When Dupes Aren’t Dupes For You

I know how hard it can be when you are interested in a product that everyone is raving about but for whatever reason, you can not get the product.  That feeling is likely part of the reason why dupes are popular. I just feel like sometimes they narrow in on price and sometimes leave people out.  I’m not sure what I hope to accomplish with this post, but I do wonder if there is a better way to approach dupes.

I’m not going to mention any specific examples of videos are blog posts because I’m not aiming to shame anyone for creating dupe content or anyone for wanting dupes.  I definitely think that presenting alternatives can be helpful.  There are times when you can save some money and other times when you don’t want to or can’t purchase certain items.  I have even written some dupe-like content with my Buy High/Buy Low posts.  So again, I do see that there is value in this type of content.

elf ultimate blending brush vs smashbox blurring foundation brush
Buy High/Buy Low: Foundation Buffing Brushes | Smashbox Buildable Cheek Brush and Real Techniques Blush Brush
Smashbox Buildable Cheek Brush and Real Techniques Blush Brush
Buy High/Buy Low: Sheer Blush Brushes | Smashbox Buildable Cheek Brush and Real Techniques Blush Brush

Dupes can be especially disappointing when the options presented save money, but end up excluding skin tones.  I do realize that we can only speak to our own personal experiences and that all content creators are doing their best to provide helpful content for their audience. I can also appreciate that as content creators, we can see what content people are enjoying the most and some can even see the demographics of our audience. So some of these issues may purely relate to the demographics the creator is seeing represented.

Despite that, I still find it hard to understand the oversight that often happens with dupes when it comes to availability. I’m not just talking about dark skin tones either, sometimes there isn’t enough variety for most people. For example, in the past, there was a hyped foundation dupe but it only had 4 shades, but the product it was supposed to dupe had 40 shades. Then there is the inevitable comment of “I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about this.” The limited shade range means limited access for a lot of people. I feel like the same thing often happens with highlighter and bronzer dupes. Shade ranges have come a long way, so I do think there is always some sort of alternative. But maybe we could all do better to at least consider if a dupe is actually widely accessible before making the suggestion.

Another issue that I’m not really sure how to unpack is that dupes can often disparage drugstore products. There are plenty of great products at the drugstore and I think they don’t always need to stack up against something that is higher end. I know that I compare product formulas quite often and it seems necessary to give you a point of reference in order to create context. But I hope I’ve been able to compare items without making it seem that a drugstore/affordable item isn’t as good simply because it happens to cost less. I also hope I haven’t made it seem like a product it better simply because it costs more.

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What Can You Do?

So let’s say you find yourself in that situation. You’ve learned about a dupe and wanted to buy it, but as it turns out there isn’t a good shade for you, you can’t use an ingredient in the formula, or you don’t want to support that company. What can you do?

Save up for the original product

At this time in history, when instant gratification is so prevalent, I feel it is rare to hear anyone suggesting saving up for what you want. If you feel like something is not in your current budget, that doesn’t mean it can’t be in the future. Even if you have to save a little at a time, you will get there. I know this may not be as exciting or even possible for some limited edition items, but I wish it was considered more often.

Shop your makeup bag/drawer(s)/cabinet for a similar product

Even us makeup lovers can admit that there aren’t a lot of truly unique products on the market. You can definitely get a close enough look to what someone else is using most of the time. When things are blended out, you can not see the nuances as much as you can when they are swatched heavily side by side.

Eyeshadow is a good example of this in practice. When I look at the pans of MAC Cranberry** and Makeup Geek Mystical side by side, they are in the same family of colors but they look different.

MAC Cranberry Eyeshadow vs Makeup Geek Mystical Foiled Eyeshadow
Top: MAC Cranberry | Bottom: Makeup Geek Mystical

When I swatch them next to each other, again the same family but different although they start to look more alike. But every time I wear one, it reminds me of the other one. So if someone said they were dupes and I didn’t have MAC Cranberry**, I could just use Makeup Geek Mystical. When applied to my skin tone, MAC Cranberry** is redder and Makeup Geek Mystical is more purple. But I’ll be honest, I only know that because I looked at pictures of myself wearing them. Without those pictures, my mind tells me that they are nearly identical.

MAC Cranberry Eyeshadow vs Makeup Geek Mystical Foiled Eyeshadow Swatches on Medium Dark Skin
MAC Cranberry (left) vs Makeup Geek Mystical (right)

Let’s take a different type of example, a formula dupe. The new NARS Soft Matte foundation** has gotten rave reviews but I already have a matte, transfer resistant foundation that I love using. So if I want that look or formula type, I can just use the Estee Lauder Double Wear Foundation.

Find your own dupe to purchase based on the product claims

Let’s say you come across someone raving about the MAC Foiled Eyeshadow in Sand Tropez (also previously released as the shade Faerie Fayre) and it sounds like a shadow you’d enjoy. But as you start to research, you find out the product was part of a limited edition collection. That means it is time to start looking for any foiled/metallic eyeshadow in a similar color that would suit your skin tone.

Makeup Geek is the brand that I personally own foiled shades from, so that is the example I’m going to use. Disclaimer, I do get some creasing with the Makeup Geek foiled shadows, but I do still enjoy using them. As you can see, these shades don’t look similar in the pan and even once you see the swatches they have their differences. But in terms of functionality and my skin tone, they get me to the same place.

