Five Fabulous Skincare Dupes

Jan 31, 2017

How many times have you read about an amazing, must-have, phenomenal product only to be turned away by the eye-popping price?  For 2017, I’m trying to get my finances in good shape, and you would not believe how much money I spend at Sephora.  Of course, I want to give my problem skin the very best (it feels like I’m talking about a child), but does it have to cost so much?

I spent weeks researching and testing to find replacements for five of my favorite skincare products.  Because while some products have no dupe (hello, Ole), some can be replaced.  So before you spend, let’s talk about how to save.


Acne Patches. These patches absorb oil and treat blemishes.  When I have a bad blemish, these patches greatly accelerate the healing process.  I loved the Peter Thomas Roth Invisible Dots ($30 for 72), but these CosRX Pimple Patches ($5 for 24) are good, too.  In fact, they’re a bit thicker and work a bit better.  Not bad for $5.

Facial Treatment Essence.  SK-II is one of those lust-worthy, iconic brands that women just swoon over.  Their Facial Treatment Essence ($179) is loaded with pitera, an amino acid derived from sake.  It brightens, tones, and firms.  I was shocked by how well the MISSHA Time Revolution Effort ($29) performed in comparison.  A few of my blogger friends even like it better because it’s loaded with vitamin-B.

Detoxing Mask. When my skin is feeling out of control, oily, and just (let’s be real) dull and dirty, I reach for a mask with charcoal.  I’ve tried many versions.  The GlamGlow Supermud ($69) was always my favorite, but it was too expensive to buy it regularly.  I bought this L’Oreal Pure Clay Mask ($13) on a lark, and liked it.

Do I like it as well as the GlamGlow?  Of course not.  But I liked it as well as the Origins mask it replaced, which is what replaced the GlamGlow.

Primer Spray.  This Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Spray ($48) is phenomenal.  The mix of botanical oils provides moisture and the perfect dewy glow.  It also gives my makeup a natural finish.

This isn’t a wheelhouse product for me, so I knew it was a great opportunity to save money.  HardCandy’s Sheer Primer Mist ($8) gives the same dewy finish, and works well as a primer.  Not bad for one-sixth the price.

Vitamin-C Serum.  I use a day serum and a night serum.  For years, Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($163) was my go-to day serum.  The mix of vitamins C and E fights hyper pigmentation and brightens skin.  But, woof, the price.  Luckily, Timeless Skincare’s CE Ferulic Acid Serum ($17) is nearly identical.  Just three uses and the brown acne scars on my chin are noticeably lighter.  If there is one product from this list that I would recommend without reservation, it’s this one.  Vitamin-C is a must for every skin type.

Do you have a favorite skincare dupe that helps you save money?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.


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  1. TR says:

    Do you still use the Drunk Elephant C‑Firma Day Serum? Would the Timeless Vitamin C be a better option?

  2. Alison says:

    I have been using the L’Oreal Pure Clay Mask for a few weeks and I have been impressed with how smooth my skin feels. I don’t love the jar and would rather have a squeeze tube so I am going to try one of the masks from the Formula 10.0.06 line that they carry at Ulta which have good ratings. They also come in more formulations than the L’Oreal line.

  3. Laura says:

    I have used the Origins charcoal mask and the Glamglow, and I like Origins much better. Also, I was eyeing Glossier’s new facial moisturizer ($35), but saw in a beauty forum that CeraVe’s moisturizing cream was similar, much less expensive and came with a pump. So far, it’s keeping my usually dry winter skin soft.

    • Belle says:

      I don’t really love any of the Glossier products. It feels like they just mastered making the packaging cute and sending the products to bloggers for free. They sent me a mask last year, and it was fine, but when I didn’t write about it (because we had no sponsorship agreement, and I don’t do that, so send me things at your own peril), they never sent me anything again. I bought a couple of products after that but none wow’ed me.

  4. Amy says:

    I love posts on dupes! I’ve used the Formula 10.0.06 masks for a couple of years, and they are really effective (not to mention smell great!)

  5. Mica says:

    Cosign the Cosrx and Missha products. I picked both of those up in Seoul and they’re staples now. Affordable and my skin loves it. For the Vitamin C I use Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C, it’s about $20 and has helped lighten my acne scars

  6. Meghan says:

    What a good post!! I’m putting into my weekly roundup and can’t wait to try a few of these!

  7. Mags says:

    I really like the ole Hendriksen vitamin c serum… and Paula’s Choice Resist c15 is a good substitute. Both are about $50, so thats not super helpful, but it’s nice to have two great options!

