Skincare and Cosmetics : A dupe or just duped?

by Paris B on · 36 comments

in Discussions,Musings

When using skincare and makeup, I’ve gone through a few phases in my life. I’ve run the gamut from high end department store skincare down to drugstore or pharmacy brands. There was even a time when I used and swore by Estee Lauder Idealist and La Mer lotion and spent thousands at the drop of a hat.

But I did not have the budget after a while (or rather didn’t want to spend that much), so I started looking for slightly cheaper items that might work the same i.e. dupes or duplicate products.

Skincare dupes cost me more in the long run

At the time, the story was rife online that a drugstore dupe for Estee Lauder’s Idealist serum was the Olay Regenerist Serum. Cosmetics forums claimed they worked the same and some even said that the drugstore dupe was better at a much smaller price. So, I tried it and while Idealist was lovely for me, Olay Regenerist Serum turned my face into a mess of pimples that took me ages to cure. I no longer use Idealist but I’ve been meaning to get back because I read that the new formulation is even better than the old. Maybe some day 😛

Ditto La Mer. I ended up spending more than I would on a jar of La Mer cream trying to find a dupe for it in other “cheaper” or “more affordable” brands. They didn’t work for me as well as the original either.

My few experiences trying to dupe skincare has taught me that with skincare, there is just no substitute for the original item that works for me. It might feel similar on the skin but there will always be something that does not quite fit or an ingredient that irritates my skin.

One exception to skincare dupes that cost me less

An exception is Lancome Blanc Expert SPF50 sunscreen where the L’oreal UV Perfect sunscreens are widely known to be dupes because they share the same parent company. From a personal point of view, I prefer the L’Oreal version because it works better for me (and is more affordable).

In general however, even if it costs a lot, I’d end up paying more trying to find a dupe (or to treat the skin problems the dupe caused). However, for makeup, for me the converse is true.

Cosmetics and Makeup dupes can work better than the original

I’ve found numerous low end dupes of high end colours that work very well and sometimes, even better than the original. Sometimes, a “dupe” might work better because the colour tone suits our skin better. Personally, I prefer the dupes for Nars Orgasm blush to the original. That said, some colours are very unique and just cannot be duped although you can find close substitutes cue Lancome Erika F eyeshadow.

However, I’ve read of many people who go round the circuit trying various dupes of colours, only to end up buying the original product anyway. Sometimes, there really is no substitute for the original because you just have to try it to know what the hype is all about (or not as the case maybe).

Dupes in Cosmetics and Skincare is part of the market

What I’m really driving at is to say that the world of cosmetics and skincare is a small one. If a product achieves cult status or is known to be good, then there will always be followers. Lower end brands will try to “dupe” the texture, colour or formula to cater for the mass market. Sometimes, even high end brands dupe each other but really that isn’t quite as common because when people look for dupes or duplicates, they tend to try to find a cheaper substitute. Its not to say the cheaper substitute will work as well, but its always worth a shot.

Consumers love finding dupes that bring value for money

So, really, in my personal view, there should be no “threat” to a brand or product to be compared to a lower end dupe. It might feel the same or look the same, but it might not work the same nor might it be as good as the original for everyone. As consumers, we are always looking for the best value for money and if it comes in the form of a duplicate product with a smaller pricetag, so be it.

The thing is, having tried bunches of different products, I will sometimes find similarities in 2 different brands and as a consumer first, I will usually go for what brings me value for money. So, if I find a similar product in the market at a smaller price tag that works as well for me, I will tell everyone about it. It may not necessarily work for others the same way it does for me. It may contain different ingredients. It may even not be as good. But that is for the consumers to find out for themselves.

People who buy dupes may end up sticking to the original product

BUT here’s a thought from a consumer’s point of view. At the back of our minds, we will always be wondering how the original performs. And in time, we will buy the original item if only so WE can tell if the dupe works as well as everyone says. And that’s when we might find that the original product might work even better for us. Its a psychological thing but something that everyone has to figure out for themselves.

