Is The Dupe & Copycat Beauty Market Waning? Are We Over Cheaper Copies Of Firm Favourites?

For the best part of the past five years, we’ve been collectively obsessed with the dupe. Us beauty bloggers have undoubtedly been fueling the trend, promising readers that the latest eyeshadow palette to land on our doorstep is a brilliant copy of something four times the price, but the market has also been driven by technological improvements that allow us to buy into the same quality for a fraction of the previous cost. When I was growing up the only ‘budget’ beauty brands were Collection 2000 and Boots 17, both offering a plethora of products to get experimental with but the quality wasn’t there; as soon as we could upgrade to something a touch more glamorous, we would. Skip forward a few decades and those (rebranded) names are not only offering far superior quality and in some instances competing with some of the most luxury cosmetics available, but our high streets have been somewhat revolutionised. Names including MUA, Makeup Revolution, Lottie London, NYX, Freedom, GOSH, Miss Sporty, Model’s Own and Sleek are proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to fill your makeup bag with greatness – but they’re also collectively providing us with dupes of everything from Urban Decay Naked palettes and Kylie liquid lipsticks, to NARS blushers and Bobbi Brown highlighters. For a moment there we got a bit excited, but are we over it? Is 2017 the year that we’re finally bored of the dupe and we start trading up for something we can treasure?

In my opinion the growth of our dupe fascination came with the rise in popularity of throwaway fashion and being able to snap up something on-trend for the price of your morning coffee. Primark allowed us to update last year’s jumper with the help of a £2.50 statement necklace, or pick up a pair of pumps for £4.00 during our lunchbreak; we became obsessed with buying all the fashion and always having something new to adorn our bodies with, as for the first time ever fashion became insanely affordable. It became the norm to buy a new outfit for every night out, because we didn’t have to break our backs to do so; it became pretty standardised to pick up a Mulberry or Chloe copy from New Look or Topshop as the high street tried to capture our attention in new and exciting ways. Unsurprisingly this filtered pretty quickly into the beauty industry, with consumers always wanting to hunt down that must-have product without having to fork out the full price.

Some brands have built their entire business models off the back of dupes, even taking the time to ensure their packaging is ‘inspired’ by their more expensive counterparts. Makeup Revolution, Barry M, Sleek, W7 and The Balm are some of the worst (or best) culprits, being able to turn around a new product and offer up a dupe sometimes within a few months of the original hitting shelves. Others take a softer approach, preferring to identify trends (nude eyeshadow palettes, liquid lipsticks and finely milled pigmented blushers) and create their own take without stepping on any toes. Up until this point they’ve benefited from a huge surge in consumer interest (fueled by bloggers knowing that anything considered a dupe will bring in those much needed hits!) but my gut feeling is that this is coming to an end. Although picking up a cut price item of makeup will give us a buzz, if it just doesn’t perform or feel like the original would we be better off saving our pennies and splurging on products we know we’ll thoroughly enjoy from beginning to end?

I love brands like Makeup Revolution, but I can’t help but feel like they need to step out of the dupe arena and create something new. Endless tweaks on the same product get a little dull, while a stand full of copycats makes me feel like they lack the creativity consumers are beginning to expect. Just as I’ve moved away from fast fashion, I’m also moving away from fast beauty; I would far prefer to spend £20.00 on something I know produces the results I need than impulsively chuck a few pounds on something ten times over that never gets used. Although the quality of affordable makeup is so much better than it ever has been, I do feel that as a society we’re moving towards more considered purchasing and are starting to make wise investments less often – rather than feeling the need to snap up anything and everything because it’s cheap. 

Personally I adore affordable beauty and I know you do too; I know you love to find out what’s exciting and what bargain buys are worth snapping up, but it’s all about balance. I know you also want to know what’s worth spending your money on and making informed decisions about those purchases. Although I don’t think these affordable brands are going anywhere, I do feel that this year there will be a move away from creating copies and dupes – towards real innovation that stands on its own two feet. Brands including Kiko, NYX and Bourjois are creating covetable pieces (at affordable prices) without feeling the need to copy or imitate, to the point where they’re sure to become cult classics themselves; with the technological advances and birth of the internet allowing practically anyone to set up shop and ship worldwide, there’s no excuse to remain stagnant or just copy what everyone else is doing. Us consumers demand more, but brands are you listening?

What do you think about dupes and copycat brands? Do you love them and can’t get enough, or are you moving towards more considered investment purchases? Or are you just torn?

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  1. Gemma Magpie
    February 7, 2017 / 5:19 pm

    I completely agree with everything you said! I used to be a BIG Makeup Revolution fan but after three years of them only copying other products and packaging I got bored. Yes it's great they make budget alternatives but do they really need to have nine (soon to be 10!!!) chocolate bar palettes? Where is their originality? The other downside for me is their customer service is atrocious (I no longer feature their products on my blog because of it) so I would now rather pay more for the real deal and get the service and quality that goes with it xx

    • Hayley Carr
      February 7, 2017 / 7:28 pm

      Yeah I completely agree with you. I loved their palettes to start with, but now it's just repeats of the same stuff with minor tweaks – no real originality. That's why I don't feature them much on here anymore. It's not interesting. I had no idea about their customer service either, but that's not good at all.

