The Skin Nerd: Counterfeit cosmetics are a real risk to your health

Illegality aside, fake beauty products pose risks to your skin that you’re best off not taking.

The Skin Nerd: Counterfeit cosmetics are a real risk to your health

Illegality aside, fake beauty products pose risks to your skin that you’re best off not taking.

When we think of counterfeit beauty products, it is easy to write them off as something you have only come across in slightly dodgy market stalls.

It becomes a much more concerning issue when it comes to the reality of buying beauty online, particularly from larger “open” retailers who allow tens of thousands of sources to retail products.

With counterfeits being readily available on sites like Amazon and eBay, it becomes clear that this illegal industry isn’t being monitored to the extent that it should be, even with Amazon’s Project Zero coming into effect, an initiative that allows brands to remove third-party stockists from the site themselves.

Buying a fake product is an annoyance to any consumer. Nobody wants to contribute their hard-earned moolah to — let’s face it— criminals.

What is much more worrying is that these products lack regulation of what is in them and people are applying them to their skin, eyes, lips and other areas that we usually treat with care. Best case scenario, you have a reaction to an ingredient that isn’t supposed to be found in skincare and makeup. Worse case scenario, you are exposed to known carcinogens.

In the year 2018, 728 counterfeit cosmetic products were seized by Customs in Ireland and testing carried out by the HPRA found that some of these contained arsenic and lead, two chemicals considered to possibly contribute to a greater risk of specific cancers.

The terrifying thing is that even if these products don’t contain carcinogens, you still will never know what is in them. There could be literally anything. When you are formulating cosmetic products, you are legally required to include your INCI list (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). Counterfeits often use the INCI list on the original product as their INCI even though they don’t contain the same ingredients.

Even if you, by some stroke of luck, find a genuine product from an unauthorised retailer, online or in person, it’s important to note that skincare has specific storage requirements for a reason. Particular ingredients, such as vitamin C, need to be stored in cool, dark spaces as they can degrade due to light, moisture and heat. When it comes to SPF, after it has expired, it is not as effective and using an expired sunscreen can inadvertently lead to irreparable sun damage.

One of the key benefits of authorised sellers that I find people can overlook is that if you do have a reaction to a product, you can contact your retailer for information on what to do. Without an authorised seller, this service becomes unavailable and even if where you bought it from provides you with advice, I can assure you it is not in keeping with the advice the brand itself would give you.

Thankfully, as far as problems go, this is easily avoided on an individual level. Just always buy from official stockists of products, and if something doesn’t feel right, contact the brand themselves to ensure that your choice of salon or store is supposed to be carrying that product.

If you do want to buy cosmetics online, whether it’s skincare or makeup, look out for some vital clues that the goods you’re receiving could be not the real deal. Dodgy packaging, including broken or flimsy product components, spelling errors and colour differences, is the easiest tell.

Have a read through any available reviews to see if they seem legitimate and do your research on the seller themselves using the wonderful tool that is Google.

The Nerdie Pick

Asap Skincare Firming Eye Lift (€65, selected salons and

I don’t always believe in eye creams — a controversial statement — but the Asap Skincare FirmingEye Lift is the type of eye product I can stand behind.

With a multi-peptide complex to stimulate collagen production for a plumper eye area, hydrating hyaluronic acid, potent antioxidants plus stimulating caffeine to reduce the appearance of dark circles, it is holy grail material.

If the price puts you off, I can report that you only need the smallest amount of it, just about the size of a grain of rice, for both of your eyes, so it will last you longer than you’d think.

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