Specialists weigh in on funds magnificence dupes: Do they actually work?

It seems a new beauty dupe is dropping every other week with a range of beauty brands offering up a “budget” version of more expensive products. And it’s sending beauty enthusiasts into a spin.

TikTok alone has been flooded with hundreds of dupe product reviews with everyone from beauty influencers to everyday mums comparing products, with many saying they can’t tell the difference.

Some of the popular beauty products shoppers have spotted convincingly similar copies of include Drunk Elephant D Bronzi bronzing drops, Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless foundation, Dior Rosy Glow blush and Sol De Janeiro’s Brazilian Bum Bum cream.

However, experts have warned that while products may look, feel and smell the same, the ingredients list and how they are put together can be vastly different.

Product on shelf at Kmart (left), and a TikToker with the products (right).Product on shelf at Kmart (left), and a TikToker with the products (right).

TikTok is abuzz with lookalike skincare and beauty products. Photo: TikTok/@iamjjojjo TikTok/@hannahcavanagh_

Are they really the same?

So, apart from the price, how different are they and are these products still beneficial for your skin? Well, the answer is not so straightforward. There are a lot of elements to unpack, from skin type to how products are formulated.

Doctor Shreya Andric, Principal Dermatologist at Northern Sydney Dermatology and Laser, says it also depends on the type of product.

“For cleansers and moisturisers I usually advocate for basic products as they are less likely to contain fragrances and other potentially irritating ingredients,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.

“When it comes to active ingredients, sometimes more expensive products are better.

“For example, some more expensive vitamin C serums have superior, more stable formulations with ideal concentrations. Budget products can sometimes sacrifice these things.”

Lip oil from Shein (left) and the original from Dior (right).Lip oil from Shein (left) and the original from Dior (right).

SHEIN’s version of the Dior Lip Glow is a fraction of the price and according to some impressed shoppers, just as good. Photo: Shein/Sephora

Breaking down ingredients

Award-winning skin and dermal therapist Isabella Loneragan says that the formulation of a product “plays a crucial role” in how it is made because it determines the overall effectiveness.

“The right combination and concentration of active ingredients are essential for a product to deliver the desired results. Formulation determines how well these ingredients penetrate the skin and interact with skin cells,” she explains.


Loneragan also points out that some ingredients can become ineffective when exposed to air, light or other ingredients, so a well-formulated product will maintain its effectiveness over time.

“Formulation ensures that ingredients are combined in a way that minimises the risk of irritation or allergic reactions. The pH level and texture of the product also play a role in its safety and comfort on the skin,” she says.

Isabella Loneragan standing next to wall.Isabella Loneragan standing next to wall.

Founder of Ragan Skin Isabella Loneragan. Photo: Supplied

“Skincare products must meet regulatory standards for safety and labelling. The formulation ensures that the product complies with these standards.”

Comparing two moisturisers, the $8 OXX Skincare Watermelon Facial Cream from Kmart and the $67 Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer from Glow Recipe, Loneragan pointed out that budget brand’s product does contain some beneficial ingredients.

“In terms of quality, the more expensive product’s ingredients list appears to contain a more diverse range of beneficial natural extracts with potential skincare benefits. It also seems to focus more on hydration, exfoliation, and soothing properties,” she says.

Skin care cream in a bottleSkin care cream in a bottle

Isabella Loneragan says both the OXX Skincare and Glow Recipe skincare contain beneficial ingredients, but consumers should do their own research on what works for them. Photo: Kmart/Mecca

“The budget product’s ingredient list, while containing some beneficial ingredients like Niacinamide, includes more synthetic and potentially irritating ingredients like Carbomer and fragrances along with preservatives like Benzyl Alcohol and Disodium EDTA.”

When it comes to whether the budget brand works, Loneragan says you often get what you pay for.

“Personally, I wouldn’t buy skincare from a non-skin care product-focused manufacturer, as I’m not convinced they would have my skin health as their main priority when producing products,” she says.

“It’s best to do your research on products and also get the advice of a skin therapist regarding your skin and the best products for it.”


How to test what’s right for you

When trying a new product for the first time, particularly for those with sensitive skin, Dr Andric suggests it’s a good idea to do a patch test first.

Young woman in bathrobe, concept of skincare routine.Young woman in bathrobe, concept of skincare routine.

Everyone’s skin is different and new products should be tested first before starting to use them regularly. Photo: Getty.

“Apply any new products to the upper inner arm for a few days in a row to see if you react to it before applying it to their face,” she says.

“I would also advise not introducing a bunch of active ingredients at once, rather introducing a new one every two weeks to ensure you don’t react.”

When it comes to skincare as a whole, Dr Andric says two things should be done every day. Applying sunscreen — even in teenage years — will “set your skin up for life” and if you wear makeup often, always remove it properly.

“The most important thing with makeup is ensuring it is appropriately removed at the end of the day via double cleansing,” she says.

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