"A counterfeit lipstick put me in hospital."

Image: Luci Leptos.

It started off as a typical night out. Luci Leptos got ready, applied some red lipstick then headed out the door to meet her boyfriend for dinner and a concert.

As she made her way to the concert after dinner, the 20 year-old soon suspected something was not right.

“I felt really funny and light headed after eating and then it just felt like I’d gone for a run but I hadn’t even walked far at all,” she says.

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“My heart was going so fast in bursts, then would slow down, then speed up again – it just kept doing that.”

“I thought it would sort itself out so it took quite a bit of convincing to get me to go to hospital but after speaking to them [a doctor] they were concerned with what they heard,” she says.

“By the time I got there they palpitations had gone down quite a bit, so it was all over very suddenly but I imagine they’d have put me on fluids for a while if my heart had kept going nuts.”

Image: Luci Leptos

After doing a blood test, doctors noticed the results showed strange levels of phosphorus, which were the only values not completely normal.

Given both Leptos and her boyfriend had eaten and drank the same stuff the entire night, the hospital suggested that the lipstick could have been the cause of her heart palpitations.

"They said it was very possible that it was the lipstick I was wearing. There wasn't any other reason for me to get like that, and I've never had anything like it before or since," she says.

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"It was just a really crappy red lipstick from one of those cheapo bins you see at cosmetic stands where everything is $1, although I can't remember the exact brand - that lipstick is long gone!" she says.

"The day after I still felt a little bit lightheaded for the morning but then it all cleared up by the afternoon. That was the first and only time I've ever used a cheap lipstick and that happened, so I'm definitely putting the hospital visit down to that."

Unfortunately, this story is not an isolated case. As online shopping has grown, so too has the sale of of "fake" beauty products. (Post continues after gallery.)


This is largely because it becomes much more difficult to check the authenticity of products before you buy online, particularly with the rife use of genuine stock images to promote fake products.

While it's true cosmetics can be expensive, you're not just paying for the name, but also the research, testing and safety measures that ensure a quality product is made for the consumer.

So although they may seem to be a bargain, not only are counterfeit products ripping off your favourite brands, they're also posing a serious risk to your health.


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According to a new awareness campaign launched by City of London police on counterfeit goods, fake beauty products are usually made in unsanitised factories and have been found to contain traces of rat droppings, human urine and even arsenic.

Lab tests have also found that fake cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation can contain toxic levels of chemicals and other harmful substances such as mercury and lead.

These can cause allergic reactions including skin irritations, swelling, burns, rashes and even more long-term health problems.

Image via iStock

According to City of London Police, Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall, many consumers are unaware about just how dangerous counterfeit beauty products can be.

"Beauty products are meant to enhance your features however the fakes can in fact do quite the opposite. Our general rule is; if it seems to good to be true then it probably is," she says.

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That's not the only concern though.

"Not only could these products have serious implications to your health and wellbeing, but by simply going online and buying from a rogue site or dealer, your personal and financial information is also at risk," she warns.

Fortunately, this shouldn't scare you off online shopping for good - there are plenty of amazing genuine sellers and products out there, but it is important to take caution.


5 online safety tips

1. Trust your instincts

If an offer looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Legitimate designer items are rarely discounted, so do not rush and be fooled into believing you are getting a good deal.

2. Check for spelling errors

Check the spelling and grammar on the website and the URL - often the people behind these sites do not pay a lot of attention or care to this detail. Fraudsters may also try to deceive you by slightly changing the spelling of a well-known brand or shop in the website address.

Be alert when shopping online. Image via iStock

3. Check out sellers online

Only use sites you know or ones that have been recommended to you. If you have not bought from the seller before, do your research and check online reviews.

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4. Safety first

Ensure the website begins 'https' at the payment stage - this indicates a secure payment. If you're not sure whether the items are genuine, do not enter your payment details - it's not worth the risk.

5. Check returns

Ask the trader if there is a returns policy or guarantee. Most rogue traders will not offer this.

There's no need to buy the fakes to save money - check out our favourite budget versions of beloved (more expensive!) products.


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