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Smeared cosmetic products. Photo: Spencer Higgins/Trunk Archive

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The Essential Online Beauty Shopping Guide

The best sites for all your beauty needs.

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Thanks to an increase in niche beauty brands, the rise of the natural beauty industry, and an insatiable enthusiasm for Korean beauty products, we are in a golden age of beauty shopping right now. And there have never been more ways to get your hands on all of these products thanks to online beauty shopping.

Here, we’ve rounded up the 25 sites that are killing the beauty retail game, whether you’re looking for products for curly hair, hard-to-find sheet masks, or vegan lipstick.

Now grab your phone and go shop.

A display of Kat Von D lipsticks
Kat Von D lipsticks.
Photo: Andrew Stuart/Getty Images

Best Variety

Sephora: No list would be complete without the OG beauty retailer that arguably took beauty out from behind the department store counter. Its online experience is just as good, with hundreds of passionate, candid product reviews and an app that’s worth downloading for the exclusive deals alone. The retailer has been killing it lately by introducing new brands and offering tons of exclusives that no one else has.

Ulta: Ulta is growing in leaps and bounds, and a lot of that growth has been due to an improved online experience and a revamped rewards program that allows you to score all sorts of free stuff. It’s also still the only retailer totally dedicated to offering prestige and drugstore brands right next to each other; plus, there’s a huge haircare and hair tools department.

Dermstore: While not as large as the previous two, this underrated gem has a nice mix of natural brands and heavy-duty clinical skincare brands. (You can get harder-to-find brands like Skinmedica, Skinceuticals, and organic brand Eminence, too.) The makeup selection is also well-edited, featuring smaller brands like Pur and Jouer. As a bonus, Dermstore tosses in a generous handful of samples with every order.

Bluemercury: Another incredible skincare giant, Bluemercury is worth checking out for its best-selling peel pads from the house brand, M-61. You can also find crowd-favorite makeup brands like Bobbi Brown, Tom Ford, and Hourglass, as well as a huge selection of candles and home scents.

Natura Bissé products Photo: Natura Bissé


Cos Bar: This 40-year-old luxury beauty chain recently took on an investor and hired the former head of beauty at Net-a-Porter, and the new site reflects this modernization. Pretty much every single high-end brand is here, including Sisley, La Mer, and Beyoncé favorite Natura Bissé. The price tags in the fragrance department alone will bring tears to your eyes, as Cos Bar is firmly committed to offering nothing but luxury.

Violet Grey: This LA outpost has been building both a reputation and an impressive product selection since it launched in 2014, with a strong editorial component (the Violet Files blog) that folds in the brand’s Hollywood- and celeb-centric point of view. You’ll find all the usual high-end suspects here, as well as LA brands like KNC lip masks and celeb hair stylist Jen Atkin’s Ouai line.

Space NK: This UK-based retailer carries, yes, tons of brands from the UK, like Eve Lom, 111 Skin, and Eyeko. It also arguably put By Terry on the map in the US and has an incredible assortment of Diptyque; you’d also be hard-pressed to find prettier gift sets anywhere else.

RMS Beauty products Photo: RMS Beauty


Credo: Credo, which was started by a former Sephora exec, is growing and now has stores in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, and soon Boston. It carries a huge variety of natural and organic skincare, but most importantly, it also stocks several natural makeup brands. Good natural makeup is a bit of a unicorn still, but check out Nu Evolution and Rituel de Fille. It also offers a “clean swap” service where you can put in a current product you use to find a “clean” alternative.

Cap Beauty: This New York City jewel-box shop has a pretty whopping selection, and it now also ships globally. Cap has brands like Tata Harper, Vintner’s Daughter, and RMS Beauty. Most notably, it carries tons of beauty edibles, a quickly growing category in beauty.

Follain: This East Coast-based chain of five shops is growing, with a new pop-up in New York and a really robust selection of brands online. Follain carries several organic skincare and bath/body brands, as well as faves like RMS and Ilia.

An eyeshadow palette Photo: Natasha Denona/Beautylish

Indie/Hard-to-Find Products

Beautylish: Beautylish’s strength is its huge and engaged online community, which includes forums, tutorials, user product reviews, and interviews with brand founders. It also sells products, particularly those that have found fame on Instagram and that you won’t find anywhere else, like Jeffree Star cosmetics and Wayne Goss brushes.

Cult Beauty: This UK-based beauty e-commerce site is an incredible deal for US shoppers now thanks to the pound/dollar exchange rate and not having to pay VAT tax. It also has an incredible assortment of indie and natural brands, and it focuses on the products from each brand that have a lot of buzz. The curation is some of the best we’ve seen on either side of the pond.

