For many beauty enthusiasts, makeup is an everyday essential used to enhance our appearance. As such, both women and men love to invest in high-quality brands, ranging from $30 – $400+. However, with the price of makeup steadily increasing, counterfeit products are on the rise. Reports show that the counterfeit market was valued over $460 billion in 2013, according to the OECD. This included 63.2% of replica makeup, such as MAC imitations from China.

But despite the major savings that replica products can offer, getting the best price is rarely the best deal – for either your wallet or your health. In fact, using knock-off makeup is extremely harmful to your skin.

Knowing the Dangers

The cost of health risks that come with counterfeit makeup are never worth the amount you saved. Buyers across the globe have reported symptoms from using fake makeup, including allergic reactions, skin rashes, eye infections, swollen lips, and chemical burns. Counterfeit makeup also has an alarming number of infection-causing bacteria that can lead to burning, scarring, and even disfigurement. In worst cases, the toxic ingredients found in counterfeit makeup have caused long-term health issues such as infertility and high blood pressure.

The National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Center tested counterfeit beauty products and found traces of mercury, copper, lead, bacteria, and even pest waste – all of which can wreak havoc on our health. To reduce the risks of health dangers, all cosmetic manufacturers are required to follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs).

Read Between the Labels

Research is key. Low-quality replicas offer a cheaper formula, making it the most obvious sign of a counterfeit product. Fake lipsticks, eye shadows, and powders typically have a thinner or chalkier consistency than the authentic counterparts. Not to mention, the packaging will be somewhat off in font, color, and size.

While the basis of retail shopping is to buy from the brand’s licensed retailer, a great sale can be hard to resist. However, if the item costs more than 50% of the original retail price, it might be too good to be true. Most brands will regulate pricing on their products, meaning that $5 Benefit mascara is likely a counterfeit. In addition, fake brands are often sold in bulk deals.

Compare the Packaging

Counterfeit products will usually have misspelled words, inconsistent patterns, and uneven fonts. Their products will have incorrect shade names printed, so make sure to do your research and cross-check the item with the official website. One way to check its authenticity is if the product features a “peel-to-reveal’ sticker, which can be peeled back to reveal the ingredient list. Unless they’re unscented, authentic products will also have a signature fragrance, such as the vanilla scent of MAC or the floral aroma of Estee Lauder. If the item has a strong chemical odor, it’s most likely fake.

Finding Better, Safer Alternatives

If your budget is limited, there is nothing wrong with being practical in terms of choosing mid-range makeup products. There are plenty of drugstore brands that offer great swatches at a lower price range. In fact, makeup artists and beauty bloggers agree that drugstore brands often provide the same quality that you would expect from higher-end brands.

Keep in mind, some third-party sites are given the authorization to sell exclusive brands, but if the listing seems unusual (such as the package is different or the price is low), go with your gut and purchase your makeup product elsewhere. Look to department or specialty stores for brand name items or purchase directly from the brand’s official website.