Log onto Pinterest and search for “skincare dupes.” You will find countless, colorful graphs offering affordable alternatives to high-end skincare favorites.
Not all dupes are created equal and some are much better than others. Here are a few of my favorites:
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
The C-Firma Day Serum is such a great dupe for the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum that L’Oreal is suing Drunk Elephant for patent infringement. It includes L-ascorbic acid, vitamin E, ferulic acid, and some new ingredients like pumpkin and a new peptide, Chronocyclin. Most peptides claim to work to repair skin in some way, whether through signaling collagen-producing skin cell activation, pigment skin cell deactivation, or something of that sort. Chronocyclin promises to mimic the patterns of sun exposure on the circadian genes (UL Prospector). Specifically, Chronocyclin activates vitamin D within the skin in a time-oriented, cyclical fashion that is designed to “wake up” your skin at the right times, and strengthen its immunity and cellular defenses (Circadia).
What makes both Drunk Elephant and Skinceuticals serums effective is the combination of vitamins C and E and ferulic acid. As you age and undergo stress, your body produces toxic free radicals. These toxic free radicals are capable of causing nearly every sign of damage there is, including DNA damage within your cells. Antioxidants work by stabilizing free radicals. After stabilizing toxic free radicals, the antioxidants are usually less effective. This is because antioxidants donate electrons to stabilize free radicals. But after donating the electrons, the antioxidants are depleted of electrons themselves! Vitamins C and E combat this problem. Vitamins C and E are what are known as “network antioxidants.” When vitamin C donates an electron to stabilize the toxic free radical, vitamin E can donate an electron and replenish vitamin C. Which is awesome, because then you’re getting extra antioxidant strength!
In addition, in research studies, vitamin C has been reported to enhance UVA protection, whereas vitamin E is more effective against UVB radiation. So together, there is strengthened UVA/UVB protection when worn under sunscreen. Because both products contain this winning combo, you really can’t go wrong with either and it all comes down to personal preference. I myself am a longtime user and lover of the Skinceuticals serum.
Missha Time Revolution Essence
You won’t find a better dupe for the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence than the Time Revolution Essence from Missha. A skincare essence is a hydrating pre-serum for the skin. Generally containing mild to moderate concentrations of exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids, a skincare essence is designed to prime and exfoliate the skin. This means other skincare ingredients can penetrate the skin more deeply. In general, a skincare essence feels like water. I like to think of a skincare essence like a new age toner: Meant to stay on the skin for longer-lasting benefits, and infused with more beneficial, modern ingredients like AHAs, sodium hyaluronate, and probiotics.
One of the biggest differences between the two is that the Missha essence contains niacinamide where the SK-II does not. Niacinamide is an amazing ingredient that has been shown in studies to offer superior hydration (with results similar to hyaluronic acid) and hyperpigmentation treatment (with results similar to 2% hydroquinone). It is also a fair treatment for acne and fine lines and wrinkles, although I say “fair” because the results are not, say, 10% salicylic acid + 2% benzoyl peroxide, or 0.1% retinol, respectively.
With two hard-to-find technologies — over 80% probiotics plus about 3-4% niacinamide — the Time Revolution Essence from Missha is a tremendous product for dry skin sufferers who have tried just about everything else for a fraction of the cost of the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost
If you love the Moisture Surge from Clinique, you should check out the Neutrogena Hydro Gel Boost Cream! This affordable dupe for a longtime customer favorite will nourish dry to extra dry patches of skin, particularly those caused by changes in seasonality, hormones, or other abrupt changes to the skin. It is a fast-absorbing, ultra-hydrating, smoothness-enhancing product that feels amazing on the skin. It is amongst the best for healing and soothing dry skin!
Both products from Clinique and Neutrogena contain dimethicone and glycerin. Dimethicone is a type of silicone that works well to help fill in wrinkles, while still allowing other ingredients to get through to the skin thanks to its unique structure. As a higher-weight silicone than Cyclomethicone or Cyclopentasiloxane, you often see dimethicone used in full-coverage foundation or heavier moisturizers to prevent the product from creasing in lines and wrinkles. Glycerin is both a natural moisturizing factor and a humectant. Natural moisturizing factors (NMFs) mimic the skin’s structure and function and provide hydrating benefits within the skin. On the other hand, a humectant can bind several times its weight in water from the environment.
Both products offer lightweight hydration, but at different price points!
While these dupes aren’t an exact replica of the original, they’re pretty darn close and can be a great alternative for those who can’t afford the original. It really comes down to personal preference and what your budget is.