Counterfeit Cosmetics

Counterfeit Cosmetics

By Risselle Naimark

Makeup knockoffs aren’t just the ugly side of beauty; they also pose a public health hazard. Many of these fake cosmetics can be found at local flea markets. However, they are not just a local problem, but a huge multi-million-dollar global operation.

China is certainly a key player in the counterfeit market, where huge amounts of products are manufactured, stored, and shipped in the international market. Unfortunately, the profits from these operations are possibly used to fund terrorism, trafficking, and child labor.

Allegiance Protection Group works closely with Estee Lauder Companies, one of the largest cosmetic companies, which owns MAC and controls a major portion of the U.S. cosmetic industry. They have created an anti-counterfeit unit to seek out fake beauty products. Because of its simple and well-known packaging, MAC products are frequently a target for counterfeiters. There are agents stationed in NYC, Canada, Paris, London, Belgium, South Africa, Hong Kong, and China. The counterfeit law enforcement has made China a top-priority country and goes after them to seize the knockoffs and their production equipment.

Fakes are usually manufactured in huge warehouses where there’s no regulation. This translates to toxic chemicals, unsafe temperatures, and filthy conditions. A tube of lipstick may look fine but can contain heavy metals and paint thinners, stuff you wouldn’t want to apply to your mouth or elsewhere. In 2015, the London police found traces of arsenic, mercury, lead, and rat feces in fake products they seized. It’s one thing having a handbag made of cheap fabric, but a different issue applying arsenic-laced products to your face.

Beauty imposters aren’t limited to makeup alone. There are also numerous skincare knockoffs that can easily be found on the Internet. What’s inside some of these potions may be glue instead of retinol or rubbing alcohol instead of hyaluronic acid. From the look of the outside, it’s almost impossible to detect a counterfeit item. Many can be found on reputable websites such as Amazon, who in the past removed many items that turned out to be fakes. Global online wholesale markets like Alibaba, DHgate, and TradeKey have many popular brands advertised at very low prices.

The problem has become  so widespread that, in 2015, U.S. Homeland Security launched Operation Plastic Beauty, a division created to stop the spread of counterfeit health and beauty products. Most of these problems originate in China, where a raid in Zhejiang located seven underground operations totaling $120 million. These goods are peddled from the streets to the global Internet. According to Lew Rice, a former DEA agent who heads the anti-counterfeit team for Estee Lauder, if a particular cosmetic brand seems too cheap to be true, it’s probably counterfeit. So remember that when in doubt, do without, and be sure to purchase cosmetics from a reliable source.


Risselle Naimark is a Professional Freelance Makeup Artist and Skincare Consultant. She carries an extensive line of personalized skincare, cosmetics, and anti-aging products. Risselle is also available for weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, makeup lessons, and all of your beauty needs. She can be reached at 718 263-5517.

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