WARNING: The Toxic Trade in Fake Makeup

Counterfeiting is now one of the fastest growing crimes in the modern world, accounting for an estimated 7% of the world’s trade, the industry is conservatively estimated to be worth a cool £500 billion.

Whilst we have all heard about the influx of dangerous fake apple chargers, and noticed the occasional pair of knock-off trainers & tracksuits, it is easy to feel far removed from this multi-billion pound scam, something we can’t afford to do. In no small part thanks to the internet, counterfeiting is no longer the traditional black market it was once restricted to. Armed with an online platform, highly sophisticated crime syndicates behind counterfeiting have begun to target consumers of the lucrative multi billion pound worldwide cosmetic market.

Why is this a big problem?

Aside from sub-standard performance, a sample of counterfeit of makeup tested, which contained well-known brands such as MAC & Benefit, have been found to contain unsafe levels of a number of toxic substances including arsenic, lead, mercury, copper and cadmium.

Fake Mac

Exposure to the above toxic substances has been linked to a number of symptoms, from nasty allergic reactions, high blood pressure, concentration problems, fertility problems and even cancer.

Decades of progress and research into safe cosmetics have been undone by this black market and unwittingly; consumers are using the same dangerous products that were used hundreds & thousands of years ago. Most at risk of the side effects from counterfeit makeup are pregnant people, with the ingredients in a lot of makeup being proven to harm an unborn baby.

How to spot counterfeit goods?

  • A sharp eye and common sense will serve you well with the identification of counterfeit goods; some sites examined offered products at up to 90% of RRP. An odd price is a key indicator of fake goods; remember a seller will only sell at a price in which they will make a profit.
  • Examine the seller’s feedback; if feedback is negative & the seller’s listings are duplicated, there is a probability that they are selling fake goods.
  • If the seller has included pictures of the products, compare them to the listed photographs from a reputable seller’s website, such as a department store. It’s likely that small details may be incorrect and the packaging may be substandard. It’s also worthwhile looking for serial/batch numbers as proof of authenticity.
  • Worryingly, purchasers of fake goods have reported their makeup having a ‘strange chemical smell’

The mantra here is ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is’