Beauty Downshift Challenge – Is it worth ditching brands for cheaper ‘dupes’?

Beauty Downshift Challenge – Is it worth ditching brands for cheaper ‘dupes’?

Eg, £26 Urban Decay eyeshadow palette vs £4 Aldi lookalike

At MSE, we’ve challenged you to ‘downshift’ your grocery shop for years (check our Downshifting Guide), but you can also save on make-up and beauty products by downshifting from brands to much cheaper ‘dupes’ – lookalike products, where often even the packaging is similar to the expensive brand.

I’ve looked into just how cheap these cheaper versions are, though I must stress this is purely a price comparison and I’ve not tried them all myself, though as you’ll see below many beauty bloggers and MSE users like them. Nevertheless, as they’re cheap, you could always try them and if you like them, great. If not, you’ve not lost much.

MSE Update 6.51pm on Tue 19 May: Some locations (eg, Primark) are still closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and other items have sold out online. I've left them here for reference, in case they come back in stock.

What are the key things I need to know about dupes?

  • Many are widely praised by beauty bloggers and MSE Forumites for being just as good, if not better than, their pricier counterparts. Of course, we’re not skincare experts and we haven’t tested all the products ourselves – but since publishing this blog last year, we've had many positive comments including these...

Aldi's hot cloth cleanser is virtually identical to Liz Earle's! It smells the same, the consistency is the same. I would recommend anyone to try it out. A great product with great results!

– Sarah F.

Snap! I’ve been using Liz Earle’s hot cloth cleanser & really can’t see a difference! Lacura’s moisturisers are just as good as Clarins also... I can buy the whole range I need from Aldi & still have money left over!

– Justine W.

  • Whilst duplicates might have very similar ingredients and properties they most likely won't be exactly the same – always read the packaging and check ingredients if you have any allergies or skin concerns. The exact formulation of most beauty products (especially perfumes) are a closely-guarded secret.

  • All these products are sold by reputable retailers – like Boots – so they're quality checked and aren't like something you might buy at a car boot sale. The British Skin Foundation told us all cosmetic products are subject to the same stringent tests so just because a product is cheap, doesn’t mean it’s less effective or unsafe for the skin.

I've picked out some of the most highly-rated beauty dupes I’ve heard about this year at Aldi, Boots, Superdrug, and Primark, along with how much you can save if you take the Beauty Downshift Challenge. While you can usually find dupes at other retailers throughout the year, these are the biggies.

Only make a switch if you’re happy to try something cheaper to see if you can achieve the same results. Check our Cheap beauty & make-up deals page for more offers.

Here's a comparison of what’s available in stores now, subject to stock, and how much extra you’d pay for the similar big-name near-equivalent. I've noted below where products have been confirmed as cruelty-free and/or vegan – where I've not indicated either way, it doesn't necessarily mean they aren't, I’ve just not had confirmation.

Aldi dupes - incl £26 Urban Decay eyeshadow palette vs £4 Aldi lookalike

Aldi has a host of beauty dupes on its shelves – look out for its own-brand ‘Lacura’ on everything from day cream and concealer to a ‘Liz Earle-alike’ hot cloth cleanser. Though stock varies between stores and can sell out really fast, so go quick.

Aldi 'Essential Naturals' eyeshadow palette (left) vs Urban Decay 'Naked2' basics palette (right)

We've highlighted some of our top picks from Aldi's beauty range below:

Aldi product Similar branded product
Lacura 'Essential Naturals' eyeshadow palette, 6x1.2g (cruelty-free) - £3.99. No longer available, however the 'Nuit' version is still in stock Urban Decay 'Naked2' basics eyeshadow palette, 6x1.3g - £26 at Debenhams (cruelty-free)
Lacura liquid illuminator, 10ml (cruelty-free) - £3.99 Iconic London illuminator drops, 13.5ml - £24 at Feel unique (vegan)

Lacura pink clay hot cloth cleanser, 200ml (vegan and cruelty-free) - £3.99

Liz Earle 'Cleanse & Polish' hot cloth cleanser, 200ml - £21.60 at Boots

Lacura 'Aloha' bronzer, 8g (cruelty-free) - £5.99

Benefit 'Hoola' bronzer, 8g - £27 at Feel Unique

Lacura caviar day cream SPF15, 50ml - £6.99

La Prairie skin caviar luxe cream, 50ml - £384 at John Lewis

Lacura 'Snapshot Ready' primer, 30ml (cruelty-free) - £5.99

Smashbox photofinish primer, 30ml - £28 at Smashbox (vegan & cruelty-free)

