Asian woman holding eye makeup palette

The market for fake cosmetic products is growing and, unfortunately, so is the supply. From e-commerce platforms to sidewalks and street markets, counterfeit makeup, perfumes, and even skin and haircare products abound. It’s become too easy to get these goods to consumers with all the platforms available. Meanwhile, distinguishing authentic products from dupes has become more challenging. Here’s why you should think – and look – twice before you buy. 

Why Avoid Fake Cosmetic Products?

Do you knowingly buy fake cosmetic products (no judgment here!)? Consider the risks. It may seem harmless, but there are real perils and most of them are imperceptible to the naked eye.

They don’t abide by sanitation guidelines.

Are you thinking of getting your face snatched for cheap? Fake cosmetics are not the answer. In 2018, the Los Angeles Police Department confiscated $700,000 worth of fake makeup, which had high levels of human feces and bacteria. The US Department of State also found counterfeit fragrances with human urine, among other horrible substances like rat droppings.

In the Philippines, also in 2018, the Bureau of Customs confiscated P600 million worth of fake beauty products, such as soaps, perfume, and whitening lotions. Tiangges around Manila were selling these imported counterfeits of popular makeup brands. The BOC declared that these goods contained poisonous substances undeclared on their respective packaging.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, legitimate cosmetic companies are legally responsible for the safety of their products. This role includes packing, storing, and shipping products in a way that keeps them from getting contaminated. The EU has similar strict safety regulations for beauty products. Locally, cosmetics are under the Philippine Food and Drug Administration. It routinely flags any product or brand that fails to comply with sanitation and safety standards.

They contain hazardous ingredients.

Would you ever apply high lead, arsenic, or mercury concentrations on your skin? If you use fake cosmetic products, you may be doing so already. Most confiscated cosmetics test positive for .

In 2017, the UK found counterfeits of a famous lipstick brand with up to 300 times more lead than the legal limit. Fake products can also have arsenic, which people once used as a skin-lightening agent in the 1800s. Mercury is another common toxic ingredient. The US FDA permits only 65 ppm mercury in each product and only for preservation purposes. Under the rules of the ASEAN Cosmetic Scientific Body, which covers the Philippines, only one part per million is allowed.

These toxic substances are used and mixed to achieve desirable textures and make the product visually appealing. Criminals and counterfeiters do this with abandon (not to mention on a budget), without regard for consumer safety.

They won’t give you the same satisfaction.

There is a strong connection between the prevalence of fake cosmetics and counterfeit goods in general and the unrealistic lifestyles promoted online. The demand continues to increase because people want to feel included via these highly coveted, prestige brands. Most of these products are usually sold out on the first day of release or are only sold in certain markets, making them difficult to access for the average consumer.

Even influencers are not exempt from the lure of fakes. While many work with legitimate brands to create sponsored content, some have been caught using fake products to manufacture a luxe lifestyle. In the UK, the police once urged YouTubers to stop using fake makeup in online tutorials to avoid health issues. However, in most markets, there is no such monitoring, and the problem persists.

Buying fakes on purpose won’t give you the same satisfaction as getting the real thing, just like pretending to be sponsored by prestige brands won’t magically make you a bonafide KOL. It’s like passing a test with a kodigo — all you get is a fleeting moment of false pride. And a bad skin rash.

They are a waste of money.

Sure, it’s not just about the price. Some people just like having things, regardless of their authenticity. Others buy fakes to get a feel for the product, hoping it would help them decide whether they want it or not, as in the case of perfumes. However, these inexpensive things can end up costing you more money if you develop skin issues or other illnesses.

There are many legitimate, high-quality, affordable products in the market that you can proudly buy and safely use. You’re better off spending your hard-earned money on these, especially if you have .

For example, use Vaseline Gluta-Hya Serum Burst Lotion Flawless Glow instead of unknown brightening products. Safe and effective, this has 10x the brightening power of vitamin C. Its concentrated ingredients help keep the skin moisturized and glowing.

They are ineffective.

Fake cosmetics, especially skin and hair products, are not as effective as their so-called “original” counterparts. Some may have the look and feel of authentic goods, but the formulations are not the same. They may have high percentages of filler ingredients such as petroleum jelly or water. While not inherently bad, these fillers can decrease the item's potency or, in the case of water, may contaminate the product with bacteria. Active ingredients may also be significantly lower in these products, making them inherently useless. 

Instead of buying cheap skincare products, choose affordable yet effective products with premium ingredients that can elevate your routine. To , use POND'S Bright Miracle Ultimate Clarity Day Serum and POND'S Bright Miracle Night Serum. These serums protect the skin from external aggressors while boosting cell renewal, for bright skin.

How to Spot a Fake

If you’re unsure if the product you’re eyeing is authentic, use this checklist to spot the signs:

  • Is it being sold by an authorized seller? Did you find it on a legitimate platform?
  • What do the reviews say? Are people happy about the product? Do the reviews seem legit?
  • Are they using actual photos of the product or just photos from the internet?
  • How does the packaging look? Are the fonts the same? Are the labels even and centered?
  • Is it too good to be true? Is it too cheap?

A good rule of thumb is when in doubt, don’t. If it seems fake to you, it’s probably not worth the risk. On the other hand, buying counterfeit cosmetic products on purpose is 100 percent your choice, but it does come with health hazards that are too serious to ignore.