Five easy ways to tell if a beauty product from an online seller is fake

We all want a good bargain. Those are not impossible to be had, what with sales and promotional offers brands come up to draw in more customers and get rid of old stock. But it's important to know the difference between a bargain and a scam! Here are four easy ways to spot fake beauty products online. 

The price is too low. This is the #1 red flag! If the original sells for say P1,000 in stores and you find the same, brand new one in an online store for P200, then you might be in for a surprise. Ask yourself how the seller could possibly turn a profit at that price point! Some would rather believe the seller just does it out of the goodness of his or her heart but while that may happen, I assure you it's highly unlikely. Selling online is hard work. It really is. (I say this with a lot of feeling because I ran a moderately successful online store before).

I'm sure many of you guys are smart enough to at least ask why the price is that low. And so we come to a tricker bit...

It's labeled as a "tester", factory surplus, or Singapore-authentic. Many sellers claim that their products come straight from the factory or are testers for the brand. Some would say the items only have minor defects which didn't make it past quality control, but are good enough to use anyway. Some would say the magic words "Singapore-authentic" or "Dubai-authentic" which means - honestly, I don't even know. There's only one kind of authentic, and it's the one that the brands authorize to be manufactured and sell in stores!

Some customers believe (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that Singapore or Dubai-authentic products are made in those countries with a few minor differences. Singapore and Dubai aren't big cosmetic manufacturing hubs for major brands, to begin with, so that should keep your guard up. 

The box says tester. The bottle looks like it's almost the real thing...except it doesn't have a ring and three bars around the cap.

The box says tester. The bottle looks like it's almost the real thing...except it doesn't have a ring and three bars around the cap.

There's a new kind of fake that's trickier though. I see it on Facebook every so often. Seller would say that the products are "testers" so they're able to practically give it away at cheap prices. Perfumes are the most common culprits for this. The store can even sell items to you in bulk at a cheaper price per piece. You'll have to wonder how he or she was able to acquire so many, er, testers! And why the testers look slightly different from the original packaging.

Luxasia, Rustan's, and Prestige are the biggest official distributors of perfumes here in the Philippines. When they have extra stocks or products meant as testers, they hold a HUGE sale in their offices or warehouse for employees and those in the know. You can get items for as low as 70% off and they are 100% legit. Even then, you'd be hard-pressed to find a bottle of Marc Jacobs perfume for like 600 pesos (the usual price of online "testers"). Seriously now.

I have a friend whose dad works in MAC in Canada, where the brand's HQ is. I believe they all get a sort of product allocation where they can buy original MAC products at about half the original price. However, in recent years, this allocation is more controlled to prevent employees from selling the goods at cutthroat prices and taking what could be their company's profit.

Bottomline: brands won't allow their own employees and manufacturers to undercut their business. They're not stupid. Be wary of sellers who say they got the items this way, and be even more careful if they can sell in bulk.

Seller doesn't have pictures of the item on hand. Always ask for a recent picture from the seller. If all they post are pictures from the brand website or stolen from bloggers, they either don't really have the product or don't want to show you what it really looks like. It's easy to take pictures with a camera phone so there is no excuse. Ask for different angles and a swatch if they have one.

The packaging is different. A few minutes of googling can easily show what a product really looks like. Keep a sharp eye on the colors, font, and materials used. Look for swatches too and compare that with what the seller has in the website, assuming the photos are hers/his.

Sometimes though the fakes are too close to the real ones.  Read about Jamie's experience on buying a fake MAC MSF online.

Sometimes though the fakes are too close to the real ones. Read about Jamie's experience on buying a fake MAC MSF online.

There is no feedback from any buyer. Always look for customer feedback. Surely you're not the first ever person to purchase from the store! If you are, well, perhaps you shouldn't be. Feedback is powerful as it informs us how the product and service is like from a real customer. If the seller's pages on social media are suspiciously quiet (especially those with a huge following), you'll have to wonder if anybody is buying or if negative feedback is being deleted. Either way it's not a good sign.

So there you go. ^_^ I've already written about why it's not the best idea to buy fakes. I promise you that there is a more affordable and sometimes even better alternative if you can't afford high-end brands! Of course, at the end of the day, it's your money and you can spend it however you like. Hopefully, it's not to support counterfeiters and risk your skin being damaged by illegal products with unsafe ingredients.

Got more tips on spotting fakes? Any stories about buying fake beauty products online? Please share in the comments!


PS If you're a seller who in fact peddles fake cosmetics, have the grace not to be offended and please don't sic your friends against me. Your business is illegal and you've chosen to deceive customers. Live with that choice or sell authentic products instead.