Beauty Dilemma: Can A Dupe Ever Be As Good As The Original?

The blogging world is full of money saving recommendations, affordable dupes and indirect copies of some of our most loved premium makeup products. The best thing about being so close to the action and having so many wonderful things land on my desk is that I can easily spot a dupe, an affordable alternative or products that provide the same benefit for a fraction of the cost; there’s something somewhat satisfying about telling the world they can grab an on-trend shade or product that offers an almost indistinguishable difference for a lot less cash. However, in a world that’s currently obsessed with budget buys and more affordable alternatives, can a dupe ever be good as the original? Is it worth splurging on something that can be treasured, or does spending wisely mean our makeup bags will thank us in the long-term?

Frustratingly, a lot of what we pay for when we make an indulgent beauty purchase is actually the extravagant packaging; often what’s inside accounts for only a fraction of the cost associated with it, thanks to clever marketing and a lot of attention to detail. It’s well known that glass bottles, metal casings and bespoke branded cases cost a small fortune to produce, so if this is removed is it really possible to create a copy product for a much smaller price? When we compare a lot of the formulas, ingredients and ‘actives’ that make up some of our much loved skincare and beauty products, it doesn’t seem impossible to do so.

Particularly within the makeup market, it’s quite easy to create a product that’s ‘inspired’ by premium brands or best selling items. If you’ve ever wondered how Makeup Revolution can create an Urban Decay alternative for an eighth of the price, it’s because they opt for the most basic black generic packaging to ensure all their cost of goods is injected into the products themselves. If you remove the need for fancy embossed packaging and an expensive marketing campaign, then you can cut the retail price and make your customers incredibly happy. All of their money is spent developing the product that we use, rather than pretty packaging that houses it – which is why practically everything on offer is less than a fiver. Other brands that offer fab affordable alternatives and some great ‘dupes’ include Collection, Rimmel and Kiko; they focus on price point, while providing the best quality they can within their restrictions. The result is makeup that’s fun, functional and won’t break the bank.

However, what you do often get with investing in a premium brand is a high quality formula that provides a comfortable long-lasting finish. You simply can’t compare a YSL or Chanel lipstick with something you pick up in Superdrug, nor can you ever pick up something quite as good as an Urban Decay eyeshadow – although it’s possible to come close. Sometimes that slightly indulgent purchase is much more than just another makeup buy; it can help us feel good, lift our mood and offer some retail therapy when it’s needed most. Investing your money wisely will ensure you have a portfolio of products you treasure, that work and you can rely on; there’s nothing worse than being let down by a dodgy mascara or spending an hour attempting to blend that budget eyeshadow.

The comparison between ‘dupe’ and ‘original’ also depends on the category of product and intended use; I’m a firm believer that brow tools, mascaras and powdered products (face powder, eyeshadow, highlighter etc) can perform without costing the earth, but often lipsticks and foundations are worth spending that little bit more on. Great ‘dupes’ are often based on products ‘of the moment’ that we love for one season but will happily push aside by the next, meaning it’s sometimes worth being thrifty and spending wisely. With so much ‘newness’ hitting the shelves every single month, it’s hard to stay ahead of the trends and ensure our makeup bags are continually updated – dupes provide a way in which we can dip our toes in the pool without having to part with huge piles of cash just to temporarily feel like Cara Delivigne.

So, can dupes ever be as good as the original? In my opinion, yes. If you remove the fancy packaging and focus on the product inside (and how it looks/feels on your face,) then sometimes dupes are just as good (sometimes more so) as the original. However, some products can never be copied as effectively as their budget foes would like; sometimes it’s best to stick with the original and treasure it as much as possible, knowing you can rely on it to help you look and feel great. There’s nothing quite like removing a Chanel red lipstick from your bag and temporarily feeling like a glamour goddess; you simply don’t get the same effect with a MaxFactor bullet of red. Are you a big fan of dupes, or do you prefer to stick with a few staple products that you invest in wisely?

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  1. Anonymous
    February 24, 2015 / 2:34 pm

    There are some very interesting metallic pencils peeking in around the edge of that photo. Could you tell me what they are?

    • London Beauty Queen
      February 24, 2015 / 3:08 pm

      Stay tuned for a post and competition next week!

  2. Caroline Cooch
    February 24, 2015 / 3:04 pm

    I love a good dupe as long as I don't have to sacrifice on quality. If it's just the packaging then it's well worth losing out on that for a better price.

