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  • Writer's pictureAbby Leigh Curtis

The Counterfeit Beauty Problem

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

Hair products, like shampoo, line the salon shelves

Hey y’all–have you seen Broken on Netflix?

The series begins by honing in on cosmetics, a large slice of the $532 billion beauty industry, and puts cheap, low-quality fakes under the microscope. The counterfeit industry has always been a big one—did anyone else get gifted an NYC “Louis Vuitton” bag as a teen?—but recently, we’ve seen an uptick in beauty counterfeiting, thanks to extremely profitable brands such as Kylie Cosmetics and Urban Decay being toted and doted on in every Instagram influencer’s post as the next “must-have” product. Since not everyone can afford the markups on designer beauty brands, they resort to fakes to get their hands on anything that even looks like their most coveted products—even if they don’t work nearly as well...or could even harm them.

What’s so bad about faking it?

Though it may seem harmless, the harms of counterfeit beauty products cannot be understated.

  • Fake products are usually produced in unsanitary conditions. Knockoffs have been found to contain unsavory substances from staph to lead to horse urine. Uh...what the what? Not safe, not cool, not putting that stuff on our faces.

  • It’s against the law to sell counterfeit products. United States federal laws protecting trademarks make it illegal to knowingly traffic counterfeit goods, which includes the production, sale and transport of such goods. The US Department of Justice has stated that federal law doesn’t prohibit an individual from buying a counterfeit product for personal use, even if they do so knowingly—but ethically speaking, it’s not the right thing to do.

  • It’s causing job loss. Knockoffs are taking sales from the brainy beauty entrepreneurs that made the original, high-quality products. This lost income leads to the termination of cosmetic chemists who make designer beauty products in safe and sanitary conditions using high-quality ingredients (and everyone else involved in the manufacturing of cosmetics). An estimated loss of 750,000 jobs in the US is due to counterfeiting—and we definitely do not want to contribute to anyone losing their jobs!

  • It causes tax revenue loss. Counterfeit beauty manufacturers often don’t pay taxes, which means that taxes that could go to improving our infrastructure, schools, and more is slipping through the cracks.

Still itching for a beauty bargain?

If you’re on the hunt for discounted hair and beauty products, do your due diligence and take the following steps:

Buy from a reputable seller

Buying directly from your favorite brand’s website or beauty retailers (like Ulta or Sephora) is always your best bet. If you’re perusing mall kiosks or variety shops, you’re far more likely to encounter a knockoff. And don’t even START with us about Ebay! Stay away...far, far, away.

If you’re shopping on Amazon, make sure you only buy products from verified sellers. Third-party sellers are often sketchy. Anything not sold by Amazon directly has not been thoroughly vetted by them, so make sure to look for the listings that say “fulfilled by Amazon.” Estheticians, hair stylists, and cosmetologists can also use the Amazon Professional Beauty Store!

PS: If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, consider using AmazonSmile! When you shop, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.

Check the reviews

If you do purchase designer beauty or hair products from a retailer you’re not familiar with, check the reviews. Not every layman can spot a fake, but there are a lot of beauty gurus out there that gladly leave detailed reviews—some even vlog about their experience with a product! Check out this review one Amazon shopper left as a warning:

Screenshot of a 1-star Amazon review of a possibly counterfeit beauty product

Scope out the expiration date

In addition to Amazon, TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and similar off-price sellers often have designer cosmetics, skincare, and hair products stacked up to the ceiling in their beauty department. Are they legit? Yes, typically—but there’s a caveat. Many of these products are expired (or just plain old). Check this out: we investigated one product on Amazon, Benefit “They’re Real!” mascara, and found the batch number. We plugged it in on Benefit’s website and, low and behold, the batch was expired!

Screenshot of an Amazon listing for Benefit They're Real mascara

Screenshot of the Benefit batch number checker

Yikes. Folks, don’t put that old junk on your face. Please!

Ask your favorite esthetician or hair stylist for tips

If you need advice on which products are worth a little extra money—or you just need tips on avoiding counterfeits—go to the professionals! They’ll be sure to give you their honest opinion and expert advice. Brittany is always happy to answer any questions you might have, so feel free to reach out by filling out a contact form!

So you bought some shady beauty what?

Hey, sometimes we gotta ball on a budget. Do you, my friend—just be careful. If you buy products that you have the slightest whiff of suspicion as to their authenticity or you buy products you know are old or expired, please be sure to do a spot test before going all-in.

Remember that no beauty products take the place of taking good care of your hair, skin, and body. Regular haircuts, conditioning treatments, and other TLC for your locks is key!

Are you overdue for a salon visit? Browse Brittany’s services and book online today!

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