E.L.F. is dominating makeup and skincare with affordable dupes


Okay, I know from the weekly Amazon posts that there are a lot of E.L.F. makeup fans here. Y’all even made me a convert over the summer, and now I love their hydrating line (the blue one). This will probably not be a surprise to anyone, but it turns out that we’re not alone in our E.L.F. love. According to beauty influencers, talking about the brand is a guaranteed viral success. People on social media love E.L.F.’s quality, especially how they are able to duplicate (“dupe”) some of the more high-end makeup lines’ products and make them affordable to the everyday consumer.

Mikayla Nogueira says there’s no predicting whether one of her daily makeup videos will go viral — unless it involves E.L.F. The brand that got its start hawking $1 eye shadows is so revered among the beauty influencer’s 15.2 million TikTok followers that they routinely steer conversations back to E.L.F. no matter the day’s topic. Her takes on such prestige brands as Patrick Ta or Dior are peppered with comments like “Watch E.L.F. dupe it,” or “I’ll wait for E.L.F.”

“The fan base, the cult following that E.L.F. has is so strong,” she says.

The Oakland, Calif.- based company dominates a slice of the beauty industry rewarded for imitation: Dupes — short for duplicates — are makeup and skin care products that are near-replicas of higher-end lines but at a fraction of the price. Analysts say E.L.F.’s ability to capitalize on social media experimentation, supply-chain efficiency and multigenerational appeal have made it the beauty brand of the moment.

“We have a great deal of respect for all of our competitors; we think there’s incredible areas of inspiration,” said Tarang Amin, chief executive of E.L.F. Beauty, which saw its net sales surge 76 percent last quarter and its shares soar more than 160 percent in 2023.

Companies such as E.L.F., Essence and NYX have flourished as beauty influencers — particularly on TikTok and YouTube — raised their profiles, and as entrenched inflation made many consumers reassess their spending. At $6, Essence’s Hello, Good Stuff! Glow Serum Primer has become a popular alternative to a $35 offering by Glow Recipe. Maybelline makes a lip gloss routinely compared to Urban Decay’s $27 Vice Lip Bond for roughly half the price, and E.L.F. has an $8 dupe for Dior’s $40 Addict Lip Glow Oil.

Founded in 2004 by Scott-Vincent Borba and father and son Alan Shamah and Joey Shamah, E.L.F. (an acronym for eyes, lips, face) initially dumbfounded the industry with its strategy of selling mascara, eye shadow and lip gloss for $1 online. The brand soon found its way into drugstores, supermarkets, Target and Ulta. By the time equity investment firm TPG Growth acquired a majority stake in 2014, the company had reached $100 million in sales, Amin said. Last year, it had more than five times that in sales.

The $112 billion beauty industry, which includes skin care, cosmetics, perfume and hair care, has endured even as consumer spending overall has softened. It was one of the highest-performing categories over the five-day kickoff — Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday — to the holiday shopping season, according to Phil Rist, the executive vice president of strategy at Prosper Insights and Analytics. Mass market beauty sales jumped 8 percent year over year, while prestige brands swelled 14 percent, according to Circana.

“Beauty is a very emotional market, making it much more resilient to economic turmoil,” said Delphine Horvath, a cosmetics and fragrance marketing professor at Fashion Institute of Technology. “As inflation worries persist … consumers are looking for good value brands at affordable prices.”

[From WaPo]

None of this surprises me. They are preaching to the choir over here. Does this make me an Elfie, because put that E.L.F. on my shelf! (#MomJoke) I don’t wear makeup every time I leave my house, but I do like doing a beauty routine that makes my skin feel good, and therefore, makes me feel good about myself. It can get expensive, though. I have never minded using something that costs more if it works, but I don’t want to pay for something that I can’t sample beforehand to know how my sensitive skin will react. Word of mouth is still really important and I have enjoyed all of the E.L.F. products I’ve tried (which also includes their putty primer, that I bought in a pinch at a Walgreens while traveling because I had left my larger, hydrating primer at home by accident). Because I’m not on TikTok, the whole “dupe” world is still somewhat new to me, but I’ve been reading up and am excited to try some new things. I’m really grateful that companies like this one exist to help bridge the price gap, and I’m always open to suggestions on what “dupes” to try.

The Best E.L.F Dupes
From CB: I went through E.L.F.’s Amazon storefront and they have so many great dupes! I’m sure I’m missing some but here are a few I got from The Chirpyest.

– A dewy highlighter that’s a dupe for Charlotte Tilbury’s $50 Flawless Filter
I use e.l.f.’s Halo Glow and it’s such a game changer! I had a woman compliment me and ask what I use and when I said e.l.f. she was like “really that’s elf?” At under $14 it’s a bargain.

– A $6 brightening wand that’s so much more affordable that YSL’s Touche Eclat
e.l.f. Flawless Brightening Concealer is said to be great at achieving ‘no-makeup’ flawless looks. Reviewers say it’s not cakey and has great coverage.

– A Supergoop sunblock dupe that’s half the price
I use Supergoop sunblock and primer but it’s almost $30. This version is just $14!

– A $7 concealer that’s a dupe for Tarte’s ultra creamy at over $30
People say this concealer is so great at hiding tired eyes and covering blemishes and dark spots.

– A primer that’s a dupe for Milk’s Hydro grip
Milk’s Hydro Grip primer is $38 but e.l.f.’s Power Grip Primer with niacinamide is just $10. People say it makes their makeup last all day and that they get compliments on their skin.

– A contouring beauty wand that’s a dupe for Charlotte Tilbury’s glow wand
e.l.f.’s Halo Glow Contour Beauty Wand is just $9 and at that price you’ll want it for both highlighting and contouring. The photos convinced me!

– An $11 cleansing balm that’s a dupe for Clinique’s $51 version
I use e.l.f.’s Holy Hydration cleanser which is crazy affordable at $6. Their cleansing balm is also a bargain at just $11 and it’s formulated with hyaluronic acid.

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