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Worryingly, many youngsters know they’re buying fakes
Fake copycat cosmetics worth hundreds of thousands of pounds seized by trading standards officers included perfumes, mascaras, lipsticks, lip and eyebrow pencils purporting to be from genuine Benefit, Chanel, Dior, Nars, Kylie Jenner and Mac ranges.
According to a report by the Local Government Association (LGA) many of the counterfeit versions contain dangerous substances including lead, mercury, cyanide, arsenic and paint-stripper which can have toxic effects on vital organs.
One lipstick even contained rat droppings.
The fakes pose serious risks including chemical burns and skin rashes, says the LGA.
Exposure to mercury can damage the nervous system, digestive and immune systems, lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
Many illegal counterfeit products are made overseas, especially in China and Hong Kong, and are sold over the internet, so there is no way of ensuring all the ingredients are safe.
The UK beauty industry has boomed, with sales topping £4billion for the first time, and numerous genuine products are promoted by celebrities on internet sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
But many young fans, who can’t afford the real thing, are buying fakes.
The knockoffs look identical to the genuine article and even experts find it hard to tell them apart.
Worryingly, many youngsters know they’re buying fakes but do it to be able to boast to their friends on social media.
Maya Gibson, a YouTube blogger with more than 150,000 subscribers, was inundated by questions from followers about the possible benefits of using fake cosmetics.
Social media, Instagram and different platforms are part of the reason. If you get a high-brand item, you just naturally want to show it off
She decided to try applying a full face of make-up using only fake goods – with horrific results.
“After I used the make-up my skin absolutely went mad,” she says.
“It did not react well at all. It went up in acne, my lips had partial chemical burns and the make-up was only on my face for five minutes after filming.”
Maya’s experience has not deterred her friends.
“Quite a few of them own pieces of counterfeit make-up – especially the Kylie lip kits – knowing that it’s fake. What’s scary is that they don’t particularly know or care about the dangers.
“Social media, Instagram and different platforms are part of the reason. If you get a high-brand item, you just naturally want to show it off.”
Cosmetics seized by Devon, Somerset and Torbay trading standards officers included products containing mercury and illegal levels of the skin-whitening agent hydroquinone.
Larissa Reynolds had an allergic reaction to fake make-up
In Cheshire, a tanning salon owner was prosecuted for selling more than £100,000 of fake goods.
An investigation by Nottingham City Council in 2016 discovered fake Benefit mascara sold by two women, one of whom had received more than £48,000 from customers via Paypal.
Last year a probe by ITV News found multiple stalls at one of Britain’s most popular markets were selling fake make-up including Mac and Kylie Jenner for 75 per cent less than the retail price – although vendors insisted they were genuine.
Tests showed the fake Mac lipsticks contained high levels of lead. Dr Steve Barton, from Kingston University, said: “Lead is a neurotoxin so it can have various effects like menstrual difficulties and hormonal problems so my advice would certainly not to be putting it on the lips.”
Women around the country have reported ill-effects after using fake make-up. Louise Emery, 30, from Newcastle upon Tyne, was given a bag of Mac cosmetics worth £150 after a friend had bought it for £40 from a colleague who had got it online.
Louise tried out the set which contained lipstick, face powder, lip-liner, eyeliner, mascara and eye-shadow and next morning her eyelids were stuck together and her cheeks felt sore.
“By the evening my face had swollen to twice its normal size.” Her GP prescribed anti-inflammatory tablets, anti-histamines and an antibiotic. It took two weeks for the swelling and the rash to settle down.
“Every time I caught sight of myself in a mirror I’d burst into tears,” Louise said.
“And the thought of what might be in those products – urine, rat droppings, poison – that I’d put on my face made me feel sick.”
Larissa Reynolds, 19, from Nuneaton, said her top lip “kept getting bigger and bigger” after she used a fake £8 Kylie Jenner lip kit she bought online. “My lip started to feel a bit tingly but I thought nothing of it,” she says.
“I woke up next morning to a swollen top lip which was really frightening and painful. It went down after three days but was not worth the risk and I won’t be doing it again. I hope others learn from my mistake.”