I’m first and foremost a consumer and this is how I think. And if this scares the brands, I guess they just have to up their ante and make even better products eh? 😛

How do you feel about dupes of skincare or makeup? Have you gone round trying various dupes of a product only to find the original works best? Share your story! 😀

Paris B

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[ 36 comments… read them below or join the discussion ]

February 23, 2010 at 9:08 am

Nice write-up, Paris! Two thumbs up! 😀

Having said that, I don’t really go around chasing after dupes because I’m scared it’ll mess up my skin, so once I find something that works for me, I stick with it. But I am one of those consumers who will slowly substitute further up the dupe chain – i.e. get the original or higher-end stuff because somehow I tend to think more $$$ = better results. :)


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 10:08 am

With sensitive skin, chasing after skincare dupes is a BAD idea! Like you, I move up the product chain too :) But sometimes, I cannot deny that somewhere in the pharmacy is a pretty decent product that works just as well, like the Olay Regenerist Micro Sclupting Cream that my mom loves! 😀


February 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

I’m not willing to compromise with skin care, since i’m totally addicted to how the Lancome Neurowhite range made my skin look, so i’ll be sticking to the original! 😉 The only exception for me is the Loreal Sunblock too!! 😀

Come to think of it, i don’t really look for dupes from other brands, since i’m loyal to MAC (lol!). But i do try to find “dupes” within the same brand, since MAC sometimes re-release colours that are similar to those released previously, i’ll have to keep my eyes peeled to avoid buying similar colors :)


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 10:22 am

Its great you have found products that work for you and you know you won’t stray 😀 I’m not that loyal unfortunately. I’m one of those always hanging over the fence wondering if the grass is indeed greener on the other side 😀 That said, MAC comes up with abominably similar colours so much of the time!


Esther February 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

Definitely people usually would rather pay for high end originals with the law of “more money, better quality”, I mean duuuh, you’re spending hundreds, which means your ingredients can only mean gold and diamonds…well that’s what we all think but since I’m no researcher I can’t promise you that XD

Another thing is I guess sometimes, it’s hard to believe (and maybe even hard to achieve) that you’re paying a measly RM 20 for a moisturizer that claims to have the same effect as some RM 200 skin elixir.

Personally I’m not a brand person and I try everything out and justify by price and function (typical budget shopper don’t you think? =P). But of course there’s a limit to how outrageous the value can be. I don’t believe in RM 30 24k gold serums.

Oh right, ingredients list make me happier =) I usually go for dupes first…then…well…. the thing is if this dupe doesn’t give me what I want, I go for another dupe XD I’m hopelessly cheap, I know XD


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 10:29 am

Well I don’t subscribe to the “more money = better quality” theory for skincare and cosmetics coz there’s only a limit to what the skin can take in. Besides if something RM20 works as well as a RM200 then why not? The only consideration might be that the RM20 item might work well but not quite “as well” as the RM200 one because of quality of ingredients – even if the ingredients looks the same. Rather like food I guess – a RM5 cut of meat just isn’t quite as tender and delicious as a RM50 one 😀


sesame February 23, 2010 at 10:08 am

Not willing to go for dupes in the case of skincare although I don’t think the expensive, high end ones are always better. I remember some compared Creme de lar mer with Nivea. LOL. They even said the ingredients were close but there’s a big difference after the application.

But I’ll sometimes try to check based on the ingredients if there’s a cheaper alternative wondering if the formulation could be under different brands. However, not the case with the established brands obviously as their lines are usually specially formulated.

Nice write up!


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 10:30 am

Thanks Sesame and yes! I remember La Mer being compared to Nivea too! Some people said Nivea worked better for them even. I didn’t even dare put Nivea near my face LOL… Have you wondered if quality of ingredients of differently priced products might differ even if they look the same?


February 23, 2010 at 10:14 am

I’m the kind of gal that is allergic to almost anything (luckily, not cosmetics, except Estee Lauder and Skin Food lipglosses), and I would be scared to bits to even try other skincare lines, much less dupes of said skincare. I stick to my Clinique 3 Step!!