  8. kate says:

    Does hyperpigmentation include red marks on very pale white skin? I have some red marks on my cheek I’d love to get rid of. I’m not sure if they’re post-acne marks or broken blood vessels. Anybody know if a Vitamin C serum would be a good choice?

  9. Meg says:

    Also, just going to put it out there, but I used to spend a lot of $$ trying out different beauty products looking for the magic solution until I finally bit the bullet and went to the dermatologist. For $40 copay a couple of times a year (including my yearly skin cancer check because I’m moley) and around $20 on medicine and creams every other month, my skin is finally clear, non-inflamed, and really easy to care for. It’s been a game changer.

    • KCV says:

      Agree. I finally went to the derm about three months ago. Had major acne problems on my cheeks. Now they’re clear. While I’m on spiro and doxy, I’m starting to wean off the doxy, so we’ll see how it goes.

      • Anne says:

        Yes, totally agree. $45 for the appointment and my meds are about $170 quarterly. Yes, it’s a lot, but I’m not messing around trying to find “HG” products and I know what I’m buying works.

  10. Alice says:

    If it is going down the drain I try to keep it cheap. CeraVe cleanser, cheap shampoo (currently Shea Moisture but it has been several), cheap unscented body wash (or dove bar), and coconut oil as makeup remover.

  11. Anna says:

    I’m 31 and starting to notice some disconcerting wrinkles. If there’s ONE product (or type of product) you’d recommend to fight off these wily little guys, what would it be? I keep my skin care routine pretty basic (I have a bunch of Birchbox masks and peels sitting in my cabinet cuz I’ve been too lazy to use them even once a week), so I don’t want a bajillion steps and products. Just got the Paula’s Choice RESIST AHA serum that I use at night, but looking for something to use during the day that does more than exfoliate.

    • Sara says:

      Go to a dermatologist and get a prescription for Tretinoin (Retin-A). It’s the only thing that’s actually going to work. With insurance it will cost less than $10, and a tube will last a few months. I’m 40 and people who don’t know me think I’m 30 or younger regularly. Retin-A and daily application of at least 30 spf sunscreen and you’re golden.

      • Belle says:

        Retin-A has never worked for me. I know for some it’s a miracle cure, but not for everyone.

        • Sara says:

          You’re right that it may not work for everyone as a miracle cure for acne, but there are many empirical studies that prove it’s the only clear-cut drug that works on a molecular level, which leads to improved skin texture and wrinkle reduction. I took Anna’s comment to mean that she was interested in improved skin texture, not acne issues. As a life-long acne sufferer, I’ve tried everything under the sun, and have learned that keeping that beast under control is going to be different for everyone.

          • Anna says:

            Yep, thankfully acne isn’t much of an issue for me. Trying to beat off the wrinkles before they get bad, or at least til I have kids and can blame it on them 🙂

    • B says:

      I would recommend Radical Skincare anti-aging restorative moisture. Long story – I attended a women’s leadership breakfast at ODU. The speakers were the founders of Radical Skincare. They are two sisters who are alums of ODU and gave gift bags to all the ladies. There was the cream that I mentioned and a serum. At the time I was like never heard of the brand and not using it. I ended up giving it to a family friend – she’s 45. She came back to me a while a later and asked me where I got it. I explained and she told me that the cream was amazing and helped with her wrinkles. She also said her husband started using some of it for his problem spots. She still buys that moisture cream. I can’t attest to it solving wrinkles on a personal level but I trust her judgment and made sure I remember for when I get them later on. I wish I could say it’s inexpensive but their products are quite pricey.

  12. Meghan says:

    Love this post. This might be a really dumb question, but could you do a follow-up on the order in which to use all these products? I have a pretty simple skincare regime but am nearing 30 and aware that I should start looking into serums, toners, etc sooner rather than later. There are lots of great suggestions in this post, but I am confused about when to use the serum (before or after moisturizer?) or the face essence (is it just a fancy word for toner or am I missing something?).

    BTW, long-time reader and I have absolutely loved the recent revitalization. I’m cheering for you on the bar exam. It always seems insurmountable until it is done!

    • Emily Brown says:

      I have recently instituted Caroline Hirons routines into my daily life, and it has been really helpful for my skin. She recommends acid pads way more than my skin can take, but this post at least gives you a good explanation of the order in which to apply products and why.

    • Allie says:

      I second this! I have a VERY simple skincare regime (use face wash morning and sometimes night) and know I, too, should try to start building my daily skincare regime.

    • Mica says:

      I hate to be that girl that plugs her own blog in someone elses comments, but my post today is about how I layer my skincare products. Link is in my name “Mica”

  13. Molly says:

    Thanks Belle! Have you tried any of The Ordinary serums yet? I just got a few and like them so far – would love your thoughts!

