You know how it goes… You decide to pop on to eBay or AliExpress on a lazy afternoon because 1. You’re bored; and 2. You want to see what budget-friendly deals you can get your hands on. And before you know it, one hour later you’re still looking at all the great deals available on those sites. AliExpress is like YouTube, it’s a big black hole – time has no meaning, your bank balance has no meaning, and well…all rational thinking goes out the door too.
I recently made a new rule: I’m not allowed to log on to eBay, Amazon or AliExpress (my new obsession) during the day, because I spend way too much time looking at everything that’s available. Although I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator, I know I’m supposed to be working during the day so that I can relax in the evening. Blogging is probably supposed to be a normal 8am – 5pm job, but sometimes my work days are 12 or 13 hours long. Anyway, so these days I’m only allowed to check out the latest ‘deals’ on 1 online shopping website, once during the evening (and not for longer than 30 minutes).
So, I was very innocently scrolling through a long list of makeup and makeup brushes on AliExpress this past weekend and was SO surprised to see so many counterfeit makeup brand products out there. I’m talking NARS, Kylie Cosmetics, Limecrime, Too Faced, Kat Von D Cosmetics, MAC, Anastasia Beverly Hills, and the list goes on. These brands are selling for dirt cheap i.e. R150,00 for a Too Faced Chocolate Bar Palette.
I can hear a jackpot *ding*ding*ding*ding*ding* going off in your head, because you’re probably freaking out at the thought of getting your hands on all these amazing international brands at a fraction of the price.
Let’s take a long hard look at the facts.
Why am I writing this blog post? I’m sure you’ve heard me say that, in my eyes, you and I are friends. And I would never, ever want any of you to have to go through stress, anxiety or even physical pain because of makeup. A personal friend of mine was recently taken advantage of by a third party reseller who sells Anastasia Beverly Hills, LORAC and Too Faced makeup products. She ended up not only losing a lot of money, but also with a very painful eye infection. But more on that a bit later in this blog post. I think it’s important for me to make you aware of what is out there at the moment – I receive a lot of questions from my readers on Instagram and via email asking if I have any experience dealing with Instagram / Whatsapp makeup resellers. For the record, my answer is “No”. Most of the time I just can’t justify paying double (or even triple) the price of an eyeshadow palette, and truth be told, unfortunately I have a very suspicious mind.
You might think that fakes exist only in the realm of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs handbags, but let me tell you, there are counterfeit and black-market beauty goods too. And these are actually a danger for your health! I think I’ve previously mentioned on the blog that I will NEVER buy makeup off eBay because the dangers are just too high – the same goes for AliExpress. Although you can find some good deals on all these e-commerce websites, fake merchandise is extremely prevalent. You know I love a good bargain, so I’ve purchased makeup brushes (like this set and this set) on eBay in the past but I’ve also been taken for a few rides in the past. While there are honest sellers out there, there are also quite a few folks who are out to make a quick buck – at the expense of their customers.
Long before I was a beauty blogger (and clued up on the way of the e-commerce world), I purchased a Benefit Cosmetics product on eBay. This was before I knew a lot of the ‘discounted’ products you can buy on these sites are actually not the real deal. I always thought the products came from authorised wholesale resellers who recently closed shop (and so they had to get rid of their stock, thus the low price) or perhaps an authorised reseller that wanted to get rid of old stock. NEVER in my wildest dreams did I ever think the products could be harmful to my health. Truth be told, when the product I bought on eBay arrived I could immediately see it was a fake – the packaging was flimsy, the product was mediocre in quality, and the colour just weren’t the same when compared to the original. I bought a Benefit ‘Dandelion Blush’ on eBay because I hit pan on my original one and wanted to stock up on a replacement. The fake blush was a very light peachy beige shade (not baby pink), the texture of the powder was chalky, the outer packaging was a lighter shade of green and had a matte finish (the original box has a glossy finish) and the blush itself didn’t smell like anything (the original has a subtle floral scent). I was so disappointed. Fortunately I immediately chucked it in the bin because the pigmentation just wasn’t on par with the original either.
Why is buying counterfeit cosmetics a bad idea? Well, first and foremost: Your health. You don’t know where the product really comes from, or what ingredients are inside. Studies have shown that some these counterfeit cosmetics contain ingredients that could (best case scenario) irritate your skin and (worst case scenario) cause permanent damage to your body and in extreme cases, your brain.
I’ve read articles mentioning that some of these fake makeup products contain a cocktail of potentially harmful ingredients i.e. lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium (a metal which is extremely dangerous). For example, a counterfeit MAC eyeliner sold on Amazon for a fraction of the original price contained 46 times the permitted level of copper, making it unfit for use on eyes. Paint stripper and nail polish remover has been found in fake mascara and liquid eyeliners – imagine applying that stuff to your eyes!
Take a look at this article from Daily Mail Online.
The manufacture of genuine cosmetics is strictly controlled and products go through rigorous tests before they are allowed to go on sale to the public. The cheap versions, however, do not abide by any of these rules / standards. These counterfeit products may not have been made in a hygienic or sterile environment, and even worse, they could very well contain carcinogenic ingredients that are actually banned from use in cosmetics and could cause long-term harm. Carcinogenic = something that could potentially cause cancer. Eye makeup products may trigger rashes and eye infections and lip products may cause lead poisoning. Whether you like it or not, we do ingest our lip products while we eat, speak and drink.
Eeeeeek! Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine!
Please note: I am definitely not saying ALL eBay or AliExpress sellers are shady, I’ve actually bought quite a few original beauty products that were the real deal i.e. limited edition OPI nail polishes, and a Hot Tools hair curling iron. I’m also not saying all fake makeup products will cause an allergic reaction – but why take the chance, right? And you may not have a reaction immediately, but who knows what could happen a year down the line when a specific ingredient has built up in your system?