  2. Kate Rose
    February 7, 2017 / 7:49 pm

    I do love a good dupe for i totally understand where your coming from. With some brands it's wondering whether they'll come out with something original or if it will be copies of popular products that they only produce. XKate//

  3. Maria Ritter
    February 7, 2017 / 7:54 pm

    I have never purchased anything from Makeup Revolution and that is just because of the fact that their products are all so similar to other brands and have no originality. All that glitters | A blog by Maria Ritter

  4. Anonymous
    February 7, 2017 / 9:54 pm

    Thought-provoking article, well articulated and I would tend to agree. Does this trend translate across skincare? Hmm, not for now, which is interesting as 'dupes' don't translate as easily across this sector

    • Hayley Carr
      February 8, 2017 / 10:31 am

      I don't know – I think it does happen, but not so overtly. They take key ingredients, ideas or trends and copy them in their own way; in body care you do get a lot of dupes, but they're harder to find.

  5. Sheerie
    February 7, 2017 / 11:51 pm

    There's something special about having that classic piece in your hand, it makes you feel good before it is even on your face. I'm not happy about brands try to fake copy cases, if you make a brand, budget or middle of the field or down right expensive, be proud of it and market it originally. I've only just noticed NYX on the Boots website and I was impressed with what I saw, I will definitely be taking an interest in it when I need to make a purchase. There's enough girls & women & men out there with budgets to suit the whole spectrum of makeup and face cream prices. I would have thought there should be enough marketing and branding for all, without trying to ride on the back of somebody else's idea……market a new product, inform the public about it and then sell it on its own merits!

  6. Vivian Yuen
    February 8, 2017 / 3:09 am

    Agree, I think affordable make up brands are coming away from creating dupes and are working on their own original products. It's refreshing to be able to see such a transition rather than multiple similar items on make up shelves!Vivian | LIVE . IN . LOVE~

  7. Rhiannon Pulling
    February 8, 2017 / 7:39 am

    Fab post, and I completely agree with you on the throwaway fashion and now beauty point. I've always had in my mind to invest more in skincare for higher quality products and find dupes in makeup, because there are some great and affordable brands out there! X Everything But The Kitchen

    • Hayley Carr
      February 8, 2017 / 10:32 am

      Yep cheap doesn't mean rubbish! There's no need to buy up all the £4 eyeshadow palettes when there are some great ones out there for a few quid more.

  8. Elena Doynova
    February 8, 2017 / 8:43 am

    I think Kylie's lipsticks were a dupe of matte lipsticks previously available on the market and simply don't understand what the hype was about… But that aside, I believe that many cheap brands are even better at producing higher end makeup when you put the prices side by side. It's just that a Sleek palette is so much cheaper that I don't mind the waste of a few shades in each like I do with an Urban Decay. 🙂

    • Hayley Carr
      February 8, 2017 / 10:33 am

      With premium brands you pay a lot for quality control and absolute perfection; for every 1 Chanel product they throw away 3, so you're actually paying for those within your price – hence the expensive nature.

  9. Mrs Tubbs
    February 8, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    I totally agree with you. I would sooner have one item that’s exactly right and pay a bit more for it than five so-so ones that are cheaper. But this may reflect income and life stage as I know what’s likely to work for me and what isn’t. My thirteen year old daughter might not agree. For her, dupes are invaluable as she can have fun experimenting, honing her skills and learn what works for her before moving onto more expensive items later.

  10. Beautylymin
    February 9, 2017 / 6:04 pm

    I don't mind "similar" products rather than dupes – I personally don't like MUR products that have the same layout (in palettes for example) and copycat packaging. I refuse to buy their products on that basis! xxBeautylymin| LuxuryFragranceGiveaway

  11. Victoria - Florence and Mary
    February 12, 2017 / 12:07 pm

    I loved this post and it's so interesting and I imagine it depends what side of the fence you're on.I don't consciously seek out or shop for dupes, I love to purchase high end lipsticks and have a penchant for Chanel make up but could I bring myself to pay £60 for a Tom Ford Eyeshadow quad I'm not so sure.On the other hand in my younger years I would've loved MUR and been purchasing left right and centre especially when you think today so many bloggers are showcasing higher end brands and the dupes are those with less money to spend, this is their way of entering the market. It might not be very original but I think dupes or high street copies and variations are something that have been in the fashion world for years and beauty has now become a big part of that.Victoria

  12. Unknown
    February 20, 2017 / 7:42 pm

    For me I enjoy the experience of trying and buying high end beauty products. I also think that in a lot of items you really get what you pay for. My favourite foundation is Dior Airflash, I have tried so many "bargain" foundations but you just don't get the same results.

  13. Anonymous
    February 20, 2017 / 7:59 pm

    I use a lot of dupes but as a trial version of the high end one. I got the Makeup Revolution Naked 3 dupe, loved the shades, then splashed out on the original and I love it. Same with the Makeup Forever version of Geurlain Meteorites. I wouldn't have bought the higher end ones without trying them as my tones are a bit strange, and I've fallen foul of something that I thought would suit me and didn't and ended up being a waste of money!

  14. Lydia WLD
    February 23, 2017 / 7:43 pm

    This was a really interestign discussion! For me, I will always love the click of a heavy lipstick lid far more than a flimsy lid that is likely to fall off in my bag, but it tends to be these details that I care about more than formula, as it's not always guaranteed that a higher price is higher quality, as you know. Something that's also important to me is that the drugstore brands have more cruelty free options within them, whereas higher end brands don't, and I would rather not give lots of my money for it to fund those practises. I do understand that other people see it as investing in technology, though.

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