How to spot a fake when it comes to buying makeup.

Counterfeit cosmetics is big business. And it’s no wonder really. With Australian women spending more than four billion dollars a year on makeup and skincare, it’s safe to say that we are well and truly in the sights of scammers.

But how exactly do you spot a fake? Well, the only way to be 100 per cent sure you’re going home with the real deal is to purchase your products from a reputable seller. This means a department store, makeup counter or authorised reseller.

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But when you consider that Aussie girls are sometimes paying more than double the retail price of that charged overseas it’s understandable that a lot of us have been tempted to look for a better deal.

“Is it really an issue though? I mean, you’re just paying for the name aren’t you?” Uh, no. That’s not exactly the case. Sure, big name makeup brands also rake in the big dollars but with those profits, they’re able to fund research, testing and product patents. That way they can ensure the best possible product for the customer (that’s you).

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“Is there any risk to purchasing counterfeit products?” Yep, huge ones.

There can be huge risks associated with buying counterfeit makeup. Image via iStock

Well known makeup brands hold their products to very strict quality control standards. More than anything, it's for your safety. (I learned the hard way after I was tempted to try and find discounted Urban Decay Naked eyeshadow palettes and ended up with an allergic reaction so bad that I needed time off work.)


Fakes are generally made in non sterile environments (infection, contamination) and more often than not they use inferior, cheaper ingredients. I'm not sure about you, but the thought of additives like ajax powder, nail polish remover and paint stripper near my eyes makes me squirm. That's exactly what you could be getting though. I don't think I need to warn you of the danger of putting paint thinner in your eyes, do I?

If what you' ve read still hasn't been enough to scare the bejeebus out of you, and you insist on searching for a better deal for your cosmetics, here's some advice.


Packaging on counterfeit products can be one way that you can try and determine their authenticity but beware, a lot of time and money goes in to replicating big name brands so it's not always easy.

Be familiar with the real packing before you start looking around. Anything that doesn't match EXACTLY  should be discounted immediately.

Next look at details like font, colours, spelling and layout. Reputable makeup brands have highs standards when it comes to their packaging so if the wording seems off centre, or the font is a little smudged, move along. Look at the spacing between words, it should all be uniform. And if you see a seller who has a lot of items without original packaging, beware!

Brands like NARS hold their products to very high standards. Image via NARS

If you're inspecting a product in real life, look how the product fits together. If the product itself moves around in the packaging, has visible glue around the edges or just seems "off" it probably is.


Colours and quality

Obviously this can be tricky when you're looking online but colours and pigments can be a huge giveaway when it comes to assessing a products authenticity. Pigments in well made products are strong and vivid. If the one you have is chalky and faint, it's not the real deal. Also, if the colour swatches of the products online look different to those on the brands website alarm bells should be ringing.

Do your research

Before agreeing to purchase an item from an eBay seller, take the time to view their feedback. If someone else has raised concerns about receiving a counterfeit product, chances are you'll be getting one too.

Heavily discounted items

Have you ever noticed that big name makeup brands like MAC, NARS, Clinique and Bobbi Brown never go on sale (they may have promotions but the items themselves are never discounted). That's because they don't have to. The market will pay the asking price so there's no need to sweeten the deal with discounts.

Makeup brands may run promotions like Clinique (who does awesome gift with purchase promos) but the items themselves don't go on sale. Image via Clinique

If you see a Benefit blush in store for $35, and then spot the same one online for under ten, you've gotta start asking some questions.

Remember a seller wouldn't sell unless they're making a profit so if they're able to list an item for well below store RRP, there must be something suss going on.

If you're after some makeup shopping inspiration, here are our picks of the best blushes you'll want to head in store for.