Ulta vs. Sally‘s: Which Beauty Retailer is Best for You? The Ultimate Guide

When it comes to all things beauty, Ulta and Sally’s are two of the biggest names in the business. But with different product offerings, price points, and shopping experiences, it can be tricky to determine which retailer is the better fit for your needs.

This comprehensive guide will compare all aspects of Ulta and Sally’s, with tips on who will get more value from shopping at each store. Read on for the ultimate breakdown of these leading beauty stores!

An Overview of Ulta vs. Sally‘s

Ulta Beauty and Sally Beauty Supply have some key similarities and differences:

  • Product range – Ulta carries makeup, skincare, haircare, fragrance, bath & body from drugstore to high-end. Sally‘s focuses more on salon haircare, nail supplies, tools.

  • Pricing – Ulta has a mix of price points, while Sally’s is competitively priced with a focus on professional products.

  • Shopping experience – Ulta stores are brightly lit with testers and full service salons. Sally‘s has a more muted warehouse feel.

  • Key customers – Ulta appeals to everyday beauty shoppers. Sally‘s caters more to licensed pros like stylists and salon owners.

So in a nutshell, Ulta is the more mainstream beauty shopping destination with mass appeal, while Sally’s meets the supply needs of beauty industry insiders. But let’s explore the details further…

Comparing the Product Selection

When it comes to the variety of beauty brands carried, Ulta certainly has a leg up on Sally’s. Ulta carries over 500 brands from drugstore to high end, including their own private label, Ulta Beauty Collection. Some popular brands at Ulta include:

  • Makeup: Benefit, MAC, Urban Decay, Anastasia Beverly Hills

  • Skincare: Clinique, Estee Lauder, First Aid Beauty, Perricone MD

  • Haircare: Redken, Olaplex, Pureology, DevaCurl

  • Bath & Body: The Body Shop, philosophy

  • Fragrance: Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, YSL

Sally’s, on the other hand, offers primarily salon-quality haircare brands, nail products and tools designed for licensed professionals. Some leading brands at Sally’s include:

  • Haircare: Wella, Paul Mitchell, Schwarzkopf, Joico, TIGI

  • Hair tools: Hot Tools, Babyliss PRO, CHI

  • Nail care: OPI, CND, Essie, Gelish

So if you want an endless aisle of makeup, skincare and fragrance, Ulta is the clear winner for product selection and variety. But for pro quality haircare and nail supplies, Sally’s can’t be beat.

Pricing and Promotions Comparison

When it comes to price, Ulta again caters to a wider range of budgets. Their products range from under $5 drugstore items to $100 prestige skincare. Sally’s pricing stays competitive, but focuses on pro products rather than budget buys.

Both Ulta and Sally’s run frequent promotions to keep prices as low as possible. Ulta offers general sales like “Buy More Save More” and targeted deals like 40% off PUR cosmetics. Sally’s does bulk pricing for multi-bottle haircare purchases and “Buy 2 Get 1 Free” specials.

For the budget beauty shopper, Ulta’s broad selection of drugstore makeup under $10 is tough to beat. But a salon owner buying liters of Pravana hair color will find better bulk pricing at Sally’s. Overall, Ulta likely edges out in price competitiveness across all categories.

Loyalty Programs: Ultamate Rewards vs. Sally Beauty Rewards

One perk of frequenting either beauty retailer is taking part in their loyalty programs.

  • Ulta Ultamate Rewards – Earn 1 point for every $1 spent. 500 points earns a $3 reward. Points can be redeemed on anything. Status tiers like Platinum provide extra perks.

  • Sally Beauty Rewards – Earn 10 points for every $1 spent. 500 points earns a $5 reward towards future purchases. 3 status tiers offer bonus redemption rates.

In terms of program structure, Ulta and Sally’s are very similar. They both offer a 10% return in rewards certificates, status levels, targeted discounts, and birthdays gifts for enrolled members. Overall, the Ultamate Rewards program provides a bit more flexibility in earning and redeeming points, but both programs effectively reward loyal customers.

