Counterfeit Skin Care Products Are Becoming More & More Common.
Margie uses Obagi products from her dermatologist’s office. She loves what they do for her skin and wants to continue using them. But last month Margie’s husband, Joe, lost his job. Their health insurance rates have skyrocketed, and money is really tight.
Determined to keep her melasma at bay, Margie started looking for a deal on the internet. “Jackpot!” thought Margie. She found the exact same hydroquinone that her esthetician recommended – at half the price. “My dermatologist has been charging way too much. From now on, I’m buying Obagi on the net.”
Fast forward two months. Margie has been using her new hydroquinone, but it isn’t working. She doesn’t know why.
What Margie doesn’t realize is that Counterfeit skin care products were in the top five counterfeit items seized by U.S. Customs. In January, 2014, the FBI released a warning, “the volume of all sorts of counterfeit cosmetics and fragrances coming into the U.S. is definitely on the rise.” (Cosmeceutical skin care products are considered cosmetics by the FDA. Learn more in our blog post, Advantages of Cosmeceutical Skin Care Products.)
The FBI release gave more insight. The internet gives counterfeiters worldwide access to customers. These criminals see counterfeit skin care products as a low-risk crime because many of them live outside of the U.S.
A skin care product bought online from an unauthorized retailer may include fake or harmful ingredients.
Sometimes old containers are refilled with a different serum. The product may be expired, diluted, or contaminated. This applies to prescription creams as well as cosmeceutical skin care products. Packaging on the fake may look similar to the original, but the active ingredient is missing or the dose is incorrect. This is what happened to Margie. She bought a counterfeit Obagi product that didn’t contain any hydroquinone.
Products for sale online are often stored in hot warehouses. Extreme heat and cold degrade critical ingredients like retinol, benzoyl peroxide, peptides, and vitamin C – making them worthless. Organic products don’t have preservatives to protect against these changes in temperature. All of these products are a great growing medium for bacteria that thrive in hot, damp environments.
Your health is at risk.
Prescription products sold without a doctor’s supervision can cause allergic reactions, burns or scars. Expired and incorrectly labeled products can cause allergic reactions and bacterial infections. Some counterfeit skin care products contain arsenic and beryllium, substances known to cause cancer. Many products have high bacteria levels. Margie was lucky the product she bought did not contain any harmful ingredients.
England has an epidemic of counterfeit skin care products. Citizens of the U.K. spend about 90 million pounds ($140 million) each year on counterfeit products.
Protect Yourself From Fraud by Following These 10 Guidelines:
1. Buy skin care products (including skincare tools like dermarollers) and cosmetics, from authorized retailers. Skin care companies list approved merchants on their website. Most won’t guarantee product quality or safety if not purchased through authorized re-sellers. Make sure the seller has a physical location – not a P.O. Box for mailing purposes. When buying prescriptions, check to see that the pharmacy is licensed by the state. Buying locally will also avoid shipping costs.
2. A skin care consultation will benefit your skin in ways the internet can't. Medical professionals will recommend new products when skin changes and provide samples. They will educate you on your skin condition. A really good skin care professional will work to develop a relationship that inspires your confidence.
3. Trust your instincts. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably isn't legitimate. If the price is REALLY low, there's a good chance the product is a fake.
4. Only deal with reputable sellers on a website you know or that has been recommended. Check reviews.
5. People who sell phony products don't pay as much attention to grammar and spelling on their websites. They may intentionally misspell a well-known brand name in the website address.
6. Don’t click through links in unsolicited emails. Instead, type the web address into your browser or use a search engine to find the site.
7. Ask the retailer about a guarantee on products. Ask about their return policy. Fraudulent companies rarely give these options.
8. Never enter your PIN online. DO NOT confirm your card details on pop-ups before you are on the payment page.
9. Keep the security and firewalls on your computer current. Update your browser regularly.
10. The website address should begin with “https” on the payment page. This indicates a secure payment.
Counterfeit skin care products are a growing problem. Most companies won't guarantee products purchased from unauthorized re-sellers because they can't guarantee the product authenticity or safety. Protect your health by only buying from authorized retailers.
You should always buy skin care products from a company you trust!
Amy Takken, RN
Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. She's also been quoted on Dermascope.com.
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The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin care products, and skin care treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some - like melanoma - can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!
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