Asian woman shopping for beauty products at the supermarket.

In this economy, there’s no shame in being a “beauty girl” on a budget – and there are plenty of ways to be one, too! You can be the girl who loves drugstore finds, the one who lives on sachets, or the savvy queen who scours TikTok for dupes. But when shunning expensive brands and being frugal about skin care, where do you draw the line? Are dupes practical or a sneaky waste of your hard-earned money? 

Dupes vs. Fakes

First, what is a beauty dupe? Short for “duplicate,” dupe is a product that offers the same benefits or results as its pricier counterpart. Despite what you may find in the dictionary, it’s not derogatory. In fact, being labeled a “dupe” is quite the honor in the beauty scene. In the early Aughts, more affordable versions of products from expensive brands gained prestige, thanks to beauty editors who gave them prime real estate in glossy magazines.

These days, TikTok influencers are the new anointers. When one of them cries, “Dupe!” people make a beeline for the checkout counters. Once rare and hush-hush, beauty dupes are now celebrated in the open. Mind you, they are not , since they don’t replicate trademarked logos and other details. They are simply products that are cheaper but just as effective as those that come from expensive brands.

Some brands intentionally make dupes, which, while legal, can be problematic, considering how doing so diminishes the value of creativity and originality. On the other hand, consumers love encountering dupes in the wild and find joy in sharing their discoveries with others.

Finding Good Quality Dupes

The easiest way to spot a dupe is, of course, by looking at the packaging. But aside from aesthetics, what makes a beauty dupe as good as an expensive product? A beauty dupe is, by default, good because it manages to deliver the same benefits for a fraction of the cost. If you, a consumer, want to find a dupe of your favorite skincare product, use its as a north star.

For example, if you’re looking for a retinol serum, look for products with retinol from mid-range brands. Consider the supporting ingredients – to see how similar they are. Actives are usually listed from the highest to lowest concentration, so make sure your desired ingredient is closer to the top. Most importantly, choose from a reputable brand. Just because you’re looking for a dupe, it doesn’t mean it has to come from somewhere shady.

After you’ve selected a potential dupe, do a patch test on your wrist. If you don’t get any adverse reactions (like or itching), keep at it for at least two weeks or until you finish the bottle. Do you like its effect on your skin? Does it feel similar to your favorite expensive brand? Is it good enough to replace your favorite? Congratulations, you’ve found a beauty dupe.

What to Buy Instead of Dupes

Not every product that’s been called a dupe on social media will be effective or perform exactly like what it’s “duping.”It still comes down to how your skin responds to the formula. Buy beauty dupes if you have the luxury of experimenting and if your skin is not usually reactive. It's a good option if you’re on a budget, or if you simply love trying beauty products.

However, if you’re prone to allergic reactions or have sensitivities, avoid taking risks with dupes and stick to your tried-and-tested products. You don’t have to use only expensive brands but be more careful with your skincare buys in general. OTC products tested by dermatologists are excellent alternatives and can stand up to expensive brands.

For example, POND'S Bright Triple Glow Serum is a and serum that effectively boosts radiance. Pair it with POND'S NEW YORK Bright Brilliance Night Serum Essence Niacinamide, which accelerates nighttime renewal and fades dark spots while you sleep. It’s made with high-quality ingredients like ACTIENCE that penetrate deep into the skin.

Whether you’re using beauty dupes or products from expensive brands, make sure you’re not just doing it to be trendy. While it’s fun and perfectly okay to experiment with beauty (it’s also okay to want to save money), don’t do it at the expense of your skin’s health. There’s no dupe for that!