These affordable anti-aging dupes are just as good as the originals.

By Laura Reilly
Updated March 04, 2019
Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Credit: Amazon/Nordstrom

When you’re in the market for new skincare, so many products can seem unnecessarily expensive. Is the $90 anti-aging face cream from Neiman Marcus really that much more effective than the $9 drugstore moisturizer? The answer is: It depends.

It’s no secret that the beauty industry muddles a lot of information, and it’s for the precise reason of obfuscating what items are actually worth the asking price. The pursuit of better skin can be a really frustrating (and really expensive) experience.

One tool you can use to suss out a product’s actual worth? The ingredient list will tell you what a product is capable of much better than marketing or a price tag will. We’ve taken a look at the ingredient lists of five of the priciest luxury anti-aging products and found affordable alternatives that are just as (if not more) effective.

Credit: Amazon/Nordstrom


Even those outside the skincare industry have heard of La Mer. Its military-grade price tag and romantic origin story—it was invented by a rocket scientist attempting to heal his own decade-old burns—have elevated the moisturizer to legend status. But as otherworldly as this product may seem, is it actually any better than its drugstore contemporaries?

Over years of swapping notes on beauty forums and trading stories, scrupulous fans of the pricey cream have found that Cremé De La Mer has an unlikely doppelganger: Nivea Creme. The basic ingredients in each product are pretty much identical and, according to Beautiful With Brains, any additional zhuzh CDLM’s antioxidants might have imparted is completely lost thanks to the cream’s jar packaging.

Save your hundreds for something with more function than folklore, and opt for the Nivea instead.

Nivea Creme
To buy:

Cremé De La Mer
To buy:

Credit: Amazon/Nordstrom


SK-II Facial Treatment Essence is another big ticket skincare product that relies heavily on its mysterious discovery to fuel allure and justify an enormous price tag. According to SK-II, this essence’s key ingredient, Pitera, was discovered when somebody noticed the youthful hands of sake brewers.

This patented ingredient compound is a byproduct of rice fermentation that’s said to include amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and all that good stuff. This top ingredient (and the one that makes up the majority of the solution) is coincidentally also the top ingredient in Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Intensive. It’s called Saccharomycopsis Ferment Filtrate, and it’s essentially the generic version of Pitera.

While the SK-II essence stops short at ferments plus a brief list of moisturizing and viscosity control agents, the Missha essence packs in a bunch of other beneficial ingredients, including niacinamide, licorice root extract, and tons of antioxidants. This is one instance where the “dupe” actually outperforms the original.

Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Intensive
To buy:

SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
To buy:

Credit: Amazon/Dermstore


Skinceuticals’ vitamin C product isn’t just a marketing ploy—it actually once held the patent to the pH level and precise vitamin E, ferulic acid blend proven to be most effective. For years, Skinceuticals’ powerful dark spot-fading abilities were out of reach to competitors, and consumers were faced with the choice of spending nearly $170 or settling for a lesser formula.

While the Skinceuticals patent protects the trifecta of ingredients at a pH between 2.5 to 3, Timeless’ serum, containing all three, comes in at 2.4. Everything down to the ham sandwich smell is a dead ringer for the Skinceuticals version, but bear in mind that the lower pH may lead to more irritation among those with sensitive skin.

In short, opt for the Timeless to save, but if your epidermis is under a lot of stress already, the original might be a safer bet.

Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Serum + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid
To buy:
$18 (was $25);

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic
To buy:

Credit: Amazon/Nordstrom


Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair is the number one best-selling repair serum in the world, and no other serum can compete with that fact at this time. But just because something is a best-seller alone does not mean it’s the wisest investment.

MISSHA Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule closely mimics the ingredient list of its luxury counterpart, starting with its main ingredient, bifida ferment lysate. This yeast-derived product has proven anti-aging capabilities, from antioxidant benefits, to improving skin elasticity. The two twin serums also contain hyaluronic acid and skin conditioners like butylene glycol.

Similar to the Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Intensive above, the brand’s night serum actually surpasses the “original” serum it was inspired by. The Missha serum packs in more anti-aging ingredients including niacinamide, retinol, and nine additional ferments.

Missha Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule
To buy:

Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair
To buy:

Credit: Amazon/Sephora


When Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil first hit shelves, shoppers were astounded by its inflated price, citing the much lower average price of the product’s one ingredient—marula oil.

While we agree that paying $40 for half an ounce of straight marula oil is highway robbery, we can’t stress enough that not all oils are made equal. For something we’ll be applying to our faces nightly, it’s important to source a trusted provider using high-quality ingredients.

High-quality doesn't always have to mean pricey, though. This cheaper alternative by Shea Terra is wild harvested and ethically produced, and its 600+ reviewers applaud its pure, high quality oil.

Shea Terra Organics Marula Oil
To buy:
$18 (was $21);

Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil
To buy: