Dupes are products with the same or similar active ingredients in the same or similar concentration as a more expensive product. Looking for dupes is a great way to familiarize yourself with effective ingredients.
To find dupes, begin with the ingredient list. Since cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA, companies do not have to list their ingredients on their product website. Luckily, the Sephora, Dermstore, and Ulta Beauty websites have complete ingredient lists for all the products they sell. After finding the ingredient list, review the company's product page for any notable active ingredients. Google the first few ingredients and any active ingredients and search for similar products.
If you love a product from a boutique company that is actually owned by a large cosmetic company, you may find a dupe in their less expensive line based on the exact same research and development. The following example comes from The Beauty Brains podcast. It reports that Skinceuticals A.G.E. Interrupter, which costs $168 for 1.7 oz, has the same patented active ingredient (proxylane, a sugar that helps defend against water loss) as L'Oreal Revitalift Triple Power Intensive Antiaging Day Cream, which costs $25 for 1.7 oz.
You may be able to compare products at www.skincarisma.com/skincare-product-comparison. Search two or more products and click compare. If the products have been entered into the site (and the most popular brands are often listed), the site will provide a product overview including price. It will list notable ingredients and notable effects, ingredient preferences (such as paraben free or vegan), and the comedogenic rating.
You can use this website to confirm dupes and also to prove otherwise. For example, if you do a google search for a Tatcha The Water Cream dupe, many people suggest using Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb. The skincarisma compare products tool confirms that both products fall into the face skin care moisturizers category, however they are not really all that similar. The Tatcha contains sodium hyaluronate and titanium dioxide, which promotes wound healing and offers sun protection. The Belif contains panthenol and ceramide 3, which promotes wound healing and is anti-aging.
Alternatively, you can type a product into skinskoolbeauty.com and they will suggest dupes.
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The greatest dupe company is The Ordinary. Their serums and products range from as low as $5 to $18. The products are named after the active ingredient, such as AHA, and its percentage concentration.
The cult favorite vitamin C product is Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Vitamin C. This product, which costs $166 per ounce, has a well-known dupe, Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum, which costs $17 per ounce. Both products are 15% vitamin C (ascorbic acid), 1% vitamin E (tocopherol), and 0.5% ferulic acid. Skinceuticals has a patent on a serum with 5% to 20% L-ascorbic acid, 0.5% to 5.0% ferulic acid, and 0.5% to 2.0% vitamin E with a pH range between 2.5 -3.5. The Timeless serum has a pH of 2.4.
La Mer Crème de la Mer was formulated way back in 1994. Its specialized ingredients are algae, sea kelp, sunflower oil and wheat germ. If these ingredients were worth $85 for .5 ounces then everyone else would be using them and research and development teams at all the giant cosmetic companies would have confirmed their superiority. Most people find that good old Nivea Cream, which costs $6 for 13 ounces, is a serviceable dupe because the products rely on the same base: mineral oil, petroleum, and glycerin. The La Mer also contains antioxidants and an AHA, but since it comes in a jar those products are likely to be destabilized.
The great white whale of dupes is Sunday Riley Good Genes, which costs $105 for 1 oz. The internet is convinced that this product cannot be duped. Good Genes contains 5% lactic acid and has a pH of 2.6, which is low and releases more exfoliant on your skin. It also contains several temporary brightening ingredients. According to Sunday Riley the other active ingredients in Good Genes are licorice, lemongrass and aloe. Not surprisingly, The Ordinary has a product simply called Lactic Acid 5% which costs $6.50 for 1 oz. You could use this product with a licorice, lemongrass, and aloe serum such as Eminence Organics Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster-Serum which costs $56. However, since the lemongrass and licorice root extract are the last two ingredients in Good Genes, and they are not known to have any anti-aging benefits, it may be better to use a second product with ingredients used in Good Genes in higher quantities. The first two ingredients in Good Genes are prickly pear extract and blue agave extract. The suspending oil is squalane. Youth to The People Super Berry Hydrate And Glow Oil is a prickly pear and squalane serum that costs $44 for 1 oz.
Biologique Recherche P50 is also a cult favorite exfoliator. It cost $115 for 8.4 oz. There are several versions of P50, including a 1970s version that is very harsh and leaves most people's skin red and irritated. The standard P50 has at least five exfoliating acids: gluconolacone (a poly-hydroxy acid that is gentler than glycolic acid), lactic acid, malic acid, salicylic acid and phytic acid. P50 is also known for its terrible smell because it contains cider vinegar and sulphur. The first four ingredients in P50 are water, gluconolactone, lactic acid and propylene glycol and niacinamide. Similarly, the first four ingredients in Glossier Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector are water, lactic acid, glycolic acid, and gluconolactone and it also contains niacinamide. The Glossier product costs $24 for 4.4 oz.
Dennis Gross Peel Pads are so popular there are now several versions. The Alpha Beta Daily Extra Strength Pads cost $88 for 30 pads and contain various acids: glycolic acid, salicylic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, malic acid and willow bark extract (potentially a BHA). British company Nip + Tuck Glycolic Fix Night Pads Extreme contain 5% glycolic acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, and niacinamide and cost $12 for 60 pads. Alternatively, natural beauty product Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Brightening Pads contain malic acid, citric acid, glycolic acid, and gluconolactone and cost $12 for 14 pads.
Skinceuticals Resveratrol BE contains resveratrol, niacinamide, antioxidants, and vitamin E and costs $153 1/ oz. Paula's Choice Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner contains resveratrol, niacinamide, antioxidants and vitamin E and costs $24 for 4 oz.
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair costs $68 for 1 oz and contains bifida ferment lysate, tripeptides, squalane, sodium hyaluronate and vitamin E. Missha Time Revolution Night Repair costs $49 for 1.69 oz and contains bifida ferment lysate, tripeptides, sunflower seed oil, sodium hyaluronate and vitamin E.
SK-II Facial Essence cost $169 for 5.5 oz. Its active ingredient is a patented version of the yeast galactomyces ferment filtrate. This ingredient is a yeast that may improve skin's barrier and may brighten skin but is not known to have any anti-aging properties. Soko Glam Benton Firmation Essence also contains galactomyces ferment filtrate. It costs $27 for 3.38 oz.
Tata Harper Restorative Eye Cream costs $98 for .5 oz. The first five ingredients are aloe, water, safflower oil, lavender (which can be irritating) and glycerin. The active ingredients are arnica, helichrysm essential oil (an anti-inflammatory oil), menyanthes trifoliate and date palm extract, two botanicals with dubious skin care benefits. Burt's Bees Skin Nourishment Eye Cream also contains aloe, water, safflower oil and various botanicals and costs $18 for .5 oz.
Peter Thomas Roth Power K Eye Rescue contains vitamin K and arnica and costs $100 for .5 oz. CSI (Cosmeceutical Science Institute) sells Recovery Eye Cream with vitamin K and arnica and costs $14.50 for .5 oz.