Ricky’s: Ricky’s is an institution in New York City for pretty much any product you need, from backstage hairdresser-approved bobby pins to Manic Panic. Its website is admittedly a bit of a mess, but one that’s worth digging through because Ricky’s is not afraid to pick up an obscure brand. It’s also committed to finding viral Instagram products like Morphe palettes and Ardell lashes. Finally, check out its impressive RickyCare collection, a house brand featuring beauty and hair tools.

Marjani: Marjani, the beauty e-comm site specifically for women of color, was born out of founder Kimberly Smith’s frustration with the lack of diversity from mainstream beauty retailers. The site stocks haircare, skincare, makeup, and more catering to various skin tones, ethnicities, and hair textures. Some brands, like Beauty Blender and The Wrap Life, might already be familiar, but for the most part, Marjani delivers some truly under-the-radar names full of promise.

a ghd hair straightener, carrying case, and box in light pink. Photo: ghd


Curl Mart/Naturally Curly: If you have wavy or curly hair and can’t find products that work, this is the place for you. You can shop based on your hair texture or the ingredients you’re looking for, and there’s even a section for women who are transitioning from chemically straightened hair to their natural texture. (And if you don’t know what your curl type is, there’s a guide that includes pictures of women with that type.) The site offers a huge range of brands including Briogeo, Shea Moisture, and Hask.

Folica: Sure, you can buy hair products at Ulta or the drugstore, but this site is a hair girl’s dream. It offers the choice to shop by hair type (dry, oily, wavy, etc.) or by product type (volume, straightening, etc.). In addition to a huge selection of shampoo, conditioner, and styling products, there’s an impressive array of hair color and color-support products like glosses. There’s also a mind-boggling assortment of hot tools and accessories like diffusers and brushes.

Sleek Hair: This site has grown beyond only hair products to also offer some niche makeup brands, but hair is its true DNA. You can find pretty much every brand you can think of, including salon-only products like Olaplex, the hair-softening treatment favored by Kim Kardashian.

Korean beauty products Photo: Soko Glam

Korean Beauty

Soko Glam: One of the first proprietors of the famous (and not entirely realistic) Korean 10-step skincare regimen, this site gets better every year. Soko Glam carries the most popular so-called road shop brands like Skinfood, and it has also introduced the US to more indie products, including the miracles that are Son & Park Beauty Water and CosRX Pimple Patches. There’s also now a separate content website called The Klog, which explores Korean culture and beauty in general.

Glow Recipe: The products here are beautiful and effective with a “natural” vibe, and they’re also often brands you can’t get anywhere else in the US: This site brought us sea kelp masks from Whamisa and tiny moisturizer balls from J. One.

W2Beauty: This K-beauty shop, newly launched by a former Apprentice contestant and serial entrepreneur, has huge plans. It offers more than 7,000 products, has an editorial section for education, and maintains a growing community platform. It ships all its products directly from Korea, but shipping is free if you spend more than $60. You can find popular brands like Tony Moly and Nature Republic as well as more niche ones like Neogen.

Perfume bottles Photo: Laura Lezza/Getty Images


Lucky Scent: This is every perfume snob’s favorite site, and for good reason. You can find tons of indie fragrances here, and one of the best features is that you can order small vials to sample for $3 to $6 before you commit to, say, that $150 bottle of Byredo.

Twisted Lily: This boutique, which has a brick-and-mortar shop in Brooklyn, is another gem for truly unique and hard-to-find indie fragrances, which you can shop for by note. There’s also a small selection of other beauty products here, including the thoroughly delightful makeup brand that is seemingly designed by fairies, Rouge Bunny Rouge.

Scentbird: This is a fantastic way to give designer fragrances a try without leaving your home. For $14.95 a month (or slightly cheaper if you sign up for a multi-month subscription), you can choose from 450 fragrances to try every month. The company sends you a small vial that contains 140 sprays and a reusable case for traveling. You set up a queue of fragrances you’re interested in, and the company sends you a new one every month.

A beauty event at Nordstrom.
Photo: Nordstrom

Best Beauty at Stores Usually Known for Clothes

Nordstrom: Of all the department stores, Nordstrom is killing it the hardest in beauty. It has invested in a permanent natural beauty section, hopped on the Instagram-famous brand bandwagon early (think Sigma brushes), and stocked up its Korean beauty selection. It also has a robust selection of hair and face tools and candles, along with the more traditional department store beauty brands like Bobbi Brown and YSL.

Net-a-Porter: Most people probably don’t think about Net-a-Porter as a beauty destination, but you should probably start. It offers a unique range of products from luxury brands like Givenchy and Kevyn Aucoin, newer indie lines like ByTerry and Charlotte Tilbury, and a selection of naturals like Uma and brands with UK-origins like Sam McKnight’s new haircare line.

Anthropologie: Anthropologie has an incredible mix of indie and natural beauty brands that would all be very at home in any Pinterest spread. You can find hardcore skincare products from Sunday Riley as well as the now-ubiquitous Korean beauty and beautiful artisanal masks and bath products.


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