Beauty Downshift Challenge – Is it worth ditching brands for cheaper ‘dupes’ to save up to 90%?

Beauty Downshift Challenge – Is it worth ditching brands for cheaper ‘dupes’ to save up to 90%?

Eg, £43 Urban Decay eyeshadow palette vs £10 Lottie London 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 and cheerful' 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 affordable, you could always try them and if you like them, great. If not, you’ve not lost much.

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 first publishing this guide in 2018, we've seen many positive comments including these...

I’ve been using Liz Earle’s hot cloth cleanser & really can’t see a difference to Aldi! 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.

The Lottie London collection is influenced by current Instagram trends and includes a number of Anastasia Beverly Hills and Kylie Cosmetics dupes without the designer price tags. When comparing it to the other palettes in my collection it definitely outperforms bigger brands.

– Lifestyle blogger Roxie Watt

  • 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 are a closely-guarded secret.

  • All these products are sold by reputable retailers – such as Boots and Superdrug – 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, plus some other brands, 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 for more offers. If you're interested in shampoo, conditioner, or shower gel dupes, see my shampoo & shower gel downshift challenge guide for more info on what you could try.

Do I get the same amount?

While some dupes do give you more (such as Primark's loose powder), looking at the sizes of products at other stores, 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 such as Black Friday, Boxing Day and January sales, or department store discount days before you stock up.

Which beauty dupes are available now?

Here's a comparison of what’s available in stores or online now, dependent on 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.

New. Lottie London dupes - incl £10 Lottie London eyeshadow palette vs £43 Urban Decay, 77% saving

We've featured two Lottie London bundles this year, and MoneySavers are big fans of the small price tag as well as the striking similarity to big brands. You'll also be able to order many of the products online, either direct from Lottie London*, or via other beauty websites such as Lookfantastic* or Feel Unique*.

Lottie London product

Similar branded product

Glitter Switch lip gloss, 3ml - £6.95 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free & vegan) Ciaté Glitter Flip lipstick, 3ml - £17 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free & vegan)
Slay All Day metallic liquid lipstick, 6ml - £5.95 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free & vegan) Kylie Cosmetics metal lip kit, 3g (with liner, 1g) - $16.80 (£14ish) at Kylie Cosmetics.
Slay All Day liquid matte lipstick, 6ml - £3.95 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free & vegan) Kylie Cosmetics matte lip kit (with 1g liner below) - $29 (£23ish) at Kylie Cosmetics.
Slay All Day lip liner, 9g - £5.95 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free & vegan) Kylie Cosmetics matte lip kit (with 3g lipstick above) - $29 (£23ish) at Kylie Cosmetics.
All About That Base foundation stick, 9g - £7.95 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free)  Anastasia Beverly Hills stick foundation, 9g - £26 at Anastasia Beverly Hills (cruelty-free & vegan).
Shadow Swatch eyeshadow palette in 'The Rusts', 12g - £9.95 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free)  Urban Decay Naked Heat eyeshadow palette, 15.6g - £43 at Lookfantastic
Shadow Swatch eyeshadow palette in 'The Smokes'*, 12g and 'The Nudes'*, 12g - £9.95 each at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free) Urban Decay Naked 3 eyeshadow palette, 15.6g - £43 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free. 'The Nudes' is more like the original Naked palette, 'The Smokes' is more like Naked Smoky, both no longer available)
Lottie London eyeshadow palette in 'The Rusts', 7.2g - £4.95 at Feel Unique* (cruelty-free) Huda Beauty Obsessions eyeshadow palette in 'Topaz', 10g - £25 at Lookfantastic
Arch Rival brow artist retractable eyebrow pencil, 9g - £6.45 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free & vegan) Anastasia Beverly Hills 'Brow Wiz' eyeliner, 0.08g - £23 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free & vegan)
AM to PM eyeliner pencil, 2.59g - £3.95 at Feel Unique* (cruelty-free & vegan) Urban Decay 24/7 eyeliner, 1.2g - £12 at Debenhams
Shimmer Squad highlighter palette in 'Holographic Haul', 16.8g - £5.75 at Perfume Click (cruelty-free & vegan) Anastasia Beverly Hills Moonchild Glow Kit, 4.2g - £41 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free & vegan)
Rainbow highlighter in 'Mermaid Glow', 9g - £5.95 at Lookfantastic* (cruelty-free & vegan) Ciaté highlighter in 'Mermaid Glow', 9g - £13 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free & vegan)
Blush Crush blusher - £4.95 at Lottie London* (cruelty-free & vegan) Tarte Amazonian clay 12-hour blush, 5.6g - £22 at Tarte (cruelty-free & vegan)

Urban Decay Naked Heat (top) for £43 vs Lottie London 'The Rusts' (bottom) for £10?

