How to Spot a Fake

by - Wednesday, September 09, 2015

We all love a good bargain. We wouldn’t be human (nor British – if you’re British that is) if we didn’t. But how far are you willing to go to grab a bargain? Would you willingly use a beauty product this is clearly fake without knowing what it’s made of? Would you use a fake beauty product if you knew it could have serious health effects both internally and on the skin? The answer should be - a million times - NO.

I really wanted to write this post after seeing many people buying or selling fake beauty products. It’s just not good for you and it’s not worth your money. So, I knowingly purchased a fake MAC Lipstick in Lady Danger from eBay for less than £5. I purchased this for the purpose of this blog, to be able to compare the fake product to the genuine product which I already own. (Please note, I will not be physically using this product as this was only purchased for the purpose of this post. I also, do not recommend that anyone willingly purchase a fake beauty product.)


According to Interpol “profits made from counterfeit beauty products and goods are used to fund large crime organisations involved in drugs, smuggling and terrorism”, by purchasing these goods not only are you supporting these organisations but you are also damaging your body. Fake make-up has one benefit to the buyer, and one only - you are getting the product cheaper (usually at least a 50% reduction to the retail price). But in comparison to the cocktail of harmful ingredients including lead, copper, mercury, arsenic and cadmium (which is extremely dangerous), and the affect it has on your skin or even worse, the permanent damage it could cause to both your body and your brain*. Is it really worth it? No! Honey, you are worth so much more than a fake beauty product.

Counterfeit products may not only contain carcinogenic ingredients that are banned from being used in cosmetics, but they are also not being made in a sterile environment. According to an newspaper article online, dermatologists are now reporting a rise in the number of women with skin conditions such as long term acne, skin swelling to more serious skin conditions such as psoriasis. They may also trigger skin rashes, infections, or other conditions such as lead poisoning which can affect major organs and can have long term effects on the heart, kidneys and nervous system. Excessive levels of these chemicals have side effects could be serious long term affects including high blood pressure, fertility problems, memory and concentration problems and if you are pregnant there is an increased risk to harm the foetus*.


There are so many fakes out there, it can be confusing to know which ones are genuine and which ones are the fakes. Many known brands including MAC, Lancôme, Dior, Bobbi Brown, Urban Decay, Max Factor, Bare Minerals, Estee Lauder and Benefit are the most “popular” fakes available. So to help you spot a fake and know when to buy or when to avoid, I have included a few tips below.
  1. Only buy from a known retailer and/or licensed seller. Beauty brands e.g. MAC will display their certified stockists on their website so you know where to check.
  2. Avoid buying beauty products from eBay, Amazon, Depop or even Facebook and Twitter. Yes someone might be selling their genuine product but you can never be too sure. If you think they item is genuine but just want a second opinion, ask them to send you detailed photos of the codes and the product and ask the brand’s staff to check it out. And definitely avoid purchasing beauty products from countries outside the UK like China and Eastern Europe if you can’t be sure that it’s undergone the proper testing.
  3. Check the packaging! The packaging may be very good in replicating the real thing but look extremely carefully. Is a colour different? Or has a different font been used? Does the font vary in size? Once you know what you are looking for, you’ll be able to spot a fake a mile off.
  4. Compare the colours of the real product to the fake. You may notice that your favourite pink blusher is appears more of a peach blusher in your online bargain. This might sound “obvious” to some, but you’d be surprised how many fake Benefit Hoola blushers I’ve seen that don’t look very bronzy and look more peachy.
  5. Check the product codes and batch numbers. These are usually printed on the base of the box, all you need to do is check google as they will have lists of real codes for you to check them against.
  6. Finally, legitimate brands rarely sell their goods are really low prices. Yes they have a few offers but never over 50% off, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. So if you see your favourite MAC eyeliner going for only £3.50 buy it now when they usually retail for £14, and it’s not a recognised stockist - then just avoid avoid avoid!


Being honest, I found it extremely worrying how similar the fake MAC lipstick was to the real thing. I even asked my fiancé to compare and he didn’t know the difference. He actually thought the fake MAC lipstick was the real thing as the font and coding on the base of the product was bigger and clearer – tell-tale sign ladies – and he thought the packaging was really clear and convincing.

Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Left: Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger" // Right: Genuine MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Left: Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger" // Right: Genuine MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Left: Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger" // Right: Genuine MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Left: Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger" // Right: Genuine MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger" 

Left: Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger" // Right: Genuine MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"
Left: Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger" // Right: Genuine MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"

Fake MAC Lipstick "Lady Danger"  - Real MAC lipstick cases don't fit on fake MAC lipsticks.

Most of us know that MAC have a signature scent of their lippies - that oh so dreamy but oh so subtle vanilla scent – that makes you want to keep applying the lipstick all day (damn you MAC and your savvy marketing techniques), so it’s pretty obvious that the first thing I thought was “eww it smells odd”. Just imagine finding last year’s favourite lipstick that has now gone a little manky and now smells a little rank. Yup that’s how it smelt.

The packaging was bloody good if I do say so myself - although not entirely fool proof – as it had all the “ingredients” listed, the printing, the codes and even the back to MAC printed on the inside of the box. Woah. However I don’t think you’d get away with using these for your B2M claim so I wouldn’t even try it. The actual lipstick packaging was a little darker than your normal MAC lipstick, the silver tube lining was a little too silver in comparison and you couldn’t use a real MAC lipstick lid on a fake (or visa versa), whereas for real MAC lipsticks it doesn’t matter what lid goes on which. Random I know but there’s a little trick for you.

For the actual product, it’s pretty darn hard to tell, but I can notice the difference in colour. The real lipstick is actually a matte lipstick, yet the fake appears to have an ever so slightly creamy finish (a little like their satin lipsticks) and as you can see from the swatch, it is a really close match. It’s hard to describe and review a fake when I refuse to use it on my face - maybe I shouldn’t have used it on my hand either? - never mind as write about it but I am hoping you get the gist of what I mean.

In general, I am quite surprised at how easy it is to pick up a fake. All I had to do is type MAC lipstick in on eBay and hundreds came up – shame on you eBay – and they are also available to purchase on Amazon, Depop and even social media sites like IG, Facebook & Twitter. Considering the major health risks and the information that the police, border force peoples (uhuh, peoples with an ‘s’) and health professionals have discussed and shared, you’d think that most of these companies would try harder to stop these naughty fakes being so easy to purchase and also help people to become more knowledgeable to know not to purchase that “MAC lipstick” – that’s a super cheap price at only £6 - from your neighbour.

Unless you want to have a serious reaction - and look like something out of the hills have eyes movie – then the final thing I have to say is avoid using fake beauty products at all costs! This includes make-up, nail polishes, make-up removers, creams, body lotions, moisturisers and even perfumes. There are so many high street brands that have beauty products that are tested properly, affordable and are overall pretty darn good products. So just use your noggin, pretty please :)

Have you accidentally bought a fake beauty product? Do you have any tips or would like to share your experiences?

*Disclaimer: Factual information has been sourced from numerous newspaper articles including The Guardian, Daily Mail and the Independent and has been re-written into my own words. Factual information has been marked with an asterix. I have not been sponsored or received a gift to write this post.

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