Bendy Investigates: Fake Cosmetics

investigates500eBay, Amazon Marketplace, social media sites and many other online outlets are chock full of fake cosmetics and make-up accessories as well as the usual fake handbags so I thought I would do a post showing some of the most common fakes and the difference between them and the real products. I actually ordered a couple to compare personally to the real things.

Counterfeit cosmetics, unlike the handbags, can actually be quite dangerous to their end user. They have been found containing dangerous levels of lead, mercury, arsenic, copper, cadmium and even cyanide! Substances such as these can cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, swelling, rashes, acne, contact dermatitis and even chemical burns, some can cause long-term health problems. These products are especially dangerous for women who might be in the early stages of pregnancy. The counterfeit products are often produced in unsanitary conditions and Police reports have found rat droppings and even human urine in some of the products they examined. No one other than the maker has any idea what is in these products, there has been no supervision during the manufacture and of course all of the packaging is fake as well as the product inside. The box will list the ingredients for the genuine item not the item you have in your hands.

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A national alert was issued when this huge cache of fake MAC products was found entering the country last year.

The counterfeit cosmetics trade costs manufacturers more than £300million a year. It also costs our country money in the form of lost taxes and Police time spent chasing down and prosecuting those importing counterfeit items. Importantly, counterfeiting is often used to fund other more serious types of crime including terrorism. 

Any product can be faked, be it a big brand like MAC, NARS, Urban Decay, Dior or Bobbi Brown, or a cult product from a less well known brand like Too Faced, TheBalm, Ben Nye, Kat Von D or Anastasia Beverly Hills… if it’s a popular brand or product that sells well it will be copied and these copies are often quite hard for consumers to spot. Even popular brands of lash glue attract copies. If you are looking for vegan brands such as Lime Crime the copies are unlikely to have the same standards and the product could have been animal tested as well as being animal derived and you will have no way of knowing in either case. Online sellers will often present an image of the real product (usually a stock image lifted directly from the brand’s own site) on their page or listing and then send you the counterfeit item when you order. Another tactic is to make a product look more legitimate by including branding on the background to the photo they’ve taken – eg. a box or bag from the brand with the logo very clear.
The only way to stay safe and be 100% sure of getting a genuine product, especially if buying online, is to always buy only from a reputable source for example:

  • the brand’s own stand alone stores and website,
  • specialist beauty retailers eg. Sephora, Boots, Sally’s or Space NK,
  • department stores such as Debenhams and Selfridges,
  • high street chain retailers such as Superdrug, TK Maxx,
  • or anyone authorised by the brand – check the brands website for a list of stockists.

If you can’t afford the genuine article, look for dupes by lower priced high street (“drugstore”) brands. W7 for example make excellent palettes very similar to the UD Naked palettes and blushes very similar to those by Benefit, while Make-up Revolution dupe the shades from the Naked palettes in their Iconic palettes 1, 2 & 3 and the shades from the Lorac Pro palettes are duped in their Iconic Pro 1 & 2 palettes.

Spotting a Fake

  • Price, if it’s 30% or more cheaper than usual it’s probably a fake.
  • Look for incorrect spelling or poor English.
  • Non-standard logos or fonts used, the weights or sizes of fonts may be out.
  • Grainy, slanted or out-of-position printing.
  • The container may be poorly manufactured or a different colour/pattern to the genuine item. Packaging may even be totally different to the genuine item, this is common with fake UD Naked palettes.
  • Some brands have item codes stamped on the box which match the one stamped on the product inside and each item has a unique number. Do yours have codes? Do they match? This applies to Benefit and Urban Decay.
  • Do the shades have names or numbers? Does the company actually produce that shade? All MAC, Urban Decay and Benefit shades have names and never just a number. Should the names be printed onto the packaging? All genuine Naked palettes for example have the shade names printed underneath the pans.
  • Does it come with an applicator? Does the brand usually supply these? Is it of good quality? MAC for example never provide sponge applicators or brushes with any of their eye shadow palettes. Smashbox do provide brushes and the fake palettes I’ve seen are easily spotted by the brushes not matching.
  • Is everything that should be there, there? Urban Decay Naked palettes for example always come with a free sample of another product inside the box but the knock-offs never have these.
  • Does the company even make this product in the first place? Naked 5 palette, I don’t think so! NARS retractable powder brush… get out of here you faker! MAC Viva Glam Lady Gaga lipstick came in two shades not six! Naked 3 brush set? Naked 3 concealer palette? You get the picture.
  • Blogs and Instagram can be a good source of packaging photographs to compare with if you’re worried you have received a counterfeit item. Do compare a few images though just in case, copies vary by who made them so unless you know the blogger got theirs from an approved stockist you can’t be sure you’re not comparing against another ‘replica’.

Urban Decay ‘Naked’ Palettes

UD Naked palettes must be one of (if not the) most copied cosmetic products there are! The only way to be sure you’re getting a genuine palette is buy from UD online, in a flagship store or one of their department store counters. There are so many fakes in circulation and many people either can’t tell or don’t care and sell them on if they don’t like them. Fakes from different producers have different ‘tells’, when comparing against another palette make sure you 100% definitely know the provenance of the comparison palette and if comparing against another fake don’t automatically assume a palette is genuine because it differs from the known copy.  This post over at The Dixie Diaries documents the difference between a genuine and a counterfeit Naked 3 palette with many helpful photos.

MAC Lipsticks

25572322555_45b5ef066a_mAnother very popular thing to fake, the fact that there are so many fakes is actually devaluing the genuine item to the point it’s not worth selling on when being sold second hand because no one can be sure of what they are getting.
This particular fake I acquired can spotted very easily: the shade ‘Lovelorn’ isn’t a matte shade!
The box also had the name on a sticker on one end whereas every MAC lippie I’ve had from counters has had it printed on the box. The tube its self is not quite 24945600823_7345cc3bfe_mthe right shape. It’s slightly taller overall than a standard MAC and more rounded.

Other common tells on fake MAC lippies are the shape of the end of the product – MAC cut their lipstick in a particular shape to help with application and many copies are cut at a completely different angle.

Real Techniques ‘Bold Metals’ Brushes

24945132603_9797bdb9d3_zThese fake ‘Bold Metals’ brushes are everywhere online at the moment and the brush cuts are noticeably different from the real thing (especially on the 301, pictured) when they arrive. The tone of the handles are also off; the ones that should be rose gold are just a darker gold. The silver ones are darker than the genuine Real Techniques brushes. The tips of the handles are not as defined or well moulded. The packaging of the fakes looked almost identical on the front barring a few font errors but on the back it became quire obvious they were fake – very grainy and substandard image printing! Another thing regarding the packaging is that all of the genuine ‘Bold Metals’ brushes are unable to move around in the box as they have a bit of tape wrapped around the handle which is glued to the box while the fakes were just loose in the box and could move around and bash the brush head.
Obviously counterfeit brushes are not going to poison you or make you go blind as
counterfeit cosmetics possibly could and thus are less of a concern but counterfeiting takes money away from our economy (both from British businesses & brands and from the exchequer) and could well be funding organised crime both here at home and abroad.

Have any of you been caught out by sellers of fake cosmetics? Have any of you had any bad reactions to wearing counterfeit products?

One thought on “Bendy Investigates: Fake Cosmetics

  1. Great piece- i can’t believe anyone would even consider putting fake lipstick or eyeshadow on their faces! I’m all for a dupe but that’s just Crazy!

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