What I got from the Sephora holiday savings event (vegan + cruelty-free affordable gift ideas)

Ho, ho, ho, ’tis the season for retailers to bombard us with near-constant sales! It’s absolutely exhausting, but it also gives us consumers a chance to score some major deals, including on brands that are rarely discounted.

This Black Friday, I exercised uncharacteristic restraint in the beauty department (though I sadly can’t say the same for…other categories of spending). Why? Because, my friends, I knew that this annual sale from Sephora was coming very soon. And now it’s here (until next Wednesday, Dec. 9)!

In years past, the deal was X dollars off a $50 purchase; recently, the minimum spend has increased to $75, which is a bit of a bummer but seems to be about on par for the way everything at Sephora is going these days. Because I’m just a lowly Beauty Insider, my discount (and yours, if you have or get a Beauty Insider account [it’s free!]) was $15 off of $75 with the code 2020SAVE. Assuming you put exactly $75 worth of products in your cart, that’s a 20% discount. Definitely not as steep as some other sites were offering on Black Friday, but for Sephora, that’s about the best a Beauty Insider can get — the few other discounts throughout the year are usually 10% or maybe 15% off, at most. And you can combine that with the seasonally inflated cash-back percentages from Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to sweeten the deal. (BTW, if you don’t have Rakuten yet, sign up now and thank me later! If you sign up through this link we both get $20 cash back the first time you use it — pretty cool.)

The first two products on this list, I was planning to purchase from other sources last weekend because they were more deeply discounted. But in both cases, I’d have to add items to spend $50 and unlock free shipping. Obviously, paying for shipping was just not an option — especially on this, the holiest of shopping holidays. So I was poised to drop over $100 on a bunch of things that I would have enjoyed, I’m sure, but they weren’t what I was really after, and I am trying to be more mindful in my consumption habits this year (though these delightful holiday sets make it HARD, as you’ll see below). So instead, I waited for this Sephora sale to combine my most coveted items in a single $15-off purchase — with free shipping to boot.

As someone who avidly seeks out vegan and cruelty-free beauty products, I think any of these items would make great gifts for a similarly environmentally-inclined beauty lover (or any beauty lover, honestly) on your gift list. Let’s get to it!

Herbivore Cloud Nine 5 Piece Favorites Collection

$54 $43.20

Cloud Nine 5-Piece Favorites Collection
Photo source: Herbivore Botanicals

Herbivore is one of those lines whose branding realllly draws me in. It strikes the surprisingly difficult perfect balance between the eco-friendly, plant-based nature I always love and the genuinely chic and sleek aesthetic I have come to appreciate. This set combines a product I’ve used and enjoyed before (the Blue Tansy Mask, from this very affordable mini-set) with several I have been jonesing to try (the Pink Cloud Cleanser and Lapis Oil). The other two products — an AHA + BHA exfoliating serum and a luxe body scrub — are things that I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to buy, but I will certainly use and hopefully enjoy them. The cleanser is full-sized and $34 on its own, so at full price, this set gives you 4 decent-sized minis of pretty fancy products for an extra $20. Even better, the set is currently on sale at Sephora for only $43.20! If you, like me, are intrigued by Herbivore, this is a great way to try several of their products without breaking the bank. And if you’re looking for a gift for a skincare lover in your life, I think this would really do the trick.

Bite Beauty Creamy Matte Lip Crayon in Pavlova

$24

Power Move Creamy Matte Lip Crayon,
Photo source: Bite Beauty. And, okay, technically the full name of this product is “Power Move Creamy Matte Lip Crayon,” but that just feels way too long to write in a header.

Bite Beauty was my first introduction to higher-end (as in, anything not from the drugstore) lip products, back in high school when I was a zitty teen obsessed with YouTube beauty gurus. Now a zitty adult, I’ve sadly had to throw those six-plus-year-old lipsticks away, but my love for Bite’s makeup remains. In fact, it’s increased exponentially, as a couple years ago Bite announced they were reformulating their whole line to be vegan (it had previously included animal derivatives like beeswax and carmine). To my knowledge, this move was pretty unprecedented in the beauty industry at that time, and it definitely impressed me — even if it was informed less by morals than by increasing consumer demand for vegan products (there are dozens of us!).

