Knock Off Makeup: What You Need to Know

Knock off makeup, fake makeup, counterfeits, knock-off cosmetics. Whatever you want to call them, brand-name makeup fakes have been in the news for some time. Yet, women continue to buy these fake cosmetics in an attempt to receive the same quality found in high-end cosmetics without the hefty price tag. The results, however, could not only be harmful, they could be downright DANGEROUS. Educate yourself on knock-off makeup and spread the word: when you buy counterfeit makeup, you are receiving a host of toxins and could be financing major criminal activities. Read on.

Knock Off and Counterfeit Makeup Facts

Counterfeit Vs. Knockoff
Counterfeit: contain copies of a brand’s label or signature symbols or marks that so closely resemble the original they appear identical.
Knockoffs: don’t have such words or symbols and merely resemble the original. (Source)

Where You Might Find Knock Offs

Counterfeit products are often easy to spot. A table full of high-end makeup priced under $10 each at a local flea market would probably signal “fake!” to most. But what about on eBay, where you can’t inspect the product physically? Or what about other online sites, which may pose as cosmetic retailers? Worst, and what I’ve seen women go crazy over the most, what about ONLINE CO-OPS? (Online co-ops use the the concept of a “group buy” to receive products at a discount. Sometimes, the discount offered is a percentage off products from an authorized seller. Most often, in my experience, the “buys” are for cheaply-made or knock-off products bought at a reduced rate at quantity.)
Co-op  Knock Off Cosmetic Buys

I recently joined a co-op board, via Facebook, which focused on solely bath and beauty products. The board often featured bath products from etsy sellers and other handmade artisans, so I was interested from a handmade/natural products standpoint. However, when a buy for “Naked 3 palettes!” came up, and, later, “Benefit Cosmetics!,” I did a quick google search and

I was appalled at what I found.


What You Are Buying If You Purchase a Fake



Let’s be clear about one fact right now: there is very little federal regulation in the cosmetics industry. Even if you’re purchasing a product that ISN’T counterfeit, there is no guarantee the product contains safe ingredients. THERE ARE NO FEDERAL REGULATIONS ON INGREDIENTS. Your $15 lipstick may still contain lead, your $20 “natural” face wash might be petroleum-based, and your face cream that is made of “the finest ingredients” could very well be full of carcinogens. When I refer to the safety of ingredients henceforth, I mean the quality of ingredients and the assumption that a product won’t burn your skin nor cause an immediate rash, for example.
Knock Off Cosmetics Are Toxic
Purchasing counterfeit makeup isn’t like buying a knock-off purse, where appearance is the main objective and materials might be secondary. With makeup, INGREDIENTS MATTER; why would you purchase something from an unknown source? Top beauty brands have a reputation to uphold, so ingredients that DO SOMETHING are of their top priority, I’d assume. Can you really trust that the counterfeit tanning cream you purchased via a co-op is going to perform the same as the original? Moreover, can you trust that it’s safe to put on your skin?

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is making moves to crack down on counterfeit cosmetic sales, counterfeit cosmetics “often contain things such as arsenic, beryllium, and cadmium (all known carcinogens) along with high levels of aluminum and dangerous levels of bacteria. Some of these products have caused conditions like acne, psoriasis, rashes, and eye infections.” And don’t think this is limited to makeup. “Counterfeit fragrances have been found to contain something called DEHP, classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen. These phony perfumes and colognes, which sometimes contain urine as well, have been known to cause serious skin rashes.” (source)

“These phony perfumes and colognes, which sometimes contain urine as well, have been known to cause serious skin rashes.”
–FBI website

Financing Criminal Activity

photo credit: andysternberg via photopin cc

photo credit: andysternberg via photopin cc

Selling counterfeit goods is not only ILLEGAL in itself, but the money could be going towards financing things such as “drugs and arms smuggling, people trafficking, identity theft, money-laundering and child pornography,” according an anti-counterfeit site. The FBI and Europol warn of the same, adding terrorism to the mix, on their websites. (And check out the photos of Europol busting a counterfeit cosmetic “factory” in Poland in 2012. The operation was run by an organized crime group.) The larger implications behind purchasing a knock-off or counterfeit are massive.

How to Spot Fakes

Indicators of Counterfeits from the FBI

- The packaging differs slightly from the authentic brand (might be a different color or different lettering on the product), and/or the product’s wrapping appears haphazard.

- The product is being advertised as a “limited edition” even though the authentic manufacturer doesn’t offer it as a limited edition.

- The price is either slightly or drastically lower.

- For cosmetics, the product’s consistency or texture just doesn’t feel or look like the authentic brand.

- For fragrances, there’s something a little off about the scent, and the color of the fluid in the bottle might be different than the original.

- For both products, they’re being sold at non-authorized retailers, including flea markets, mall kiosks, and over the Internet.

If you’re curious about a specific product or brand, simply do a search for it (“Benefit knock-off” for example, or “Naked 3 fake”). There are tons of beauty bloggers out there comparing originals and fakes, as well as trusted news sources, YouTube videos, and sometimes even the original brands themselves have information.

Follow these tips to avoid purchasing a counterfeit

1. Only buy online from a licensed retailer. All major beauty brands list these on their websites.
2. Inspect the packaging and/or the product for a batch number–it should be printed on the base or there will be an imprint on the box.
3. Compare lids or applicator brushes with the genuine product. The fake ones are often a different size.
4. Look carefully at the fonts used on the product packaging. They are often slightly different in size from fonts used on the original.
5. Notice any difference in the color of the packaging.

Read more and view Real vs. Fake examples.

In addition to the tips above, if you are a member of a co-op that participates in buys of “brand name” cosmetics, always ask the seller where s/he is sourcing these products. Chances are, the answer will be “overseas,” and a disclaimer along the lines of “we are not an authorized retailer,” maybe something about “authentic overstock,” “replicas,” and “buy at your own risk.” I would urge you to educate the co-op administrator to the harsh realities of what s/he is selling and consider what you may be supporting by funding this type of business.

But what about non-counterfeit cosmetics?

Safe Cosmetics
I mentioned earlier that there is no guarantee that even original versions of high-end cosmetics contain safe ingredients. You can find out more and what you can do to change this, by visiting and
HealthfulMama Lead Free Lipsticks Gabriel

Avoid toxins altogether by checking out some of my favorite products:

-Best Natural Beauty Products
-5 Lead Free Lipsticks
-Top Sunscreen Picks
-Stay tuned for my next post. I’ll share the makeup products I use every day as part of my beauty routine.

So, tell me…

have you ever purchased counterfeit cosmetics (or didn’t realize you did)?
Have you noticed knock-offs for sale online? How serious of an issue do you think this is?


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One Response to Knock Off Makeup: What You Need to Know

  1. Green Diva Meg February 6, 2014 at 11:05 am #

    i’ve never bought knock off make up (not that i know anyway). yikes!

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