Are You Buying Cosmetic Knock-Offs? Could They Be Dangerous?
By: Mary Erickson | Founder, Camera Ready Cosmetics
I am going to address the latest in knock-off cosmetics. I’ll start with one of the hottest face powders on the market, Ben Nye Banana Powder, made famous a few years ago by Kim Kardashian and her personal Makeup Artist. While all Ben Nye powder colors fly off the shelves, the cult favorite is the Ben Nye Banana Powder because that was the color used on Kim on a very popular YouTube video.
Many makeup enthusiasts who follow bloggers and vloggers understand how these cosmetics go viral. It seemingly happens overnight. Once this happens the manufacturer can’t keep up with the new demand. Many times, as in the case of Banana Powder, months went by before some customers could get ahold of the product they now had to have. This shortage created a situation of panic among the very few (at the time) authorized Ben Nye dealers. Camera Ready Cosmetics was one of those dealers, so I know first-hand what happened when this product went viral worldwide in just a few days.
It was a short matter of time before knock-off Ben Nye powder was being made in China. China manufacturers are very good at making knock-offs to look exactly like the product you know and love. They make it for pennies on the dollar and sell it in bulk.
Who does China sell these powders to?
In many cases it is men and women working from their homes or warehouses all over the world, including the USA. These clever entrepreneurs get the product shipped to their home, garage, storage facility or warehouse and pay as little as $1.00 per bottle.
These entrepreneurs don’t have walk-in retail stores, so where do they sell the product?
They generally sell it on third party websites like Amazon, eBay, Bonanza, Alibaba, and Walmart (yes, they have a reseller division now). Third party Internet retailers are popping up daily all over the world to give these entrepreneurs an online market to sell their fake or “knock-off” product.
So what’s the problem?
Here is the main problem for the consumer when they buy a knock-off product, knowingly or unknowingly. The consumer has no idea what the ingredients are in that product. Remember, the bottle and label are all very good copies, and the only difference in these products is usually what’s inside the container. Yes, the part that goes on your skin, around your eyes and on your lips. You might be asking “It’s just cheaper makeup, how bad can it be?”
How bad can a knock-off be for your health?
There are many articles on the internet about health issues and fake products. Here is just one quote from the Huffington Post:Some fake eyeliners, mascaras, lip glosses and foundations are laced with arsenic, mercury, lead and even -- wait for it -- RAT DROPPINGS!”
Now how do rat excrement and poisonous substances end up inside these phony cosmetics?
They’re manufactured in unregulated and unsanitary factories, and are not subject to rigorous safety tests according to Huffington Post. See full article here.
Insida a Counterfeit Perfumery
Source: The Huffington Post
Makeup products also expire. Cosmetics can grow harmful bacteria if the product is kept anywhere but in a climate-controlled area. Many knock-off products are kept in garages, storage sheds and warehouses without air conditioning or heat. We assume that many products are kept past their 18-month expiration period. Products kept past this period could be growing bacteria and should not be sold at all.
Can I get ill from old makeup?
Yes you can!
Source: Daily Mail
How to tell the difference between a knock-off product and authentic product?
Is the product sold being sold on an authorized dealer’s website? How do you know the site is authorized to sell, and is selling, the actual product you are trying to buy?
This is harder to determine for some brands, but when talking specifically about our current subject Ben Nye, there are a few simple ways to know who the Authorized Dealers are and shop with confidence.
- Ben Nye does not sell to any company or individual that sells through or on Amazon, eBay, Walmart, Bonanza, Wish, Alibaba or any third-party selling site. If you are buying from any of these sites, you are buying a product from an unauthorized dealer and have no idea what you will receive, but you DO know it was not supplied by the Ben Nye company.
- Ben Nye does not sell to any retailer without a brick and mortar retail store. If you are purchasing from anyone without a brick and mortar retail store then you are buying from an unauthorized That seller is not getting the product directly from Ben Nye.
- The price is over or under the suggested retail price. This is a dead giveaway that you are probably buying a fake product. Ben Nye does not allow its dealers to charge less than retail. If anyone is selling Ben Nye powder under the normal retail price there is a good chance they are buying it from a China wholesaler at around $1.00 to $3.00 a bottle. (See wish.com as an example.) What can they provide at $1.00 to $3.00? Your guess is as good as mine, but I do know that for this price you are not getting anything close to what is in the real authentic product.
Authentic Ben Nye Banana Powder
Can you tell a fake product from the picture?
No, not really, not on the internet. These sellers generally lift the legit photos from authorized sellers’ websites. Even if they shoot their own photos, the bottle is usually the same as the original, the lid is the same and the label is a very good copy – so really on this product the only difference you will see and feel is when you use the product.
Besides possibly damaging my health, are there any other repercussions to purchasing fake products on line?
Yes, many! The legitimate manufacturer spent a lot of time and money to formulate a product that would feel good and perform well. In many cases, they purchased expensive machines to fill the containers, they purchased containers, they go through cleanliness drills with the people filling those containers to insure clean product. They worked long hours getting the formula just right, and probably spent weeks working on getting the label perfect. The brand has spent a lot of money on marketing and educating the public on their product.
The knock-off lines simply jump in, make a substandard and possibly dangerous product, and then saturate the market with these fake products. Customers buy the fakes because they are cheaper or just more convenient on third-party sites, and then what happens? These customers who have purchased the fake product spread the news that the product is “not as good as I thought,” “made me break out,” “smelled funny,” “waste of money,” etc. They are pushing the value of the product down after all the work the manufacturer put into the product, and they do this all for just a little ill-gotten quick profit.
Counterfeit Makeup Seized by PICPU
Source: The Huffington Post
The unauthorized dealers of fake products are making a lot of money. My guess would be that they are making more money than most people reading this blog. Just look at what is being sold daily on Amazon and eBay by each seller. If we imagine that they are buying each fake powder for $1.00 and selling that powder over 1000 times at over $9.00 a product, the profit would be over to $8,000.00! Let that sink in…. $8,000.00 for one product, and many sellers can sell that in one month. Now add another 3 or 4 fake products to that and one can make $32,000 a month on just selling a few knock-off products on Amazon. The losers are the consumer and the manufacturer. The winner is the third-party selling site and the seller, who usually remains completely anonymous because they are selling fake product and simply prefer not to be caught.
Will it ever stop?
If you consider how long Amazon and eBay have been around and how large they are, my prediction would be “not anytime soon.” This is a real David and Goliath situation. Stay tuned for my next blog exploring the future of third-party sites and how old fashioned retail can fit in.
For now, protect yourself; buy from authorized sellers!
Ben Nye Authorized Sellers:
Nigel's beauty Emporium
Find more authorized sellers by contacting Ben Nye directly.
Author: Mary Erickson, professional makeup artist of over 30 years, owner and founder of Camera Ready Cosmetics, Camera Ready Studios, and Camera Ready Academy