Can Beauty Dupes Compare with Originals?

Skincare products can be costly, but are beauty dupes a viable alternative? We discuss the differences and advantages.

A pink background with a selection of skincare products in various glass bottles with droppers
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Any makeup artist or beauty enthusiast will tell you that shopping for cosmetics and skincare products doesn’t come cheap. Despite the cost, it doesn't hinder the sales of expensive and luxury brands. With the industry booming, makeup artists, and cosmetic and skincare lovers have firm favourites that are purchased repeatedly. However, we’ve seen a growing amount of ‘Dupes’ hit the market and those who love beauty on a budget are filling their baskets.

What is a dupe?

Great question! A dupe (duplicate) is designed to match its original as closely as possible. In order for a product to be a viable dupe it must match the ingredients, the look, and the results as closely as possible. It won’t be an exact copy, but it needs to be tricky to spot the difference! Read on for ways to identify dupes, what to look for and where to find them. 

When shopping for dupes the first thing we need to ask is ‘Is it going to work?’ so the ingredients are key. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with information and it’s hard to know where to start but the first thing to check is the INCI list. 

What is the INCI list?

A lilac background with several petri dishes containing various beauty product ingredients. Some are liquids, some are powders.

(Image credit: Getty)

It’s a list curated by the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. It sounds complicated but it isn’t, I promise! It’s simply the list of ingredients on the packaging. Just as you might check the label on your cereal box for sugar, you can check the label on your skincare for active ingredients such as Vitamin C, Retinol, fragrance, etc.  Some lists mention the percentage of an ingredient, and some don’t because they don’t have to. 

However, the beauty industry knows that the consumer's thirst for knowledge has grown exponentially over the last 10 years, so companies now make a big deal about letting you know the exact percentage of active ingredients in their products. This is great news for us as it makes decision-making easier, knowledge is power after all!  

How do we know what an ‘active’ ingredient is?

Well, when we purchase skin or haircare products we want to see improvements - we want to know that the product is doing something and making a difference. The ‘active’ ingredients are the important part here, it’s those ingredients that have a chemical or biological effect. They need to be able to treat, cure or prevent in some way. So let’s look at what some of the common key ‘active’ ingredients are in skincare and what condition they can treat and if a dupe is worth considering…

Vitamin C

Dermatologists confirm that topical Vitamin C can help to slow down the signs of aging by improving the look of wrinkles and pigmentation. It can even help to treat sun damage and acne. The amount of Vitamin C does matter if you want to see significant changes in your skin. When shopping for dupes, try and find a product with 10% to 20% Vitamin C on the INCI list.    

A great example is Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster (£41.60), this product contains 15% Vitamin C. In comparison, L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Vitamin C Concentrate (£29.99), offers 10% Vitamin C. When we consider the results Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster should provide results that should be more impressive due to the increased amount of Vitamin C.

However, the price point of L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Vitamin C Concentrate is far lower. In this case, deciding if the active ingredient takes priority over the price. Both products have excellent reviews and both come from gold-standard brands.    

Retinol (also known as Vitamin A, Retinoids, or Tretinoin)

There’s a lot of talk about Retinol, and it’s with good reason. Also known as Retin-A, it was first used as an acne treatment in the 1970s, not only did it treat the acne itself but the scars and pigmentation marks that were left behind. Its ability to produce collagen which aids in the reduction of wrinkles and fine lines is unprecedented. 

These changes don’t happen overnight, you need to include Retinol into your routine regularly for at least 6 months. It’s easy to see why dermatologists recommend this wonder ingredient! Initially, Retinol was mainly found in high-end skincare but it’s now in far more budget-friendly products - including dupes. 

If you look at Super Retinol High Dose Intensive Booster Treatment from Beauty Pie (£80) it’s a serum containing 4% of the active ingredient Retinol, it has fantastic reviews and is said to resurface the skin and boost collagen. The dupe alternative Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane (£12.40) benefits are just as promising as its more expensive counterpart. It battles the signs of ageing due to the boost in collagen production and resurfaces the skin. With such similar ingredients and results, it’s easy to see why a dupe is a fantastic option for a fraction of the price. 

Hyaluronic Acid

Naturally occurring in the body, Hyaluronic acid aids our eyes, joints, and connective tissue by retaining moisture. As we age, its production slows down and this affects the elasticity of the skin. So you’ve guessed it…it’s an anti-aging ingredient! But not only that, it provides a healthy glow that is beneficial to all skin types and especially those with tight or dry skin as it replaces any lost moisture. 

Like all active ingredients, results take time and consistency is key. The great news is, Hyaluronic Acid is in a lot of skincare products at all price points. Dermatologists suggest looking for at least 2% Hyaluronic Acid in products for good results. 

Facetheory has a fantastic 2% Hyaluronic Acid serum (£15.99),  it promises to boost hydration and elasticity whilst refreshing tired skin and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. However, a far cheaper product from The Ordinary also has a 2% Hyaluronic Acid serum (£6.40) and promises to deliver the same results as its more expensive alternative. 

Other reasons why Dupes are good alternatives…

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(Image credit: Getty)

Whether you are on the lookout for anti-ageing goodies, SPF, male grooming products, or haircare that delivers great results. There's a heap of reasons why a dupe might be the answer. 

