Skincare can be an incredibly fulfilling interest, but can be incredibly costly as well. We’re dazzled by literal promises of beauty, with even marketing language of brands geared towards commodifying beauty. You can buy your beauty in bottles, jars, and tubs. And, of course, with a hefty price tag. It’s easy to get caught up in sparkly, whimsical descriptions and packaging, so much so that we’re willing to dish out an extra $170 for an ounce of face cream (we’re looking at you, La Mer!) because we believe the beautifying effects will justify the cost.
While many expensive products do indeed contain quality ingredients and carefully crafted formulations, many are simply marked up in price to appeal to that very idea. We, too, are guilty of sometimes falling into the trap that the more expensive the product, the more quality it is by default. Reflecting upon our experiences with high-end skincare products that we adore but are sadly out of budget, we compiled a list of some amazing dupes that we carry! In comparing the high-end to the dupes, we’ve considered factors such as common ingredients, benefits, consistency, and more.
SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence vs Naruko’s La Creme Face Renewal Essence AND CosRX’s Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence
If you’re an Asian beauty lover, you know about SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence. Your mom probably uses it, your aunt probably uses it, and you’ve probably used it too! It’s practically the poster child for high-end essences, and how could it not be? This product is so popular SK-II claims it is loved by “millions of women around the world” and is sold every two seconds. It’s earned its rightful spot as a cult-favorite J-Beauty product, and for good reason! Avid users love the Pitera™-loaded essence for clearing up blemishes, evening skin tone, reducing the appearance of fine lines, and improving elasticity.
Pitera™ is SK-II’s trademarked ingredient based on galactomyces ferment filtrate, or a “yeast extract derived from a strictly controlled natural fermentation process.” Full of micronutrients, amino acids, and more, Pitera helps replenish the NMF of skin to reduce signs of aging.
Now that we’ve sung the praises of SK-II’s signature product, we must deliver some bad news: this essence will cost you anywhere from $99 to $235 depending on the size. We hear your cries! (Or maybe that’s your wallet?) No fret; for we will offer you something we think is just as good, maybe even better than SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence.
Enter Naruko’s La Creme Face Renewal Essence! It’s got the same watery texture as SK-II’s breadwinner essence, and has the exact same benefits, too!
While it may not contain Pitera™, its formula is no joke: Naruko’s anti-aging and brightening essence is a whopping 94.9% rice lees extract, a sake byproduct that is also created during the process of fermentation like SK-II’s galactomyces ferment filtrate. Rice lees extract’s high concentration of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals strengthen and plump the skin, as well as promoting cellular repair and skin brightening. And Naruko even has its own proprietary blend to go toe-to-toe with SK-II: Actuat E60 contains 60 botanical plant extracts (willow back, Job's tears, ginseng to name a few) to eliminate acne, dullness, and aging in the skin. Actuat E60 and rice lees extract form a potent essence that lives up to its “face renewal” and “miracle” claims!
At $70 for 150 mL, this essence is still considered a splurge for many. However, it’s actually less than half the price of SK-II’s 160 mL Facial Treatment Essence, which will run you a hefty $185.
If Naruko’s $70 price tag still scares you, we totally get it! There’s another dupe that we think you should consider, and it’s from our KBeauty bestie CosRX. CosRX’s Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence actually rings in as an 89% match for SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence on SkinSkool! Although the texture runs a little more viscous than the SK-II offering, it delivers the same skin tone-evening powers. The biggest point of similarity is, of course, its high concentration of galactomyces ferment filtrate. CosRX packs 95% of this essence with galactomyces ferment filtrate for maximum hydration and brightening, and adds in other legendary ingredients such as niacinamide, panthenol, and sodium hyaluronate to sweeten the deal.
At only $21 for 100 mL, CosRX’s Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence provides an affordable alternative to SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence without skimping on quality!
SK-II’s Advanced Eye Treatment Film vs Benton’s Fermentation Eye Cream
SK-II’s Advanced Eye Treatment Film carries the Pitera™ torch from the Facial Treatment Essence, making great use of galactomyces ferment filtrate’s abilities to reduce the appearance of fine lines and boost elasticity around the eye area. It plumps the skin around the eyes with hydration, helping to improve the delicate eye area with a youthful glow. This SK-II eye treatment is luxurious without being overly rich, and strikes the perfect balance between nourishing and refreshing the skin.
Unfortunately, the cost also reflects that oh-so-luxurious quality: this eye treatment can be found at $90 for 15 mL. Talk about a wallet killer!
