Budget beauty ‘dupes’ that really work

With a cost of living crisis and energy bills set to skyrocket in the coming months, the growing interest in dupes is no surprise

With a cost of living crisis and energy bills set to skyrocket in the coming months, the growing interest in dupes is no surprise

I’ll admit it, I cheated on Marks and Spencer’s Colin the Caterpillar with Aldi’s Cuthbert. Now the budget supermarket chain has done the same with cult hair care range Olaplex, known as an effective treatment for damaged hair, a patented hero ingredient (bis-aminopropyl diglycol dimaleate) and its steep price tag of £28 per product.

In its new bonded hair care range, Lacura, Aldi has created a “dupe” – the collective term for a cheaper lookalike product that borrows from the performance and packaging of one of its best products, without duplicating any trademarked qualities. With Lacura shampoo and conditioner each costing £3.49, they’re affordable enough to try. “Fauxlaplex” may lack the patented ingredient, relying instead on vitamin E, hyaluronic acid and hydrogenated castor oil, but it’s still proven to be a hit and has sold out online regardless. “The new premium bonded haircare range has been hugely popular with our customers,” reports the supermarket chain.

Aldi is not the first to do this; beauty dupes are big business. There are imitations of Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Éclat concealer pen, Nars’ famous “Orgasm” blush, Charlotte Tilbury’s Flawless Filter and Liz Earle’s warm cloth cleanser. Google recently published a list of the most searched beauty dupes, and Olaplex was among the most popular, with 5,400 searches per month. Clinique’s Black Honey lipstick and Dyson’s £450 Airwrap hair tool are also in high demand, although I have yet to come across a worthy competitor to the latter.

The increase in interest is not a surprise. With a cost of living crisis and energy bills set to skyrocket in the coming months, anything that allows us to save money looks appealing. The availability of dupes is another bonus. Hyped beauty products can sell out quickly, leaving thousands waiting for the next shipment. When reality star Kylie Jenner launched her Kylie Cosmetics lip kits back in 2016, the stock sold out in less than 10 minutes. For buyers who have the purchasing power but lack the patience, dupers help avoid the pesky waiting list.

Of course, it feels a little unethical not to champion brands that come up with innovative products that stand out in the huge beauty market – but a dupe doesn’t necessarily limit the success of the original. “If you have a strong, established brand, you’re likely to be able to rely more easily on your reputation when it comes to protecting your intellectual property,” says Mireille Turner, a London-based corporate lawyer and chief executive of the British Beauty Council. “Unfortunately, this general position arguably works against new businesses that may have lesser-known brands.”

So do dupes work? With the Colin and Cuthbert caterpillar cakes, there isn’t much between them, but when it comes to beauty, the chemistry of the ingredients is more complicated and it’s a lot more hit and miss.

When shopping for a dupe, resist the temptation to be lured by expensive packaging and instead read the fine print and compare it to the original product. With skin care, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid or natural plant extracts. With makeup, test the product on your hand to test the consistency, blendability and depth of the pigment.

Here we tested some of the most high-profile dupes, including Aldi’s ‘Faulaplex’, to find out which, if any, can live up to the performance of the originals.

Tried and tested beauty dupes

Olaplex vs. Lacura

Olaplex vs. Lacura

Cult purchase: Olaplex No.4 shampoo, £28; Olaplex No.5 Conditioner, £28, both Cult Beauty

Olaplex’s shampoo and conditioner have been so scientifically researched and formulated that it has been called a game-changer for colored hair. Not only does the shampoo cleanse, but it also acts as a treatment that rebuilds the molecular structure of damaged strands.

The dab: Lacura Bonded shampoo and conditioner, £3.69 for both, Aldi

Does it work? I dye my long hair three times a year so it can get dry and frizzy. The dupe had the same thick, dark texture as Olaplex and did a similar deep clean that makes you feel like you’re getting rid of all the excess product in your hair. You only need a small amount and it lathers up like crazy. But it was the conditioner that let me down a bit – my hair didn’t feel as soft and wasn’t as easy to brush afterwards. It’s still much better than my usual supermarket brand at £6 a bottle and although it’s not up there with Olaplex I’ll still be buying it from Aldi as soon as the stock hits the shops.

Beauty rating: 6/10

Charlotte Moore, Acting Fashion Director

Estee Lauder vs. W7

Estee Lauder vs. W7

Cult purchase: Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation, £28, Boots

This Estee Lauder foundation has long been a trusted buy for everyday use. Loyal users love that it provides maximum coverage with a breathable formulation.

The dab: W7 Legend foundation, £4.95, Amazon

Does it work: The shade didn’t quite suit my skin, but there are plenty to choose from so I’ll find my right shade – it was a little on the pink side, while the Estee Lauder version is better for those with a more neutral or yellow undertone skin, but both offer the velvety, powdery texture the original is known for. The dupe also provides the same longevity. If you haven’t yet tried the more expensive foundation, W7’s alternative is a good place to try and find out if it’s the right formulation for you.

Beauty rating: 10/10

Carla Bates, makeup artist

Liz Earle v Superdrug

Liz Earle v Superdrug

Cult purchase: Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish, £18, Liz Earle

Liz Earle’s cleanser has been a bestseller since its launch 27 years ago, and remains a favorite for its herbal scent and effective make-up removal.

The dab: Superdrug Naturally Radiant Warm Cloth Facial Cleanser, £7.99, Superdrug

Does it work? Superdrug’s take on the product is impressive. Like the original, it comes with a muslin cloth and mirrors Liz Earle’s ingredients too. With a tube 50ml larger than the original, loyal Liz Earle fans might want to think twice.

Beauty rating: 10/10

Emilie Hill, beauty assistant

Urban Decay vs. Lacura

Urban Decay vs. Lacura

Cult purchase: Urban Decay Naked Honey Eyeshadow Palette, £46, Look Fantastic

Urban Decay eyeshadow palettes are recognized for their long-lasting, high-impact pigment, flattering shade range and purse-friendly packaging.

The dab: Lacura Naturals Nectar Eyeshadow Palette, £5.99, Aldi

Does it work? It’s amazing how similar these palettes are in terms of quality and appearance – I was shocked. The pigment in Aldi’s version impressed me. The shade selection is not quite the same, but this is a palette I would love to use myself. I also noticed with Aldi’s palette that there was little fallout (when the pigment spills onto the lashes or cheeks), which is something I look for in eye makeup as it’s an indicator of longevity. Aldi’s palette also comes with a decent shadow brush – impressive for under £6.

Beauty rating: 8/10

Carla Bates, makeup artist

L'Oreal v. Lacura

L’Oreal v. Lacura

Cult purchase: L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Pro Retinol Day Cream SPF30, £12.99, Superdrug

There’s a reason why L’Oreal has been a presence on beauty shelves for over a century – it delivers hard-working skincare, haircare and make-up with celebrities and experts, all at high street prices.

The dab: Lacura Rejuvelate day cream NOK 3.49 Aldi

Does it work? I’m a fan of L’Oreal’s day cream as it sits well under make-up and suits my sensitive skin. Aldi’s version mirrors the texture of L’Oreal’s at a third of the price. I didn’t suffer from any irritation after use, which can happen when testing a new product. Who knows if its ‘anti-wrinkle’ claim is true, but if I’m able to achieve a luminous and hydrated glow with a lookalike product for under £5, this might just be my next repeat purchase.

Beauty rating: 8/10

Emilie Hill, beauty assistant

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