Counterfeit Cosmetics: Rampant, Dangerous… and Underpublicized

Published: 2015-06-20 by Marina Milojević in Health

The online-shopping revolution has led to surge in sales of counterfeit goods, while fake beauty products in particular are becoming more and more common and easily available. Unfortunately, most of us don’t know much about real dangers counterfeit beauty products pose to our health. In today’s guest post, Andrew Brodsky  sheds some light on this subject…

Guest post by Andrew Brodsky, NetNames

There’s a strong awareness of counterfeit cosmetic products in the UK and Europe, due to several high-profile cases that involved serious injury and, in one case, death. UK police have confiscated thousands of different products masquerading as popular brands of makeup. In a recent raid, over 4,700 fake versions of popular MAC products, including lip gloss, mascara, foundation and bronzer were seized.  These products have been found to contain an arsenal of toxic substances, from heavy metals like mercury, lead and copper to known poisons such as cyanide and arsenic. Though the problem has received some media attention in the U.S., on whole the public here is not as aware of the very real dangers posed by these counterfeit products.

makeup brush

What can shoppers do to avoid buying these hazardous products? In a word, consumers need to become more perceptive, especially when purchasing cosmetics online. Here are a few things to look out for:

  1. The first and most important thing to check is price. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. When shopping online, buy from a legitimate brand website rather than a marketplace such as Alibaba, Taobao or
  3. If you’re buying in a store, it’s safest to buy from the brand’s own store boutique, or from a reputable retailer. That said, even luxury department stores have unwittingly carried counterfeit products.
  4. Notice details about the packaging: do the graphics look genuine and not copied? Look for clues like poor spelling, incorrect English, the use of a non-standard logo or colors. Check to see if containers are poorly manufactured.
  5. Finally, check where your shipment is coming from. The vast majority of counterfeit products originate in China—so this should raise a red flag.4

Counterfeit cosmetics have been offered online since the beginning of ecommerce.  Any time a popular new product is launched, whether it’s an iPhone or a makeup compact, a counterfeiter will try to copy it.  Be smart, be safe, and keep your eyes open when buying cosmetics—your health could lie in the balance.

About the Author

Andrew Brodsky is Commercial Director of NetNames, a firm specializing in online brand protection and anti-counterfeiting services for global brands


Marina Milojević

Marina Milojević is a senior editor at Fragrantica. She’s been a member of the team since 2010. Marina writes for BeautyAlmanac and Luxois, ...(more)

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