Fake cosmetics: Buying them could ruin your face — or kill you

The best makeup in the market today are usually expensive, so what do people turn to when they don't have a budget? Fake cosmetics.

Fake fashion products have been with us since designer brands. They’re usually harmless, but when it comes to fake cosmetics, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Fake cosmetics are dangerous.

You can see the magnitude of the counterfeit trade in places like Divisoria. In some places devoted to makeup, you can see numerous stalls selling counterfeit versions of MAC, Kylie Lip Kits, L’Oreal, Anastasia, and Urban Decay. And those are just the popular brands.

Why people buy fake cosmetics

According to the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), 63.2% of counterfeit items accounted for originate from China. Apart from the health hazards brought about by fake makeup, sales made by fake cosmetics go to organized crime.

The counterfeit trade has been valued at $461 billion in 2013. Among the top 30 items to be counterfeited are makeup by MAC. 

What makes them so tempting to buy is the knock-off price: it can go down to 90% cheaper than the genuine version. A fake MAC foundation there can cost P100-P200 (and you can haggle), compared to the P1,900 price tag of the real deal. You can buy a fake Urban Decay Naked Palette for P200-P300 in 168 Shopping Mall, but the genuine article costs P2,500.

The price for fake cosmetics depends on the location and number of items you buy. For example, if it can go down to 90% in Divisoria, it can go 20-50% cheaper in upscale bazaars and online shops.  

“Branded makeup can be expensive for the average person’s budget,” said makeup artist Bambi Dela Cruz. “But people think they’re getting something similar by buying fakes.”

Reason for fake cosmetics

Some fake resellers go as far as telling customers their products are “Class A” fakes or “Singapore/Hong Kong” authentic, which is not only insulting to the country but also insulting to the customer’s intelligence.

“The reason you’re not getting that foundation for a hundred [pesos] is that the company selling it has to account for overhead costs,” Liz Lanuzo wrote in projectvanity.com.

“Most importantly, the cost of the product includes being certified as safe to use and sell by the requisite governing bodies. There are necessary permits that need to be obtained before it can be released in the market, and this is why your 1,000-peso foundation is not causing your face to break out in nasty hives.”

It makes sense that people buy fake cosmetics because many of the most desirable makeup brands like Kylie Cosmetics and Urban Decay are not officially distributed here in the Philippines. 

Health hazards, fake cosmetics

“The cost of the health risks that come with purchasing fake makeup is never worth the money saved,” said Gay Lao, Brand General Manager of MAC Cosmetics Philippines.

MAC’s global team tested counterfeit versions of their makeup and found traces of carcinogens, rat waste, and human waste in them.

Even the US Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted their own investigation into counterfeit cosmetics and found a range of components harmful to humans. They found traces of lead, copper, mercury, aluminum, bacteria, and carcinogens like arsenic, beryllium, and cadmium.

“I’ve encountered cases of contact dermatitis on the lips of my patients after they used cheap lip products they found in bazaars and online stores,” said Dr. Emy Christine Onishi, M.D. Diplomate from the Philippine Dermatological Society.

If you’ve ever contracted an infection from using fake cosmetics, Onishi prescribes mild anti-inflammatory creams, oral antihistamines, and bland emollients to reduce infection.

Unsanitary fake cosmetics

“All cosmetic manufacturers are required to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for cosmetic products,” said Dr. Alexandra Villapol, M.D., Internal Medicine Specialist and Licensed Chemist.

It’s important to remember that manufacturers of these counterfeit cosmetics don’t follow strict health guidelines, resulting in questionable santitation.

“Unsanitary means any condition or circumstance that can lead to contamination of the products with dirt, decomposed substances, and foreign matter,” she explained.

What's in fake cosmetics?

Lead is one of the most dangerous metals to introduce to the human body. It is often immediately fatal in high doses.

“It is a neurotoxin that accumulates both in soft tissues and bones, affecting almost every organ and system in the body, with the brain being most sensitive to its effects,” Dr. Villapol added.

In addition to skin allergies, the long-term exposure to and ingestion of toxic chemicals are hazardous to one’s health. This may include organ damage, poisoning, cancer, and neurological dysfunctions. 

There's also the issue of human waste and rat waste in fake cosmetics. Human neglect in fake cosmetics factories can cause human urine and feces contamination through hand contact. This neglect also exposes final products to pests, like rats.

Villapol lists the following diseases you can get from direct contact with rat waste:

  • Leptospirosis
  • Rat-Bite Fever
  • Salmonellosis
  • Tularemia
  • Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome

Signs of fake cosmetics

After finding fake MAC makeup in tiangges and online stores, Vanessa Vergara and Gaby Azarcon of MAC Public Relations and Artist Relations warned everyone to look out for signs of fake makeup.

“There was always something off about the packaging, from the tiniest detail to the size of the logo, and something so obvious as a shade that we don’t even sell in our stores,” they said.

If you’re a makeup aficionado, it’s easy to spot the difference between authentic and fake makeup, according to makeup artist Bobby Carlos. The thing is, not everyone is a makeup aficionado, so many remain clueless.

“The price is the biggest giveaway. If it’s too good to be true, then it’s a fake,” Carlos says.

Some resellers get around this giveaway by selling their products at prices near the authentic ones’ price.

“We’ve seen online sellers price their fakes with just a small difference from our SRP to make the products seem more legitimate,” shares Tasha Santos, Benefit Cosmetics’ Digital and PR Executive.

“Research is key,” says Dela Cruz. “Know the brand and what lines they carry. Go to makeup counters and test the authentic products yourself to get a good feel of the texture, smell, and packaging.”

This is why it’s important to do your research on the makeup you want to buy. Check their websites and see where they officially sell their products.

Buying makeup online

Aside from buying fake cosmetics from shady physical stores, you should also be careful about buying makeup online.

If they sell real brands online for a really cheap price, it’s probably about to expire. In some cases, people mix original products with water and other ingredients in their own home labs. The goal? To sell more.

One popular case is of people who buy and hoard authentic make up products as soon as they’re released. They then sell these for an exorbitant price.

For example, Kylie’s first makeup collection sold out in a few hours, possibly by shady resellers. This pushed some frustrated fans to buy them from the black market for double the price. And people do go to prison for selling fake cosmetics.

Not worth the risk

“There’s nothing wrong with being practical in terms of choosing cosmetics,” says Onishi. “However, it’s always wise to look for FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved products. It guarantees that the products are free from toxins and harmful chemicals.”

Do you really want these expensive products but can’t afford them now? If yes, don’t take shortcuts. Save up for them. Or wait for sale season, event freebies, social media contests, and bundle deals.

The convenience of having something you want right here right now is not worth risking your health for.

 

Source: Cosmopolitan Philippines

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