When does a dupe stop being a dupe?

Dupes are nothing new in the beauty world. Welcomed, most of the time, by those of us who lust over the product but our wallets don’t agree with the pricing. But when does a dupe stop being a dupe and just become a flagrant rip off of a popular product, beloved across the industry? Are these brands making dupes because they genuinely want to bring a product to those with a smaller budget, or are they just trying to hop on some bandwagon and make some dollar off of a vastly inferior product?

I don’t have any answers. It’s just something I’ve been pondering lately, especially as ‘dupes’ become more and more easy to spot, and sometimes mistaken for the real thing. Take Aldi’s new launch, for instance. Their Lacura line have quickly cemented themselves into the realm of ‘affordable but pretty damned good’ skincare, and their first ‘dupe’ was of Glamglow’s clay masks.

Dubious, but fairly okay, was the general impression, with the formula followed a similar pattern with eucalyptus and glycolic acid. I bought the Aldi mask because it was only a fiver, but definitely wasn’t wowed. I’ve never tried the Glamglow version, because there is no way you will catch me spending nearly £40 on some clay. However. Aldi’s newest launches have got the beauty community buzzing for one reason. They look suspiciously like cult products already out on the market. Namely, PIXI’s Glow Tonic (one of the first acids to the mainstream market and arguably the product that started the revolution), and Sand & Sky’s Australian pink clay mask - down to the brush that comes with Sand & Sky’s much pricier version.

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I mean. There is almost no difference between the packaging. Aldi’s Healthy Glow Tonic mimics the exact shade of green of PIXI’s iconic packaging, and even has the labelling and rose gold lettering in the same positions. The mask has the same blue tub encased in a millenial pink box that Sand & Sky have been using since their launch, and even utilise a similar font. And these aren’t Aldi’s only forays into brazen copycat work. They have acid pads that look remarkably similar to Nip+Fabs version, a Miracle Cream that looks very like the cult Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, and a mascara in dubiously similar packaging to that of Maybelline's Great Lash.

Where do brands draw the line?

I know Revolution have long been known for their low priced dupes of higher end brands when it comes to makeup. Many of their palettes look suspiciously like iconic, higher end offerings - like the similarities between the Too Faced Chocolate Bar palettes and the I Heart Revolution palettes, and the few that are known as dupes for the much more expensive Anastasia Beverly Hills offerings. But. Is it more acceptable in makeup than in skincare? Are the differences between the Revolution offerings and higher end offerings enough that they’re merely inspired by, rather than direct copies of? Again, I don’t have the answers. Although I do feel that a dupe for a high end makeup product is on a different level to duping skincare products, purely because of the effect that actives in skincare can have on your skin if not in a good formula.

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And that’s the thing. Aldi’s offerings are nowhere near as sophisticated in formula as the original brands, and this is where the problem lies. If someone picks up Aldi’s Healthy Glow tonic thinking they’re going to get the same results as splashing out £18 on PIXI’s Glow Tonic, it could end up being to their detriment. Comparison between the two shows that whilst both advertise having 5% glycolic acid, aloe vera, and ginseng - the formulations are very different.

PIXI Glow Tonic
Water/Aqua/Eau, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Leaf Extract, Aesculus Hippocastanum (Horse Chestnut) Seed Extract, Hexylene Glycol, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Urea, Dextrin, Alanine, Glutamic Acid, Aspartic Acid, Hexyl Nicotinate, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Disodium EDTA, Biotin, Panthenol, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance (Parfum), Caramel, Red 4 (CI 14700). 250ml/ 8.5 fl. Oz.

Aldi Healthy Glow
Aqua, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Sodium Hydroxide, Betaine, Polysorbate 20, Phenoxyethanol, Allantoin, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Benzophenone-4, Disodium EDTA, Parfum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Linalool, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Caramel, CI 14700

Now, those inci lists might mean absolutely nothing to you so let me break this down slightly. When reading, I always look for two things first: what ingredients are at the highest percentage and so are listed first, and where ‘phenoxyethanol’ lies. With our regulations over here, anything after that will be at a percentage lower than 1%. With this information in mind, you can quickly see that the PIXI formulation is far superior to the Aldi one. Containing a massive whack of aloe vera to soothe the skin whilst using the acid, it also contains witch hazel, ginseng, and hydrating urea at percentages higher than 1%. On the other hand, glycolic acid is the second ingredient listed on the Aldi version, making it a lot harsher. If you look at where phenoxyethanol lies, you can immediately see that the aloe vera and ginseng advertised on the front of the bottle are actually included in a much lower percentage. In this case, you really do get what you pay for. And the Aldi version just isn’t worth it.

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I have no doubt it’ll be a much similar story with Aldi’s other offerings. It begs the question, why are brands so insistent on creating dupes?

There are plenty of examples of brands creating affordable lines with good products that don’t rip off another’s hard work. Boots and Superdrug both have good lines with good products at a good price. You don’t have to spend much at all to create a good skincare routine, even with all the actives that are so widely spoken about and revered. Really, it just looks like brands (especially, for some reason in my eyes, skincare brands) are just trying to profit off of the success without putting any of the work in. It’s not ethical, it’s not trying to bring the product to people who can’t splash out on the higher end versions, it’s just a bit shit. And I’m tired of it.

What are your thoughts on these dupes? I’ve said the word dupe too much now and it doesn’t feel real. I might do a part two though, so do let me know.

Love, Cordelia