Comparing the Shopping Experience

The in-store shopping experience can also differ greatly between these beauty giants. Most Ulta stores are around 10,000 square feet. They are brightly lit, with wide aisles and displays front and center. Testers are readily available so customers can swatch and sample products. Salons offer hair, makeup, brow, and skin services.

Sally’s stores also average 10,000 square feet but have more of a muted warehouse atmosphere. Merchandise is packed into shelves rather than displayed. There are fewer testers except for hair color swatch books. Most locations don’t offer salon services. The vibe caters more to efficiency than leisurely browsing.

If you want expansive aisles to peruse new launches while sipping from the Ulta Beauty Bar, Ulta provides a more enjoyable shopping environment. But for pros who want to quickly stock up on supplies, Sally’s no-frills experience gets the job done.

Hair Care: Ulta vs. Sally’s Showdown

One area where Sally’s particularly shines is hair care. As a trusted distributor of professional brands, they offer an unrivaled selection of salon products. Ulta does carry popular pro lines like Redken, Kenra, and Biolage, but lacks the depth of Sally‘s catalog.

When it comes to styling tools, both retailers offer leading brands like Revlon, Conair and Hot Tools. However, Sally’s also sells higher-end professional tools designed for repeated daily use. These include irons, blow dryers and hot brushes from brands like Babyliss PRO and Izunami.

So while Ulta can fulfill most everyday hair needs, Sally’s is the go-to for licensed stylists and salon owners seeking premium professional products for their business.

Makeup Must-Haves: Ulta vs. Sally’s Selection

Makeup is where Ulta really pulls ahead of Sally’s. Ulta carries all the top prestige and drugstore makeup brands, spanning all price points and categories. Shoppers can find foundations from Make Up For Ever or Maybelline, eye palettes from Tarte or e.l.f., lipsticks from MAC or NYX.

Sally’s makeup selection is primarily limited to nail polish, with brands like OPI, Essie, Gelish and CND Shellac. Some stores may offer a small selection of lip glosses or false lashes, but their cosmetics inventory pales in comparison to Ulta’s.

So while Sally’s excels in hair care and nails, Ulta unequivocally dominates makeup and cosmetics. For all things pigment and color, Ulta is the clear winner.

Skin Care Smackdown: Who Wins?

Similar to makeup, skincare is an area where Ulta clearly bests Sally’s. Ulta offers moisturizers, treatments, cleansers and more from dermatologist brands like SkinCeuticals and Obagi, to natural lines like The Body Shop and pur-lisse. Department store classics like Estee Lauder and Clarins also get prime shelf space.

By contrast, Sally’s skincare selection is very limited. Most locations stock a small assortment of facial cleansers, creams, serums and masks to support facial waxing services. However, their focus remains on hair and nails.

Skincare fanatics will prefer shopping Ulta’s wide array of products catering to all skin types and concerns. Sephora is Ulta’s main skincare competitor, but few other retailers can match their diverse mix of prestige to drugstore brands.

Salon Services: Hair, Nails, Skin and More

An added perk of these one-stop beauty stores are their on-site salon services. Most Ulta locations operate full-scale salons right in store, offering:

  • Haircuts, styling and color
  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Facials and skin treatments
  • Makeup application
  • Brow shaping
  • Waxing

By contrast, only around 30% of Sally’s have built-in salons. Their services focus almost exclusively on nails, with offerings like:

  • Manicures and pedicures
  • Acrylic and dip powder nails
  • Nail art and extensions

A few may offer facial waxing, but hair and makeup services are very limited. If you want a full beauty experience under one roof, Ulta is clearly the better choice. But for quick and convenient nails, Sally’s delivers.

Online Shopping Experience

Of course, in today’s digital age, a retailer’s online presence is just as crucial as its brick-and-mortar stores. Both Ulta and Sally’s have robust ecommerce sites and mobile apps offering perks like:

  • Online exclusive deals and products
  • Easy reordering of favorites
  • Virtual try-on for makeup
  • salon service bookings
  • Order online, pick-up in store

Sally’s may have a slight edge when it comes to shipping times and cost. Their network of distribution centers allows for speedy fulfillment across the U.S. Ulta offers free shipping at a $35 minimum, while Sally’s has no order minimum for free shipping.