  14. Addison says:

    Love this post + the comments!

    One dupe that I love is Acure’s Marula Oil instead of Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil — about a $65 and is nearly exactly the same (DE just has better packaging)

    • Anon, UK says:

      Wow yes The Ordinary has taken the UK by storm! Sold out products, and super cheap. And they work.
      Loved by The Hirons – if it’s good enough for the grand Duchess of Skincare then it’s good enough for me lol

    • Kelly says:

      I tried switching to Drunk Elephant and the results have been not as excellent as I was hoping for. I’m going to be subbing in some of the above products as I run out of the DE.

  15. Lynn says:

    I recently switched to Timeless from Skinceuticals, as well. I like it just as much, but the price is soooo much better.

  16. Pam says:

    Thank you for this post! I use three of your dupe products. The Cos acne patches, the essence and the timeless serum. So glad to know I am on the right track with these products. I will try the other two now too!

  17. Calicoccatcallie says:

    I’ve found Ole Henriksen products at TJ Maxx or Marshalls at a significant discount. Only problem is that finding them is hit and miss and I don’t seem to find them as commonly as I did in the past. But still worth a look at the skin care section when you’re in these stores.

  18. ashley says:

    Check out the Ordinary line – they have a ton of great dupes and it’s super super cheap. They have marula oil, a bunch of vit c products, etc.. all very reasonably priced.

  19. Nic says:

    I used to think CeraVe was just a weird old-timey brand my mom uses, but after experimenting with a variety of expensive, multi-step lines (all Sephora, of course) with inconsistent success, I bit the bullet. I now only use CeraVe’s Hydrating Cleanser and Moisturizing Cream on my face, the combination of which is far cheaper and more effective than the next best thing. I buy both in large containers at Costco and refill smaller ones for daily use. Fantastic to have one less thing to worry about both financially and cosmetically.

  20. Amy says:

    The Poppy Austin vitamin c serum works well for me (you can find it on Amazon). I also like their argan oil for hair.

  21. Bonnie says:

    I’m going to give all of these a try at some point! Sep. the acne patches. I think we have similar skin, Belle, and I’m currently using a sample-size (from Sephora) tube of Kate Somerville Goat Milk cleanser and ExfoliKate exfoliant (both of which I love, so I may have to spring for full sizes). I was using GlamGlow mud mask but due to finances switched to your dupe from a while back (Origins Charcoal). I’m also using a great One Love Organics serum, but it’s way too costly so will be trying one of the recs on this page next time. I’ve also been very impressed lately with the Boots Botanics line–the Triple Age Renewal moisturizer in particular is softening some deep lines that have developed around my nose (I’m 40), and it’s very cost effective for that kind of quality. I’ll be checking out more from that range.

  22. Nancy says:

    Is is ok on this post to ask for recommendaitons for Lavender scented bath products? I tried the pricey L’Occitane bath foam (40.00) and you could hardly smell the scent. I am a horrible sleeper and hope that a relaxing bath with lavender scent might help me sleep better. However if there are other suggestions, please post them.

    Thanks for any recommendations.

  23. Lauren M Wilson says:

    I LIVE for the Cosrx patches. I’ve tried so many and they are the only ones that do the trick for me. When I have a pimple, I dab on 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and cover it with a patch and it’s gone within 2 days.

    • Belle says:

      I woke up this morning, peeled off one of the patches, and was so surprised by how much oil it absorbed. It was crazy. I also like the different sizes. Way better than the PTR.

  24. […] A well-researched list of solid skincare dupes. […]

  25. Ann says:

    When I clicked on your link to the Vitamin C serum, the Amazon reviews seem to indicate that it may not be authentic? Have you had this experience? Do you know where else it is sold? Thanks!

  26. Tina says:

    The Peter Thomas Roth are not the same kind of patch as the Cosrx, they’re very different things. While the Cosrx absorb the liquids out of the pimple while letting it heal, the PTR ones are just aimed at reducing the pimple but they don’t ‘pull the gunk out’ as they are not hydrocolloid patches

  27. MOna says:

    Hi, have you tried Bombshell Bathtime’s Vitamin C E Ferulic Acid Serum? It’s pretty similar to SkinCeuticals and it costs around $25 from their website. It has 17% L-Ascorbic Acid and 0.5% Ferulic Acid, with a pH of 2.6-2.9. Plus, it is silicone free, paraben free, oil free and alcohol free, and doesn’t contain nasty ingredients like propylene glycol and phenoxyethanol. It’s been working well on my acne scars and sun damage.

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