Counterfeit Cosmetics: The Dark Side Of The Make-Up Industry

Kate RussellBy Kate Russell on February 2nd, 2018

Counterfeit goods have been a problem in the fashion industry for quite some time. Whether it’s on holiday or through a friend of a friend, most people have come into contact with that slightly wonky Gucci handbag or the Hermes belt that’s just not quite right. Now, the make-up industry is taking a serious hit and while the products might look close enough to the real deal, the truth about the ingredients and manufacturing would have you running a mile.

Last year, authorities seized 2.2 million counterfeit beauty products, but the problem has moved very swiftly online, as well as in marketplaces, so it’s become increasingly difficult to crack down on these illegal sellers. The Estee Lauder companies, MAC, Clinique and Estee Lauder itself, launched a global security team, aimed specifically at targeting these counterfeit producers and sellers. Since 2003, their team of agents is tasked with searching through market stalls, third party websites, such as eBay and Amazon and social media sites, like Facebook and Instagram, to try to halt this dangerous activity.

Very much like the designer fashion industry, counterfeiters are drawn to the cosmetics industry due to their high price points and wide profit margins. Regardless of the expense of “designer” make-up, the beauty industry is booming and set to be worth a global $675 billion by 2020. In 2015, fake cosmetics seizures cost the beauty industry $75 million.

However, although counterfeit products cause losses for the big beauty brands themselves, plus costs for authorities to have to deal with these issues, the real issue is the danger these products pose.

When purchasing a fake product, the environment of manufacture may not run directly through a buyer’s mind. However, the dangerously unsanitary environment is one of the biggest worries when it comes to these types of products. Gregg Marrazzo, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Estee Lauder, told Refinery 29 “If I could paint a picture of what it’s like in one of these [counterfeit factories in China, it would be a bit like] if you took the most disgusting frat house bathroom, it looks like a surgical suite compared to these conditions. It’s filthy, there’s bacteria everywhere… it’s disgusting.”

Not only is the production environment unclean and unsanitary, the ingredients that can go into these unapproved counterfeit cosmetics is just as scary. Tests have found that these products have included aluminium, human carcinogens and very high levels of bacteria. If this wasn’t bad enough, on top of that, some products were also found to have more than just a trace of horse urine. Tests from MAC and Anastacia Beverly Hills have also found mercury, lead and arsenic in their seized counterfeit products.

So, who’s buying these products?

In an article from Refinery 29, during an undercover investigation, they found that the shocking truth that many counterfeit products were being purchased by “professional” make-up artists. While interviewing one of the sellers of these fakes on a market stall in Santee Alley, they revealed that while these professionals were aware that the end result would mean a lower quality finish, their customers were more concerned with the label than the quality and safety of the product.

As an insurance brand in the beauty industry, this is perhaps one of the most worrying of facts revealed when looking into this illegal industry. Dean Laming, Managing Director here at Salon Saver, said on the subject, “while we do provide cover for this kind of situation under our products liability insurance, if a client did have an allergic reaction because a counterfeit product was used unknowingly, we would still cover the claim – however the costs to your business would be substantial. In the case of a claim like this, your insurance premium would skyrocket and the damage to your reputation would likely be enough to break your business. However, if you deliberately use counterfeit products on your clients, please be aware that this act can actually invalidate your insurance. It really isn’t worth the risk from an insurance perspective.”

Whether you’re in the beauty business as a professional or simply a make-up and cosmetics lover, the safest possible way to protect yourself and clients from the horrors and dangers of fake make-up is to always purchase from a reputable store or website. The potential risks involved with using counterfeit cosmetics to yourself, your customer and your business, far outweigh the financial savings of opting for these illegal and hazardous products.


What are your thoughts on counterfeit cosmetics? Have you ever accidentally purchased a counterfeit? Share your experiences with us in the comments on Facebook and Twitter.

Salon Saver also provides insurance for make-up artists. For further information, please visit our Make-Up Artist Insurance page.

Other Articles:

Leave a comment

Our Reviews

4.9 / 5 Based on 6278 Reviews*

All very quick and easy

Reviewed 1 week ago

Highly recommend by a beauty therapist of mine!!

Reviewed 1 week ago

Easy site to use and very competitive cost. Thank You

Reviewed 2 weeks ago
Leave a review
This website is intended for customers based in the UK and is therefore subject to the UK regulatory regime(s). © Copyright 2024 Salon Saver | Salon Saver and Henry Seymour & Co. are trading names of Barkdene Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 303965) for our insurance distribution and credit broking activities. Barkdene Limited is a credit broker not a lender. You can check this on the Financial Services register. Registered in England No 1842617. Registered Office – Chancery House, St Nicholas Way, Sutton, Surrey, SM1 1JB. All rights reserved.
*Reviews taken from our sister site Salon Gold
Redirecting you to Salon Gold, our sister website for salons, hair and beauty professionals.