On Sunday the five-year-old and I swanned off on a mini adventure into the premier of Snoopy and Charlie Brown The Peanuts Movie, to get the last of the Christmas shopping and of course no visit to Dublin’s Fair City is complete without a sneaky trip to Anne’s Bakery on Mary Street for some yummy cakes.

As we made our way up Henry-street I noticed stalls upon stalls selling counterfeit make-up and there were girls squealing in excitement at the prices while the sellers swore blind it was real. The fact is – it’s not real, well unless it’s robbed directly from a reputable supplier but that is highly unlikely. You read so many horror stories in the magazines and online about teenagers and women and the horrific effects counterfeit makeup has had on their skin yet people are still going to sell it for quick quid and others are going to buy it because it’s a ‘bargain’. I called in one of my favourite beauty bloggers, Leanne of Blather and Beauty to give a low down on the dangers of using counterfeit makeup, how to spot a fake and to share some of her favourite budget beauty brands.


No doubt you have been wandering around a market or came across a street stall selling some of your favourite makeup at a real bargain price. Sure what would be the harm in picking some up? A great gift for Christmas?

Think again.

Most of us have heard stories of fake makeup containing all sorts but do we really believe that? How can you spot fake makeup and cosmetics and what exactly are they?

What is counterfeit cosmetics?

These are copies of popular branded makeup products, brushes, and skincare. Some can be easily spotted straight away, others can be a little bit more difficult to tell to an un-trained eye. Nearly all counterfeit makeup is made in China in really awful dirty conditions. Tests on some products showed them to contain mercury, lead, arsenic, cyanide and even human urine and rat droppings!! Not something we want NEAR our faces!

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(photos from a Facebook page openly selling and admitting that they are fake cosmetics)

Typically you will always see brands such as MAC (the most copied!), Benefit, Bobbi Brown, Nars, and theBalm. Of course, there are a lot of other copies out there, but as these are the most sought-after brands – they know they can suck buyers in with their cheap prices. None of these brands are sold wholesale (unlike drugstore makeup such as L’Oreal, Rimmel etc which is). These brands are only available through makeup counters, their concession outlets, and verified online distributors. These brands also do NOT offer “factory seconds” for sale to the general public. If someone tells you this, there bluffing!

How can you spot counterfeit cosmetics?

To someone who is not particularly into makeup and is looking to buy a gift they can easily think they are getting the bargain of the century! Even some of us makeup junkies can be easily duped! Here are a few of the important things to look out for:

  • Product Code: Nearly all genuine cosmetics and fragrances will have a product code on the box and / or the product itself. This contains information on the date and place of manufacture. Some counterfeits will have a fake batch number or barcode, often very faded and illegible. You can check batch codes here if you have bought something and are unsure.

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  • Packaging: Luxe brands such as MAC & Benefit pride themselves in their packaging both outer and on the product itself. Keep an eye out for badly glued boxes, mirrors that don’t quite fit / falling off, faded colour and just doesn’t look like something you would see a high-end retailer selling. The font used can be different to the original, widely spaced or finely printed.
  • Leaflets: Some makeup items come with little leaflets that are placed perfectly inside. Check for spelling mistakes, faded print or leaflets that generally don’t make sense. Most of these have to be translated from English hence the errors.
  • Applicators: This is usually applicable to lip-glosses, lipstick and mascaras. The applicators or wands are usually a different size or shape.

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  • Limited Editions: You will usually see a lot of MAC limited edition products available, these are pretty much like gold dust in the MAC stores so not a hope in hell would they be readily available in bulk elsewhere!

Where are they sold?

You can come across counterfeit makeup usually at market stalls, facebook, eBay and through websites. With this being said, there are also very reputable retailers that are also found in these places so you just need to be careful and do some research.

It goes without saying, when shopping on the likes of eBay or Amazon, always check the seller’s feedback. If they are selling just cosmetics in bulk at very low prices, I would stay well clear. Photos used should be of the actual product, not stock photos. When buying through websites check are they VAT registered, are they open to communication openly and what is the feedback like on their social media.

Sites that I recommend and shop with often.

You can pick up some real bargains from these sites, lots of brands and all genuine!

Cloud10Beauty Dolled up FeelUnique AllBeauty Pop-Chic Beauty matters Simply Foxy

Some great ‘Easy on the Pocket’ Makeup Brands

If you are looking to buy makeup as a Christmas Gift and are on a budget, there are so many great brands out there that won’t break the bank and certainly, don’t contain any of the nasty stuff!


This brand burst onto the scenes over the last 2 years, and while they do model their products on some of the higher end brands, they are all properly tested and really good value for money! This new eyeshadow palette “Bronze Queen” is only €5!

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This is a Turkish cosmetic company with fantastic products to boot! You may come across some stands in selected pharmacies and all products are amazing quality! They have just launched their own brush ‘Flawless’ which is under €25.

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Essence & Catrice

You’ve probably come across these in Penneys or Dunnes Stores, they are great budget brands. From trying out different products, Catrice is a bit better in my opinion, especially when is comes to packaging. Although if you are on the hunt for an eye primer, Essence does a fab one for €3.50!

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Boots Seventeen

This brand exclusive to Boots has recently been rebranded and given a whole new look! Previously just aimed at teenagers, it’s now a brand that’s hot with a lot of beauty bloggers..including myself! I adore their HD mascara which is around €8 and their All About Eyes eyeshadow palette that’s €11.

counterfeit makeup

counterfeit makeup


Remember makeup is there to have fun with. For me, buying a luxury makeup product is a treat to myself. It will give the results I want (most of the time!) and feels luxurious! None of this applies to counterfeit makeup!

Irish blogger Behind Green Eyes has a great post comparing a fake and real The Balm Mary Lou Manizer.

And Just The F Word also shares the dangers of using  Fake Kylie Make-Up.

Thank you so much, Leanne, for sharing your knowledge on counterfeit makeup. If you take anything from this post please don’t buy your teenagers counterfeit makeup this Christmas or anytime for that matter, you’re not doing your children’s skin any favours long term.

6 Comments on How to Spot a Fake – Don’t Buy Counterfeit Cosmetics This Christmas

  1. Great post. Glad you’ve tackled this problem. I see so many items of makeup coming in for testing where I work and it’s terrifying to see the amount of heavy metals present in makeup and cosmetics coming from China and India. Stuff that shouldn’t even be present!

  2. Excellent post Leanne, so important to keep sharing. I heard one woman at a market tell someone “my brother imports it from Europe, he brings it all over on the ferry, it’s so much cheaper to buy in France so that’s why we can sell it at this price” – aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh

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