I'm incredibly lucky that I get sent some of the most premium beauty products on the market to try out as part of my job. From £205 moisturisers to £109 facial steamers, I've had the chance to test some of the most luxurious formulations and beauty tools in the UK to find out what's worth the hype. So does expensive always equal best? In a word, no. Despite having access to extravagant products and high-end beauty brands, there are tons of affordable options that rival their more expensive counterparts. In fact, there are plenty even the most experienced of beauty editors would struggle to differentiate between once applied to the skin.
So whether you're trying to stick to a budget or you just don't want to spend excessively on a pricier counterpart when you don't have to, here are 16 high-end products that I love and their affordable alternatives that will do the trick just as well.
A dozen shades of amber-inspired eye shadows in metallic, matte and shimmer finishes but with a huge difference in price point. Disclaimer: I'm a huge fan of Urban Decay and think that its eye shadows are genuinely some of the best in the business. However, if you're not a regular eye shadow wearer or are just dipping your toe in the fiery-hued trend, this affordable palette from Rimmel offers amazing value—and the shadows are pigmented, blendable and long-lasting.
To me, there is no better makeup sponge than the Beautyblender, particularly when it comes to creating a dewy base with your everyday foundation. However, I know that dropping almost £20 on a small sponge can seem excessive. If I were forced to pick a backup, then you can't go wrong with the Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge. In fact, I know plenty of people who prefer this to the Beautyblender. I must admit that the flat edge is handy for slapping on foundation quickly when you're in a rush.
It almost feels like sacrilege to provide a dupe for the adored Liz Earle cleanser, but I really couldn't resist. Both are enriched with nourishing cocoa butter to hydrate skin and melt away makeup and impurities. I'd have to say that when it comes to scent, Liz Earle does cinch it with the spa-like aromas. But if you're looking for a purse-friendly way to cleanse and exfoliate, this Superdrug one really does measure up.
YSL's iconic Touche Éclat is described by the brand as ''eight hours of beauty sleep in a click." For years, I wasn't entirely sure how to use it (was it a concealer or a highlighter?), but now I love applying it under eyes and onto my cheekbones for a subtle luminosity. I was pleasantly surprised at how similar this brightening gel-based formula from Maybelline is to the beauty icon. The only downside is that the affordable version doesn't come in as many shades.
You've probably spotted Sand & Sky's iconic pink packaging in your Instagram feed over the past year or so. Its pink clay skincare products launched to huge waiting lists and rave reviews, and its mask happens to be one of my favourites for treating acne. Budget supermarket Aldi has now created its very own take on the pink clay trend with this dermatologically tested face scrub that offers up similar mattifying benefits.
This foundation dupe has been a long-held beauty insider secret. Both come in around 30 shades and deliver velvety coverage to skin with a subtle radiance. With celebrity fans like Meghan Markle reportedly obsessed with the Giorgio Armani foundation, it certainly holds its own beauty gravitas. But for me, you just can't argue with the price point and results of the L'Oréal foundation.
Trust me—the brand imagery doesn't do any justice to just how close in colour these blushes are IRL. Both deliver a subtly shimmery, peachy pop of colour to cheeks, and both are intensely pigmented. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that the Sleek blushes are possibly the most pigmented cheek product I've ever come across—high-end or high-street.
The shift toward glosses means that liquid lipsticks have faded into the background this year. But for me, a good matte liquid lip is a staple in my makeup bag. The YSL ones always feel decidedly luxurious, but these L'Oréal ones provide similar pigment, opaqueness and long wear for a third of the price.
I'm a big fan of both of these water-based foundations for their lightweight coverage and dewy finish. In fact, the Bourjois formula has to be one of my favourite drugstore foundations ever. If you're looking for a brightening base that looks like your skin but better, then both make energising options.
I love a red lipstick, and MAC's Ruby Woo is about as iconic as they come. I have to say, though, that this £5 dupe from Barry M certainly rivals it. In fact, our social media editor gave it a 10/10 when testing out the best red lipsticks. It's matte, pillar-box red and lasts through a Pret sandwich. What more could you want?
Ask anyone who is obsessed with eyeliner, and chances are they will have tried Kat Von D's cult Tattoo Liner before. It's inky black, ultra-precise and smudge-resistant. This one from Maybelline provides a similarly long-lasting formula and an easy-to-use nib that even eyeliner novices (like myself) should be able to get on board with.
One of my favourite concealers has to be this one from Nars. It's super-creamy, covers everything from under-eye circles to blemishes and feels like you're wearing nothing on your skin. However, for a quarter of the price, this Maybelline concealer provides a similarly radiant finish for a fresh-faced complexion.
In my opinion, there are no better-smelling hair products in the business than the ones from Oribe. I don't know how to describe them, but they basically smell like you've just visited a fancy hair salon for an expensive blow-dry. So when a PR friend told me that the new Beauty Pie haircare smelt basically the same, I was over the moon. After all, this shampoo is only a fiver for members, so there's no need to save it for special occasions.
Another eye shadow palette with a sizeable price difference comes in the form of this 18-pan collection containing a mix of mattes, glitters and shimmer shades inspired by shades of nude. Although you really can't rival the Huda Beauty shadows in terms of pigment, wear and colour payoff, I think that the W7 dupe is a great alternative if you won't use every colour in the £56 palette.
Disclaimer: The packaging of this MissGuided fragrance is definitely not as chic as this popular YSL perfume, but the smell is decidedly similar. Both have fruity pear top notes, almond and orange blossom at their heart and dry down to a creamy vanilla and patchouli finish.