ABC News' Becky Worley reports:
Expensive designer makeup is all the rage, but what if you could find cheaper drugstore brands that look similar enough to fool the eye? Beauty blogs around the Web tout products from Revlon, Loreal, and smaller cosmetic companies that have either intentionally or accidentally made products that closely replicate the shades in high-end products like lipsticks from Mac, bronzer from Benefit and blush from Nars.
To see for myself, I bought beauty products from drugstores like CVS, Walmart, Amazon.com and Target. Then I hit the department stores for the expensive stuff.
I took all the products to the Archer Salon in San Francisco where independent makeup artist Sandra Badillo applied the expensive brands to one side of my face and the drugstore brands to the other. Together, we tried to discern a difference.
But before we start, the important thing to note is that we are going to evaluate the appearance of the makeup on just one person: me. Also, we're not trying to see which wears the longest or performs the best throughout the day. It's an appearance-only comparison. So let's get started!
Benefit High Beam Complexion Enhancer ($26) vs. Boots #7 ($12 at Target)
First question: What's a complexion enhancer? Sandra tells me, "It's supposed to make you look a little dewy. It's supposed to lift up your cheekbones a little bit."
Being that I'm older than 40, I just don't want it to lift up my moustache. She assures me it will just add definition and glow.
She paints a bit of the Benefit enhancer on the expensive side and the Boots #7 on the other. They both do look a little lighter than my skin tone and add some definition. They feel the same and they look the same to me. For half the price of the High Beam ($26), I'd buy the Boots #7 ($12).
Mac Satin Taupe Eye Shadow ($15) vs. Loreal Bronze Taupe ($6 at Walmart)
A nice smoky eye can make you look great, so I was excited for this smackdown. The two products look pretty similar in the containers but when Sandra puts them on she says the Loreal shadow feels a little grainier and has a little more sparkle. But comparing the two brands, I can't feel or see a difference. Again, I'd save the $15 and buy the cheaper version.
Nars "Orgasm" Blush ($29) vs. Milani Blush ($7 at Walmart)
Nars is a favorite brand among the Sephora set, and their "orgasm" blush is incredibly popular. The sales clerk told me it looks good on almost everyone.
After applying a light dusting of the Nars blush, Sandra says it is working for me. With the Milani blush, she has to work a little harder, saying, "I have to add a lot more." And she thinks that the Milani blush has a little more sparkle. But when we look at the two side by side, we can't really see a difference. Score another one for the knockoff.
Benefit's Hoola ($28) vs. NYC Sunny ($3 at CVS)
These two look very different in their packaging. Benefit's box makes you feel like you're walking into a tiki bar. But the NYC Sunny is like my granny's compact in 1972. But when I looked at them on my face, I couldn't tell the difference. The shading of both products gave nice definition along the temples and under my cheekbones and helped to even out the places where I needed to do more blending between my foundation and my neck. At almost one-tenth the price, NYC Sunny is looking pretty good to me, despite the old-school packaging.
Mac Viva Glam Nicki ($15) vs. Wet N' Wild Pinkerbell ($2 at Walgreens)
The two shades were visually indistinguishable to me. Score one for the knockoffs.
Mac Rebel ($15) vs. Wet N' Wild Sugar Plum Fairy ($2 at Walgreens)
I couldn't tell the difference
Mac Snob ($15) vs. Revlon Pink Pout ($6 on Amazon.com)
Sandra and I both thought these two shades would not look the same when applied. They looked like different colors when in the tube. But, on my lips, they were nearly identical.
Mac Crème d'Nude ($14) vs. E.L.F. Natural Nymph ($7 on Amazon.com)
This was the only case where I clearly preferred the more expensive brand. The Mac lipstick went on smooth and had a consistent application of color across the lip. The E.L.F. lipstick was chalky as it went on and it looked like there were small particles clumped together in the creases of my lip and the corner of my mouth. I'd pay for the more expensive brand if this Mac shade is a favorite.
Finally, a disclaimer, this was one person trying on a few brands, and I didn't evaluate the makeup for its endurance or wear. But I will be a lot more willing to try to find a "makeup dupe," as they're called on the Internet, the next time I go shopping for my favorite high-end brands. If you have a favorite knockoff, list it in the comments below.