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Black Market Makeup: How To Spot Fake Cosmetics

You might think that counterfeits exist only in the realm of "Mark Jacobs" and "Guchi" purses, but there are fake and black-market beauty goods, too. I love a bargain, so I wind up buying a lot of housewares and accessories on eBay. But when it comes to shopping for cosmetics, you've got to be careful. I've found quite a few counterfeit eye shadows, lipsticks, glosses and fragrances—all offered at prices that are too good to be true. While there are honest sellers out there, a few folks are out to make a quick buck.

Why is buying counterfeit merchandise a bad idea? There are a few reasons, but first and foremost is your health. If you don't know where a product really comes from, or what ingredients are inside, why would you let it touch your skin? Counterfeits also funnel money into shady operations, and—oh yeah—they're illegal. And on a less sinister level, the colors just aren't accurate!

To find out how to avoid buying fakes,

Common sense will take you a long way. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is! For instance, the 12 "MAC" eye shadows shown here were being auctioned on eBay for $24.99. Hmm, that's a pretty low price, considering a single shadow is $14.50 in the stores. Now, I can't tell whether those eye shadows are genuine or fake, but the price seems a little odd.

For that particular auction, I also looked at the seller's feedback, which had complaints by bidders who claimed the MAC shadows were fakes. The seller also had dozens of similar auctions; why would one person have literally hundreds of "new-in-box" eye shadows? Is there a possibility that this particular seller is legitimate and just being accused of selling fakes? Of course. But it's not a chance I want to take.

For most people, common sense will help you spot obvious fakes, but the counterfeiters are getting better and better at making their junk look like the real thing. This detailed guide has great examples of counterfeits lined up to the real thing, and I recommend it as an excellent reference.

What do you think? Would you buy counterfeit makeup to save a few bucks, or would you rather save up for the real thing?

Join The Conversation
kiwichibi kiwichibi 8 years
ooh, my friend was just warning me yesterday about buying fake cosmetics online. The thought never really occurred to me that people try to make knockoff high end cosmetics, but i guess it totally makes sense. With health related products you can't be too careful.
makeupbrushes makeupbrushes 8 years
I ordered MAC brushes on eBay once.... When I received the order guess what, THEY WERE FAKE!!! I sent the seller a message about it of course he was denying... then I told him I was a makeup artist and I have another set of brushes that I use only for myself and is big difference between them... guess again I returned them, I received a full refund and refund on shipping and handling as well!! Oh, he proved it to me that he knew what he was selling!!! BEWARE if is too good to be true all the time IT IS.
Sarah_baby Sarah_baby 9 years
I bought some fake cosmetics, that burnt my skin, it was different to the normal stuff I bought in store, from a site called Island Cosmetics, I have sent to trading standards - be careful. Sarah
pgkellyd pgkellyd 9 years
excellent post with good tips. as an esthetician we find the same issue with skincare products.
colormesticky colormesticky 10 years
I've never bought makeup on eBay. MAC eyeshadows are vivid and bright, and I'd be pretty pissed if I bought a fake that hardly showed up. I'd rather just spend the money and know I'm getting the real thing. That said, I usually look around online first for coupon codes for free shipping or gift with purchase, etc.
queencessjosie queencessjosie 10 years
Why would I ever buy a fake high-end beauty product to save money? The whole point in investing in high quality makeup is.. obviously, because it's high quality. Fakes have less pigment and staying power. No way would I ever consider.
angel0950 angel0950 10 years
the real thing! who knows what the fake products could be comprised of and i only buy from the retailers themselves and at beauty superstores (i.e. sephora, ulta, i'm all for the real deal in all products!
MandyJoBo MandyJoBo 10 years
I wouldn't even risk buying on eBay. You never know what you'll get. A.) it could be used--ick! B.) it could be cut with something (i.e. talc in eyeshadows, water in perfume, lotion in shampoo/conditioner, etc.), and C.) it could be just be a plain ol' fake. Also, their feedback may not be accurate because someone has to NOTICE the indiscretion first. A lot of people wouldn't notice a fake, or that their shadow was mixed with baby powder.
zc zc 10 years
makeup is a no no for fakes as well as not healthy
Chiquita-82 Chiquita-82 10 years
I sometimes buy some products from ebay sellers with rating 99% and more, i read all negative and neutral feedback, i never had a bad experience. But this article taught me new things about fake makeup.These products looks even the same :makeup: we have to be very careful and shop from reliable places.
LalaLovesBebe LalaLovesBebe 10 years
i would never ever buy cosmetics from auction website like ebay~ it's just not me. Why would someone buy cosmetic at the auction website, while they can go to or to the store?
anorthan anorthan 10 years
i wouldn't buy make up from ebay- but i'm always a skeptic!
leeluvfashion leeluvfashion 10 years
I just go to Sephora; that way I know it's the real product and I'm not wasting my money on fakes.
wowjules wowjules 10 years
The thought never crossed my mind that people actually sell fake brand-name makeup, and there are people out there who will buy it. I mean, it makes sense now, but I just assumed that everyone cared about their skin and went out to buy the real thing like I do :P Ooops!
iheartstarbucks iheartstarbucks 10 years
wow,i had never even thought about counterfeit make up.
c0rkie c0rkie 10 years
eek! i go to the department store. it's not worth the risk.
Sourire54 Sourire54 10 years
Yeah, same thing happened to me. Once I became hooked on MAC, I wanted to see if I could find any good deals on eBay. I saw tons of auctions that were extremely suspicious (prices too stinkin' low and who in their right mind would get RID of awesome cosmetics?!?!). I found the guides and was able to save myself (and my sister-in-law) the money, time and trouble of only ending up with fakes. So, in short, no I wouldn't buy fakes. So not worth it.
LiLay-69 LiLay-69 10 years
Kazagirl Kazagirl 10 years
I've seen the same auctions for the lots of MAC eyeshadow on Ebay. I soooo wanted to bid on them but it does sound way to good to be true. I also refuse to buy name brand jewelry or purses because I am not willing to take the chance of being ripped off.
purrtykitty purrtykitty 10 years
oh yeah, and i never buy from a seller with a rating less that 98% (unless the reviews are really shipping took too long). if any review says product was not as promised, then i don't buy. i have a few favorite sellers i look at for stuff because i've purchased from them before, so i know the cosmetics they sell are real.
purrtykitty purrtykitty 10 years
a lot of the people that sell discounted mac and bobbi brown go the cosmetic company outlet store (it only sells estee lauder brand cosmetics). that's where the leftovers (and disccontinued items) from the various collections go and are sold at a discount. i actually purchased a couple of mac lippies there yesterday. the sellers put the stuff in lots or start the bids at a deep discount and say the items are "limited edition", "discontinued", "rare", or "very hard to find (VHF)" in the hopes that buyers will bid the price up for the items and they can recover their cost (and perhaps turn a profit). i buy enough mac, so i can usually tell if it's fake by looking at the pictures. i never bid/purchase anything that doesn't have a picture. in fact, when i'm bored, i'll peruse the listings and most of the stuff i see is legitimate (at least as far as mac is concerned). i've also purchased chanel cosmetics from ebay and all of it has been legit.
sumnboutme sumnboutme 10 years
I've never bought fake cosmetics largely to the fact that I often shop at Sephora or department stores for these items. I haven't bought anything from ebay in ages and probably never will buy anything from ebay ever. The last time I bought "authentic" Gucci glasses, they never came and the seller never refunded me my money!
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