I know what you’re thinking: “But Luzanne, I don’t buy makeup from overseas…I only buy makeup from South African resellers who import all these amazing brands for me.”
Hear me out – you still need to be extremely cautious!
I’ve recently seen A LOT of local third party resellers pop up on Instagram and the web (South African online stores). When I see they’re selling products for less or even the same price as the original products in the US / UK, I can’t help but question the authenticity. I question how they are able to make a profit if they’re selling the products at the same price (not to mention a lower price) when one still has to take import duties, shipping charges and the fluctuating exchange rate into consideration. I’ll take it one step further – even if you are paying 1,5 or 2 times the value of the product, how do you know the product is genuine? Especially if you don’t have anything to compare it to? I’m not saying ALL resellers are selling fakes, and I’m not trying to take any business away from anyone – but I have a responsibility towards my readers, as I know there are many ladies out there who don’t even know purchasing counterfeit makeup products is an option.
The way I see it, there are 2 scenarios here:
Either the third party reseller doesn’t know they are selling counterfeit products i.e. they bought large quantities on eBay / AliExpress and was reassured by the overseas seller that the products are authentic.
The third party reseller knows they are selling fakes, and they’re okay with adding a 200% or 300% price markup to make it look more authentic. I’ve dealt with these types of resellers before, and one of my friends recently bought a Too Faced Chocolate Bar, Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Lipstick and LORAC PRO Palette from a local reseller. She asked the seller if the products were authentic, since the prices were just a little bit less than the converted prices in the US. The lady assured her that the palettes were originals (she apparently bought them on sale), and even said she would offer a full refund if my friend wasn’t happy with the quality. In the end my friend lost over R1000,00 because the palettes turned out to be really bad fakes (we compared the palettes, as I already own the originals) and what’s even worse, my friend suffered from a serious eye infection after using one of the palettes and has had to pay for a doctor’s appointment and medication to get it sorted out. Plus, she’s also had to take leave because she’s too embarrassed to go to work (her eyes are bloodshot red, swollen, and won’t stop watering). Even though my friend has phoned, left messages, and sent emails, after 3 weeks the seller still hasn’t replied to any of the messages.
It’s a sad world we live in – and it truly sucks that South Africans don’t have access to so many of the amazing beauty brands out there. BUT fortunately Benefit Cosmetics (click here for stockists) and theBalm are now available in SA, Urban Decay is opening their first store in South Africa on the 9th of July 2016 (click here for more info & product pricing), and beauty brands all over the world are now slowly starting to ship to South Africa i.e. Tarte Cosmetics.
When it comes to products that I apply to my skin and eyes, I’d much rather play it VERY safe and buy from a brand directly i.e. their own online store OR from a very reputable seller i.e. Beauty Bay, Feelunique and Look Fantastic. Even if it means I have to wait longer for my order to arrive. For the record, the only products I buy off eBay and AliExpress are sunglasses, makeup brushes, kitchen tools, limited edition nail polish mini sets, and things like iPhone / iPad covers. Definitely no skincare products, and no makeup.
If you’re not sure whether you should buy a product online – think about it this way: Common sense should guide you – if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is! Trust your gut.
Top Tip: If you’re not sure what to look for to see if your product might be a fake, the first thing is to look at the packaging. Counterfeit products FEEL very light in weight, the packaging looks flimsy (low in quality), and sometimes there are spelling mistakes on the labels. When it comes to eyeshadows or blushes sometimes the metal ring around each shadow (the pan) is much more noticeable, and the edges stand out a lot more.
I initially didn’t want to link to some of the products on AliExpress because I know some people might be tempted to buy them. On the other hand, I’d like to show you that there ARE fakes out there and that you should keep it in mind next time you decide to look for a good deal on eBay or AliExpress – you can click on the images above and it will take you through to the listing on AliExpress (please note these links won’t be active forever as I have found the sellers change the listings on a regular basis). Here are other examples:
Don’t be fooled, ladies – Urban Decay has never released a Naked 3 Makeup Brush Set. If the local seller is charging you a premium price for this makeup brush set (because it’s ‘Urban Decay’), then you’re better off purchasing a no-name brand like this one.
I’ve always wanted to own a Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette, but I’d rather wait until I can get my hands on the real deal.
Trust me, these dupes are NOTHING like the original Beautyblender makeup sponge! They’re dense, hard and soak up so much foundation & concealer. Definitely not worth the bother! You can now easily get your hands on original Beautyblender makeup sponges – check out this blog post for all the details.
Not going to lie…I would LOVE to own an Anastasia Beverly Hills GLOW Kit, but I won’t take any chances with the above listing unfortunately.
You can purchase original theBalm products in the Retail Box online store – 100% authentic.
Don’t even THINK about taking a chance on something like this, ladies – since it goes on the lips, you are definitely ingesting it to some extent.
If you follow MAC collections, you’ll know the above lipsticks are from the MAC Giambattista Valli collection (and the lip swatches you see in the photo are taken from Temptalia’s review of the original collection).
The above seller is based in China, and yet ColourPop Cosmetics products are all made in Los Angeles (USA). Original pricing for a ColourPop eyeshadow is $5 and yet this seller is selling it for $3 a pop? Nah…
Again, let me reiterate: I’m not saying all eBay / AliExpress / local South African resellers are selling unsafe counterfeit makeup products. There are definitely honest people who are selling authentic makeup, and to be honest, they are making life a whole lot easier for South Africans by taking all the stress of online shopping / customs / shipping fees off our shoulders. I wrote this blog post to share my thoughts and concerns with you, because I don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of.
Now I want to hear from YOU – have you ever bought a fake makeup product thinking it was 100% authentic?