How to Spot Counterfeit Beauty Products

Natasha Burton
Beauty Products

tomlabas / Getty Images

The latest in beauty news has many a gal freaking out about what’s really lurking in her products. Just this month, a new report by the City of London Police urges consumers to think twice before buying beauty items online, explaining that there’s been a rise in fake makeup products being sold online.

While it’s bad enough that you might think you’re buying a legit brand name item only to have received a knock-off, the situation is much worse: It turns out that some of these counterfeit products, from mascara to perfume, have been laced with scary substances like arsenic and lead. (Not to mention, rat droppings—ick.)

So, before you order beauty products online—whether through eBay, a website based in another country, or any other e-retailer that’s outside the norm—heed the following advice from Boston-based hair and makeup artist Molly Leahy and dermatologist Gary Goldfaden, M.D. on how to tell if a product could be fake.

1. Check the price:

Avoid products that are being sold online for a fraction of the retail price—and if the website selling them declares that there is an abundance in stock. A deal that’s too good to be true usually is.

2. Watch for web glitches:

If you have trouble logging into a retail website when you are purchasing something, that could also be a warning sign. Log out and then back in again to make sure that the site isn’t being hacked (which has happened before with several high end brands) and if you still suspect something seems off then contact the company.

Also make sure that the website address starts with “https” when you get to the payment stage, as this indicates a secure payment.

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3. Keep an eye out for bad grammar:

Just like a scam on Craigslist, you can spot someone trying to rip you off on a (usually lesser known) website if the grammar is off.

4. Check the return policy:

Most fraudulent sellers will not give you a chance to return your items after you’ve purchased them, since all they want to do is move product as quickly as possible.

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5. Find the expiration date:

Some products are sold in bulk to convenience stores, sit on a truck until they expire, and then have a new price tag slapped on them at a discounted rate. Another way to check for old or altered products is to make sure the batch code is still on the bottom and hasn’t been scratched off or is simply non-existent. (If there’s no image of the batch code, beware!)

6. Compare the product in question to the real thing:

Counterfeit products usually have a new bar code sticker over the original—which is a red flag that they’re being resold. Also, always avoid products with any type of label that looks weird (like an altered logo), as this is another sign that it may have been tampered with.

7. Double check the brand’s authorized retail list:

Before you buy, head over to the brand’s official website: Most, if not all, brands have this information available on their site and it ensures that their products have been authorized by the brand for resale to those particular retail outlets.