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How to get duty-free luxe on a high-street budget

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of beauty shopping at duty free but, if you aren’t going anywhere near an airport, there are high-street products that are just as exciting, says Daisy Buchanan

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By Daisy Buchanan on

Anaïs Nin wrote: “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” I travel to seek a different face. My favourite moment of a holiday is the point when my suitcase has been sucked into the black hole behind the conveyor belt, and I’m standing shoeless, holding a tiny see-through bag containing nothing but a single, sticky old lipbalm, ready to run to duty free, where I can reinvent myself and my make-up bag. We tell ourselves that duty free is the best place to stock up on big-name beauty bargains, but I think the truth is more nebulous and spiritual than that. On holiday, we can pretend to be smoother, sleeker and more expensive. We’re the sort of person who spends 30 quid on foundation – not the sort of person who has been using a tube of tinted moisturiser that was free with a magazine two years ago, because they’ve been waiting to replace the foundation from their last duty-free trip.

Obviously, not all holidays start at the airport, but that doesn’t mean staycationers have to miss out on the duty-free magic. If you’re not going far this summer, you can recreate the duty-free dream make-up bag with this collection of cheaper dupe products – and have even more money left over for pink wine and ice cream.

The concealer 

Touche Éclat has many rivals and imitators, from the similarly spenny to the supermarket versions, but I truly believe the original is best. It’s Tippex for the face, and it comes in 12 shades. Purists only use it as an under-eye concealer, but I’ve stuck it on spots and used it to even out a patch of rosacea on the side of my face. I’m pretty sure that if I clicked the bottom part of the pen even harder, I could use it to obscure the worst parts of my personality, and brush over my laziness and tendency to accuse my husband of stealing the remote when I’m sitting on it. Maybelline Lumi Touch isn’t quite a perfect copy, but it comes very close. It doesn’t quite give me the teenage, code-red spot cover I need, but it will smooth out a rough patch, and its highlighting properties are magical. It makes you look like you’re sitting under a chandelier when you’re stuck under train-station strip lighting.

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The body wash 

Let’s be real – even the most haute hotel can be a bit disappointing in the bath-product department, and even if the stuff is swanky, it’s sample-sized. When I’m on holiday, I want to bathe for hours at a time, with a book and a big gin, and come out smelling like a luxury garden. With careful planning, I can avoid disappointment by dropping dollar on some delicious Molton Brown, and my holiday baths are of the quality and quantity I require. Pink Pepperpod smells like an Instagram star’s sponsored trip to Morocco – sweet, spicy and expensive. Soaper Duper’s shower gel doesn’t look quite as fancy – it’s the most whimsical thing I’ve had in my bathroom since I used Matey – but it feels and smells just as lovely. The ginger one boasts a similar soft, exotic spiciness to the Molton Brown, and I’m in love with the Fruity Green Tuberose, which makes me feel like I’m showering in a rainforest. 

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The serum

Estée Lauder Advanced Repair serum is not cheap – it’s one of the most expensive things I’ve used on my face. But when I’m feeling flush, it’s the product I invest in. It transforms my face, making it plumper, yet more defined and even. Imagine taking a shirt, rolling it into a ball, pushing it into the bottom of a laundry basket – and then instantly taking out every crease with an industrial Kärcher steam cleaner. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid is a much simpler proposition, but it’s almost as effective – and probably a little less intense, for younger skins. 

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The lipstick

A Tom Ford lipstick is like a lobster, a diamond ring or the loan of a yacht with an open bar – totally unnecessary to our survival as a species, but fundamentally life-enhancing all the same. The weight of it feels good in your palm, the lid has a clunk and a click that induces pure somatosensory release, and the colours give a greater sense of power and freedom than full diplomatic immunity. For day-to-day sassiness, you could do much worse than Rimmel The Only One – the pigmentation isn’t quite as good, but it feels smooth and soft, and it has serious staying power. 

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The primer

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who believe in peace, love and the natural beauty that pours forth from a face adorned with nothing but a slick of tinted lip gloss; and then there are people like me, who want to wear their foundation like a ski mask, and care more about coverage than a copywriter at a mobile-phone company. If you’re the former, ENJOY YOUR SKIN AND LIFE, I HATE YOU! If you’re the latter, you need a Smashbox primer, which is like hiring an expert sander and plasterer before you paint a house, but for your face. ELF Mineral Primer is, I find, slightly kinder to oily skins than flaky ones, and it feels a little stickier than Smashbox’s gel formula. But it will make you look poreless, and almost flawless, for about a third of the price.

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Tagged in:
beauty honestly
beauty advice
Daisy Buchanan

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