Edited to Add: Due to shady dealings by the skincare-addiction.com website owners and previous subreddit owners, I can no longer recommend the skincare-addiction.com website. I've edited this post to remove all SCA links, and have republished the Creme De La Mer Dupes post here on my own blog instead.
I've recently been asked to contribute an article (or a few articles, depending on what I feel like) to the Skincare Addiction blog, which in turn is a blog written by and for the /r/SkincareAddiction subreddit. My guest post, "Skincare Dupes and Analysis: Creme De La Mer" is up on the SkincareAddiction blog. It's got my usual ingredients analysis, and some skincare science thrown in! So my skincare geekery is hanging out on that post in full force!
My first SCA blogpost is on skincare dupes for Creme de La Mer (Image source)
When the SkincareAddiction people approached me to write a post, I readily agreed, because skincare science was right up my alley, and I always love exchanging views and interacting with such people. (Coincidentally, I had just gotten a Reddit account at the time and was a lurker on the SkincareAddiction subreddit, as well as a few other beauty-related subreddits - because I'm creative like that, my Reddit username is also musicalhouses.) They were open to whatever I wanted to write, and stylistically, their blog accommodated quite a few different writing styles. In fact, other than standardizing things like formatting, my blog post was published as-is.
For this post though, rather than just do a "go read my post! XOXOXOXO" and a link and that's it, I thought I'd explain how we can find skincare dupes through ingredients analysis. I've been getting some questions from real-life friends and acquaintances on how you can find skincare dupes (or if not dupes, similar products) through ingredients analysis and ingredients comparisons of skincare products, so I thought I'd just outline what exactly we're doing when we do ingredients analysis below. So read on if you're interested, or if not, go ahead and find out what La Mer dupes there are. (You can also view the accompanying thread on Reddit with more comments from readers and responses from yours truly.)
It might seem like a chore to look at the ingredients of a product, for all sorts of reasons - the labels are tiny and small to read, the ingredients list can look like science-y gibberish, or a person may not be sure just how to read the list, and besides, isn't the description of the product on its packaging enough for a consumer to know what they need to know about the product? And when it comes to comparing the ingredients lists of multiple products, the same problems are multiplied, too. But ingredients-based comparisons of skincare products can be really useful for a number of reasons:
1) You can make a more educated guess as to which ingredients work and don't work work for you
I'm often asked, "I tried XYZ cream and it was fine, so for the next cream I tried ABC cream because it seemed similar, but ABC cream broke me out but XYZ didn't. Why is this?" In this case, if all you changed in your skincare routine was the switch from one cream to another, then, by looking at the ingredients lists, and seeing which key ingredients are different, you can narrow down to a few key suspects that might be the ones your skin is sensitive to. Of course, this only really works if you changed your skincare regime one product at a time - if you've changed multiple products, then any of those changes could have been the culprit, and it gets harder to narrow it down. But by doing this type of ingredients analysis, you find out much more concretely what works and doesn't work for your own individual skin.
2) It helps us to more objectively evaluate whether a product will do what it says it does
To be honest, with a lot of skincare advertising, the product's bark is way louder than its bite. Part of this is the fact that skincare (and beauty products in general) is a very overcrowded market, and brands have to do what they can to stand out in a sea of competitors, but, at the end of the day, the basics of good skincare honestly aren't very different - use sunscreen, use a moisturizer to reduce TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss), don't smoke, don't drink alcohol, use products with ingredients that work, like retinols, Vitamin C, and so on. Unfortunately, because all brands essentially have access to the same pool of ingredients, contract manufacturers, suppliers, and science (although most of the major MNCs do conduct their own research), and because there are really only so many ways to formulate a lotion or a cream (I know the marketing can make you think otherwise, but basically they are all emulsions of various sorts), so in addition to product differentiation, marketing is also a critical factor in whether a product can generate sales or not. This unfortunately results in a lot of hyperbole and misleading advertising that may fool the consumer, and ultimately, can lead to a lot of wasted money, time and effort. So, a knowledge of skincare science and an ability to evaluate the product by analysing its ingredients can help you separate the genuinely great products from those that are just propelled by marketing hype, and can save money by only spending on products that work. I know for me, this has definitely been a major reason why I am so into my ingredients geekery!
3) You can identify similar products that will function the same way on your skin
The last one is what I am trying to do via the guest post. Sometimes, we may hear about or try a product that is good, but we may not want or be able to buy that exact product, for a variety of reasons - it could be unavailable in the local region, it could be too pricey, it could be discontinued, and so on. And finding a replacement, or a dupe or a similar product, can be difficult if you aren't able to identify how the product works, and what are its key ingredients - if you just buy products at random because they are packaged or marketed similarly, then you are pretty much taking potshots in the dark. This is where ingredients analysis can really help a lot.
By identifying what are the active ingredients in the product, we can understand how the product works, and how it is formulated. And by identifying other products with similar formulations, we can have a good sense for which products will work similarly on the skin. It doesn't necessarily give you exact dupes for a product, so if you are asking, "Will this product work and behave and feel exactly the same way on my skin?" then the answer is, not necessarily, because the product could have a different texture or scent or colour (and as consumers we are extremely susceptible to such cues - a simple change in scent or color or opacity of the product can dramatically change how we perceive the product's effectiveness). But it does identify products that, from the point of view of functioning effectively as skincare, will function in pretty much the same way. So if your question is, "Will this product have the same effect on my skin and function the same way?" Then the answer is, quite likely, because the key ingredients that give the product its skincare benefit are found in similar alternatives.
While this method may not totally satisfy people who want exactly the same product 100% down to the texture or skinfeel or other aesthetic properties of the product, it does help people who just want the same skincare benefits from that product, and aren't as concerned about getting exactly the same aesthetic properties.
So I hope that answers questions about why I do my ingredients geekery, and I hope it helps to elucidate some of the benefits of doing ingredients analysis. And, if you haven't yet, do read my guest post on dupes for La Mer's Creme de La Mer as a case study of my ingredients analysis in action (it's just as great as the the ingredients analysis posts on my own blog too)!