  3. Anonymous
    February 24, 2015 / 3:45 pm

    I like dupes but nothing beats the feeling of owning the original. I've got a Naked palette dupe and Naked 3 and much prefer the UD version, although a Revlon lipstick dupe of MAC Russian Red is one of my faves! I definitely think they can be hit or miss and it's fun discovering them 🙂

  4. Mel White
    February 24, 2015 / 4:08 pm

    I agree I rarely find a foundation dupe that I love and hence stick to my nars and Laura mercier faves. Eye shadows however are a different matter. I find the results I get from my makeup revolution iconic palettes are so close to those I get with my naked palettes, my purse trembles a little at what I've spent on them over the years. They are so pretty though I forgive them and you're right there is special about using a premium product!!

  5. daisy walters
    February 24, 2015 / 4:10 pm

    I think a dupe can sometimes even be better than the original! I know many products that I would prefer over the originals. x x | daisydaisyxxo

  6. Bethan Vincent
    February 24, 2015 / 4:22 pm

    Ever since starting my own businesses (well two actually… but that's another story) I have been on a tight budget and makeup has been an area where I can and will cut back.Dupes are great because they make following trends affordable, however I also think it's worth investing in makeup much like you would "statement pieces" in your wardrobe – choosing quality over quantity. It's also better for the environment, as it eliminates waste.I'd much rather have on Chanel lipstick which perfectly suits me than a million of mismatched cheap shades. Bethan, Audacity of Food

  7. Philippa
    February 24, 2015 / 4:49 pm

    Great post (:ABlogByPhilippa

  8. sofiinyan desu
    February 24, 2015 / 5:59 pm

    I've found that not even Estee Lauder eyeshadow compare to Urban Decay, so tbh I don't think you can get much better, or even really on par! It'll only ever be a shade dupe, not a quality dupe.

  9. Caroline
    February 24, 2015 / 7:13 pm

    To be honest I love a good dupe, but often there is a point where you realise that nothing beats the original. BUT since most high end products are so expensive I can't even spend that much money just on beauty stuff. Therefore I am more than happy that there is still kind of a cheap oportunity for a small budget.

  10. Jasmine Stewart
    February 24, 2015 / 10:32 pm

    I can definitely go for dupes when it comes to eyeshadows and lip products but I do tend to spend more when it comes to my base. However good a cheap formula is, the selection of shades is inevitably smaller 🙁 I agree about brow products – I really see no difference between my Sleek brow kit and my Benefit one (other than about £20!) xx Magpie Jasmine

  11. Annabel B
    February 25, 2015 / 12:12 am

    I do hate knowing I'm paying extra for the packaging. But then for me I've never found a dupe I've preferred more than the original. But then maybe I am falling for the marketing…oopps.Annabel ♥Mascara & Maltesers

  12. Anonymous
    February 25, 2015 / 7:34 am

    I'd love a post about the dupes that are a good match!

  13. Anna
    February 25, 2015 / 8:58 am

    I thinks that originals are the best!! But, of course, a good dupe does the job :)

  14. Amy Kemp
    February 25, 2015 / 9:23 am

    I think packaging is a way to make you feel good about buying it. Sure brands like UD have gorgeous packaging, but if they came with more actual product in there i might be interested. often the pans are tiny!I know MUR are cheap but I quite like their cases for the strange purple-red tint in the plastic :Dalthough saying that, their lipstick tubes are AWFUL but the product is greeat

  15. alicekatex
    February 25, 2015 / 11:38 am

    I think owning an original feels luxurious but at the end of the day, with a lot of products, the only difference is the price! I really don't think people would be able to tell whether you're wearing a high end/budget product really! Unless you're an expert! Some dupes are even better than the originals I think! However, there ARE products that cannot be duped! I've never found a drugstore foundation as good as the higher end ones: take Laura Mercier & Estee Lauder for example! xxalicekatex ♥

  16. Happy Homebird
    March 5, 2015 / 2:41 pm

    I don't mind some dupes – lipsticks mainly as I buy so many but for eyeshadow I stick with my UD. Mascaras too, I buy new ones all the time and find it doesn't really matter too much if they are cheap and cheerful.

  17. Poppy
    March 7, 2015 / 4:54 pm

    I personally prefer to go for dupes over the real thing because it's so much easier to find cruelty-free and vegan make-up in the lower end brands. Since the majority of high-end cosmetic brands test on animals, I'd rather go for the cheaper but not quite as good version.Having said that, when I find a vegan UD eyeshadow I like I do get a bit giddy!

  18. nikki Smith
    March 8, 2015 / 6:11 pm

    The makeup revolution lipstick dupes for Mac are exact for colour but are nowhere as long lasting. I think a few of the eyeshadows are just as good tho.

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