Buying imitation beauty products not only means you're getting a rubbish deal on quality, it can also mean there are ingredients inside that may irritate or damage your skin. Because they're not regulated in the same way as cosmetics you buy legitimately, they could chuck anything into the formula and not declare it - dangerous stuff if you're allergic or intolerant to an ingredient or chemical. Furthermore, electrical goods can be incredibly unstable (sometimes catching fire or even exploding) because they've not been made according to EU safety guidelines; I've had a hairdryer catch alight in my hands before and it's a scary experience. It's just not worth risking your health for the sake of a good deal, so here are the key ways to spot a fake product:
Where are you buying it from?
If it's off the market, from an ebay seller that magically has 1000 MAC lipsticks to sell off cheap, or from a dodgy looking website that's got no affiliation with the brand, be careful. Most high end products will only be stocked in approved retailers, so if it seems too good to be true it probably is.
What does the packaging look like?
Although many counterfeit operations are extremely clever and produce nearly identical packaging, there will always be a giveaway sign - from the fonts being slightly wrong, to the positioning of graphics and even the quality of the cardboard used. Look closely and spot the difference.
How is the quality of printing?
When I worked at Paul Mitchell we had a huge issue with counterfeit products, but they were easy to spot due to the lack of quality printing. The black font was printed on the bottle without precision and wiped off easily when it came into contact with heat or water; it simply didn't look like a £20.00 bottle of shampoo. Take real care and attention to look at the quality of the printing and compare to official pictures online if you can.
Does it smell as you'd expect?
Big brands spend a small fortune on developing a distinctive scent for their product, as it evokes a very strong emotion in their customer; this is true of everything from lipstick to shampoo. If you've bought from the brand before, then compare the scent with the potential fake and see if you can spot the difference - imitation products will often have a very 'plastic', generic or indistinguishable scent.
How qualitative are the applicators or tools included?
Many fakes can be outed simply by the ugly plastic applicator tools that are included within the pack. If they look like they've been bought in bulk for 50p, then stay well clear. There's no way Bobbi Brown, Clinique or MAC will offer you a cheap and nasty unbranded eyeshadow applicator.
What's the shade name?
If it's a legit product then it will have an official name that's easy to research online. If it's a fake, it may just have a number or something that you can easily track down as counterfeit - if it's obviously different to what's featured on the brand's official website then it's definitely dodgy.
So what do you do if you think you've found, spotted or purchased a counterfeit product? It's always a safe bet to pay for any online purchases with either PayPal or a credit card, where you benefit from buyer protection; this means if the goods are fake, then you can almost definitely expect a refund. However, if you've bought something that you're almost certain is coutrfeit then it's worth contacting your local Citizens Advice Bureau as well as the Trading Standards Authority; Which have a really handy guide of all the people who may be able to help here. It's also worth contacting the brand directly through their social or customer service channels, making them aware directly of the issue; they may be able to get their legal team on it immediately, as well as potentially compensating you with an official product for your time and helpfulness! If you bought the product on eBay or a similar selling site, it's also advisable to report them and raise a case so they're blocked from continuing their business activities; eBay in particular are incredibly hot on fake and counterfeit goods so should suspend the account in question immediately.
If you have spent your heard-earned cash on something that's not legit, then don't panic. There are things that can be done and you shouldn't be left with a dodgy eyeshadow palette that's about as much use as a chocolate teapot. The moral of the story? If it's too good to be true, then it probably is.
Have you ever experienced, bought or found counterfeit beauty products?