From Urban Decay, to Anastasia Beverly Hills, Ciaté and more, Lottie London's got an alternative for under a tenner. With the range being affordable already, discounted kits were snapped up – proving popular with MoneySavers.

Personally, I really like that a lot of Lottie London products are vegan, and they're all cruelty-free. I've used the Shimmer Squad highlighter in 'Holographic Haul' (norm £8ish), and even though some people say they don't think the colours are as strong as the branded Anastasia Beverly Hills alternative (norm £41), at 81% cheaper I can say I certainly felt shimmery enough.

Aldi dupes - incl £6 mascara vs £20 Benefit, 70% saving

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. Stock varies between stores and can sell out really fast, so go quick.

I've highlighted some of my top picks from Aldi's beauty range below:

Aldi product

Similar branded product

It's back Lacura 'Too Legit' waterproof mascara, 14g (cruelty-free) - £5.99 or 'Too Legit' mascara 2x14g set - £11.98 Benefit 'They're Real' mascara, 8.5g - £19.70 at Feel Unique
Lacura liquid illuminator in 'Bronze', 10ml (cruelty-free) - £3.99 (online exclusive) Iconic London illuminator drops, 13.5ml - £29.90 at Feel unique (cruelty-free & vegan)

It's back Lacura 'Aloha' light highlighter, 8g (cruelty-free) - £5.99 (online exclusive)

Benefit 'Cookie' highlighter in 'Golden Pearl', 8g - £22.95 at Feel Unique

New Lacura cheek palette, blusher, highlighter & bronzer 3x8g (cruelty-free) - £4.99 Benefit 'Cheeky camper' bronzer, blusher & highlighter, 4gx2 plus 3.5g - £21.20 at Benefit

Lacura caviar night cream, 50ml (cruelty-free) - £6.99 or Day & night cream 2x50ml set - £13.98

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

Lacura Q10 night cream, 50ml - £1.45 Nivea Q10 night cream, 50ml - £5.49 at Lloyd's Pharmacy
Lacura blue metallic liquid eyeshadow, 3ml - £2.89 (low stock online, check in store) Lime Crime 'Diamond Dew' liquid eyeshadow/highlighter in 'Tearful' - £18 at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free & vegan)

Two-pack Lacura pink clay hot cloth cleanser, 2x200ml (cruelty-free & vegan) - £7.98 (online exclusive)

Liz Earle 'Cleanse & Polish' hot cloth cleanser, 200ml - £27 each at Boots

Two-pack Lacura Vitamin C toner, 2x250ml (cruelty-free) - £7.98

Pixi Vitamin C Tonic, 250ml - £18 each at Lookfantastic (cruelty-free)
Lacura Men's facial cleansing scrub, 75ml - £3.99 Kiehl's 'Oil Eliminator' cleanser, 75ml - £9.50 at Kiehl's 
New Lacura 'Radiant Concealer' in 'Dark', 6g (cruelty-free) - £3.99 ('Light' and 'Medium' sold out online, check in store) Nars 'Radiant Concealer', 6ml - £24 at Boots

Aldi 'Too Legit' mascara (left) for £6 vs Benefit 'They're Real' mascara (right) for £20?

Aldi's duplication of big brands even goes so far as to mimic the appearance of the packaging. Reviews on Aldi's site 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.

Unsurprisingly, 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

It’s worth checking out your local Boots stores as we’ve heard there are quite a few dupes available for popular big brands such as MAC, Fenty, Huda, and Benefit.

Product at Boots

Similar branded product

New CYO 'Cool As a Coconut' bronzing stick*, £2.75 Nars 'The multiple' multipurpose stick, 14g - £30 at Nars and John Lewis
CYO 'Gift of Gold' bronzing shimmer oil, 30ml*, £3.50 Fenty Beauty Lava Luminizer, 90ml - £46 at Boots and Harvey Nichols
CYO 'Shimmer Switch' bronzing & highlighting palette in 'In the Clouds', 7.2g*, £1.50  Bobbi Brown shimmer brick, 10.3g - £36 at John Lewis
New Sleek MakeUP cream contour kit, 12g*, £10.99 Anastasia Beverly Hills contour cream kit 27g - £42 at Anastasia Beverly Hills (temp out of stock)

New Sleek MakeUP brow kit, 3.8g*, £8.49 (vegan & cruelty-free)

Benefit 'Brow Zings', 2.65g+1.7g - £23.75 at Allbeauty
Sleek MakeUP 'Matte Me' liquid lip*, £4.99 Kylie Jenner liquid lipstick, 3.25g - $17 at Kylie Cosmetics (about £13 before delivery)
Sleek MakeUP Copperplate highlighting palette, 9g*, £9.99 Huda Beauty 3D Highlighting Palette, 30g - £40 at Feel Unique
Botanics 'All Bright' radiance balm, 50ml*, £7.99 MAC Strobe Cream, 50ml - £25 at Lookfantastic

Boots CYO 'Shimmer Switch' at £1.50 vs Bobbi Brown 'Shimmer Brick' at £36?

