Dupes Vs. Knockoffs, Fakes, & Counterfeits

Dupes and knockoffs in the beauty industry are on the rise. Brands are using their marketing genius to create high demand for products, but unfortunately, that also leads to more fake and counterfeit products. Dupes aren’t dangerous like fake or counterfeit products are. In fact, dupes are actually great when you can find a good one!

Knockoff, fake, and counterfeit makeup products are very different than dupes. Knockoffs are usually illegal, made by someone trying to copy a product and sell it as if it were real. On the other hand, Dupes are products made by affordable brands to simulate a formula of a more high-end product.

Knockoffs and counterfeit products are actually dangerous, while actual companies make dupes. If you’re interested in the differences between dupes and fake makeup products, keep reading.

Differences Between Dupes and Knockoff/Fake/Counterfeit Products

Dupes are good, knockoffs are bad. That’s the bottom line. But why, exactly? If they’re both affordable options, they can’t be that different, right? Wrong. Up next, we’ll go over all the ways that dupes and counterfeit products are different.

Product Names

The packaging is a natural starting point for dupes and counterfeit products. Here, you’ll be able to determine right away whether or not a product is a dupe or if it’s a knockoff. Counterfeit products have the same name, either identical to the original product or just slightly different.

Sometimes the counterfeit products will try to be clever about the spelling by substituting a letter or two. But frequently, the names are identical. On the other hand, Dupes might have a related name, but they won’t be the same.

Where the Products are Made

Dupes are products created by affordable brands, with the idea of attempting to create a similar formula and replicate a more expensive product. Dupes come from a place of good intent, with the idea of making quality products available for those on a budget.

Actual, reputable brands do not make knockoffs and counterfeit products. They’re usually made in unregulated factories. A handful of smaller brands market themselves as creators of knockoffs, but they’re not well-known brands. And their production is frequently shut down when the original brands catch on to the fakes.


Because dupes are made by authentic brands and sold in stores, the products are subject to the same rules as any other cosmetics and regulated by the FDA. Brands that produce dupes must disclose their ingredients just like any other product.

Counterfeits and knockoffs aren’t regulated all because they’re most frequently made illegally. There’s no telling what’s actually in these products. There have been plenty of horror stories of people purchasing counterfeit makeup products, having allergic reactions, or even more dangerous consequences.

Some people might purchase these fake products unknowingly, while others are willing to risk the unknown for the reward of having a coveted product that’s otherwise hard to find. Many have reported adverse skin reactions like itching and burning where they’ve used the product. Other reactions have been more severe, like the woman that found out super glue was an ingredient in her counterfeit lipstick.

Where the Products are Sold

If you were to directly compare the packaging of a counterfeit makeup product to the original, you might have difficulty distinguishing the real from the fake. But, if you’re shopping at an actual store, the chances of running into a counterfeit product are slim to none.

Knockoff and counterfeit cosmetics aren’t sold at ordinary stores like:

  • CVS
  • Walgreens
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Ulta
  • Sephora

But, if you’re shopping on a discount website that ships products from outside of the country, you might run into fake cosmetics.

Markets with individual retailers are another place where fake cosmetics are sold. In some cases, Amazon has even sold counterfeit makeup. This is all the more reason why makeup purchases should be made in person or at least avoiding unknown brands.


Dupes are legal. Counterfeit products are not. Making and/or selling counterfeit products is a crime. In fact, many big cities have police task forces dedicated to scouring local markets and finding counterfeit products to prevent them from making it home with any possible customers. Counterfeit and knockoff products directly violate trademark laws.

Knockoffs that come in from outside of the country are often confiscated at customs and don’t make their way into the country at all. This obviously doesn’t happen as often as it should since there are plenty of dangerous and potentially harmful fake cosmetics that do find their way to users’ homes.

Larger shipments of knockoffs are more likely to be seized than those smaller packages that individuals purchased.

Why Purchase Dupes or Counterfeit Cosmetics

There are plenty of makeup fans out there that want to own the popular brands but can’t afford the hefty price tags. Sometimes, people are willing to test the waters and hope for the best, so they’ll knowingly purchase a fake product.

It’s also fairly common for companies to underproduce products to create a higher demand for a re-release. When this happens, some people will buy counterfeit products, so they don’t have to wait for the next batch of the real deal to come out.

Then there are, of course, those that simply don’t know they’re purchasing something fake and potentially harmful to their health. Sometimes the idea of a bargain is just too much to pass up.

On the other hand, Dupes are an excellent way for makeup enthusiasts to get similar results from affordable products without having to spend as much as they would for the high-end brands. There are plenty of videos from YouTubers and other influencers in the beauty community that share their favorite inexpensive dupes to take the place of high-end products.

What are the Best Affordable Dupes for High-End Products?

By now, you’re probably wondering, “What are these so-called dupes, and where can I find them already?!” If you love those high-end products, but you’re not a fan of how they hit your budget, then dupes are the way to go. There are plenty of brands that work hard to deliver results that are similar to expensive products without breaking the bank.

Here are some favorite dupes from brands we all know and love, created with the intent to deliver on the quality that you’d otherwise get from a luxury makeup brand:

e.l.f. Putty Primer

e.l.f. Poreless Putty Primer

The velvety texture of Poreless Putter Primer glides effortlessly over your skin, smoothing over imperfections.

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This pore-filling primer is clearly a dupe for Tatcha’s The Silk Canvas Primer. Until recently, anyone that wanted a smooth surface for makeup application had to spend over $50. But thanks to e.l.f., we now have a dupe with the same pore filling capabilities but a much lower price tag at under $10.

Where to buy it: Amazon

Maybelline Fit Me! Matte Foundation

Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation

This lightweight foundation mattifies and refines pores and leaves a natural, seamless finish.

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For years, MAC has been the leader in high-end cosmetics. Their base products, powders, and foundations are hard to beat. But anyone that loves MAC’s Studio Fix liquid foundation will be thrilled to try this dupe. Spending around $8 instead of over $30 is a much better deal.

Where to buy it: Amazon

L’Oréal Infallible Full Wear Concealer

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer

Infallible Full Wear Concealer is Loreal’s highest coverage formula in their widest shade range ever.

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Everyone that uses concealer has heard of Tarte Shape Tape. It has magical covering and brightening powers, for real. It’s no wonder that influencers often refer to it as one of their “holy grail” products. But a tiny tube will set you back over $30. If only there were a more affordable option… don’t worry! L’Oréal has you covered, and this concealer is much more affordable at just about $10.

Where to buy it: Amazon

Final Thoughts

The wide world of makeup has blown up recently, leaving an opening for counterfeit products to find their way in. Unfortunately, the fake products aren’t regulated, and they’re potentially dangerous to your health, not to mention illegal.

If you’re in search of a fantastic product at a bargain price, dupes are the much safer way to go. You don’t have to wonder what ingredients were used or where the products came from.