The hidden cost of counterfeit make up

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Knockoff cosmetics are a $75M industry. You won't believe what goes into the fake stuff!

CLEVELAND — Getting glamour products these days costs a pretty penny: $40 for a Chanel lipstick, $88 for Tom Ford foundation, you can even spend $100 for Surrat eye shadow.

It’s no wonder ladies looking for glam bypass department stores for social media sites that openly advertise knockoffs. Sometimes they find themselves at flea markets, where counterfeiters sell fakes in plain sight all around the world.

“I took the opportunity to get fake versions of all the actual expensive makeup products,” blogger OhemgeeitsMaya confessed. “I want because, let’s be real here, who the hell has enough money to buy the real versions of all of these?”

That’s why, as quickly as law enforcement seizes the fakes, they show up again.

In fact, Daniel Boerio, Import Specialist with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, tells us Cleveland is one of the top five ports for seizures, along with Chicago, New York City, Houston and Miami.

“The problem isn’t the loss of revenue,” Boerio said. “It’s the fact that people are going to die or get hurt using the fake cosmetics.”

Think he’s exaggerating? The Anit-Counterfeit Network Africa points out in their “Don’t Be Fake” program what happened to a woman in Africa after using a counterfeit moisturizer. 

Los Angeles beauty blogger Sarah Tayna was not pleased with the aftermath of using a counterfeit designer eye shadow.

“I have an eye infection,” she said. “And it just got progressively worse throughout the day.”

The problem is so pervasive that Netflix recently made a documentary on the dangers, called “Broken.”

RELATED: Drugstore makeup dupes: Get the look without the hefty price tag

But don’t just take their word for it. When my colleague Rachel Polansky bought a MAC foundation from a random website it arrived from China. She sent it to global testing lab Princeton Consumer Research in the U.K., and what they found was not very pretty: Large quantities of lead, aluminum, mercury, and rat droppings!

So how do you spot the fakes? Well, when a something like a MAC foundation that normally sells for $38 is online for $4 you’re not getting the real thing. Inconsistencies in packaging are also a giveaway as well as misspellings. You can also tell by smell.

“Products from China have a very petroleum based smell,” Boerio said. “If they are using paint thinner you are going to smell it in the merchandise.”

So here’s the deal: All of us like a discount, but these kind of savings are a high price to pay just to look pretty.

“I’m not encouraging you to buy fake makeup and use it on yourself. It’s very dangerous,” OhemgeeitsMaya said. “I’m just a risk taker.”

       
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