I'm Natalie, an American born makeup artist & makeup educator based in Wiesbaden, Germany. I truly believe that makeup, when applied well, can transform us in so many ways. My page is a space for inspiration, education, and advice. Thanks for being here & I'd love to connect with you!

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

Drug Store Dupes Pinterest Image

Updated May 9, 2015!

A Quick Pertinent Plug:

My sister and fellow makeup-advisor Azadeh posted on this April on how-to shop for makeup like a millennial. See post here. She explicitly outlines what to splurge or save on with specifics (attention, dupe lovers tune in)! Azadeh does such crazy research that by the time she pulls out her wallet to pay, she knows exactly what she’s getting. And surprisingly, she’s spot on and for the most part, a happy customer. I speak as a personal witness.

My Personal Preference When Shopping:

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. (If you want a kit tour, let me know in the comments and I’d be happy to put a video together). Therefore my drugstore cosmetics knowledge is not the best. I also feel that as a professional makeup artist, I must represent more exclusive brands as I charge a premium for my services. I want only the best for my clients. This aspect of my makeup shopping preferences will probably never change but as more and more affordable brands pop up and offer stellar product quality and uniqueness, they are there to stay in my kit. Of course, keep in mind that that brands can and do “sell out,” link up with a large cosmetics company, and oftentimes formulations and quality change. Anyone in the industry has seen this time and time again. However, there are so many cosmetic dupes out there that you can achieve your makeup goals for a fraction of the cost (most times!)

The Makup Dupe Preconception:

Any who, 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 the Mossimo boyfriend t-shirt at Target. 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} unclassy. Not only that but #illegal (gag!). I would much rather carry around a cute handbag from Ross with no logo than some fake Gucci or LV or even worse, Coach and Dooney & Burke. Eww. I hate fake goods that are trying to be sold as something nicer. Sadly, the makeup counterfeit industry is HUGE! People are “selling their mom’s old MAC brushes” on Craigslist for an affordable price… but they are 99% of the time fake MAC brushes.

Please understand that dupes (in the context of this blog)are not counterfeits. However, there are a lot of copycats. Be careful not to tread too closely to copycats. It infringes on the trademark, copyrights, and hard work others have poured into the industry. Copycats are  no bueno. For example, I’m not hating on Kylie’s Lip Kit but… the Internet is p/o’d because her recognizable logo was more than “inspiration” from @vladmua(it was pure plagiarism in my book). I’m not saying the formulation is the same (but I have my reservations on saying it’s dramatically different) BUT I have serious issues with people who steal or plagiarize. This post is NOT advocating buying a knock-offs. This post is more about giving you perspective and clarity on when to splurge and when to save.

So Here Are My 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 your credit card with fake money if you can’t afford the $60 foundation or $45 palette. There are always alternatives and thanks to the Internet, you can practically find a more economical solution to your makeup woes with a little Google research.

– If the foundation you fiend for is part of a brand family (see word art charts below), look for a less expensive alternative.
– If the foundation is made by a privately held and owned company such as Chanel, save, save, save.

Budget, budget, budget. Don’t reload your Starbucks card. Pack your lunch. I guarantee that you will NOT be disappointed when you do decide to splurge. Thank me later.

#2: Know The Brand Connection

There’s no wonder why the L’Oreal Lumi foundation is a popular dupe for the Giorgio Armani…they are in the same brand family. Or 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.)

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… then knowing who is who and what is what should be what drives whether or not you buy a dupe. Also know that the business of makeup is always changing (see below).

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/concealer? Heck no! But guess what, I love NARS concealers. Coincidence? I think not. But maybe…maybe they share similarities with Cle de Peau? 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.

Knowing brand connections is important but not the most important–#1 is more important—don’t waste money you don’t have OR save, save, save! (More about brand connections at the bottom of this post).

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

This is currently where I’m at. I’ve been such a long-time Sephora, Ulta, Neiman Marcus, Nordy shopper that it’s hard to remember that I need to expand my horizons. So many of the brands that I’ve grown up to love have been absorbed or bought out by these 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:

Jeffree Star

ColourPop – (Read all about ColourPop here here)

Many of these brands are cruelty free, vegan, and super pigmented. Because they are smaller and lesser known, products tend to sell out and be restocked frequently. As a matter of fact, you may be a convert to these products. Just make sure they don’t sell out {both literally & figuratively}.

Also, select Rite-Aid drugstores nationwide are carrying lesser known but high quality brands. I bought a Girlaktic lip stain ($26) when I still lived in Cali. 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 (click link/pic for history on her). She started her company with brows. She does brow products so well it’s just hard to compete because that was her passion product. Now, she’s doing everything! Lip stains, illuminators, eye shadows, etc. I’ve seen this happen…makeup brands keep wanting to get bigger, and bigger, and do. Then they pop! And fall off the radar.

As far as ABH, I just hope her brow line doesn’t deteriorate because she’s focused on so many other things. So far, it hasn’t but time will only tell.

