Fake Cosmetics and their Health Risks

Counterfeit cosmetics, such as make-up and hairstyling products, are being sold online and in pop-up shops throughout the United States.  They are often disguised as designer name brands and fool thousands of shoppers each year who believe they are buying legitimate cosmetic products.  In addition to being counterfeit, they contain dangerous bacteria, lead, beryllium, and other harmful substances that pose health risks.

Counterfeit fragrances have been found to contain DEHP which the Environmental Protection Agency has classified as a probable human carcinogen.  Some have been found to possess levels of urine. Other counterfeit products contain chemicals that have been known to cause cancer, acne, eczema and other health issues when absorbed by the skin.

Signs of fake cosmetics:

  • Prices that are discounted by a third or more are highly suspicious.  Counterfeit products are cheaper to make and can be sold at a low price while still making a profit.
  • The price for a name brand product is very expensive even though it is made in China.  Many of the more expensive name brand products are made in Europe or the United States.
  • The product is sold at a flea market or other unauthorized seller.  Genuine manufacturers tend to carefully control who can sell their products.
  • The product smells different than it should or is packaged slightly different from the authentic brand.
  • “Limited Edition” advertisements even though the manufacturer does not offer the product as a limited edition.

How to avoid fake cosmetics:

  • Research the online retailer or seller that you plan to purchase from.  Look for blogs, forums, or reviews and see if there are any warnings from past customers.
  • Buy products directly from name brand stores.
  • If you are unsure if a product is authentic, don’t buy it.
  • Ask sellers directly if they are selling genuine products and if they can provide proof. 

If you suspect someone is selling fake cosmetics, please submit a tip to the National Intellectual Property Rights Center at http://www.iprcenter.gov/referral.