The cost matters!

For many of us, cosmetics and skin care products are considered luxury items. We may not want to or be able to spend as much as we’d like on products that can be deemed non-essential. A dupe is a fantastic way to save money, with so many skincare and cosmetic brands on the market at different price points it’s getting easier to a dupe for most products. High street chemists like Boots and Superdrug have a massive selection to explore.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Original Beauty ProductDupe Beauty Product
Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish (£30, Boots)Naturally Radiant Hot Cloth Cleanser (£8.99, Superdrug)
Midnight Recovery Concentrate (£47, Kheils)Revolution Overnight Concentrate (£14, ASOS)
Vitamin Enriched Face Base (£49, Bobbi Brown)Vitamin Enriched Moisturing Primer (£4.50, Primark)
Glow Tonic Exfoliating Toner (£18, Pixi)The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution (£11.50, Boots)
Moisturising Cream (£230, Creme de la Mer)Liz Earle Skin Repair Rich Cream (£23, Liz Earle)

Feeling experimental?

Dupes are also an excellent way to test out products. Let’s face it, parting with £50 when you’re not sure if an active ingredient is going to agree with your skin or colour is going to complement you is a risk. Dupes allow us to experiment with something new without that risk. 

Sometimes the dupe is the better option.

Occasionally, we find a product we don’t mind paying extra for. The colour is perfect, and you know it delivers the results you need, but it’s not vegan or cruelty-free. To understand more about how to recognise vegan and cruelty-free options, you can read our Guide to Beauty Labels.

The Brighton-based perfume brand -  edenperfumes.co.uk is a great example,  they offer fragrances inspired by designer brands that are vegan, ethical, and cruelty-free - they are also a fraction of the price too.. it’s a win-win!

How can I find product dupes?

On a bright yellow background is a miniature shopping trolley. The trolley holds 3 small skincare bottles.

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It’s a minefield, isn't it? With millions of products available, it’s difficult to know where to start. Some of the suggestions I’ve made will give you an idea of where to start and what to look for. But if you find a product you would like a dupe for, a simple Google search can help. However, a good place to start would be Skin Skool Beauty. It’s an excellent site for more information on dupes, its purpose is to compare skincare, cosmetics, and haircare with similar ingredients. 

Caroline Hirons

It’s also a good idea to follow some of the beauty industry's finest; I love Caroline Hiron’s no-nonsense, myth-busting approach to beauty and founder of Skin Rocks. Caroline has a comprehensive blog packed with articles on everything you need to know about the world of skincare. 

However, what I love is the genius new App available on Apple and Android simply named Skin Rocks, this clever App allows you to curate your own skin profile, it then suggests products to meet your skincare needs, from high-end brands to budget-friendly dupes. I’ve created my own profile and invested in many of its suggested products.

Nadine Baggott

Nadine Baggott is a former beauty journalist and regular on ITV This Morning. As a  former columnist at The Sunday Times, Marie Claire, and Hello magazine it’s fair to say this lady knows her stuff! Nadine provides product reviews and dupe comparisons via her YouTube channel and Instagram account. 

I really like Nadine's knowledge of active ingredients. If you’re interested in the science of skincare she frequently delves into it. This is especially helpful when deciding if a dupe can hold up next to an original product, or just to get a basic understanding of skincare and what active ingredients might work for you. 

Sali Hughes

And finally, Sali Hughes, the resident beauty columnist at The Guardian and author of several beauty publications - what Sali doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing! Sali has tried and tested hundreds of skincare products, cosmetics and perfumes over the years and writes about her findings. She also shares her thoughts and reviews on Instagram. 

The knowledge and expertise that Sali has gained over the years have allowed her to curate her own range of budget skincare in collaboration with Revolution Beauty, available at Superdrug. Her range of products is simple and includes what she calls ‘hero ingredients’ otherwise known as active ingredients - the ones that do all the work!

I’m including this line of products as dupes, not for one specific product but for many high-end products because they can deliver the same results. If you’re looking for a specific active ingredient, it’s worth checking what Sali’s range has to offer before splashing out; especially if you are considering trying something new or don’t want to commit to a big spend. 

Final thoughts on Dupes, do they compare?

Dupes won’t satisfy hardcore brand fans and those who remain loyal to long-term favorites. However, they are often a solution for the vegan and cruelty-free conscious, a fantastic way of trying new products, and are budget-friendly. If these aspects matter, dupes are more often than not worth the investment.

Sarah-Jane Outten
Editor

Hi, I’m SJ. I’m an editor and content executive here at MyVoucherCodes. I started my journey here as a deals expert which gave me the skills to become a money-saving expert. You can find my tips and recommendations in various publications including The Sun, The Mirror, and The Telegraph.

I gained a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing in 2018, and I’ve put my writing skills into many projects since then. My portfolio at sarahjaneoutten.com includes my work with Cardiff Times, Buzz Magazine and more. 

I write poetry and short stories for pleasure and enjoy getting creative with watercolours and lino printing. I hope that I can merge my love of writing and art into a children's book in the future - watch this space!