I used to be fine with drugstore brands, but then I discovered Bare Minerals when I was trying to create a look for our wedding. Soon I had foundation, several eye shadows and two lip colors from the brand. Not cheap.
Right after we got out of debt I went through a rash of makeup-buying. I’d visit Sephora and about half the time would come away with an item (at $20 to $25 a pop), and I’d peruse Drugstore.com, which had a surprisingly good selection non-drugstore brands. I’d say I was spending $20 to $30 on most of my items. Yick.
Then house costs hit, and that made me stop — at least, until a few years later when I started allotting myself some fun money. Of course, by then I had most of what I needed (and then some), but I still indulged in the occasional product.
One day I looked at my makeup case — yes, I need an actual case — and realized that the only drugstore item I had was some concealer. It brought me up short.
Because sure, the makeup lasts me forever, so the cost is amortized over time. Still, drugstore brands would last for ages too, so that excuse didn’t quite hold water. Mainly, though, I felt weird saying I’m frugal while paying that much for cosmetics.
Don’t replenish. Replace.
Thus I resolved to start switching out my higher-end stuff with drugstore equivalents.
Each time a product started to run dry, I’d do an Internet search for “best drugstore [product type].” I’d click on a few of the results, note the products that appeared in multiple articles and choose among those.
It was easy enough to do at first.
I ran out of primer, so I switched to Rimmel Stay Matte Primer. When that failed to work on my now ridiculously oily T-zone, I switched to Neutrogena Shine Control Primer. It’s far from perfect, but after three or four hours I’m left with only a slight sheen, which seems to be about the best I can hope fore.
When I ran out of bronzer, I picked up the surprisingly good Wet ‘n Wild’s Megaglo stick. It’s an especially lucky find, not just because it was under $6, but also because creams are better than powders on “aging” skin.
And mascara? CoverGirl Clump Crusher.
All in all it was smooth sailing… Until I ran out of foundation.
I loved my foundation. I loved it so much that I paid $34 for it.
See, I’ve never felt comfortable picking out foundation. Besides the question of which type I should get, I always worried that I was choosing the wrong shade. So I decided to let the experts handle it for me.
I went to Sephora where someone listened to my concerns, chose a brand and shade, then applied it so I could see exactly how the foundation would look before purchasing.
It was the perfect experience, despite the high price tag. But this time around,with my new resolution and things looking so tight, there was no way I could spend $37 (after tax) on a simple foundation.
There was only one thing to do: find a dupe.
A makeup dupe is simply a product with an identical or nearly identical color.
Incidentally, dupe sites even if you don’t want to find a cheaper brand. If a makeup company thoughtlessly discontinues your favorite product, these sites will be your savior.
Anyway, there are scads of articles, blog posts and YouTube videos devoted to dupes. Just Google your product name and “dupe” and you’re sure to get a bunch of hits from YouTube alone.
But there are also entire websites devoted to compiling dupe databases.
I think Temptalia is better because you don’t need to stick just to the dupe list. You can use the search option to find your exact product and shade — in my case “Benefit Hello Flawless Oxygen Wow” in Petal — and then click Similar Shades. You’ll then be taken to a (lengthy) list of color matches, showing side-by-side pictures of the two products. As an example, here are the results for my foundation’s matches.
I chose L’Oreal True Match in Light Ivory because I wanted something that would naturally blend with my color. Besides, I was already using some True Match concealer so I figured I might as well keep it in the (makeup) family. Also I had a coupon. #FrugalCredIsBack
Sometimes a dupe isn’t quite a dupe
I had envisioned the perfect picture for this post. I’d put the Benefit on half my face and the L’Oreal on the other half. The shot would be mind-boggling, with the two products so similar that you couldn’t tell the difference.
Alas, ’twas not to be. The sad fact is that dupes aren’t always perfect matches.
That’s not to say that the products aren’t similar. They’re pretty close, so the difference isn’t necessarily stark. But looking at the picture below, it’s definitely clear that I’m wearing two different foundations.