Becca is another great example. Her passion for finding the perfect foundation has evolved into Becca today (and unfortunately, there aren’t that many foundations in her line — at least not in the US anymore).  Now she’s in the illuminator business…(which I love her pressed powder illuminators btw). However, what is driving her new passion for illuminators? A possible niche in the market? Who knows. Let’s see how long this lasts. Remember, business is business.

Tony & Tina was one of my fave blush/bronzer lines at one time! Actually, they are still my favorite of all time. Remember when J-Lo was A-list and her signature glow? That signature J-Lo glow? Yea. That was Tony & Tina. But the makeup couple duo got divorced and their makeup went bye-bye. Well, I just found a link that they are back…but not really.

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

Pretty packaging is just that. Pretty. It doesn’t mean that it is better for you… proper application & tools are 90%, everything else is 10%. Love Makeup Forever but can’t afford it? Try the Sephora brand foundation as a more economical alternative. (Btw—I personally love Makeup Forever foundation and it’s my go-to for all my clients with normal/combination skin. I also have a few L’Oreal True Match foundations in my kit to color match.)  Another example is that my mom had purchased the L’Oreal Nudes Palette (ahem, sound familiar, Urban Decay Naked Palette lovers?) on a whim because she didn’t have time to get to a MAC store (her go-to), and I was able to create on her a gorgeous smoky eye on NYE with that palette because she had the right tools.

Tools don’t have to be expensive brushes. 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/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 option.

Remember… don’t buy what you don’t need. This is most difficult for me because I’m always being distracted by shiny pretty new product launches. I just bought the Tartlette Matte Palette and Smashbox just came out with a matte palette. Ugh! Story of my life. I really WANT to get some Makeup Geek shadows but…I have SO many. I will get some MG when I run out of what I have. I will not feed into all the marketing gimmicks.

Closing Thoughts & Extra Credit!

Check out her post on “Who Owns Who? CorporateOwnership of Global Makeup Brands.” Another great mind-blowing read is this Reddit thread that sprang from her post on above article. Prepare for your mind to be blown!

::Ahem:: What’s a Blog Post Without A Little Diatribe?

Don’t you ever wish you can un-learn something? See, I can’t unlearn that most of the brands of makeup I love {most, not all} fall under a huge brand umbrella. This is where it gets dicey for me from an ethical perspective & this is where I’m divided. See, I try to buy local food and avoid food items produced by or owned by large {evil} Multinational Corporations (MNCs). Darn GMOs & added sugars. I also avoid shopping at Wal-Mart for ethical reasons but they carry Milani & I love their blushes and bronzers. Ugh! So, if you are like me and try to avoid MNCs, it’s damn near impossible. So many of my favorite brands {now} fall into L’Oreal, which is owned 30% by Nestle. Nestle. Nuff said. (I fell in love with many of the brands long before they fell under L’Oreal).

Or Laura Mercier is owned by Alticor/Amway (a notorious company known for their steep profits from small, direct-sales companies with small profits).

A Quick Down & Dirty on the Business of Makeup

In case you don’t want to do that research, I’ll let you just digest on some of the biggest brand connections (but please, go to Avery Mae’s blog and the Reddit thread for more comprehensive brand associations). I pulled all these brand associations direct from their respective corporate websites—primary source documentation baby.

Under the L’Oreal Umbrella: (Um, largest beauty company in the world.)

Giorgio Armani
Yves Saint Laurent Beauté
Ralph Lauren
Shu Uemura
Helena Rubinstein
Yue Sai
Maison Margiela
Urban Decay
Guy Laroche
Paloma Picasso
Proenza Schouler
L’Oréal Paris
Maybelline New York
NYX Professional Make Up
African Beauty Brands
L’Oréal Professionnel
Shu Uemura Art of Hair
La Roche-Posay
The Body Shop (I bet you did’t see that one coming)
Under the Estee Lauder Umbrella: (Some big surprises here, huh?)

Bobbi Brown
Bumble And Bumble
Donna Karan New York
Editions De Parfums Frédéric Malle
Ermenegildo Zegna
Estée Lauder
Goodskin Labs
Jo Malone London
La Mer
Lab Series
Le Labo
Michael Kors
Rodin Olio Lusso
Tom Ford
Tommy Hilfiger
Tory Burch
Under the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessey Umbrella: (Not really all that surprising)

Christian Dior
Makeup Forever
Marc Jacobs
Sephora (and many Sephora collabs)
Kat Von D
Bite Beauty
Under the Shiseido Umbrella:  (This one was so surprising to me!)

Bare Minerals
Cle de Peau
Majolica Majorca

Serge Lutens

Like what you read? Found an error? Want more information? Let me know in the comments below or of course you can always ask me! Make sure to subscribe to my blog to get periodic updates on content. I try to send out 1 email a month. Follow me on social media for all real time updates or add this blog to your RSS feed.

Stay Beautiful,
Natalie Setareh

  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 […]

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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

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