Not to knock SK-II’s Advanced Eye Treatment Film by any means, but our heart belongs to Benton’s Fermentation Eye Cream! SkinSkool rates this eye cream an 82% dupe for the SK-II version, which is a total win in our book! You’re probably tired now of us heaping compliments upon compliments for galactomyces ferment filtrate, but we’ll say it anyway: Benton’s use of galactomyces ferment filtrate makes for an ultra-repairing, deeply-nourishing eye cream that feels just as luxurious as SK-II’s Advanced Eye Treatment Film. Although the texture differs in that Benton’s is a lightweight cream compared to SK-II’s lightweight serum, Benton offers the same lovely hydrating and smoothing benefits.
Plus, we adore that Benton adds bifida ferment lysate in addition to galactomyces ferment filtrate to really maximize the benefits of fermentation in skincare! Bifida ferment lysate is a probiotic ingredient that strengthens the skin’s microbiome to lessen environmental irritation and protect against UV ray damage. In other words, it trains the skin barrier to boost its own health! How neat is that?! Aside from fermented ingredients, this eye cream also contains ceramides, hyaluronic acid, panthenol, and adenosine to increase skin elasticity and plump up fine lines and wrinkles. At $27 for 30 mL, we think this is a pretty damn good deal!
Clinique’s Moisture Surge 100 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator vs Heimish’s Moisture Surge Gel Cream
Clinique’s Moisture Surge 100 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator (phew, what a mouthful!) is an oil-free gel cream that’s lightweight yet long-lasting. Its main functions are to plump and hydrate the skin, improving the moisture barrier to eliminate dryness and irritation. Key ingredients aloe bio-ferment and hyaluronic acid penetrate the skin’s layers for an immediate moisture boost! Clinique tweaked with the formula to take the product from 72 hours of moisture to a whopping 100 hours, which is super impressive considering its claims of retaining moisture even after facial cleansing.
This gel cream costs $79 for 125 mL, which isn’t exactly budget friendly for most. Read on for our favorite KBeauty dupe! (Spoiler alert, the name is almost exactly the same!)
Just based on the name, you might be able to guess that our pick for Clinique’s Moisture Surge 100 Hour Auto-Replenishing Hydrator dupe is none other than Heimish’s Moisture Surge Gel Cream! The names and packaging are so similar that it’s no surprise that the gel creams are also quite similar. Both have a lightweight consistency that sinks quickly into skin without any stickiness or residue, which we absolutely love! Where the Heimish moisturizer deviates from the Clinique one is its formula: although Heimish does also have aloe extract and sodium hyaluronate in comparison to Clinique’s aloe bio-ferment and hyaluronic acid, Heimish centers this gel cream around watermelon extract for hydration and anti-aging. Not to mention, Heimish throws an entire garden into its gel cream. Ingredients such as eggplant extract, japanese goldthread root extract, and chinaberry leaf extract provide major soothing and moisturizing benefits.
We would also like to give another shout out to Heimish’s Moisture Surge Gel Cream for being a Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask dupe! This KBeauty fave is such a versatile and well-rounded product, we can’t recommend it enough! At $28 for 110 mL as opposed to Clinique’s $79 for 125 mL and Glow Recipe’s $45 for 80 mL, Heimish’s Moisture Surge Gel Cream is well worth a try.
Farmacy’s Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm vs Banila Co’s Clean it Zero Cleansing Balm Original
Farmacy’s Green Clean Makeup Meltaway Cleansing Balm is a solid (no pun intended) cleansing balm that dissolves makeup and remnants of pollution off the skin with sunflower oil, ginger root oil, and moringa extract. It’s an award-winning best-seller for the brand, and has gained a great reputation among double cleansing fanatics for its effectiveness in cleansing while nourishing the skin.
This cleansing balm from Farmacy sells at $34 for 100 mL. A fair price, but our top cleansing balm pick is about half the price for the same amount...Can you guess our number one choice? Drumroll please!
Ta-da! KBeauty cult fave Banila Co Clean it Zero Cleansing Balm Original is our undisputed champion for that first crucial step in your double cleansing routine. While Farmacy’s cleansing balm attempts to include benefits such as exfoliating and evening skin tone in addition to cleaning, Banila Co’s Clean It Zero does the bare minimum in the best way possible. It gently cleans without stripping the skin, and leaves skin feeling soothed and hydrated. This is all thanks to Banila Co’s patented Zero Balance Technology™, a proprietary blend of active botanicals, hot spring water, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C that purifies skin while supporting skin health.
At $19 for 100 mL, you can be as generous as you’d like with your double cleansing routine! (Although with Banila Co, a little goes a long way since it’s so effective! A dime-sized scoop should be enough for your whole face.)