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Dissecting Dupe Culture

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Dissecting dupe culture

Another day, another dupe-based press release drops into my inbox, but I’ve got conflicting feelings about PRs and journalists promoting these. On the one hand, dupes (lower-priced versions of popular products) help make beauty more accessible, and they’re reflective of our shifting shopping habits in line with the extortionate costs of living.

But on the other hand, dupe culture – which often encourages hyped-up consumerism – contributes to disposable ‘fast beauty’. Plus, it can feel tasteless to celebrate imitation, while implying that an original is not worth investing in.

Pros, cons, and ethics aside, there’s no denying it’s big business. Videos tagged ‘#makeupdupes’ have a staggering 794.7m views on TikTok, with ‘#beautydupes’ racking up 47.3m, while @dupethat, the Insta account dedicated to sharing affordable beauty alternatives, has more than 1.2m followers.

It’s tempting to be part of the dialogue, but – like most things in our industry that seemingly everyone else is into – it pays for companies to really consider their position on the matter. As a journalist I feel like dupe-hooked press releases from Aldi or Lidl (those known for deals and steals as much as their brazen beauty copies) are fitting, but when I see shoehorned dupe alerts from mid-range brands, they can read like unnecessary attempts to bask in another brand’s virality.

I also think it’s important to consider a product’s formulation and efficacy before presenting it as similar to another’s. As cosmetic chemist Dr Michelle Wong pointed out in a recent Insta reel, products with similar ingredients (never mind packaging) can still be very different and will therefore have different effects on the skin/hair. The comments from her followers concurred that while dupe content may be increasingly popular, and such recommendations could save people money, they also often mislead.

With so much misinformation already floating around in the beauty sphere, here’s to being conscious around promoting dupes purely in the name of content and consumption.

What Bridget thinks…

“This Mother’s Day gift guide compiled by Harvey Nichols is well organised and aesthetically pleasing, which makes it easy when browsing the inbox for inspiration.”

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