December 3, 2019Skincare

Counterfeit Cosmetics: Know Your Risks

I’ve received such wonderful feedback from you guys surrounding my contribution to the new Netflix documentary series, Broken, and I’m so grateful!  I’m getting excellent questions, so I wanted to share more information on the subject of counterfeit cosmetics with you. The risks are very real and I am so motivated to continue this important conversation – so please share with anyone you feel will benefit!

One question many of you are asking is:

What kind of skin reactions will I see if I use a counterfeit cosmetic product?

First of all – and this is frightening in itself – some very dangerous ingredients contained in counterfeit cosmetics might cause no reaction on the skin at all! You read that correctly; they can be silent in terms of a topical reaction, but can still be absorbed through your skin into your bloodstream! Skincare or makeup applied around your eyes or on your lips are even more likely to be absorbed because of how thin the skin is in those areas.

In many instances, though, people do develop a skin reaction, which can take a number of different forms.

(1) First, infections are much more likely to occur following use of a counterfeit product. I vividly recall one case of honey colored crusted sores on the cheek of a woman who had bought her foundation online. She said it didn’t look right/consistency/texture was off, color was slightly off- then a few days after starting it, she developed classic impetigo. Impetigo is a highly contagious, rapidly spreading infection usually caused by Staph aureus or Strep pyogenes. If not treated appropriately, this infection can cause scarring and can even enter the bloodstream. This was all due to a counterfeit foundation!! It is certainly not worth the risk.

(2) Acne or an acne-like rash is another common skin reaction that is more likely to occur with counterfeits. Many cheap ingredients used in counterfeit products are very occlusive on the skin and clog the pores, resulting in breakouts.

(3) Irritant contact dermatitis is another very common reaction I’ve seen, which is more likely to occur with counterfeit products. This is when your skin reacts to ingredients that trigger inflammation or irritation because the ingredient itself is harmful or it’s used at in improper concentration. Certain chemicals are caustic to the skin, such as those with either a very high or a very low pH.  Unlike authentic products, counterfeit products have not undergone extensive testing to ensure they don’t cause irritation or worse, a burn, on the skin.

This is just the beginning of a series of posts that I will be sharing on this subject! I hope that you are never in a position to deal with any of these things, but just in case it does come up, the more informed you are, the better positioned you are to protect your health and safety!

Dr. Whitney