Like any beauty lover, Sephora is my happy place. It's where I go to find inner peace, calm, and about a million new lipsticks.
So when I realized that the biggest Sephora in the US was not just in New York, but five minutes from my office, I knew I *had* to go. Hell, I needed a new dark tinted brow gel, anyway.
And not only was it an all-caps EXPERIENCE, I literally ran in to one of my beauty idols. Yes, there's a makeup celebrity at the end of this story.
Here's what it's really like to shop at the biggest Sephora in North America.
Even though I genuinely HATE crowds — and having my feet stomped on by people who can't cross the road — I knew that Giant Sephora would be my reward.
And this Sephora was absolutely as advertised: It is MASSIVE. It goes on forever!
Some stats on the store, per Sephora: 11,300 square feet (a terrifying amount of room for New Yorkers accustomed to pocket-size spaces); over 13,000 products in store. Specialized skin care, makeup, and fragrance-finding tech; brands that you can't find in any other store.
And celebrity makeup artists, who you might just find shopping next to you. But I'll get to that.
I was overwhelmed — both by the sheer size of the store, and the number of people everywhere. But it got easier to navigate as I figured out the general layout.
The store is roughly divided into thirds. At the front of the store nearest the doors is the makeup section. The center of the store is dedicated to skin and hair care (as an aside, this store has the largest selection of hair products I have ever seen at a Sephora). At the very back of the store is fragrance.
Once I got my bearings, I was like, GET IN LOSERS WE'RE GOING SHOPPING.
BROW GEL WAITS FOR NO WOMAN.
There's also this cool complexion-matching tech called ColorIQ. A Sephora employee scans your skin with a Tricorder-looking device, and the program gives you a Pantone skin shade — AND tells you all the foundation, concealer, and powder options that perfectly match that shade.
I wasn't able to try it at this store, because everyone was SO BUSY, but I have tested it in the past and it's really neat. They can even attach your ColorIQ Pantone shade to your Sephora VIB account, so it's always on file and can be updated whenever you want!
You can also find extended lines of your existing favorite brands. This is the first Sephora I've ever been in that has the new NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencils colors.
Up until now, I've only seen these beauties at NARS counters and online. This is my favorite matte lipstick formula, and I was delighted to swatch some of the new, darker colors.
There's also the complete line of Anastasia Beverly Hills lipsticks and glosses, EVERYTHING Kat Von D Beauty has ever released — including the Alchemist palette! — and the biggest Milk Makeup display I have ever seen.
Yr fave could NEVER.
Pro-tip: Because this store is insanely busy, a lot of the "cool" products LOOK like they're sold out — but they aren't!
For example, practically every holographic highlighter in this store looked like it was out of stock — there was a tester in the product bay, but no boxes behind it.
Don't despair. This Sephora store has LOTS of stand-alone "trend" risers spotlighting multiple brands. Though the Milk holographic highlighter stick and CoverFX drops were sold out in their respective sections, there were plenty of both to be found right here. These risers can be hard to find, but fortune favors the persistent.
That said, I couldn't find any dark tinted brow gel — and the employees were so swamped that nobody could help me. Sad face.
My favorite skin care brand, Dr.Jart+, was also represented in full. Gone are the days of finding one or two moisturizers on the shelves — this is the full line!
I love these creepy masks, in case you've forgotten.
Allllllllllll the way in the back — the least crowded part of the store — is the fragrance section. And it is EPIC.
Not only does this store have the full line of Margiela Replica scents — not just the two or three most popular bottles, like in most stores — it even has the candles. THAT'S excellent.
In addition to having the nicest, most knowledgable staff, the fragrance section also has the complete line of Jo Malone perfumes — a 34th St. exclusive.
I love Jo Malone perfumes because they're glorious — but it's hard to shop online for scents. Being able to go and test them out, without going all the way across town, really made for a nice shopping experience.
And if you're the type of person who doesn't know a tuberose from a Bulgarian rose — and I count myself among you — you can use Sephora's FragranceIQ system to help find your perfect scent.
All you do is answer some easy questions about things that you find appealing ("A walk through a blooming garden"), when you're likely to wear perfume ("Every morning for a confidence boost"), and how powerful you want your perfume to be ("When people get close to me"). It then spits out the general perfume family you're most likely to be into — it told me I liked BOLD FLORALS, which is accurate — and suggests some fragrances instore that you can go try.
I shopped 'til I dropped, but then beheld the checkout line... and my heart sank. The wait can be EPIC — but I found a clever trick to get around that.
This line was honestly 40 people deep, and I was genuinely wondering whether I wanted ANYTHING that badly... and then an employee called anyone paying with credit or debit into another, wait-free line. Instead of standing around for an hour, I was checked out in three minutes flat.
The moral of the story: ALWAYS PAY WITH CREDIT OR DEBIT AT THE 34TH ST. SEPHORA. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
I didn't get my tinted brow gel — aka, the ONE thing I went in for — so I did a final lap of the store. I was idly considering getting clear gel instead, when I realized the woman standing next to me looked AWFULLY FAMILIAR.
IT WAS MOTHERFUCKING PAT MCGRATH, MAKEUP LEGEND AND ULTIMATE LIFE HERO.
Even though I've interviewed Pat in a professional capacity, I admire her so much that I freaked the hell out and hid to take creepy photos of the back of her head.
Pat, if you or your crew saw a terrified-looking woman scurrying away while hyperventilating, hi! I couldn't handle my love and admiration for you!
Here's what I bought at the biggest Sephora in the US.
I picked up a NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Endangered Red ($27, Sephora) — I LOVE the dark wine color, and the formula is beyond compare.
And I picked up a bottle of Jo Malone Tuberose Angelica Cologne Intense ($120, Sephora), because I goddamned love a voluptuous white floral. I'm basic, don't @ me.
Though it's insanely crowded and I embarassed myself in front of one of my idols, the biggest Sephora in the United States is definitely worth checking out if you're a beauty junkie coming to NYC.
I can't promise that YOU'LL be able to lose your shit while lurking on Pat McGrath, but you should definitely check out the 34th St. store when you're in Manhattan. It's an overwhelming, but totally unique, experience.
Even though I didn't get my brow gel. So it goes.