Drug Store Dupe Featured Image

Beauty Tips

To Dupe Or Not To Dupe? 5 Tips To Help You Decide What To Buy

To Dupe Or Not To Dupe? 5 Tips To Help You Decide What To Buy

Drug Store Dupes Pinterest ImageIntroducing My Sister, Azadeh!

This is my beautiful sister and fellow makeup-advisor Azadeh. She has written a few blog guest blog posts for me over the years (like this one on shopping for makeup “like a millennial” here).

I’m always so happy to feature her posts on my blog because she does such crazy research on products and I think that’s important. By the time she pulls out her wallet to pay, she knows exactly what she’s getting, which makes her opinions on dupes so trustworthy. So, I’ll let her take it away and show us where we can save a few precious dollars in the makeup aisles!

Personal Preferences Matter

In this blog post, I (Azadeh) am going to give you my personal tips on which items are “dupeable” and which ones I think you just have to splurge on. Of course, your personal preferences play a big role in this, so your mileage may vary.

As far as makeup goes, I’ve always been drawn to the higher-end makeup brands and have built essentially my entire kit with these brands. Therefore, my drugstore cosmetics knowledge is not quite as deep as my high end cosmetics knowledge. But, as more and more affordable brands pop up and offer stellar product quality and uniqueness, I’m expanding my list of faves and trying new products all the time. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that that brands can and do often “sell out” to larger cosmetics companies and when this happens, formulations and quality often change. However, there are so many cosmetic dupes out there that you can achieve your makeup goals for a fraction of the cost.

The Makeup Dupe Preconception:

Anyone who knows me knows that I splurge on certain things and save on others. I’ll buy the expensive handbag and jeans but get basic t-shirts at Target. I’m not a snob, but I really, really hate counterfeit anything — and the counterfeit makeup industry is huge! Counterfeits are a huge pet peeve of mine. They look so cheap and {in my opinion} not classy. Not only that, but it’s illegal and hurts artists! I would much rather carry around a cute handbag from Ross with no logo on it than some fake Gucci or LV. Sadly, the makeup counterfeit industry is HUGE! People are “selling their mom’s old MAC brushes” on Craigslist for an affordable price… but 99% of the time, they are fake MAC brushes.

Please understand that dupes (in the context of this blog) are not counterfeits. Dupes are just more affordable products that do a similar job or offer a similar look than a more high end brand. However, there are a lot of copycats. Copycats infringe on the trademarks, copyrights, and of course, the hard work others have poured into the industry. For example, I’m not hating on Kylie’s Lip Kit but… the Internet is p/o’d because her recognizable logo was way more than just “inspired by” @vladmua. It was pure plagiarism in my book. I’m not saying the formulation of the product is the same, but I have serious issues with people who steal or plagiarize, period. All this to say, this post is NOT advocating buying knock-offs, copycats, or counterfeits. This post is meant to help you find clarity on when to splurge and when to save on products.

5 Tips on Whether to Dupe or Not to Dupe

Tip #1: Stay Within Your Budget… Always.

There is NO reason for you to go into debt or charge $60 foundation or a $45 palette to your credit card. There are always alternatives and thanks to the Internet, you can easily find a more economical solution to your makeup woes with a simple search.

If the foundation you fiend for is part of a brand family (ahm, Natalie’s book has an entire chapter on this), look for a less expensive alternative. If the foundation is made by a privately held and owned company such as Chanel, save, save, save.

The final word on this? Budget. Stop reloading your Starbucks card. Pack your own lunch. I guarantee that you will NOT be disappointed when you do decide to splurge on that coveted un-dupeable makeup item. Trust me and thank me later.

#2: Know The Brand Connection
L'Oreal vs. Armani foundation dupe

It’s no wonder why the L’Oreal Lumi foundation is such a popular dupe for the Giorgio Armani… they are in the same brand family. Also, Estee Lauder and MAC foundations are cult favorites of makeup artists and have strikingly similar characteristics. Interestingly, Revlon ColorStay is the widely-known dupe for MAC foundation. Not in the same brand family. Just saying.

MAC vs. Revlon foundation dupe

What I’m getting at is to know your brand connection! First your budget should dictate what you buy, not the price of a particular item. Knowing who is who and what is what it a big part of whether or not you buy a dupe. But, it’s important to keep in mind that the business of makeup is always changing. Companies are constantly being bought and sold, so you will want to do your own research.

For example, I did not know until I wrote this post that Cle de Peau (a celeb fave foundation and concealer) fell under Shiseido. Do I want to spend $100+ on Cle de Peau foundation or concealer? Heck no! But guess what, I love NARS concealers. Coincidence? I think not.

Maybe, just maybe I should look into even more economical Bare Minerals concealers to see if maybe they share the same manufacturing plant and/or ingredients as NARS and/or Cle de Peau. I’m not trying to say that BareMinerals is a dupe of the highly coveted and on my lust list Cle de Peau, but it is interesting that BareMinerals ingredients are posted directly on their website but Cle de Peau’s ingredients aren’t.

Tip #3: Experiment With New Brands (Private Labels Are Even Better!)

I’ve been such a long-time Sephora, Ulta, Neiman Marcus, and Nordy shopper that it’s difficult to remember sometimes that I need to expand my horizons. So many of the brands that I’ve grown to love have been absorbed or bought out by larger cosmetics companies, and, well, a lot of these brands are just not the same as they used to be. MAC is one of them, so is Urban Decay, Laura Mercier, and Smashbox. They are still great but not AS great as before they “sold out.”

