BOSTON — Counterfeit makeup being sold online may look like the real thing, but much of it is fake and could be harmful to your health.
Dee Dee Huey buys makeup, including foundation, blush, eye shadow and mascara, online. Huey told our sister station that she usually sticks to brands that she knows. But she found deep discounts on hot new designer products from social media sensation Kylie Jenner and California pop icon Jeffree Star.
“But then on here it’s only $8. What a great deal,” Huey said.
The real lipstick costs around $18 and eye shadow goes for $45.
Huey ordered from an EBay seller and lesser known website. The packages that showed up were the first red flags there was trouble.
Her Jeffree Star EBay order shipped from two different places. The pink one came from California and the second return address is a substance abuse halfway house in Albany, New York.
The shipping label for the Kylie product shows it came straight from China.
We noticed obvious flaws with some of the makeup’s packaging, like a bubble in one tube of lipstick.
“The circles are not even complete circles. It just looks kind of cheaply made,” Huey said.
A Georgia lab compared Huey’s makeup to the genuine article ordered straight from the brand names’ websites.
“See how that one’s got a lot more of a sheen to it,” said chemist Rik Roberts about two eye shadow samples.
Roberts shot the samples with a laser. He found dramatic differences between the real Kylie lipstick and the Chinese imposter.
“They’re definitely not the same product,” said Roberts.
Chemist Doug MacTaggart looked for more trouble.
“Carcinogenic, poisonous, what we call persistent organic pollutants,” said MacTaggart.
Then chemists performed an acid test to separate suspect ingredients.
“Got a little bit of bubbling,” said Roberts about one of the samples after adding the nitric acid. “And we’ll be able to tell if we have anything in there that shouldn’t be in there.”
The various tests revealed lots of fillers like talc not seen in the real products, but nothing toxic.
The government’s counterfeit watchdog says, in a way, we got lucky.
“Some counterfeit items we see are sub-par quality. Some of them may be particularly dangerous,” said ICE spokesman Bryan Cox.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents seized nearly $74 million in fake pharmaceuticals and personal-care products in 2016. Cox says they can have potential dangers.
“The counterfeit products are often contaminated with a variety of industrial materials, toxins, chemicals, things of that nature, and when you get it, you’re putting those things on your face,” said Cox.
Huey decided to steer clear of the bargain look-alikes.
“This, I thought, was getting a good deal online. But now that I’ve got it, I see why it was so cheap,” she said.
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