Overall, the online and mobile experiences are comparable across these beauty giants. Ease of use, fulfillment speed, and omnichannel benefits like BOPIS make it simple to shop beauty anytime, anywhere.

Market Share and Reach

In terms of market presence, Ulta is the larger chain with over 1,300 stores compared to Sally’s roughly 3,000. However, Sally’s has a wider global distribution reaching over 20 countries.

When it comes to prestige beauty sales, Ulta is the clear leader. According to 2021 NPD data, Ulta holds 24% of the prestige beauty market share in the U.S. Sally’s share sits at just 7%.

However, limiting it just to prestige paints an incomplete picture. Factoring in professional product sales, Sally’s US revenues were $3.5 billion in 2021 compared to Ulta’s $8 billion. So among pro-level brands, Sally‘s maintains significant market leadership.

Ultimately, Ulta sells more across the whole beauty spectrum. But Sally’s massive pro beauty distribution still can’t be discounted.

Who Does Each Retailer Appeal To?

With all of the above factors considered, we can break down the target demographics for each brand:


  • Everyday beauty enthusiasts
  • Budget shoppers
  • Prestige makeup and skincare lovers
  • Trend followers
  • Salon service seekers
  • Broad age range


  • Licensed stylists and aestheticians
  • Salon, spa, barbershop owners
  • Nail technicians
  • Value-driven pro product buyers
  • Older Millennial to Gen X age range

There is certainly crossover between these demographics. But in general, Ulta seeks to attract a diverse makeup and skincare obsessed crowd. Sally’s focuses on price-conscious pros and small business owners.

Pros and Cons of Ulta vs. Sally’s

Ulta Pros

  • Wider assortment of makeup, skincare, bath, fragrance
  • Broad mix of drugstore to high-end brands
  • Trendy, enjoyable in-store experience
  • Full-service salons for hair, skin, brows, nails
  • Rewards frequent shoppers with points program

Ulta Cons

  • More expensive than drugstores for base products
  • Limited professional haircare selection
  • Can feel overwhelming for quick shopping trips

Sally‘s Pros

  • Massive selection of salon hair brands
  • Professional styling tools and nail products
  • Value prices on liter sizes and bulk
  • Speedy online order fulfillment
  • Loyalty program generous for pro shoppers

Sally‘s Cons

  • Very limited makeup and skincare
  • No frills warehouse shopping environment
  • Not all locations offer salon services
  • Caters mostly to industry rather than consumers

Which Retailer Offers Better Value Overall?

Determining whether Ulta or Sally’s offers better value depends entirely on your specific beauty needs:

For everyday beauty essentials like makeup and skincare, Ulta is tough to beat. Their combination of mega-selection and cost-effective drugstore picks makes beauty accessible for all budgets.

For salon-quality haircare and nails, Sally’s curated pro brands and bulk value make it the go-to shop. The prices can’t be beat even outside the industry.

For luxury high-end purchases, Ulta’s wider prestige offerings give it the advantage over Sally’s more limited niche.

For pro stock-ups as a stylist or salon owner, Sally’s wholesale pricing and professional focus are ideal for business needs.

For a quick lip gloss shop, Ulta’s enjoyable browsing experience wins. For no-fuss pro supply runs, Sally’s simplified stores get you in and out quickly.

Ultimately, it depends on your specific priorities as a beauty shopper. Define your must-have products, brands, price points and shopping preferences, and the best choice becomes clear!

The Final Takeaway: Who Will You Shop?

After taking a detailed dive into every aspect of these beauty mega-retailers, we can determine:

For most mainstream beauty consumers, Ulta is likely the preferable destination thanks to their unmatched product breadth and affordable prices.

For pros or anyone seeking premium yet cost-effective salon brands, Sally Beauty Supply is the choice. Their prices on liter-sized professional products can’t be beaten.

There’s certainly room to shop at both if your needs span consumer makeup and pro haircare. But understanding their distinct strengths and target shoppers can help decide where to spend your beauty budget.

Whichever retailer you choose, you can be confident you’re getting quality products at competitive prices. Happy shopping for all your beauty must-haves!

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