December 5, 2019

A Dermatologist Lays Out 4 Ways to Spot Counterfeit Skin-care Products

When you’re shopping for the perfect serum to add to your skin-care regimen, things like five-star product reviews and a good-looking price tag can outshine where, exactly, you’re purchasing it from. Add to cart with the wrong retailer, though, and you could wind up with a bad reaction on your skin (or worse). That’s because in the world of counterfeit beauty products, buying fakes can pose a lot more problems than a knock-off designer bag would.

In a recent episode of Netflix’s docu-series Broken, industry insiders take a deep dive into the world of counterfeit beauty products, schooling viewers on just how prevalent—and problematic—the industry is. Seizures of counterfeit cosmetics have exploded—according to a recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, counterfeit goods value more than half a trillion dollars in the global economy, and US Customs and Border Protection figures say that counterfeit products cost over $75 million per year to the cosmetics industry. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever for people to sell knockoff cosmetics and pass them off as the real thing. For consumers, the consequences of this can either result in a non-effective beauty product… or you could face problems with your skin (like rashes).

“Counterfeit beauty products [can] include ingredients that have no business in skin care, like super glue for example, and they are often created in completely unsanitary makeshift labs. So, you might find vile contents mixed into the products you are placing on your face, which [can] include urine and fecal matter,” says board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, who appears in the film. “They have also tested positive for heavy metals like mercury and lead, known carcinogens like arsenic, and high levels of bacteria—some of which are known human pathogens.”