8 affordable dupes for cult skincare products that live up to the hype

From the brands with a celebrity following, to the super expensive and science-backed industry elite, we match the creams and cleansers with their cheaper alternatives that work just as well.

When it comes to looking after our skin, we’ve never been more hands-on than ever. Between the pandemic, working from home (the burnout is real) and general quarantine life, we’ve been looking to self-care rituals (in particular, skincare and at-home facials), to help ourselves cope with the stress and anxiety that comes with our new normal.

There’s even a name for it: The Lipstick Indicator. Which is the act of using beauty products as an affordable indulgence during uncertain financial times is proving popular. Sound familiar?

As much as we want to indulge in expensive serums and luxuriously priced cleansers, a lot of us have lost our jobs or need to scale back our spending in order to deal with the financial repercussions of coronavirus.

As skincare guru Dr Michele Squire once said: “You don’t have to spend big to get good skin.” So, here’s a roundup of the best cult skincare buys and their more affordable counterparts – for whatever your price point.

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The cult buy:

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum ($210, at Adore Beauty)

This potent vitamin C elixir has earned its cult following for good reason. Formulated with ferulic acid it works to protect against ageing while reducing the signs you may already have.

The dupe:

Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster ($62, at Paula’s Choice)

Formulated with 15% pure vitamin C, vitamin E and ferulic acid this drop utilises it’s antioxidant powers to protect skin from ageing aggressors while brightening and smoothing skin.

The cult buy:

Augustinus Bader The Cream ($370, at Cult Beauty)

Developed by a German-based world leading stem cell and biomedical scientist and professor, this is skincare that can hold its own. Victoria Beckham has even done a collaboration with the brand. For my honest review, head here.

The dupe:

Nivea Cellular Anti-Age Night Cream ($16.80, at Big W)

Although it’s pretty tough to match the technology and ingredients found in Augustinus Bader’s creams, you can look to moisturisers that target ageing at a similar cellular level. This night cream works to support the skin’s ability to improve volume and hydration.

The cult buy:

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 ($96, at Skin Care Edit)

This chemical exfoliant toner has been described as ‘a miracle in a bottle’, ‘Jesus in a bottle’ and even ‘life-changing’. Ideal for oily or congested skin types, it’s packed with potent AHA and BHA’s, sulphur, horseradish and onion to renew skin to it’s bouncy, baby soft former glory.

The dupe:

The Ordinary AHA 30% and BHA 2% Peeling Solution ($14.30, at The Ordinary)

Deciem and its brands like The Ordinary have their own cult following. Not only because they’re affordable and transparent, but because the products work. This AHA, BHA blend uses black carrot and Tasmanian pepperberry to help reduce irritation associated with chemically exfoliating skin.

The cult buy:

Lancome Bi-Facial Non-Oily Instant Eye Makeup Remover ($60, at Lancome)

This iconic makeup remover was around well before micellar water. The two-phase formula activates when shaken and removes every scrap of makeup (including waterproof mascara) without leaving residue on skin.

The dupe:

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micelle Solution ($29.99, at Adore Beauty)

A cult in it’s own right, this makeup removing cleanser uses micellar technology to gently and effectively take off makeup and the day’s oils without stripping skin.

The cult buy:

Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($80, at Sephora)

Rosie Huntington-Whitely, Victoria Beckham and Blake Lively are fans of this mist. Inspired by Queen Isabelle of Hungary’s famous elixir of youth, this toning spray tightens the appearance of pores while boosting radiance and moisture.

The dupe:

Mario Badescu Facial Spray ($11, at Mecca)

A cult product itself, Mario Badescu facial sprays come in four formulas that each work to hydrate, soothe, tone and brighten skin. Store in the fridge for an extra shot of cool and calm.

The cult buy:

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum ($270, at Net-a-Porter)

This award-winning potion is 100% natural and uses more than 22 active ingredients to clear, brighten, tone and plump skin. The anti-ageing oil blend has high-tech powers too, working to oxygenate skin and stimulate cellular turnover.

The dupe:

Mukti Organics Antioxidant Facial Oil Omega 3-6-9 ($69.95, at Adore Beauty)

Think of this as the Aussie counterpart. Formulated with native ingredients like kakadu plum and kangaroo flower, as well as chia seed and sea buckthorn, it’s rich in phytonutrients and ceramides to hydrate and brighten your complexion.

The cult buy:

Dr. Barbara Sturm Sun Drops ($200, at Cult Beauty)

Dr. Barbara Sturm has quickly become one of skincare’s leading names. Not only does she have a bevvy of celeb clients, but the science-backed formulations to boot, too. It’s hard to say which of her products are most popular, particularly when some are individually formulated for customers, but her Sun Drops are super impressive. The SPF 50 can be added to your moisturiser or foundation for optimum wearability.

The dupe:

Dermalogica Solar Defense Booster SPF50 ($69.08, at Adore Beauty)

A tad thicker than the Sun Drops, this SPF 50 cream booster can be used on it’s own, or added to your daily moisturiser or liquid foundation.

The cult buy:

Tatcha The Deep Cleanse ($61, at Mecca)

Following Japanese skincare philosophies, this gel-to-foam cleanser does more than just clean. Formulated with Japanese luffa fruit and wild rose it gently exfoliates skin and visibly tightens pores.

The dupe:

Neutrogena Deep Clean Micellar Gel to Foam Cleanser ($15.49, at Chemist Warehouse)

A transformative cleanser that uses the technology of micellar to draw out dirt and oils, while gently washing them away.