MAC Sand Tropez Foiled Eyeshadow vs Makeup Geek Grandstand Foiled Eyeshadow Swatches
Top: MAC Sand Tropez | Bottom: Makeup Geek Grandstand

The MAC foiled formula is described as having a “highly pigmented color payoff” and a “shimmer metallic finish” (according to the write-up on Temptalia). Makeup Geek also claims that their foiled eyeshadows have “intense pigmentation” with an “opaque metallic finish.” So based on those claims, you’ve at least discovered a formula dupe, and if they have a similar shade, possibly a complete dupe.

MAC Sand Tropez Foiled Eyeshadow vs Makeup Geek Grandstand Foiled Eyeshadow Swatches on Medium Dark Skin
MAC Sand Tropez (left) and Makeup Geek Grandstand (right)

You can also use the same concept with reviews. If the review you are reading/watching says they love a bronzer because it has a matte finish and the color is a deep brown with neutral undertones, then you know you are looking for a matte, neutral, deep brown.

Let’s Discuss

I know this post may seem like common sense to some people, but I really think it is something that escapes people’s minds. I not only tend to see a lot of requests for dupes but I’ve also watched my fair share of dupe videos. I do think they are entertaining and maybe that is all there is to it and I’m overthinking. I tend to do that.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you get excited when you see dupe videos on Youtube or dupes posted on blogs and Pinterest? Or do you prefer a straight forward review or ranking type of video or blog post?

If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like down below.  If you’d like to check out more of my content, here are some places to start. 

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6 thoughts on “When Dupes Aren’t Dupes For You

  1. I am really passionate about swatches and comparisons. I think there just aren’t enough good ones out there. I’ve been frustrated as a consumer when I’ve tried to research dupes before. Now as a content creator, I get super excited to find dupes in my collection because I can share them in my content! Lol

    I also think a lot of people will use the word dupe as click bait and list products they’ve never even swatched or tried themselves. THAT is a huge pet peeve of mine. I do use the word dupe a lot in my content, but I try to point out any differences I see and then the reader can make an informed decision about their purchase.

    I also try very much to only try and review foundation/base products with a really large shade range- partly because I want to be able to get an excellent shade match for myself, and partly because now as a blogger or “influencer” I feel a responsibility to feature products that will have an option for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, all good points. I agree, it can be hard to find good swatches. I guess to have someone break down the differences and similarities between products is necessary when the reader doesn’t actually have the products.

      I have also seen those types of dupes posted that you mentioned, where the person hasn’t even used the product. That annoys me too. I also get frustrated when people call things dupes simply because the packaging is similar 😬.


  2. I don’t think I’ve ever been satisfied enough by a dupe product to skip getting or wanting the original product because it’s usually not just about the product itself and also about the packaging and brand name too. It’s usually after the fact if I buy something expensive and realize I have a cheaper alternative that I should have stuck with the cheaper one. But I only know that if I bought the original.

    When you talked about the dupes for products with a poor shade range, I instantly thought of the L’Oreal True Match Lumi Foundation which I’ve heard so often compared to the Armani Luminous Silk Foundation. They’re both L’Oreal brands so it’s not unheard of that they share the same formula. However, I waited years for L’Oreal to have my shade of that foundation and they never did. I’m pretty sure it’s being discontinued now too.

    Also, as a side note, I bought a few more Smashbox brushes (the buildable cheek and precision highlighter) when they had them for 50% off recently. They just arrived yesterday, so I haven’t tried them yet. I made the mistake of buying the cream blush brush as a dupe for the Sonia G Mini Base. They’re pretty much identical in brush head size and shape but the density levels are completely different which produces a different experience and applications altogether. So, I was disappointed until I stopped looking at it as a failed dupe and saw it as a backup cream brush, and now I’m much happier with it from that perspective. I’ve wanted the Buildable Cheek brush since the full synthetic relaunch and I’m glad I don’t have anything else in my collection to be able to compare it too. I own a few blushes now with far too much pigmentation, so I’m very curious to see how it will work with them!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, if I want a product it’s because of the total package, so the dupe isn’t likely to make me happy.

      I also thought of the luminous silk and true match lumi dupe. L’oreal still only has 15 shades in that range compared to 40 for the luminous silk and it baffles me. Especially right now when everyone has been going crazy for skin tints and lighter coverage, they could have capitalized on that trend with a refresh. Even their regular true match line has 45 shades, so I really can’t understand it when they have bad shade ranges.

      I still haven’t jumped into cream blushes. Good to know that my smashbox cream cheek brush will work if I decide to try one. I hope the buildable cheek works out for you. It is the only angled blush brush that I actually like lol. Like we’ve talked about, I think mid-range and high-end synthetic brushes need a price drop, so I’m glad you were able to get them when they were 50% off. I think that smashbox in particular has some unique shapes on the market and they are great quality. I just think they are too close in price to natural hair brushes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, the argument I’ve heard about brands not having the ability or resources to expand shade ranges goes completely out the window when it’s part of a billion dollar company that has a vast shade range among their other brands. I don’t understand it either.
        Even though I definitely don’t need anymore brushes, I couldn’t resist that price and you like them/feature them a bit so that was an extra incentive to give them a try. Prior to my discovery of Japanese Fude, Smashbox was one of my favorite brush brands and remains some of the few non-Japanese brushes I still use regularly today. So, I’m hopeful for these new ones!

        Liked by 1 person

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