While there’s a slight difference in color, I think the main issue is that the Benefit foundation (right side) is medium coverage, whereas True Match (left side) is light coverage.
In theory, more coverage is a great idea for me since I’m prone to pimples. And I did luuuurv the Benefit foundation while I was using it. But side by side with the L’Oreal, it seems a bit on the thicker side, which is a problem for the skin of an almost-40 year old.
See, as you get older you’re supposed to go lighter on the makeup (or to at least make it look like you’re going lighter on it). Benefit’s vibe is “Look how nice my foundation is.” Whereas L’Oreal’s is “What foundation? My skin is naturally like this!”
Both have their uses. I feel like Benefit’s look would be better for professional purposes since it looks more polished. But for my own, more general use — especially as someone with “aging” skin, according to the makeup industry — it’s probably best to choose the barely-there look.
Sometimes a dupe is a dupe
Despite my resolve to switch to drugstore brands, there were two things that were off-limits: my blush and one of my lip glosses. Both are Smashbox O-Glow, which is an intuitive color formula. They always seem to give me just the right shade. It’s at the point where I barely use any other lip color.
So I thought they were worth the painful $24 price tag.
After my relative luck with foundation, I decided to search for O-Glow dupes, but I didn’t actually expect to find anything. Instead, it turns out that Maybelline makes a $4.19 intuitive color lip balm called My Pink. (Actually, it’s $1.88 as an add-on from Amazon. So now I’m just extra pissed.)
I got a tube in order to do a side-by-side comparison, but honestly I was kind of hoping they wouldn’t be the same. That way I wouldn’t feel like an idiot for buying the pricey stuff.
But as it turns out, I am indeed an idiot.
Yep, it’s the exact same color. The only difference is that Smashbox (right) is a gloss whereas Maybelline (left) is a balm. Otherwise, they’re a perfect match — except in price.
Unfortunately, Maybelline doesn’t seem to make a My Pink blush — and the lip balm did not feel good on the cheeks when I tried it — but I’ve got plenty left in the tube while I wait for drugstore brands’ blush technology to catch up.
One last set of dupes
If you’re into makeup, you’ve probably heard of Urban Decay’s Naked palettes. They’re collections of 12 colors that, by all accounts, are rich and creamy and go on ridiculously smoothly. The problem is that they’re $54.
I’ll wait while you unswallow your tongue.
Just in case the price tag weren’t insult enough, there’s now three of them — all of which are considered must-haves if you watch/read any makeup tutorials. (I watch/read a lot of them because I suck at makeup on my own.)
I admit to totally buying into the hype — but not the price.
So I did a little digging a few months back and found some pretty good $10 dupe palettes from e.l.f Cosmetics. (Check out side-by-side comparisons here). So I waited for a 50% off sale (a relatively regular event at e.l.f.) and of course went through Mr. Rebates. for 5% cash back.
I love the palettes and plan to keep using them. That said, I’m not completely satisfied with their level of dupe-ness. (The technical term, obvs.)
Each palette is missing at least two color from its corollary Naked set, which makes it tough to follow makeup tutorials. Even the colors that are the same aren’t necessarily in the same order, which again makes it hard to follow online guides. Which I desperately need.
Also, if I’m being honest, I just want to be able to play with all the purty colors.
So I did some more research and found products that are color-for-color matches and are even in the same order as the ones in the Naked palettes. How am I so sure? I found a picture that does side-by-side swatches on skin.
Best of all, the palettes are even cheaper than the e.l.f. ones: $8 to $9 each or $21.99 for all three. There’s also a $25.93 deal for the three palettes plus a fourth, but I’m not a big fan of the extra one’s bold colors. I can’t pull that stuff off anymore.
I haven’t pulled the trigger on the palettes yet. I’m thinking of asking for them for my birthday. At the very least, they need to wait until I’ve had a chance to declutter my makeup case, but I’ll probably also wait until our finances are looking a little better.
How do you keep your makeup routine affordable (if you bother at all)? Have you found any great dupes? Which foundation do you like better?