Overcoming Anxiety is a series where Cat shares tips for balancing a desire to be social with various phobias/fears. If your life is severely impacted and/or limited by your own anxiety, please consult an actual mental health professional. She is not one.

OA is back after a long hiatus! Life got away from me for a bit there – things have been quite busy. To help this column continue, I’d really appreciate it if you’d reply in the comments section and let me know if there are any specific topics you’d like to see us cover. Thanks! You ROCK!


Now, on to today’s topic: Sephora. Or Ulta. Or Origins. Or any other stand alone, brightly lit, intimidating makeup store.

(This is an actual picture of the inside of a Sephora store, plus a presumably friendly and helpful sales associate helping another terrified victim. Er. Customer.)

First of all, if you find yourself intimidated by Sephora, you’re not alone.


There are two close friends of mine who actually refuse to go in there and, honestly, it still makes me kind of jittery. Which is why tip #1 is simple:

1. If you don’t HAVE to go, then maybe don’t.

That’s what internet shopping is for. BOOM: Sephora.com

I mean, I’m all for challenging your neuroses when appropriate (that’s what this whole series is about), but sometimes it is okay to decide a thing is too much. You’ve gotta take care yourself in whatever manner you think is best.

Reasons to still give the in-store experience a go: a) you really need to see how a color looks in person, next to your skin tone, b) you want to try out a sample to see whether you like it and/or your whether your skin has some kind of weird reaction to it, c) you don’t have the time or the money to order it online, get it, realize it’s the wrong thing  for some reason, then return it, then get a replacement thing, d) anything else, really. Again – whatever feels right for you. 🙂

2. Understand what you are getting into.

This includes things like:



B. Seriously, what is with the lights?
(Okay, fine, they want us to see all our “imperfections” in as much detail as possible.)


C. Decision fatigue.
How many shades of pink can there possibly be? Correct answer: when you’re at Sephora — infinity billion.


D. Sometimes it is super busy and there are a zillion loud strangers all clamoring for the latest whatever-it-is-people-get-excited-about.


E. Sometimes it is super slow and you discover it’s just you and one sales person.


Also remember that the stores (hours of operation, size, etc) will vary by location. You can check out online reviews to see if they provide pictures so that you can get a good sense of the individual store and what the area around it is like. How busy the store will be also varies by location, as well as by time of year (the weeks before Christmas tend to be quite busy, for example). There will likely be a few sales people in the store when you arrive – they’re often dressed in black (and have cool makeup on)! They’re there to help you — you can ask them where specific items are located or for general advice. If you call ahead, you can even schedule an in-store makeover (but be warned, when getting a makeover, there’s a general expectation that you will then buy at least one or two of the items they used).

4. Familiarize yourself with what they carry and have a plan.
Check out the website ahead of time (and any reviews of products you are interested in) and make a list of things you’re wanting to actually check out in person. Make a note of general prices for things so that you’re not surprised when you hit the register.


5. Consider bringing a friend. Moral support can help when you’re feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed.


And that’s it. Now all that’s left is actually going. You can do this!


More from Overcoming Anxiety:

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Founder at Wendt Creative
Cat loves to eat tasty homemade things, yet isn’t terribly fond of the process of making them. She prefers recipes that take shortcuts when possible – without compromising flavor. Her dog, Cheeto, likes stealing her creations from the dining room table.

She lives in the Bay Area and cites her diverse background as her biggest influence: her visual artist mom is half-Chinese, half-Greek, and from Hawai’i; her film-loving, world-music curating dad is from Montana; and she lived in both California and Montana while growing up. She loves at least a little bit about virtually everything (Pokémon Snap included) and aims to be a Jane of all trades. By day Cat is a multiple-hat-wearing media person.

She is also allergic to felines.
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