Attack of the make-up clones

Pick your favourite prestige beauty buy and there’s bound to be a high-street dupe. But do they work?

High-street fashion brands have been copying designer clothing for years. In fact, I’m the first to admit that there’s little more satisfying than someone asking if my suede lace-up flats are Aquazzura, when they were actually a £30 Zara steal. Now, as Google reports its number of searches for dupes has almost doubled in the past year, it’s the beauty world’s turn. A beauty dupe can be anything from similar colour or texture to packaging, and there are some good ones out there, but they can be hard to find.

So how do the brands that are being copied feel about it? “Some brands are outrageously lazy,” says Ian Marshall, the UK and European managing director of Benefit, whose Brow Zings brow palette has been replicated by the beauty brand Sleek MakeUp. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s incredibly frustrating. We spend years bringing something to the market, and then a brand copies us, hoping to make a quick buck.”

The products look almost identical to the untrained eye, but the companies behind the dupes are smart. “They pay for legal advice to tell them exactly what they can get away with, and unless they’re using our name, words or damaging our intellectual property, there’s little we can do,” Marshall says. “It involves a lot of time and investment, but it’s happening regularly, very quietly.” Benefit has taken copycats to court in the past.

Despite the increasing number of dupes, the market-research company NPD Group reports that the Benefit Brow Zings palette has been the bestselling prestige brow product for seven years. “Ultimately, the brands that are copying us are underestimating the consumer,” Marshall says. “Today’s savvy shopper is smart enough to think, ‘It looks like it, but it isn’t.’ ” So, are the dupes any good? We compare the classics with the clones.

The real deal Benefit Brow Zings in Deep, £24.50
The dupe
Sleek Brow Kit in Medium, £8.50
Sarah says
They both include a tinted brow wax, setting powder, two mini brushes and a pair of tweezers. The Benefit option is ideal for a soft, natural brow finish. Sleek is best if you’re after, erm, a stronger Scouse brow. Plus, Sleek’s tweezers didn’t work.


The real deal Benefit High Beam highlighter, £19.50
The dupe
W7 Night Glow Highlighter and Illuminator, £6
Sarah says
The W7 product — from a privately owned British brand founded in 2002 — fell short. Its replica of High Beam appears the same colour in the packaging, but was a salmon pink on my skin and turned murky when applied.


The real deal La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, £298
The dupe
Lacura Caviar Illumination Night Cream, £7
Sarah says
La Prairie’s offering felt incredible on my skin and left a silky residue. Lacura does contain caviar extract, but it still felt like a standard £7 night cream.

The real deaL Urban Decay Naked eyeshadow palette, £38.50
The dupe
W7 Lightly Toasted eyeshadow palette, £10
Sarah says
Urban Decay’s pigments were far more vivid and easier to blend. Plus, the shades were true to colour. But the W7 hues came close.


The real deal Cailyn Cosmetics O Wow Brush, £20
The dupe
PS Pro Small Blending Brush, £2.50
Sarah says
The dupe, from Primark’s own brand, was impressive. Like the spenny version, it felt soft against my skin and smoothed foundation seamlessly. If I were to nit-pick, it looked a little streaky at first, but with extra blending I got there in the end.


The real deal YSL Touche Eclat in 1 Luminous Radiance, £25
The dupe Seventeen Skin Wow! Concealer, £4
Sarah says The YSL pen blended evenly and delivered a soft, natural finish. The Seventeen concealer was a lot thicker and pastier.