October 01, 2011

The Truth About Counterfeit Make-Up

I wrote a post awhile back about fake designer goods which got a really overwhelming response, one that I wasn't expecting at all. We had some great debates going in the comments and, surprisingly, most of you agreed with me about what a travesty the global counterfeit market is.

However, as one might expect on a beauty blog, the conversation turned to counterfeit make-up and I was asked to see if I could do a follow-up post, focusing on fake MAC make-up in particular. A lot of you wanted to see what it looked like, what the quality of the products were like and, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do such a post.

Morally though, I had a dilemma. Being so staunchly anti-fake, I couldn't bring myself to spend any money ordering "fake-up" and, consequently,supporting and contributing to the black market. So, I put my feelers out and, thanks to a family friend and Dee from DeeLightful Thoughts, I soon had an alarming collection of fake MAC at my disposal including two foundations and three eyeshadow palettes.

It's hard to know where to start a post like this as there is so much to say but, I think I took a pretty comprehensive set of photos depicting the fake MAC that I have and also comparing it to the real deal where possible so, you'll be able to make your own deductions further than what I have to say here.

Apologies in advance for an extremely lengthy, text and picture-heavy post but, I wanted to give the broadest representation possible! Be sure to read to the end of the post as there are some interesting and scary facts about using fake-up!

I'm going to look at each palette one-by-one and comment on any obvious issues with packaging, labeling and product as well as anything else that sets it apart from the real deal.

Palette #1

Packaging: Clearly this palette has been through the wars but, it's still clear that this is not "standard" MAC packaging. While the logo is correct, MAC, to my knowledge, never denote what is contained inside by printing "Eyeshadow," on the face of the compact.

Label: This is probably the best representation of a MAC label of the three palettes I have. However, it is missing the standard period-after-opening (PAO) symbol that, according to the EU Cosmetics Derivative, must be carried on all cosmetics with a shelf-life of at least 30 months.

However, the real issue with this label is that it, allegedly, contains "6 Warm Eyes" yet, only 5 shades are listed; Brule, Honey Lust, Jete, Beauty Marked and Showstopper. Furthermore, none of these shades are the ones actually contained in the palette which, look to me to be more like rip-offs of Dazzlelight, Electra, Carbon, Sumptuous Olive, Mythology and Bronze.

Palette and Brulé (L) and Beauty Marked (R) which are supposed to be included.

Product: Aside from the naming issue, the quality of the shadows isn't stupendous. There is a lot of fallout and they are very chalky. They also stink of talcum powder which probably accounts for the powdery texture. Pigmentation is very poor and requires multiple swatches to build up a discernible shade.

Palette #2

Packaging: The opposite is the case with this palette, the front face could pass as a legitimate MAC product; shiny, sleek and with an appropriate logo. However, the base is a different story altogether with a chunky stuck on label that is beyond belief.

Labeling: Seriously? THIS is meant to be a genuine MAC label? They didn't even try. Not only is Shimmer Brick a Bobbi Brown product but, there is absolutely no brand information as is customary on a MAC label, let alone a POA symbol or shade names.

Product: Again, this is just a joke. These eyeshadows were a thick, crumbly mess. Swatching them meant powder flying everywhere and they seemed to disintegrate under my touch, especially the taupe shade in the middle of the palette. Talcum powder was the predominant scent and it was extremely strong in this case. My main issue though was how difficult these were to remove. I had to scrub at my arm and the blue shades stained my skin which you can kind of make out in the last picture.

Palette #3

Packaging: This palette is the most laughable out of the three; the counterfeiter didn't even try to replicate a MAC palette. Just the brand name was used and what appears to be the logo from the Fafi Collection way back in 2007. This looks to be more reminiscent of an ELF or NYX palette than a MAC one.

Labeling: Wrong logo, bad naming scheme and an out-of-place "professional make-up artists". The only thing that is right with this label is the MAC website address. Again, no shade names.

Product: Kudos to Randy Rip-Off for adding a nice embossed floral design to each of the 8 shadows in this palette. Really makes up for the fact that these will probably burn through your eyelids.

The same issues that I have noted for the previous two eyeshadow palettes are applicable here. Overpowering smell, very soft, chalky and powdery with heavy fallout. These eyeshadows are reminiscent of nothing in the MAC line, even the worst finish they have which is Lustre.

