Buying Safely

Counterfeits exist. We all know this – be they counterfeit bills, bags, whatever. Someone makes a convincing (or not-so-convincing) knock-off, sells it to some unknowing (or uncaring) consumer at what appears to be a deep, deep discount. Fakes and counterfeits exist in the beauty industry, too, so it is important to know who you’re doing business with so you can be sure you’re making good choices and buying safely.

Before my interest in the beauty industry grew, I knew there were fakes – long before I owned my Naked palette, I had seen knock-offs trying to pass themselves off as the real thing from Urban Decay. Oh sure, that palette with the wrong font, wrong-color case, sold by an atypical vendor (eBay? random Amazon Marketplace merchant? Flea-Market [yes, really]?) that only costs $10 is clearly the same thing.

We all love a good deal, we all love not paying full price for something. I personally make it a point not to pay full retail whenever possible (legitimately, of course) but at some point I’d think a red flag would be triggered. This isn’t always the case, however; the siren song of cheap prestige makeup, skincare, and haircare is strong and lures people away from buying safely all the time.

A friend of mine (who isn’t as into this stuff) recently mentioned buying a Tarte Lipsurgence from Ulta ($24-25ish), but bemoaned the fact that she found it on Amazon for $9.97 + shipping after the fact. Eyebrows raised, I investigated…

Buying Safely - An Example of What to be Skeptical Of


…and found this.

I want to think it is reasonable to get that that cheap (or from Amazon at all), but unless that Tarte product is that cheap on sale from Ulta, Sephora, QVC, or the brand itself, steer clear. In addition to not wanting to waste money on a fake, you have to ask yourself:

If a seller is willing to pass their product off as that of another brand in order to make a sale, what else are they hiding about that product?

The ingredient listing, surely. You have no way of knowing what is in that product you’d be slapping liberally on your lips/eyes/etc. I’m not willing to gamble on that – if you are, congratulations on living on the edge, I guess. I won’t want to risk harming my eyes or lips to save a couple bucks that way. I’ll save up until I can buy it from a trusted source or I’ll buy a drugstore alternative; buying safely is too important when it comes to beauty items.

The reviews cried out that this listing was not legit, that they were sent fake product, etc. You should definitely check the reviews, but there are other things to look at. See how the features are formatted? You will never see legitimate (respectable!) retailers selling authentic product like this. It isn’t professional. Also, check their return policy. If they do not accept returns or exchanges for any reason, that’s sketchy.

Generally, be skeptical of:

  • eBay – The likelihood of you finding legitimate prestige products on eBay is pretty low. It is possible, but not likely, so I’d suggest avoiding it. You’d have better luck with Glambot – they verify legitimacy (but not batch/age).
  • Anything on Amazon that is not Shipped from and Sold By – There ARE a few Amazon Marketplace merchants who sell legit products but they are few and far between; and you’ll find that the legit products won’t have much (if any) of a discount as compared to traditional retailers. That said, itself does sell some prestige brands (LORAC, Stila, Cargo, The Balm, Eyeko, Butter London, and Deborah Lippman are some examples), so as long as you see that it is shipped from/sold by them, you can usually rest assured that you are buying safely.
  • Flea Markets – It makes me cringe to even have to mention this, but seriously. Fake palettes and products pop up all the time at these. Sometimes, the seller may not even realize they’re selling bad/fake product. Basically, don’t ever buy makeup or skincare at one of these (Avon is probably safe if you see it – no one is going to bother with counterfeits of it).

Basically, you can be pretty sure you’re buying safely if you’re buying from the brand directly, through Ulta, Sephora, a department store,, or other authorized retailers. If you aren’t sure if a retailer is authorized or legit to carry/sell those products, reach out to the brand to see if they can confirm.

Prestige/salon hair products are a bit more accessible. As far as hair products go, you sometimes see warnings to be skeptical of salon brands (like Tigi, Paul Mitchell, Sexy Hair, Redken, Matrix, etc) sold at drugstores, grocers and mass-retailers like Wal-Mart and Target. While you should be skeptical of buying those lines from the merchants I listed above, large chains like Walgreens, CVS, your local large grocers, Wal-Mart, and Target are not going to bother selling shady products, period. It would be a foolish risk for them to take. If you prefer to purchase them from your stylist or salon to help support their business, that’s awesome of you and you will definitely be buying safely – but you needn’t worry that you aren’t buying safely from your drugstore or mass-retailer of choice, either.

Be safe, buy safe. It isn’t just an authenticity issue, it’s a safety issue. If you aren’t sure, ask someone who is more experienced with such purchasing. If you don’t know anyone personally, there are a lot of great, helpful online communities that would be happy to help guide you.