner is that Stila shadow ($24, Ulta).

    For added drama, she glued on a pair of Ardell Wispies ($6, Ulta) and put liquid liner on both of my lash lines.

  • She also gave me the bold red lip I'd been craving — but boldness comes with a risk.

    nicola
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    The Ulta artist was vocally nervous about getting my lip line smooth and even — and you could tell if you were close enough to me. Thankfully, she used a classic MAC lipstick ($18, Ulta) that's easily fixed with any red lip liner.

  • But the risk paid off, and that's why Ulta is the clear winner of this challenge.

    ulta won
    Revelist/Brittany Fowler

    Ulta's artist had a much better handle on the kind of "holiday makeup" I was after — and a clear vision of how she would execute it on me specifically.

    Sephora's look, while still beautiful, didn't have a clear focal point... and it wasn't fancy enough for a fun holiday party.

    Makeup artists are artists, after all, and they're usually stoked when someone is willing to give them full creative control. But if you want something specific with your holiday makeup, bring pictures, product requests, and color scheme preferences with you. 

    Otherwise, you could leave your holiday makeup appointment without enough holiday cheer — or worse yet, not enough glitter. And no one wants that.

    This article was featured on our sister site Revelist and was republished with permission.