Counterfeit cosmetics pose a health threat to consumers through adverse reactions and in some cases cancer, and are also damaging to the cosmetics industry.
Many of the major brands, such as the ones mentioned, work tirelessly with authorities in Britain and internationally to stop the illegal sale of counterfeit cosmetics and to block websites which sell them.
This has seen a number of counterfeit cases crop up around the world, with cosmetics firms suing and winning in order to protect their reputation and consumers.
Many of the high levels of metal found in cosmetics fakes, such as lead, arsenic, mercury, copper and cadmium, are banned in the European market (as well as other global), which is very strictly regulated to ensure that products are safe for use.
Consumers are advised to buy from official websites or stockists and to examine packaging for batch numbers, to ensure safety; but Trading Standards has also warned that online has made it more difficult to detect, so sites with massive reductions are usually the ones to be wary of.
The internet is a target for counterfeiters as it is easier to escape detection, and this adds to the problem according to Handley Brustad, lead officer for Intellectual Property at the Trading Standards Institute.
“Online this is a huge problem because it's not as straightforward as finding it being sold in a high street shop or marketplace because you have got to do an awful lot of digging to find it,” he says.
“Counterfeiters are using domain names that appear like they are from the UK when they are not, and are making prices closer and closer to the genuine product to make them appear more real but make people think they are getting a bargain.”
Brustad says that counterfeiters put in more metals because that's what binds the make-up together. This is very strictly regulated in the UK and in Europe due to the health risks, but it is something counterfeiters often ignore.
“People who buy the make-up are then putting these products near their eyes and mouths. They can cause blindness and if you ingest enough of it, even death,” he continues. “It's usually heavy metals like lead and cadmium - the ones that are strictly regulated because of the harm they cause.”
“Counterfeiters are getting better and better all the time which makes the industry all the more dangerous,”
Earlier this month Estée Lauder was awarded over $1.8 million after winning its lawsuit filed in March 2013, following litigation in Australia where the beauty player had taken retail giant, Target to court for stocking MAC knockoffs.
That case revealed that a Target supplier had received counterfeit goods from the 'Get Your MAC On' company, which began selling fake MAC products on its website in 2009.
Last summer, online marketplace eBay and luxury good firm LVMH finally settled their longstanding legal fallout over counterfeit products dating back six years.