Counterfeit beauty products are a big business (we are talking billions of dollars!)- and it’s quite possible you have purchased a “fake” without even knowing it. While counterfeiting used to be a problem exclusive to the luxury goods market (fine fragrances, high end skin care) it has now filtered into everyday personal care products like shampoo, makeup and even toothpaste! If you think that you could easily spot a fake, don’t be so sure. These counterfeiters do an excellent job of matching the original package – however, the product inside the bottle or tube might not be what you expected.MORE FROM SELF: Save 30 Minutes In Your Morning Beauty RoutineWhy is this dangerous?Counterfeit beauty products are manufactured outside of the United States (mostly in the Asia Pacific region) which raises two main issues:

  1. These manufactures don’t need to follow US regulations for how products should be made. US companies have to follow processes and procedures to best promote the safety of both the employees and the consumers of the product. When these regulations are not followed, products can end up not looking or smelling the same as the product you are used to and, worse case scenario, these products can be contaminated. There have been reports of toxic chemicals (and even urine!) in some perfumes.
  2. The US has lists of ingredients that are acceptable (and unacceptable) for personal care products. Additionally, ingredients and finished products often need to be safety tested before they can be sent to consumers. Not all countries have these standards in place, which can result in the use of less than appropriate (and safe) ingredients. While the ingredient label on the package may look the same as the original, there is no guarantee of what is actually inside.

MORE FROM SELF: Start 2012 Slimmer with the SELF Detox Diet!How do I avoid buying counterfeit?The best piece of advice is to buy products from a trusted retailer. Most of these counterfeit products live on online auction and trading websites sold by dubious sellers. While you can get a lot of great stuff on eBay I’d be very hesitant about buying beauty products from the seller. You want to make sure you purchase from a reputable retailer and understand where the product is coming from. Also, if a product is priced significantly lower than the market value, it’s almost guaranteed to be counterfeit.Bottom LineCounterfeiting is a big problem – it comprises the safety of the consumer and can tarnish the reputation of the actual brand. Remember that if something appears too good to be true than it probably is.MORE FROM SELF: 38 Antiaging Foods–For daily beauty tips, follow SELF on Facebook and Twitter.Get SELF on your iPad and Kindle Fire!