Finally, we're onto foundations. Comparing and critiquing these was much harder than the eyeshadows were as it's harder to capture on camera what I can see and feel when I swatch them but, I will do my best to explain.

Foundation #1

Packaging: The face of this compact isn't too bad. The logo and text placement are all correct but, the font used for "Studio Fix" is incorrect. If you Google pictures, you'll notice that the "o" in "Studio" should look more like a zero. In terms of the bottom of the compact, the trellis-like base is correct but, as far as I can see, there is no solid piece peeping out from behind the label on the legitimate compact.

Labeling: The label always seems to be what gives fake-up away. The font used and lack of detail make this scream "FAKE." I don't have a compact of Studio Fix to compare it to but, here is the fake label compared with a Mineralized Skinfinish Natural Label showing the font used and amount of detail MAC include for all products.

Product: Unfortunately I don't have a comparison swatch but, from what I know about Studio Fix, this powder isn't thick enough or heavy enough coverage to be considered the same product. It smells heavily of talc again and is extremely dusty. 

Foundation #2

Packaging: I used to use Mineralize Satinfinish for many years so, I feel I can give a good account of how the fake one differs. On first glance, nothing looks too suspect. The bottle is frosted as is the real one and the text and font are all correct. However, once you put the real and the fake side-by side, you can see the subtle inaccuracies between the two.

The lids are different sizes, with the fake one being slightly bigger. The lip on the lid of the fake one is also deeper than that on the real. The false bottom on the bottle is larger on the fake than on the real and, I would hazard that there is less product in the fake one as a result. 

I do have the fake packaging for this one and, it is perfectly believable save for the funny looking shade sticker. 

Labeling: Because the fake foundation contained so much information on both the box and the bottle, I had my sister read out the real labeling to me to compare. This is almost a perfect dupe with very little inconsistency, if any. The only labeling issues are the aforementioned sticker on the box and the third picture above where the sticker on the end of the bottle has clearly been applied manually as opposed to mechanically and is peeling and full of air bubbles.

Product: Mineralize Satinfinish is an extremely lightweight, low coverage foundation. The fake one appeared to have a thick texture and consistency and heavy coverage that is more akin to Studio Fix Fluid. I'm not sure how well that translates in the pictures but, you're just going to have to trust me!

Real (L) and Fake (R)

So, there you have it, my comparisons between the real and the not-so-real. Clearly there are some really good fakes (Mineralize Satinfinish) and really bad fakes (Palette #3) but, regardless, a fake is still a fake and, the one thing really worth noting here is that none of these products included any semblance of ingredient information.

You have absolutely no idea of what you are putting on your skin and near your eyes. The Irish Examiner ran an article in 2010 outlining the dangerous compounds found in fake-up that had been seized by Customs. Lead was found in MAC lipglosses while cadmium was prevalent in other cosmetics tested, both of which can lead to poisoning and, in worse case scenarios, death.

A BBC article also warns of the dangers of fake-up, cautioning that use can cause rashes, allergic reactions and even burns to the skin. This isn't too hard to believe given how my skin was stained after swatching the second eyeshadow palette and, while it could be my imagination running wild, my arm was itchy and hot for a good while after swatching the fake Mineralize Satinfinish. 

So, whatever about the moral complexities of supporting the black market, when it is putting your health at risk, buying counterfeit cosmetics to save a few bob really isn't worth it. 


  1. I know this sounds naive but I never really consider fake make up - if i'm going to pay money for a product, i'll toddle into BT and get the service / bag / guy in the top hat to open the door!
    I presume my local knock off market is the place to check them out, but why would I - or are these mainly Ebay finds?
    There are enough good brands out there worth considering if you can't afford a big name... maybelline / no 7 / max factor / bourgouis, so why go fake?

  2. My god, those "eyeshadows" are ridiculous!! The foundation is really close - scary that people could easily buy this and not be aware that it's fake. When it comes to fake make up I think it is quite dangerous. It's not just about something looking like the same thing, like it would be for fake fashion. This crap is going on your face and as you said there is no ingredient information. People would be so much better off buying real cheaper brands in the chemist! Great post.

  3. @mell I'm the exact same! Shopping for make-up is meant to be enjoyable, not dangerous! I'm not sure to be honest. I know that there is a lot MAC fakes down at the Thomas St market but, ebay seems to be the biggest culprit. There is no excuse to buy fake with great quality drugstore brands.

