They cost peanuts and make often high-end formulas accessible to all, but beauty dupes and a culture of copying are leaving a sour taste in this writer’s mouth. Here’s why beauty fakes can be a false economy…
I’m going to kick off this piece with a caveat: I love a bargain. I hoard Pizza Express vouchers and cinema codes as if Orange Wednesday were still a thing, get actively involved in sales scrums and am partial to a Boots meal deal. Budget beauty is also something I cover regularly, and a topic that you lot understandably love too, going by the stats.
Getting a good deal is undeniably gratifying and the dopamine hit after a successful shopping trip (be it online or instore) is real, but while low-cost beauty products are most definitely a necessity, we’re increasingly trading affordability for integrity and we’re not quite getting the performance or end product that we’re so often hoping for.
A case in point is the proliferation of beauty dupes hitting budget supermarket aisles in particular. Rather than formulating their own unique products at affordable price points, as many brands do to great acclaim (see Superdrug’s b. skincare range for starters), manufacturers and marketing teams not only piggyback the success and ideas of other brands, but confuse customers, who might view their products as direct and economical equivalents of the more expensive originals, which often, they’re um, not.
Caroline Hirons neatly expressed this on Twitter today (“a dupe is only a 'dupe' if the products are relatable in efficacy in any way”), referring to Aldi’s new Lacura launches and in particular a £3.99 imitation of Pixi Glow Tonic , £18. The original award-winning exfoliating liquid was created by Pixi founder and Swedish makeup artist Petra Strand, whose independent business still operates from its flagship Carnaby Street store. The refining solution achieved cult status thanks to its efficacy and skin cell turnover-promoting blend of 5 per cent glycolic acid , soothing aloe vera and nourishing plant extracts, and while it’s certainly no longer the only glycolic and aloe based liquid exfoliant out there, it hasn’t been quite so flagrantly parroted until now.
You could argue that a supermarket knock-off allows the public to benefit from formulas and finishes that they may otherwise be unable to afford, but even though everything from packaging to product names and claims appears to echo a popular high-end original, inspections of ingredients labels reveal some differences. A cursory comparison exposes that, while Lacura’s Healthy Glow does indeed contain glycolic acid and aloe, the quantity of the latter is extremely low compared to Pixi’s original, and many of the beneficial markers of Glow Tonic are tellingly missing – there’s no horse chestnut extract, biotin or urea in Lacura’s version for instance, and fragrance is far higher up the list, which is doing skin no favours.
The new Lacura range also includes a reissue of the bestselling Charcoal skincare range that bears a striking resemblance to Glamglow’s Supermud line (Lacura’s Charcoal Clearing Mud Mask is £5.99, Glamglow’s original is £42) and a take on Australian brand Sand & Sky’s Pink Clay Mask – Lacura’s version is £33.91 cheaper than the heavily Instagrammed real deal.
While there are many examples of overpriced, overhyped beauty products on the market, if we reduce affordable options to mere cut-price versions of other people’s hard work, we’re doing everyone a disservice. There will be less innovation and forward thinking in the high-street market, while brands being imitated may lose vital revenue.
Aldi is most certainly not the only beauty duper out there and some of the Lacura collection launches have seriously impressed us in the past, for example, the Naturals eyeshadow palette is a goer particularly now that Urban Decay has discontinued its original Naked palette, and the Jo Malone -esque home fragrance offering and Lacura hot cloth cleanser lived up to expectations. In rare cases, a more affordable imitation even improves on the original but the continued conveyor belt of dupes from large retailers is starting to leave a bad taste.
Counterfeit fashion is widely frowned upon (perhaps because... lawsuits) and we come down hard on plagiarism in our schools and universities, as this week’s call for essay mills to be banned indicates, and while there are clearly keen buyers and we've been won over by excellent budget versions of more classically expensive products ourselves on occasion, rolling out beauty replicas rather than pioneering something new, undermines the spirit of our vibrant and entrepreneurial industry. It’s a ‘could do better’ from us.