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  • Writer's pictureJord

ARE PERFUME DUPES ETHICAL?


In the world of fragrance, the allure of finding a scent that speaks to our individuality is undeniable. However, with the rise of perfume dupes, a contentious debate has emerged within the fragrance community regarding the ethics of duplication. This article will explore both sides of the perfume dupes debate.

 

What Are Perfume Dupes?

Perfume dupes are fragrances designed to mimic the scent of popular scents at a cheaper retail price. Perfume dupes can be found in retail brand perfumes, startup brands and indie perfumers online, even bespoke perfume design services.

 



A Recent History of Perfume Dupes

Perfume dupes have been a longstanding practice but TikTok and Instagram have contributed to a rapid growth in the industry over the past few years.


This has stoked fears and resentments from industry professionals around the practice and profit of perfumery.


Perfume dupe fans and influencers have pushed back, accusing the industry of gatekeeping and hypocrisy.

 

Why do People Wear Perfume Dupes?

Perfume is an emotional, cultural and practical experience. These same considerations apply to perfume dupes:

 

Financial Reasons

With so many perfumes on the market, perfume discovery can be an expensive hobby. The most desirable brands are luxury scents that most cannot afford.

 

When buying online, customers don’t know if they’ll even like what they buy and returns can be difficult. Couriers restrict perfume shipping so certain brands won’t ship internationally without prohibitive expense.

 

Perfume dupes allow consumers to experience brands by proxy. This allows fairer access to the perfume conversation on forums and socials, and informed purchase behaviour should a consumer buy the real thing.

 

Inclusivity

For some, perfume dupes are a rejection of capitalistic shame in favour of internal and communal affirmation. Many perfume brands project a luxury image, excluding certain demographics and social groups by design.

 

The key emotional drivers for many luxury brand sales are aspiration, FOMO and shame (generally by focusing on youth, wealth, thinness and whiteness).

 

For audiences who can’t attain this image, this creates an unfair standard which can cause resentment. A key argument against the criticism of dupes online is that the core audience for perfume dupes were never considered by brands as a desirable customer base.

 

Dietary, Safety & Cultural Reasons

Perfume dupes can achieve similar smells with a different set of ingredients and perfume bases.

 

Perfume dupes may be preferred by vegan perfume fans outside the UK, in protest of animal testing practices used by many perfume brands. For those with ingredient allergies, a dupe may present a way to experience a perfume without a dangerous allergic reaction.

 

Perfume can be an important cultural and religious practice. For example, Islam recommends the use of perfume in prayer. In Islam, wudhu is a purification ritual performed before prayer. Some scholars consider alcohol-based perfumes to be naajis (ritually impure). For this reason, Muslims who use perfume in prayer may prefer a water based perfume.

 

Logistical Reasons

Perfume compliance can force brands to change or discontinue formulations for safety reasons. Unfortunately, this can impact longtime users of a given scent. It can also erase the legacy of influential and important perfumes.

 

Perfume dupes can allow fumeheads to experience perfumes they have a deep connection to more safely. It can also help preserve the legacy of perfume history in the newer generations.

 

Why Are Perfume Dupes Controversial?

Perfume dupes are a growing market that is going mainstream, but ethical and practical concerns are growing with the industry. Some of these include:

 

Ingredient Quality, Safety & Transparency

A perfume’s recipe has intellectual protection, not its smell. Legally, you can make identical smells with a different set of ingredients.

 

Many perfume dupes are cosmetically compliant but some illegal perfumes masquerade as dupes with little to challenge their product claims. For example, a perfume dupe could claim to be vegan and simply lie or obscure ingredient details, or lack the vetting procedure to ensure the perfume is vegan.

 

Some illegal perfumes can contain banned or restricted ingredients in dangerous quantities. This can lead to complications ranging from skin irritation to poisoning and cancer risk.

 

It’s very easy to make an impulse buy online without vetting the seller. Certain regions, like the US, don’t require safety testing before being sold to the public.

 

Lack of Compensation and Credit for Perfumers

Trademarking actual smells is unenforceable due to the different ways we perceive perfume, and would gut the indie market if passed.

 

To some perfume brands, this is still a slap in the face given the time and money to design and market perfume. Perfume dupes profit from their labour while also threatening their business model.

 

Customers can simply choose a similar product for a cheaper price, increasing marketing costs. This can harm a brand’s perceived value and add friction to the customer relationship when fans buy the real thing.

 

Some brands make and fans are known to wear dupes while mocking the original brand. This is disrespectful to the brands that keep dupe makers in business, and hypocritical to the original perfume’s merit that caused a customer to buy a dupe.


 

Potential for Child Labour and Modern Slavery

Perfume dupes are cheap because they’re cheap to produce. This is easy for independents. At scale this will include exploitative labour practices.

 

Whispers of forced labour already surround the perfume industry, and may be more tempting for dupe companies operating on a lower profit margin.

 

Child labour and modern slavery may be used to keep up with product demand while driving down costs. At further extremes, this could include abuse and human trafficking.

 

Fast Fragrance & Perfume Pollution

Perfume dupes have the potential to greatly increase perfume discourse and discovery. However, this may also contribute to a breakdown in customer loyalty and a rise in perfume waste.

 

Like traditional perfumes, perfume dupes can pollute our soil and waterways, while contributing to the waste in our landfills. Perfume dupes, and the wider perfume industry, need to pay attention to sustainability and responsible disposal.

 

Should You Wear Perfume Dupes?

Listen to your own moral compass and the health of your bank account. There are many opinions out there, and the threat of shaming if yours is wrong, but your perfume discovery journey has to ultimately work for you.

 

If you do decide to buy a perfume dupe, here are some factors to consider and why you shouldn’t give up on original perfume designers completely.

 

Questions to Ask About Your Seller

·          Do I trust this seller? Who is the owner? What do their website and company records say?

·          Does the seller have a transparent list of ingredients? Have I read and checked the ingredients list?

·          What are people saying about this dupe brand in the comments, forums, reviews and subreddits (cyber shills)?

·          If in the UK or EU, can my dupe seller provide a CPSR (Cosmetic Product Safety Report)?

 

Wearing Your Dupe Safely

·          Try a patch test before sustained use.

·          Be mindful of children and pets.

·          When using your dupe, pay attention to irritation or whether you feel unwell.

·          Notify your doctor and schedule quarterly checkups.

 

Wearing Original Brands for Less Money

·          Scent necklaces provide slow scent release. You can also experiment with other diffusion techniques.

·          Perfume powder can get more volume from your perfume with less scent.

·          Dilute your last drops with water or another carrier fluid.

·          Scent your home to make your scent last longer.

 

Continue to Support OG Perfumers

Perfume dupes wouldn’t exist without the perfumers and employees working hard to stir your nose and brighten your day. Whether or not you think dupes are ethical, whether or not they work for you, please continue to support perfume’s original creators where you can.


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