Punkmarkgirl is a freelance writer with a passion for DIY projects, natural health, and makeup featuring the best products for oily skin.
Thanks to ELF's Cyber Monday sale, I finally embarked on testing a bunch of their makeup. Hoping to find some quality dupes with this uber-inexpensive brand, I discovered that ELF has quite high-quality makeup. Some products are better than others, so I decided to do a comparison of ELF cosmetics to some of my favorite high-end brands.
Several items from my purchase quickly found a home in my daily makeup arsenal, replacing their more expensive counterparts. Here’s a run-down of which ones were successful dupes, and which were not up to the task.
Dupes for High-End and Brand Name Makeup Products
- ELF Studio HD Blush in Superstar ($3) vs. Illuminare Ultimate All-Day Blush in Florentine Fair ($18)
- ELF Essential All Over Color Stick in Persimmon ($1) vs. Benefit High Beam ($26)
- ELF All Over Cover Stick in Apricot Beige ($1) vs. Cover Girl Invisible Concealer in Fair ($7)
- ELF Studio Eyebrow Treat & Tame in Deep ($3) vs. Bobbi Brown Natural Brow Shaper Mascara ($22)
- ELF Studio High Definition Powder in Translucent ($6) vs. Mattify Ultra Powder for Oily Skin($13)
- ELF Studio Contouring Blush & Bronzer Cream ($3) vs. Too Faced Aqua Bunny Cream to Powder Bronzer ($29)
- ELF Essential Waterproof Eyeliner Pen ($2) vs. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner Pen ($20)
1. ELF Studio HD Blush in Superstar ($3) vs. Illuminare Ultimate All-Day Blush in Florentine Fair ($18)
Both of these blushes are in cream form, and go on with a smooth, velvety feel. The ELF blush is highly pigmented, so you don’t need much to create rosy cheeks! The Illuminaire blush is much lighter in color and requires two layers if you want extra pigment. They both stayed put and color-true for more than seven hours without fading.
The main difference is that Illuminare’s product is made from 100% natural minerals, and is slightly more water resistant. But for the price, I’ll be saving the Illuminare for special occasions and using the ELF brand daily!
Winner: ELF HD Blush
Total Savings: $15
2. ELF Essential All Over Color Stick in Persimmon ($1) vs. Benefit High Beam ($26)
This is almost an exact dupe for High Beam. I was very impressed! As an avid user of Benefit's High Beam for a few years, I’m thrilled to have found an inexpensive replacement. Although I have very oily skin, neither one of these highlighters make me look oilier. They both add a gorgeous shimmer to key spots, like the center of nose, forehead, chin, and above my cupid’s bow. I really like using the ELF Stick on my collarbone too.
The main difference is the method of application. High Beam is a liquid, and comes in a nail-polish style container, with a little brush. The ELF Color Stick is a solid twist-up. It works best when applied with finger tips or a concealer brush. For the price, I will probably never go back to Benefit again, because the Color Stick does the exact same thing for less than I paid in sales tax for the High Beam!
Winner: ELF Stick Highlighter Color Stick
Total Savings: $25
3. ELF All Over Cover Stick in Apricot Beige ($1) vs. Cover Girl Invisible Concealer in Fair ($7)
Seriously, the ELF Cover Stick is only one dollar?! This might be one of the best cosmetics I’ve ever purchased. It amazing for brightening up the entire area around my eyes and hides dark circles like no other. I also use it as a highlight stick (on center of nose, forehead, and above cupid’s bow) before applying the All Over Color Stick in Persimmon.
Cover Girl’s Invisible Concealer, which I’ve used for the past 10 years, does pretty much the same thing, but at a more expensive price. If you are looking for super targeted application or a purse-sized item, go with Cover Girl, because it has a small doe-foot style applicator. But I do just fine using the ELF Stick on either my finger tips or a concealer brush.
Winner: ELF Cover Stick Concealer
Total Savings: $6
4. ELF Studio Eyebrow Treat & Tame in Deep ($3) vs. Bobbi Brown Natural Brow Shaper Mascara ($22)
I love the idea of being able to brush on eyebrow color, rather than drawing it with a pencil. The brow mascara looks much more natural, and helps brows look fuller with just a few swipes.
These two products are very close to the same, and were both long-lasting. The reason I’m trading in my Bobbi Brown Brow Shaper for the ELF is this: ELF’s version has a better brush and a less “gloppy” formula. It also comes in a color that better suits my brows. Even the darkest shade in the BB version was still a bit too light for me. Oh, and also the price! For the huge price difference, I really can’t discern a difference between these two items. I had to resort to the expensive Bobbi Brown brand after my favorite Maybelline Brow Mascara was discontinued two years ago, and am so happy to have found an inexpensive replacement that works just as well!