As for cosmetic dupes, I’m totally open to them, hahaha. I have one dupe of the over-hyped NARS Orgasm, yay! I think they exist to the convinience of other people who cannot get the original for several reasons, so they would not be a big problem for the market. Heck, they’re dupes, not substitutes… (Econs student ranting, haha, sorry!)


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 10:31 am

Golly! With sensitive skin, sticking to what you know works is a clever move! Glad to know cosmetics give you freeer rein to play with :)


February 23, 2010 at 10:17 am

Good article :) I went through phases of cosmetic dupes as well, and in the early stages, I found myself wondering what the actual ones would be like rather than just sticking to dupes. In the end, I preferred the real thing.

As for skincare, after trying out so much, I no longer believe in dupes. I either like them or I don’t, regardless of the price.


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 10:32 am

Like you I’m the same. “Dupes” are great when you are playing around but not if they leave you wondering if the original might not work better (and sometimes it even lasts longer in the long run since it might be more concentrated and you use less!) 😀


February 23, 2010 at 10:50 am

i find that it is easier to get dupes for cosmetics for me, but skincare, most of the time it is just disappointing especially when i have only used it once and found it to go against my skin. so i guess i will stick to whatever that works for me in the skincare range.


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Yep for skincare its best to stick with the tried and true – unless they change the formula :)


Indira February 23, 2010 at 11:40 am

I used to splurge on expensive skincare. They didn’t make my skin super-duper smooth, so I just use drugstore brands.

I’m so lucky to have problem-free skin. Not sensitive, no dark spots, not acne-prone, juts little bit oily and blackhead 😛

And for makeup colors, I don’t believe in branded makeup. Revlon works for me.

But I splurge on makeup bases (powders, foundation) because I love the texture :)


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Ah I do find a difference between high end and lower end makeup bases. The higher end ones tend to look better (if they work for you) :)


Nikki February 23, 2010 at 12:30 pm

nice topic PB. I don’t go for dupes when it comes to skincare! If a particular skincare works really well for me, I am willing to repurchase. For cosmetics, I am one dupe finder! I love finding dupes but you are right, at the end of the day, I will still wonder how the original one would fair, so I’ll end up spending more money! hahaha that’s the Circle of life :)


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Teeheee… I guess I’m one of those who loves to find dupes in everything be it skincare or makeup! But yes if its a cult product I will usually end up getting the original just to see if its as good as everyone says


Lisa J. February 23, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Totally agree with ya. I’m a student on a budget and would often look around for dupes for a high end product but the money spent would more than enough to buy an original one.


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Don’t you feel a little silly when that happens? :) I know exactly how you feel though.


Syen February 23, 2010 at 12:53 pm

Hey. Great write-up! I’ve been moving up and down the product chain too. Although I’ve never gone quite as far as Estee or La Mer. But as I’m not longer an impoverished student (we all were I guess), I’m willing to fork out a bit more for skincare, but cosmetics, I’m willing to play around with. Cheerios!


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 1:49 pm

LOL at “moving up and down the product chain” but that sums it all up rather nicely! I’m willing to spend more on skincare these days but it doesn’t stop me finding “dupes” :)


Yani February 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Hey Paris, great write-up! I agree with your philosophy of more money does not equate better quality. Sometimes mass brands have even more hi-tech stuff in them as a higher-end brand – because these companies have a HUGE budget pumped in for research work. As for dupes and getting duped – , if I love a colour, I’ll get it because experience taught me that particular favourite just might have a short life span on the counter. Otherwise, I’ll look our for low- and high-end brands owned by the same company, because more often than not, they share the same technology: i.e: Lancome/L’Oreal/Maybelline, Kerastase/L’Oreal Elseve, or Estee Lauder/Clinique, or even SK-II/Olay.


ParisB February 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm

You’re so right about looking for product dupes within the same “family” of companies. More often than not, there is some technology transfer except the higher end one does tend to be just a tiny little bit better. Sigh… Wasn’t sure about SKII and Olay though.


