How to Spot Fake Cosmetics Before You Buy Them

Dr. Janet Zand

January 22, 2021

If you buy beauty products online, you could end up with fakes.

In fact, the problem is so widespread and so dangerous, even the federal government is concerned about it.

So they decided to investigate, ordering beauty products from sellers on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and other websites. And out of all the products they ordered, they found that nearly half were fake!

And fake products can have serious consequences for your health. For instance, another investigation found a fake MAC lipstick that contained lead.  And the lead levels were an astonishing 751 times higher than the maximum allowable level!

The reality is that no level of lead is safe.  Even relatively small amounts can be toxic. Plus, lead builds up in your body, so small amounts of exposure every day will start to add up.

But the level found in the fake MAC lipstick is absolutely outrageous!  Women apply lipstick more often than most other cosmetics. And since it’s on the lips, it can be easily ingested.

Of course, all of this doesn’t mean you can’t buy cosmetics online anymore. But you do need to take some precautions.

What to look for

Here’s what to do to make sure you can spot a fake before you buy…

First, be extra careful when you shop on websites like Amazon, eBay, and Walmart. Scammers target those big platforms because it’s easy for just about anyone to start selling there.

So when shopping on these websites, always check the “sold by” line on the product page. The seller name should match the product name. For example, a MAC lipstick should say, “Sold by MAC Cosmetics.”

If the names don’t match, that means that the product is being sold by a third party. And that means there’s no way to be sure it’s authentic.

Even if the seller has a high rating, you’re still taking a gamble. It’s not difficult for unscrupulous sellers to fake those reviews.

But what if Amazon is listed as the seller? Is that safe? Well, there’s no way to know. That’s because Amazon pools its products together by barcode. So products from third party sellers get mixed with legitimate Amazon inventory in the warehouse.

Other red flags to look for include:

1. The shipping time. If the shipping time is unusually long, or if a product is being shipped from overseas, it increases your chances of receiving a fake.

2. A suspicious product page. If something looks off about the product page, like lots of spelling errors or photos with really bad photo editing, the product is probably a fake.

3. Unrealistic prices. Some scammers try to entice buyers with really low prices. So if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Now, if that seems like a lot to remember, there’s an easier way to buy authentic cosmetics online: shop directly from the brand’s own website.

That way, you’ll know what you’re getting is the real deal. And you won’t have to investigate every purchase like you’re a federal investigator!

So next time you’re shopping online, use these tips to spot fakes and make sure sure you get authentic and safe beauty products.

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