Winnow: ELF Eyebrow Color
Total Savings: $19
5. ELF Studio High Definition Powder in Translucent ($6) vs. Mattify Ultra Powder for Oily Skin($13)
Immediately after application, the finish looked almost identical between both products. But, the ELF HD Powder was not up to the task of handling my oily skin. After less than an hour, I was a total grease-ball.
I touched up with the ELF HD, but after the oil reared its ugly head, my face never felt oil-free for the rest of the day. This powder is probably better for someone with dry skin. I use the Mattify Ultra Powder every single day, and can go about three hours before re-applying. Sometimes, I use an oil-blotter sheet first, but other times, I just apply more powder. Either way, it works beautifully at keeping my face matte without adding any color. With the ELF powder, touch-ups were pretty much useless, as the oil just poked through very quickly. It also left a whitish cast on my skin.
Winner: Mattify ULTRA Powder for Oily Skin
Total Savings: -$7
6. ELF Studio Contouring Blush & Bronzer Cream ($3) vs. Too Faced Aqua Bunny Cream to Powder Bronzer ($29)
It’s been difficult for me to find a bronzer that’s dark enough to make a contrast against my already semi-tan skin, but both of these work wonderfully. They are perfect for contouring and make a huge difference in how slim my face and nose look.
The main difference between the two is this: The ELF is a cream product, but the Too Faced Aqua Bunny starts out feeling creamy and turns to powder. My oily skin loves powder! So the Too Faced does last a bit longer on my skin.
I am basing the “winner” on how frequently I am going to use the product, though. For everyday wear, the ELF works just fine. For super-long wear or swimming, I would select the Too Faced. With the price tag of only $3, I can’t afford not to use the ELF for daily wear!
Total Savings: $26
7. ELF Essential Waterproof Eyeliner Pen ($2) vs. Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Liner Pen ($20)
I absolutely love winged liner and cat-eye looks, so naturally a liner pen is my product of choice! My eyes are almond shaped and turn down at the corners, which makes me look sleepy if I don’t take time to draw a wing of liner that angles upwards.
Seeing as how this is my everyday look (which must survive eight hours at the office an an occasional trip to the gym), I need a long-lasting smudge-proof liner. I'm sad to say that the ELF pen didn’t quite survive six hours before the smudging began. It doesn’t help that my skin is crazy oily, which makes eye makeup practically disintegrate. So, for someone with dry skin, the ELF pen might work. For me, not so much.
The Stila liner lasts for 10+ hours, and still looks the same, even after working out. (When I have a bit more time to apply liner, I use the Wet n Wild H2O Proof, which lasts just as long as the Stila Pen and only costs $4.) But back to the two products at hand. Stila’s product far outlasted ELF in this battle of the liners.
Winner: Stila Waterproof Eye Liner
Total Savings: -$18
It's Shopping Time!
Guess how much money you will save by purchasing the ELF dupes of these high-end makeup brands? It came down to a total savings of $66.
Not bad! I’ll take an extra 66 bucks in my pocket any day...so I can buy more makeup, of course!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Ashley Bergin
GRJ on March 21, 2019:
Does elf have a match for nc45 and dark mineralize 77
Carol Hastings on December 17, 2018:
Does ELF have a substitute for the Boomstick "Glimmer" (eye shadow in a stick form)?
Jen on December 16, 2015:
Sadly the stores close to me don't carry the full line of elf products, but what they do have available, my daughter and I love to try and play around with! Some really great products, and some not so great, but for the price - I ain't complaining ;) could be losing alot more money if it were high end! Like the makeup forever hd foundation that is like slime over primer or moisturizer, and just sits on the skin without even trying to cover pores or anything (like makeup should!) when put over dry skin. That stuff is trash! Just wish I hadn't spent the cash!
Maya Smith from London on July 22, 2015:
I have tried several E.L.F products and so far it's been a hit and miss for me - some work wonders and some I just don't get what's all the hype about. Thanks for your honest reviews and comparison.
Jasmeet Kaur from India on February 05, 2015:
very informative and helpful for me!! I always look for ELF products on ebay. This brand is not available in India. SO we need to buy it from ebay only. After reading your article, I am surely going to buy some elf makeup ;)
jai on January 14, 2015:
elle444 on March 24, 2014:
Great hub! The direct comparison of similar products is exactly what people like me want to know! I'm always looking for better makeup products -- and who doesn't want to save money? I use ELF products myself -- it was cool to read about your experience with the brand!