    @Laura The eyeshadows are SO bad. Like thinl about that getting into your bloodstream through your eyes...eek!Thanks hun x

  4. Great post, they really are laughable indeed! The foundation (bottle) is probs the easiest to spot though, as it's quite believable! Great post, informative and interesting. :)

  5. Fantastic post, really interesting and well written. :) xx

  6. Thanks Leanne and Sasdothat!

  7. Thank you so much for this informative post. Fake makeup can really harm the skin.

  8. really amazing post! I find it so funny how they put those rubbish sponge applicators in the eye shadow palettes - as if MAC would ever do that! x

  9. 4th time trying to comment,! Hate telling people their makeup is fake. So many facebook pages full of "mac makeup parties"

  10. I know Karie, it's a disgrace!

  11. Even thinking about putting those eyeshadows onto my eyes made my skin feel like it was crawling! I would rather shell out the cash for some legit make up than take the risk.
    Fantastic post. Fake-up is actually quite scary!

  12. Great post. Fake makeup makes me cringe. There getting so good at faking these days it scary. Some of my friends bought MAC off a woman down the road from them and I asked could I have a look at the products and they were so fake, some even having the ltd hello kitty packaging. The eyeshadows had numbers and one foundation was called starfinish. They wouldn't buy much MAC so they didn't notice and they bought so much and were so happy, I didn't know how to tell them it was all fake x

  13. Great post.
    Fake makeup freaks me out - always worry about what ingredients ACTUALLY go into the products. Saw so much fake MAC and Bobbi Brown recently in Thailand and not just on Market stalls but in shops too!

  14. Goodness, Id never buy fake having heard horror stories of them burning people and the like, but that last one you showed shows how easy it is to be caught out...


  15. Great post Sinéad, I've never bought fake make up for fear of not knowing what's actually in the product.

    The design on the third palette actually reminds me of Collection 2000 and as you've said isn't even trying to look like genuine MAC.

  16. Thanks for all the feedback guys. Good to know so many of us are on the same page with fakes! S x

  17. I'd never buy fake makeup! The stories you hear are horrid! :)
    Lucy xx

  18. i saw a lot of fake make-up on streets here..haha..people usually sold it in a very cheap price and a bunch..

  19. This was a really interesting post, I'd rather save pennies for the real deal and know it's safe then put random chemicals on my skin, worrying!


  20. Great post thanks i have bought fake mac on e-bay my own fault that i didn't do the research first because when i got it there was a compartment/brush underneath the single eyeshadow which mac dont do seemingly?and i bought a quad of pure c***p think t'was 6/8 metalic colours and when i use the shades they are very dark underneath dull in colour and smell bad so i don't bother with it i've just ordered Coastal Scents on its own website in U.S.A so hopefully that will make up for my mac dissapointment anyone tried Coastal products ? Thanks for the posta keep em coming

  21. The amount of fakes on E Bay has gotten worse over the years. People still continue to buy, either they think it's genuine or they just want to save a bit of money. Not really worth it when you wake up and can't see cause the stuff in a fake blinded you. I can usually tell fake MAC products like eyeshadows, powders etc, but that fake foundation you brought up looks convincing, it's really bad. I can't trust E Bay any more for MAC products or any other brand on there, the majority are fakes, even though there are a small number of genuine sellers.

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  23. Remember the MAC Venomous Villains collection from last year. Theres a load of fake stuff on E Bay, like palettes and eyeshadows. MAC didn't even release palettes for that collection or bring out about seven different colours. If the seller genuinely thinks they are selling real MAC they will take the product off sale, or so I have heard before. I messaged two sellers that were selling a load of fake, telling them about it. Didn't get a response or see the stuff taken off sale. Worst fake palette I saw on E Bay was this MAC Lady Gaga palette that comes with around eight colours stamped MAC on them. You can see some of these fake palettes in a blog post I did about it.

  24. You have provided a resourceful information. One should be aware before purchasing cosmetics as many duplicate or fake stuff is available in the market.

  25. This is crazy i recently bought a fake Mac palette off eBay i hadn't been that familiar with their palettes but as soon as i got it i knew it was knock off the packaging had misspelled a few words best to stick to the Mac stores I'd never buy another Mac product online again x


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