Beauty fanatics love their make-up, but even more satisfying is finding high-end products for a steal. In this article, we explore what that means for the consumer, and where these miraculously discounted products come from. Often times, these products come at a different cost to unsuspecting consumers.
Currently there are all types of make-up, and literally hundreds of thousands of brands or more. For a long time, the business was dominated bu a handful of big brands like Estee Lauder, Revlon, etc. But with the rise of social media marketing and consumers being more critical of the ingredients that go into their cosmetics, this has opened the door for smaller indie brands and leveled the industry's playing field. Bigger indie brands have surfaced above the competition and developed a cult following. Most big brands that have this following are large in part to the fact that they are a celebrity brand. Jeffree Star, Kylie Cosmetics, Haus by Lady Gaga, just to name a few. And these are the brands that are getting knocked off.
Most of the counterfeit cosmetics come from China than anywhere else. The biggest problem with counterfeit cosmetics is that they are typically made in make-shift laboratories, that are filthy, and are not regulated to follow any type of health codes. Counterfeit cosmetics have tested positive for known carcinogens such as paint thinner, lead, mercury, arsenic, asbestos-contaminated talc, animal feces, and more. But counterfeit cosmetics is a big business. Most counterfeit products are sold online from third party websites, even Amazon. These chemicals to no surprise have an extremely dangerous and negative effect on the skin. From contaminated products, it is not unlikely that the consumer will develop a rash, also known as contact dermatitis, skin or bacterial infections, styes or pink eye. One account from the Broken documentary Make-up Mayhem, a woman describes purchasing a lip product, and after application, her lips were basically glued shut, similar to super glue.
Typically, when a counterfeit player creates a knock-off product, they analyze the ingredients list of the product they are copying to figure out the percentages of each ingredient. They will often replace the more expensive ingredients with cheaper ingredients to cut corners and expenses. The problem with the cheaper ingredients is that they can be toxic. The counterfeit company will copy the products all the way up to the packaging. Authentic companies most often always employ or hire a contract cosmetic chemist to create their products. In order to develop safe, effective and high-quality products, you need to know about each ingredient, where it is sourced, how it is made, and its function in the formula.
Since counterfeit cosmetics most often come from China, the majority are imported to us by boat and have to pass through customs to get into the US. According to Broken, most pass through customs at the Port of Long Beach California. However, with over a hundred billion dollars of goods making their way through customs yearly, it is impossible for the customs officers to track everything.
Customs officer Herbert Day says that there are several red flags that might be indicators, that include where the package comes from, the physical appearance of the packaging, or if the sender has been caught before. If the officers suspect foul play, they will pull the packages off the shelf and test them for harmful ingredients on site. Other indicators include misspelling on the packaging, improper grammar or grammatical errors, and pixelated or low-quality images.
Unfortunately, when counterfeit cosmetics are flagged, it is still very difficult to track the company. Consequences such as fines or jail time are up to China or the country of origin to impose, so whether or not they are following through is not always guaranteed. Usually, the consequences are 1-2 weeks of jail time.
The best way to avoid these products is to purchase directly from the company's website. Purchasing on Amazon is risky because it is very difficult to know who is selling those products, and often times consumers believe they are purchasing from Amazon and not a third party seller. If you are a brand that has experienced your product reproduced, your best bet might be to take legal action, as many brands end up taking the matters into their own hands by hiring a private investigator and legal team.