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What are the best beauty stores? It really depends on what you need. If you want cheap, decent quality products, Walmart might be your jam. If you want easy shopping and unlimited selection, Amazon’s a good choice. There are also specialty beauty shops online and department stores. Each offers a slightly different type of experience. Read on to learn more.

Department stores that sell beauty products

Before the internet, fashionistas hit up department stores for midrange skincare products and cosmetics. You could walk in to Nordstrom, for example, ask for advice from a beauty advisor at the Mac counter, and then be on your way — new makeup in hand.

You could also set yourself an appointment for a makeover, which was generally free — though you were encouraged to buy a product or two. You’d choose which makeup brand you wanted and set an appointment with that brand’s beauty rep. You’d then get a personalized session with a brand expert. I remember doing this back in my 20s. It was a fun activity back in the day.

Collage of beauty products with text overlay that reads, best beauty stores.

Mall-based department stores still offer those services. If you’re interested in a brand-specific makeover, try:

Drugstores that sell beauty products

Several drugstores offer a full range of beauty products at lower prices vs. department stores. You don’t get the personalized service at a drugstore, but your money goes further. Stores in this category include:

Discount chains that sell beauty products

The cheapest beauty stores are the discount chains that sell retailers’ excess inventory. There’s a drawback, though. You never know what you’ll find in these stores, and the quality can be suspect.

Discount chains to check out include:

The beauty aisles in these stores are fun to browse, because the selection is usually pretty random. But you wouldn’t walk into to TJ Maxx hoping to buy lipstick for your wedding.

Online beauty stores

Sephora and Ulta Beauty are the beauty store mega chains. But there are so many more, including:

Beauty brand stores

You can also shop beauty directly from your favorite brands. Some popular choices are:

And then there’s Amazon

Amazon gets a spot on this list, though it doesn’t fit into any of the other categories. Why shop Amazon for beauty? Amazing selection of lower-cost beauty products and fast shipping. There are niche brands that sell exclusively on Amazon at great prices, and some of these are quite good.

When you should shop beauty in person

Of course we love shopping beauty products at home (glass of wine in hand!) — but it’s not always the best idea. There are certain situations when you’re better off walking into a beauty store and talking with a consultant. For example:

  • You want to try a new shade or new makeup technique. A live beauty advisor can help you experiment with new shades or products with less disappointment.
  • You’re buying a new brand of foundation. There are some hacks you can employ to nail down the right foundation shade. See our post: 4 Bigtime Pitfalls of Buying Makeup Online & How to Avoid Them. Still, going into the store gives you the chance to try colors and choose your best option before you buy.
  • You’re buying lip color (and it’s not a refill). It’s very difficult to see a lip color’s undertones online. The color may look amazing on your MacBook, and then turn out crazy bright on your face.

Basically, if you want to try out something new or could benefit from personal feedback or advice, go into a store. Generally, the assistance is free — so you only have to invest your time. In return, you should spare yourself from having to return product or losing money on products you end up not using.

Budget Fashionista beauty store blog posts