The Dangers of Face Value

The dangers of fake cosmetic products is a harsh reality that hits consumers in the face.

Counterfeit makeup worth US$300,000 was seized by the Intellectual Property Crimes Unit of the Los Angeles Police Department’s (LAPD) Commercial Crimes Division in January this year from the Downtown LA area. This was not the first seizure of counterfeit cosmetics in the US.  In 2018, around US$700,000 worth of counterfeit makeup containing high levels of bacteria and animal waste  was confiscated in another district of Los Angeles.


In 2015, US Customs and Border Protection seized more than 2,000 shipments of counterfeit cosmetics, worth an estimated US$1.4billion whereas in 2017, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products made up 6.5% of all counterfeit good seizures in the US, estimated to be worth US$69million.

More than just a pretty face

Some luxury makeup brands can charge up to US$200 for an eyeshadow palette alone, making counterfeit products a lucrative industry. And while cheaper counterfeit alternatives may be available on the market, they may carry serious consequences. In 2018, counterfeit versions of well-known brands such as MAC, Chanel and Benefit were seized in the UK and found to contain toxic chemicals such as mercury, which could have “toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems as well as the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.” These consumers had to endure the painful consequence after using counterfeit makeup, experiencing chemical burns, an eye infection and face swelling.

Keep an eye out for fakes

Consumers can avoid falling victim to a beauty faux pas by being more wary of what they buy. According to an FBI report by the National Property Rights Center on counterfeit cosmetics and fragrances, there are some clues to look out for in the hunt for fake cosmetic products:

  • The packaging differs slightly in colour or lettering from the authentic brand, and/or the product’s wrapping appears haphazard.
  • The product is being advertised as a “limited edition” while the authentic manufacturer does not offer it as a limited edition.
  • The price is either slightly or drastically lower.
  • The product’s consistency or texture does not feel or look like the authentic brand.
  • The products are being sold at non-authorised retailers, including flea markets, mall kiosks and over the internet.


Cosmetics brands also play a preventive role. As technology and packaging have evolved, making it easier for counterfeiters to mimic genuine products, cosmetics manufacturers are employing the latest innovations in brand protection, to secure products and supply chains from the outset, and safeguard the trust of loyal customers on whom they depend.