Professional Beauty
Professional Beauty


FAKE news

If you’ve spent any time browsing the beauty section on Amazon or Ebay, chances are you will have come across counterfeit beauty products. As a beauty industry professional, it’s likely you’re a dab hand when it comes to spotting a fake product but the same can’t always be said for your clients, especially given that the counterfeit beauty industry is booming right now.

Beauty products are the third most counterfeited sector, following fashion and jewellery, according to the Government’s Intellectual Property Office, which recently reported that 17% of UK women have knowingly purchased a counterfeit product online.

Earlier this year, a Manchester-based trader was fined hundreds of pounds after being found in possession of 720 fake Huda Beauty eyeshadow palettes and 42 Morphe eyeshadow palettes, which would have been worth £33,000 had they been legitimate goods. So, why is counterfeit beauty having such a moment right now? It could be down to the fact we’re all shopping online much more.

The rise of counterfeit products

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, UK consumers are 45% more likely to buy skincare products online, according to supplement brand Lycored, and with less-savvy shoppers who are new to e-commerce adding to their baskets with abandon, counterfeit beauty retailers are having a field day.

Indeed, Daniel Shapiro, vice president of brand protection agency Red Points, reveals he saw a 56% increase in counterfeit products sold online across the 700 brands they look after (which includes beauty tool brand Foreo) in the first six months of 2020.

Counterfeit products continue to grow at an alarming rate, with the US Patent and Trademark Office predicting that fake goods will contribute $4.5 trillion to the global economy by 2024.

“The damage and dangers associated with fake cosmetics and body care products are not only economic,” says director general of the Anti-Counterfeiting Group Phil Lewis. “Dangers to health and safety are growing, as potentially toxic ingredients are being more commonly used in fake products to reduce costs.”

Potential dangers

Toxic ingredients found in beauty products can shockingly include cyanide, arsenic, lead, and mercury, and Lewis even told us that animal urine is a common ingredient because it is “a particularly popular substitute for expensive stabilisers used to prolong fragrances in legitimate products”.

"DANGERS TO HEALTH and safety are growing as potentially TOXIC INGREDIENTS are being more commonly used in FAKE PRODUCTS to REDUCE COSTS"

The counterfeit industry is also damaging to the beauty sector as a whole. It harms the credibility of brands, with low-quality and potentially harmful products sold under brand names, damaging their reputation, as well as cutting into their profits.

So, what can we do as an industry to stop the further rise of fake products? The first step is educating yourself and your clients on how to spot counterfeit buys.

How to spot fake products

Counterfeit beauty products are designed to be unidentifiable from the legitimate original, but there are a few ways you can spot a fake, according to Cosmetics Europe, the European trade association for the cosmetics and personal care industry, which has some handy advice for how to differentiate counterfeit beauty products from the real deal.

1. Unusually low price “If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is,” says Lewis.

2. Low-quality packaging “Look out for poor quality boxes and labelling, including spelling mistakes and poor grammar,” warns Lewis.

3. Differences in product and/or packaging This is trickier to spot, but check out the colour, shape and font used on the product to see if it matches with the real offering.

Lewis also points out that the location you’re buying from should be a key indicator. If you’re online, check it’s a reputable site or stockist of the product. “When it comes to in-person shopping, products purchased from markets or in discount stores on the high street are unlikely to be legitimate,” he adds.

If your client is unsure whether an online product is reputable, get them to source and read reviews first to help them see if other buyers have complained.

Remind them that they can always avoid counterfeit beauty products by buying directly from your salon, from the manufacturer’s website or from other reputable etailers.


This article appears in the April 2022 Issue of Professional Beauty

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This article appears in the April 2022 Issue of Professional Beauty