Anyway, all this is to say that I purchased a freshly-vegan lip crayon in this very shade from Bite last winter, only to lose it after a few weeks. I know, I know, an American tragedy! A full year later, it still hasn’t resurfaced, so I have accepted its loss and cheerfully bought its replacement. This shade, Pavlova, is a yummy bright-but-not-too-bold pinkish berry. It’s perfect for when you want to wear something like a red lip, but not exactly red, and it’s a great shade for winter in my humble opinion. I look forward to welcoming Pavlova back into my home very soon. Bite also has some great mini sets for the holidays — this one is on sale at Sephora for only $12.50.

Sephora Favorites POP Set

$15

Photo courtesy of Sephora.

Full disclosure: I picked up this mini set because it was the closest I could get to achieving the $75 coupon threshold without going too far over, while containing something I actually wanted to buy. That something would be the Olaplex No. 3 Hair Perfector, a beauty industry staple. I’m planning to bleach & dye my hair in a couple weeks (!!), so I wanted to try out a smaller size of Olaplex since it’s supposed to be a miracle worker for bleached or otherwise damaged hair. We’ll see how it goes!

The rest of this set, though, is not too shabby either. I’m curious to try the primer and liquid lipstick minis from Rare Beauty and Melt Cosmetics, respectively, neither of which are brands I’ve tried before. I’m sure I’ll use or (more likely) gift the Peace Out peel pads at some point, and having a mini moisturizer like this one from MILK on hand is always useful for when I inevitably run out. I got this set for the Olaplex + the coupon, but I’m not mad about the rest of it, either!

Plus, can we talk about the price? $15 is a great deal for all this stuff! This is a super-affordable grab bag that would make a great gift for any adventurous beauty lover. And even more impressive to me, each product in this set is vegan and cruelty free (or else I wouldn’t have bought it, of course). That’s unusual for these multi-brand Sephora trial sets; usually at least one product ruins the bunch in terms of veganism. I should say: I’m definitely not an expert in these certifications, although I do my homework. I am personally satisfied with each brand’s commitment to being cruelty-free and (at least in the case of these specific products) vegan. But of course, I encourage you to do your own research if you’re curious what the deal is. (Let me know if you’d like to see a post on that topic!)

That was my haul at this December’s Sephora sale! If we trust the “valued at” statements on Sephora’s website — which I usually prefer to double-check by doing the math myself, but honestly I’m far too tired for that right now — I got $144 worth of products for $67, plus tax. Not too shabby! (And that’s not including the couple of free samples and rewards bazaar items I picked up.)

I hope you enjoyed this post and found some inspiration from it! I compiled a few more items I’d gladly gift or receive below.

Other products I’d pick up as gifts from Sephora

(to give and/or treat yourself)

Fenty Beauty Lil Fly Stunna Mini Eye + Lip Set, $24

Fenty’s liquid eyeliner is one of the best I’ve used, and the Stunna Lip Paint is a truly stunning shade of red. I’ll be honest, it’s a little intense for me and my life. But if you need to slay any holiday Zoom calls, put on this liner and lipstick and go forth, queen. Plus….Rihanna. Enough said.

Tower 28 Mini Juicy All The Way Lip Jelly Set, $20 $15

I’m so curious about Tower 28, I just don’t need any more lip glosses right now!

Ilia The Necessary Eyeshadow Palette, $38

I have this six-pan palette in Cool Nudes and I absolutely love it. It’s versatile enough for a range of netural eye looks, from barely-there to smoky, and it’s great for travel. (Oh, god, I miss traveling!) The Warm Nudes shades also look lovely.

Mentioned in passing in this post — in case you missed ’em:

Herbivore Mini True Blue Skin Clarifying Duo, $24

Bite Beauty Mini nude Lipstick Crayon Duo Set, $20

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