Counterfeits are not just for handbags. “Duped” cosmetics or skincare are cheaper versions of another product that either works just as well or offers similar results to a consumer. Dupes are not counterfeit products because they do not purport to be made by another company; they are simply affordable alternatives to products. But counterfeit cosmetics and skincare products are illegal and it’s a growing industry around the world. Not only do they have the same harmful effects as counterfeit handbags, such as funding terrorism and sex trafficking, but they can also have harmful personal effects to its users.
In America, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) regulates cosmetic safety, including its labeling, so all cosmetics sold in the United States must adhere to the regulations set out by the FDA.* Counterfeits, however, may purport to contain legal ingredients, but may actually be made up of toxic chemicals, only uncovered after negative and sometimes harsh reactions. Specifically, the U.K.’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit tested claimed fake cosmetics and skincare products and found traces of arsenic, mercury, and even urine in the counterfeit products.
In addition, even if the ingredients don’t involve toxic chemicals that produce physical reactions, they may be made in disgusting or unsanitary conditions (remember the Racked article showing sheet masks folded without gloves in unsanitary homes?). These products need not be purchased only from sketchy street vendors, as websites like eBay and Amazon have been in hot water for selling third-party counterfeit cosmetics and skincare products.
One of the most copied cosmetic companies is M.A.C. cosmetics, owned by the Estée Lauder Companies, who employs several individuals to specifically investigate counterfeit products in the market. It’s much harder to spot counterfeit makeup products because of their inherently cheaper cost as compared to designer bags. So what can you do? Buying straight from the source will always be the safest. A lot of brands will also post authorized retailers on their websites, and some (such as Peter Thomas Roth) may even post specific unauthorized retailers. You can also use websites such as Regimen Pro to ensure you are purchased authentic products, since the product ships straight from the manufacturer. While we’re all in search of a good deal, be weary – there’s more at stake in counterfeit cosmetics than your friends calling you out for owning a “fake.”
*The FDA actually does little to regulate cosmetics, I've learned while researching for my Capstone Thesis paper, so stay tuned for many more articles discussing what the FDA does/doesn't do in that field.