Beauty School Dropout: Designer Dupes, the Skincare Edition

As part of our Designer Dupes series, we're reaching for the affordable cleansing balms, night serums and sheet masks that feature the same hero ingredients as their big-ticket counterparts. Your 12-step skincare routine is about to get overhauled.

There's only one thing better than a cult beauty buy and that's a cult beauty buy that's half the price. As our financial futures look (even more) uncertain, we're looking for ways we can save a few pennies and get our wages to last until payday. Designer products are out and dead-ringers are à la mode.

A solid skincare routine is a pillar of self-care - it's what oat flat whites are to Shoreditch and Diptyque diffusers are to yoga studios. A quick scrub with a make-up wipe and a slap of moisturiser won't help you achieve a flawless finish. Nevertheless, while a 12-point routine will likely get your skin glowing, it will have your bank balance groaning in response. Giving you the routine you deserve on the Monzo budget you have, we've swapped big brands for independent labels and traded wallet-busting price tags for pocket-friendly purchases while keeping the same hero ingredients.

Pretty affordable: budget-friendly products to add to your skincare routine


Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm > Eve Lom Cleanser

With low-waste packaging and a clean cocktail of results-driven ingredients, Versed has nailed minimal maintenance beauty. Slap the balm onto a full-face of make-up, massage into the skin until it becomes a milky consistency, wipe away the grit and grime and pat dry. Bonus: the eucalyptus and clove-leaf oil will leave your bathroom smelling like a spa.


Aldi Lacura Healthy Glow Exfoliating Toner > Pixi Glow Tonic

These products have almost identical ingredients and packaging - including acne-busting glycolic acid. The OG hit toner is known for keeping oil slicks, blackheads and whiteheads at bay, while the bargain equivalent works just as well. We don't usually condone supermarket stockpiling, but it's a third of the price and has a frequently sold-out status, so we'll turn a blind eye if you fill up your trolley… provided you snag one for us too.

Eye Cream

InstaNatural Youth Express Eye Gel > Shiseido Future Solution LX Eye and Lip Contour Regenerating Cream

We're big fans of everything that Japanese skin guru Shiseido creates, but when your finances come up a bit short, switch to InstaNatural's purse-sensitive eye gel instead. Packed full of natural botanicals, it'll reduce fine wrinkles and banish dark circles, thereby giving off the illusion that you've got your eight hours - even if that eight-hours consisted of binge-watching Netflix rather than beauty sleep.

Vitamin C serum

The Inkey List Vitamin C Serum > Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

Renowned for its low-key packaging and no-nonsense ingredients list, the Inkey's triple-threat serum claims to minimise ageing, boost collagen and firm skin. It's give-it-a-go price tag and powerful 30 per cent pure L-ascorbic acid hero ingredient far surpasses Drunk Elephant's equivalent.

Night serum

Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Ampoule > Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronised Recovery Complex II Serum

A skincare staple that has graced generations of make-up bags, Missha's highly concentrated night serum contains the same repairing properties that reverse damage caused by pollutants, poor diets and daily life. It's Estée Lauder's younger, cooler (and cheaper) sibling.

Night cream

Mario Badescu Caviar Night Cream > La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream

Beauty editors and influencers will harp on about the genius of Swiss skincare, but for those of us who don't fancy shelling out a month's rent on a moisturiser, opt for this recession-friendly version instead. It's extra thick - think clotted cream consistency instead of semi-skimmed milk. Slather a pea-sized amount on dry and lacklustre skin as the final step of your nighttime skincare routine.

Sheet mask

Holika Holika Pure Essence Mask Sheet in Pearl > Dr Jart + Dermask Water Jet Vital Hydra Solution

The holy grail of self-care and the millennial's answer to a spa day, sheets masks have quickly become our one-stop skin saviours. Some are pretty crap, with no space for your nostrils and drier than our Hinge profile, but others, like this K-beauty steal, arrive soaked in skin-soothing serums and mould effortlessly to our face. Rub the excess liquid onto your neck to combat "tech neck".

Mud mask

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay > Glamglow Supermud Mask

We're reluctant to share this skincare secret. Sure, the Glamglow mud mask is the chosen selfie accessory for beauty influencers, but it's this potent pot that's solved all of our skin woes. Mix two parts powder clay with one part water or apple cider vinegar - a supposed natural anti-inflammatory - into a thick paste, then paint onto the skin and leave on for 15 minutes. You'll feel a slight tingle as it strips your skin of any excess oil, thoroughly cleans pores and dissolves any lingering fake tan. Afterwards, you'll see the same results as a deep-clean facial for less than a tenner.

Setting Spray

e.l.f. Cosmetics Makeup Mist & Set Spray > Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray

We're not disputing that Urban Decay's All Nighter has seen us through some hard (and hungover) times, keeping make-up in place through the small hours and well into some of the next day (we know, we know, leaving make-up on overnight is grim), but it's time for a new beauty guru to occupy this coveted spot. Coming in at less than your morning coffee, this identikit by e.l.f. Cosmetics eradicates the need to blot skin at midday and ensures your mascara doesn't smudge.

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