Brands that I’m lusting over are:

Many of these smaller brands are cruelty free, vegan, and super pigmented. Because they are smaller and lesser known, products tend to sell out and be restocked frequently. Chances are, if you try them, you’ll love them… so long as they don’t sell out (both literally & figuratively).

Also, check your favorite drugstores for new brands. I know a lot of them are now carrying Korean makeup and skincare brands, and I even found a Girlaktic lip stain ($26) at a Rite-Aid when I still lived in Cali and it’s amazing!

Tip #4: Stick With Their Passion Product

It’s no secret that Anastasia Beverly Hills is known as the queen of brows. She started her company with brows. She does brow products so well it’s just hard to compete because that’s her passion product. Now, she’s doing so much more: lip stains, illuminators, eye shadows, etc. This happens all the time; makeup brands want to expand beyond their “core” product and then when they do, they fall off the radar completely. This hasn’t happened with Anastasia (thank goodness) but it does happen, especially with smaller brands.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow GelBecca is another great example of this. Her passion for finding the perfect foundation has evolved into what we know the Becca brand to be today (and unfortunately, there aren’t that many foundations in her line anymore — at least not in the US).  Now she’s in the illuminator business. I love pressed illuminators, and I wonder if she’s aiming to carve out a new niche in the market. Sure seems that way!

One more quick example. Tony & Tina was one of my fave blush/bronzer lines back in the day. Remember when J-Lo was a trule A-lister and she always rocked that signature glow? That was Tony & Tina. But the makeup couple duo got divorced and their makeup line went bye-bye. Still bummed about this, honestly.

Tip #5: Don’t Be A Sucker For Fancy Marketing Schemes

Pretty packaging is just that. Pretty. It doesn’t mean that the actual product performs better. After all, proper application and quality tools are 90% of it. The product itself is probably about 10%. I personally love Makeup Forever but it can be pricey. I really think that the Sephora brand foundation is a great dupe at a more economical price.

My mom once purchased the L’Oreal Nudes Palette (sound familiar, Urban Decay Naked Palette lovers?) because she didn’t have time to get to a MAC store (which is her usual go-to). I was able to create a gorgeous smoky eye look for NYE with that palette because she had the right tools.

nude palette dupe

Tools don’t have to be expensive, etiher. As a pro MUA, my finger is my greatest tool… but brushes from Sigma and Morphe are high quality and less expensive alternatives to department store or MAC brushes. If online shopping is not your thing, Sonia Kashuk or Real Technique brushes (which have gone up in price lately) are also stellar options and you can find them at Target.

Remember… don’t buy what you don’t need. Just because you love the branding or marketing of a product does NOT mean you need to own it. I know, it sounds super simple but marketing can be verrrrry convincing. I’m often distracted by shiny new product launches. I remember one time I bought the Tartlette Matte Palette and the Smashbox matte palette, even though they were ultimately the same thing.

Closing Thoughts & Extra Credit!

Don’t you ever wish you can un-learn something? For me, I wish I could go back to the days of not knowing the many, many makeup brands that fall under large brand umbrellas. Things can get a little dicey for me from an ethical perspective. Even when I buy my food, I try to buy local food and avoid food items produced by or owned by large multinational corporations (MNCs). I want to avoid GMOs & added sugars. I also avoid shopping at Walmart for ethical reasons but they carry Milani and I love their blushes and bronzers. Ugh!

If you are like me and you try your best to avoid MNCs, you know how big of a struggle it can be. Like, did you know that sooo many popular makeup brands fall under the L’Oreal umbrella, which is 30% owned by Nestle. Yeah, that Nestle.

Natalie literally wrote the book on this (well, a chapter of her book) because it’s so important to understand “the business of makeup” when you go out to buy a product. You don’t want to overpay for something that’s literally almost the exact same product in different packaging with a more “luxe” brand name slapped on it.

If this kind of thing interests you, I highly suggest you grab a copy of her book by clicking the image below or heading to nataliesetareh.com/beyourownmakeupartist. It’s a gorgeous book and it will look incredible on your coffee table or makeup vanity.

Thank you so much for sticking with me through this crazy long blog post, but I hope you found it interesting! If you have a question, drop it in the comments and Natalie or I will answer it as best we can.

Until the next time I take over Natalie’s blog!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

learn how-to wear makeup

be your own makeup artist

For Pro artists

New here? Get Started

Get to know a little more about me and see if I'm even the right teacher for you! 

Coaching ambitious beauty industry is my jam and seeing you wildly succeed is my #1 goal.

My book (also curriculum in cosmetology schools), was written exclusively for makeup beginners, is a go-to guide for so many.

I teach (and re-teach) people how to wear makeup without brand bias and selling your data out. 

  1. […] brand families so you can shop smarter! I introduce the business of beauty in an blog post I wrote here — if you want to scratch the […]

  2. […] I get to my list, Natalie has a popular post  “To Dupe Or Not To Dupe” which goes into a little more […]

  3. […] a foundation that matches your skin tone. If you want to read more about finding dupes, check out this blog post. My sister and fellow makeup lover Azadeh even talks specifically about Mac foundation dupes! If […]

  4. […] can check out this link to my blog post, “To dupe or not to dupe?“. My favorite mascara is Giorgio Armani’s “Eyes To Kill Classico,” and it […]

114 gorgeous full color pages for visual learners

Self-funded aka no sponsorships or brand bias

Age / Gender / Race / Brand neutral because makeup is for everyone

Available in hardcover and paperback

inclusive & approachable makeup education for beginners

be your own makeup artist

shop now!

Also offered at these retailers:



Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.

kevyn aucoin