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
Superdrug 'Naturally Radiant' hot cloth cleanser, 150ml, £3.48 (vegan & cruelty-free) Liz Earle 'Cleanse & Polish' hot cloth cleanser, 200ml - £27 at Lookfantastic
New ELF 16 hour 'Camo' concealer, 6ml, £5 Tarte Shape Tape, 10ml - £23 at Tarte (vegan & cruelty-free)
ELF Mineral face primer, 14ml, £6.99 (vegan & cruelty-free) Smashbox photo-finish primer, 30ml - £28 at Smashbox (vegan & cruelty-free)
New B. Pro Longwear brow pomade cream, 1.6g, £5.99 (vegan & cruelty-free) Anastasia Beverly Hills 'Dipbrow' brow pomade, 4g - £19 at Feel Unique (vegan & cruelty-free)
New B. Liquid blush, 10ml, £6.99 (vegan & cruelty-free) Glossier 'Cloud Paint' blush, 10ml - £15 at Glossier (cruelty-free)
B. Blending sponge, each, £3.99, (vegan & cruelty-free) Beauty Blender, each - £17 at Boots
B. Pro make-up setting spray, 50ml, £6.99 (vegan & cruelty-free) MAC Prep and prime fix, 100ml - £21 at Lookfantastic
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, £4.99 (vegan & cruelty-free) Tarte Shape Tape, 10ml - £23 at Tarte (vegan & cruelty-free)
Nip+Fab highlight palette in '02', 12g - £7.50 (cruelty-free, called 'Glow Out' on the Nip + Fab site) Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit in 'Sun Dipped', 29.6g - £41 at Lookfantastic (vegan & cruelty-free)

Superdrug 'B' blending sponge for a fiver vs Beauty Blender for £17?

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 £2 eyebrow pencil vs similar £23 Anastasia Beverly Hills eyebrow pencil, 91% saving

Primark has a whole host of beauty dupes, often quickly selling out as people rush to try out products at about 10% of the cost of the big brand. I wasn't able to find out the sizes or the cruelty-free status of a handful of the products, so it's worth checking if you spot them in store before buying.

Primark product Similar branded product
New Lip liner and crayon duo, £2 Tarte 'The Lip Architect' lipstick liner, 0.5g - £21 at Tarte
New Matte lipstick in 'Envy', £1.50 MAC lipstick in 'Smoked Purple - Matte', 3g - £17.50 at MAC
New 'Fake It' mascara, 9ml, £2.50 Too Faced 'Better Than Sex' mascara, 4.8ml - £22 at Lookfantastic (vegan & cruelty-free)
New Rose water primer, 150ml, £2 Smashbox photofinish primer water, 116ml - £22 at Smashbox (vegan & cruelty-free)
New Jumbo eyeliner, £2 Eyeko 'Fat' liquid eyeliner, 3.5g - £12.80 at Eyeko (vegan & cruelty-free)
New Eyeconic eyeliner, £2 Eyeko 'Skinny' liquid eyeliner, 2g - £12.80 at Eyeko (vegan & cruelty-free)
New Brow sketch, £2 Anastasia Beverly Hills 'Brow Wiz' eyeliner, 0.08g - £23 at Lookfantastic (vegan & cruelty-free)
Rose Suede eyeshadow palette, 9x1g, £3 Huda Beauty Obsessions palette in 'Mauve', 10g - £25 at Selfridges (vegan & cruelty-free)
Wonderlash mascara, 9ml, £3 Benefit 'They're Real' mascara, 8.5g - £19.70 at Feel Unique
Loose mineral powder, 13g, £2 (cruelty-free) BareMinerals original mineral foundation SPF15, 8g - £22.40 at Allbeauty (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 - £30.60 at Lookfantastic (other colours available)
Liquid concealer, 8ml, £2 (several colours available, cruelty-free) Tarte Shape Tape, 10ml - £23 at Tarte (vegan & cruelty-free)

Primark 'Brow Sketch' eyeliner (top) for £2 vs Anastasia Beverly Hills 'Brow Wiz' (below) for £23?

As with Aldi above, Primark goes so far as to sometimes 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. 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 90%ish saving.

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