Lacura Q10 night cream, 50ml - £1.45 Nivea Q10 night cream, 50ml - £9 at Sainsbury's
Lacura 'Too Legit' mascara, 14g (cruelty-free) - £5.99 (sold out online, check in store)  Benefit 'They're Real' mascara, 8.5g - £19.80 at
Lacura 'Booty' balm, 250ml (cruelty-free) - £6.99 (sold out online, check in store) Sol de Janeiro 'Brazilian Bum Bum' cream, 240ml - £44 at Lookfantastic
Lacura 'Healthy Glow' glycolic toner, 250ml (cruelty-free) - £3.99 (sold out online, check in store) Pixi Glow Tonic, 250ml - £18 at Boots (cruelty-free)
Lacura 'Illusion Touch' 2in1 concealer & foundation, 2g/30ml - £7.99 (sold out online, check in store) Lancôme Teint Visionnaire Foundation, 30ml - £34 at Debenhams

Aldi 'Aloha' bronzer (left) vs Benefit 'Hoola' bronzer (right)

Aldi's duplication of big brands even goes so far as to mimic the appearance of the packaging. Reviews on Aldi's page are mostly positive, though it seems some reviewers didn't get on with the face creams. From the feedback we've seen, if you're a Pixi, Benefit or Urban Decay fan - or you enjoy caviar-based skin care - it might be worth checking out Aldi's alternatives as you could save up to 98% by downshifting to Lacura.

Of course, Aldi dupes – like the £3.99 eyeshadow palette – a lookalike of Urban Decay’s ‘Naked2’ basics palette (norm £26ish), sell out quickly online (though you'll hopefully still find some of them in stores), which perhaps shows how many people out there have caught the bug for downshifting.

Aldi also has a £5.99 line of 100ml perfumes that look and smell suspiciously like Jo Malone fragrances – which are also usually much pricier, at £90 for 100ml. See our Cheap perfume guide for more smell-alikes. Unfortunately, a lot of Aldi’s beauty dupes aren’t available year-round as they’re labelled ‘Special Buys’, so you may need to keep your eyes peeled each time you shop there.

Boots dupes - incl £3.50 CYO shimmer oil vs similar £46 Fenty 'luminizer', 92% saving

If you don’t want to wait for Aldi’s offers to come back in stock or are looking for something different, it’s worth checking out your local Boots stores as we’ve heard there are quite a few dupes available.

Product at Boots Similar branded product
Botanics All Bright Radiance Balm, 50ml*, £5.99 MAC Strobe Cream, 50ml - £25 at Lookfantastic
CYO Gift of Gold Bronzing shimmer oil, 30ml*, £3.50 Fenty Beauty Lava Luminizer, 90ml - £46 at Harvey Nichols
Sleek MakeUP Copperplate highlighting palette, 9g*, £7.99 Huda Beauty 3D Highlighting Palette, 30g - £40 at Selfridges
Sleek MakeUP Matte Me liquid lip*, £3.99 Kylie Jenner liquid lipstick, 3.25g - $17 at Kylie Cosmetics (about £13 before delivery)
CYO Shimmer Switch bronzing & highlighting palette in 'In the Clouds', 7.2g*, £1.50  Bobbi Brown shimmer brick, 10.3g - £36 at Debenhams and John Lewis

Boots CYO 'Shimmer Switch' vs Bobbi Brown 'Shimmer Brick'

Superdrug dupes - incl £4 MUA loose powder vs similar £29 Nars loose powder, 86% saving

I’ve taken a look at feedback online, and tried a few of these products myself, and these are some of the best dupes I’ve come across at Superdrug. Its own products often match or exceed the cruelty-free and/or vegan status of the expensive brands they appear to be emulating.

Product at Superdrug Similar branded product
ELF Mineral face primer, 14ml - £7.50 at Superdrug, or 30ml for £12.50 at ELF (vegan & cruelty-free) Smashbox photo-finish primer, 30ml - £28 at Smashbox (vegan & cruelty-free)
B Pro make-up setting spray, 50ml - £4.66 at Superdrug (vegan & cruelty-free) MAC Prep and prime fix, 100ml - £21 at MAC
B Blending sponge, each - £4.99 at Superdrug (vegan & cruelty-free) Beauty Blender, each - £17 at Boots
MUA Professional loose setting powder, 18g, £4 (vegan & cruelty-free) Nars Cosmetics loose setting powder in 'Crystal', 10g - £29 at Nars
Revolution Conceal & Define concealer, 3.4ml, £4 (vegan & cruelty-free) Tarte Shape Tape, 10ml - £23 at Tarte (vegan & cruelty-free)
Nip+Fab highlight palette in 'Stroboscopic', 20g - £12 (vegan) Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit in 'Sun Dipped', 29.6g - £41 at Anastasia Beverly Hills (vegan & cruelty-free), most similar to discontinued 'Ultimate Glow'