Siewkwan February 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Nice write up Paris! I was on a dupe-chasing moment last year, and I realised that sometimes it’s better to spend on a few expensive items that will work rather than all the cheaper substitutes which will eventually cost more than the expensive ones, because when something doesn’t work, I’ll look for other substitutes. So, I’ll end up buying all the cheap products which might cost more in total.

For make up, I’m open to everything. I was really satisfied with the Coastal Scent 88 palettes. And drugstore brands like Majorlica Majorca, Loreal, Maybelline…etc.


ParisB February 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

Yes! The drugstore makeup scene has improved tremendously so I’m happy in that regard. As for skincare, its so frustrating having to buy 3 items to do the job of 1 more expensive item eh?


Jessica February 23, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Sometimes it’s really tempting to buy one of those dupes that promises so much for a fraction of the price. But I somehow am wary at dupes, especially skincare and so far, dare not buy dupes.


ParisB February 24, 2010 at 10:11 am

I guess you will know your skin best to not slap anything on them. I’m starting to feel a little wary these days too.


suzanne February 23, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Well i guess i’ve been lucky for finding dupes for certain products. i used to go through a bobbi brown concealer every 2-3 mths or so. Even invested in their concealer brush. But when i found a dupe in the form of L’oreal concealer, texture, color,stay on power is just right. I feel like i’ve hit the jackpot. Only problem is, drugstore brands keeps changing the range . Now they don’t sell that concealer anymore. But i’m lucky enough to stock up 3 btls previously :)


ParisB February 24, 2010 at 10:13 am

That sounds awesome! L’oreal made a pen concealer that was a dupe of the YSL Touche Eclat but performed better for me. Then it was discontined here. Argh! 😛


suzanne February 24, 2010 at 10:59 am

yea they disc that and replaced it with the tube brush version, i was using that. but guess what – they have disc the tube brush and they brought back the pen now!


Shay February 23, 2010 at 11:43 pm

I dont look for dupes. When I tried to go low end skincare (not exactly looking for dupes, just to save money), my skin became a mess of clogged pores and pimples. Went to a derm to get my problems fixed with heavy costs.

For makeup, I bought a few cult items to see what’s the hype all about. But I never finish any of them (Benefit Dandelion, NARS Orgasm, etc). Except maybe mascara (Majolica Majorca)…but that was not high end and doesn’t take much to replace.

This reminded me of something very sad. I introduced my friend who is looking for a light blush to Benefit Dandelion. To show her the colour, I gave her a link which shows the beauty blogger comparing that with a dupe. She asked me if I thought she was cheapskate and would go for the dupe instead. I, however, have no such intentions!

I have nothing against low end stuff. Most of the time I get what I pay for.


ParisB February 24, 2010 at 10:15 am

Yep! We do get what we pay for :) And thanks for sharing your story. I guess some people might not quite get the idea of trying out a duplicate product instead of the real thing due to its lower price which to many is “cheap” or “low class”. Not everything has to be – there are some great gems in the low end sphere :) I actually suffered the same as you when it came to my skin – except at the time I didn’t know that was the cause. 😛


Tiny Tapir February 24, 2010 at 11:24 am

great post!

My skin tends to get clogged too if i go to low end stuff. I used to like oil of ulan but now i think they’ve changed their formulations and have not used it for years. Perhaps skin is more forgiving when you’re younger?

Tried La mer. Totally didn’t work for me, clogged my pores and gave me allergies! I guess everyone’s skin needs different things.


February 24, 2010 at 5:27 pm

a very enjoyable read! I do get excited when I come across dupes but I do have to agree with you that most people who have bought dupes will ultimately get the original out of curiosity. or the other way round! buying dupes just to see if it matches up to the original. lol


lyn February 26, 2010 at 10:52 am

I don’t really know much about skincare dupes so, whatever I purchase is something that I hope will work :-) I tend to spend more on skincare though. Not that picky with cosmetics and I do go for the drugstore equivalent from the same parent company.


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