Superdrug 'B' blending sponge vs Beauty Blender

Superdrug's own beauty dupes can often be subbed for other vegan and cruelty-free products, like the Smashbox photo-finish primer and ELF mineral face primer. All Superdrug B's products are vegan and cruelty-free, and all Superdrug-branded items are labelled as being suitable for vegans or vegetarians. 

Some dupes are hard to compare if they're vegan and/or cruelty free and the alternative isn't, but there are a lot, like Superdrug, that now label what is and isn't suitable.

Primark dupes - incl £1.50 lipstick vs similar £15.75 MAC lipstick, 90% saving

Primark has a whole host of beauty dupes, often quickly selling out as people rush to try out products at around 10% of the cost of the big brand. We scoped out both the Primark closest to MSE Towers and a Primark store outside London to see what you can currently get.

Primark product Similar branded product
Matte lipstick, 3g - £1.50 (cruelty-free) MAC matte lipstick, 3g - £17.50 at Debenhams
Double Take eyeshadow palette, 8x1g, 4x3g - £8 (cruelty-free) Urban Decay eyeshadow palette in 'Backtalk', 8x1.4g, 4x4g - £39.50 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free). Currently out of stock.
Urban Heat eyeshadow palette, 8x1.5g, 4x1.9g - £4  Urban Decay Naked Heat eyeshadow palette, 12x1.3g - £43 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free)
Rose Suede eyeshadow palette, 9x1g - £3 Huda Beauty Obsessions palette in 'Mauve', 10g - £25 at Selfridges (vegan & cruelty-free)
Lip contour matte lip kit, 4ml, 1g - £3 Kylie Cosmetics matte lip kit 3.25g, 1g - $29 plus delivery (about £22, cruelty-free)
Matte primer, 42ml - £3 (cruelty-free) Smashbox photofinish primer, 30ml - £28 at Smashbox (vegan & cruelty-free)
Wonderlash mascara, 9ml - £3 (cruelty-free) Benefit 'They're Real' mascara, 10g - £19.80 at
Loose mineral powder, 13g - £2 (cruelty-free) BareMinerals original mineral foundation SPF15, 8g - £23.30 at Feelunique (vegan & cruelty-free)
Ultimate matte foundation SPF15 in 'Nude Beige', 32ml - £5 (other colours available) Estée Lauder double wear foundation SPF10 in 'Cool Bone', 30ml - £34 at Feel Unique (other colours available)
Liquid concealer, 8ml - £2 (several colours available, cruelty-free) Maybelline 'Fit Me' concealer, 6.8ml - £5.99 at Feel Unique (several colours available)


Primark matte lipstick vs MAC matte lipstick

As with Aldi above, Primark goes so far as to seemingly mimic the shape and colour of the packaging of branded goods, so these really are lookalikes (put them side by side and the visual similarity’s usually quite obvious).

As I normally use Smashbox primer, I picked up the Primark version and it looks, smells, and goes on really similarly to the branded product. MSE Debs picked up the matte lipstick, and although she usually uses MAC she reckons Primark’s is pretty decent for the price, and the 91% saving. There's also a similar Primark lipstick for 90p which you might want to look out for, but it's the matte version that people reckon is a dupe for MAC.

While buying Primark instead of an expensive brand is always cheaper, in some cases you'll also get more of the product, eg, 13g Primark loose powder instead of 8g BareMinerals powder. Though some big brands aren't cruelty-free, so if that's important to you, Primark has quite a few 'Leaping Bunny' certified cruelty-free products – a nice extra on top of an up to 93% saving.

Do I get the same amount?

Looking at the sizes of products, in most cases the beauty dupe is a smaller size than the big brand – but even if you were to buy multiples to get the same amount, you would almost always spend significantly less.

If you still prefer the big brand, it might be worth waiting for discount events like Boxing Day and January sales, Black Friday, or department store discount days before you stock up.

Would you give up your favourite brand and downshift to a dupe? What are your favourite beauty dupes? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter, or Facebook.