How to Suss Out Fake Beauty Products on Amazon


The peel pads that all of South Korea is obsessed with have made it to your For You page. You like the first review you see, then tap the search link at the bottom of the video, which takes you to dozens more reviews. Before you know it, you’re eight videos deep, and each one of them is raving about the product. You’ve been influenced.

You hop on Amazon and type the name of the toner pads into the search bar. You could buy directly from the retailer’s website, but they don’t have Prime two-day shipping. And you need those peel pads, like, yesterday. You add the cheapest option to your cart. Two days later, the product has arrived and . . . they’re not what you expected. The texture of the pads doesn’t feel as luxe as everyone said it would. Plus, they’re making you break out, which is weird, because according to the ingredient list, they’ve got everything your skin typically loves. What went wrong?

You may have just bought some fake toner pads. You wouldn’t be the first, either. Peddling counterfeit products is big money for scammers, and Amazon’s third-party seller market has proven to be a lucrative platform to do it on: according to Amazon, in 2022 alone, the retailer seized over six million fakes listed for sale on the site.

When it comes to cosmetics, unknowingly buying fakes can mean much more than using a product that doesn’t work as promised. You could end up slathering on mystery ingredients that may irritate or damage your skin, hair, or body. This could exacerbate the issues you were trying to fix or create new ones you didn’t expect.

“With counterfeits, brands can’t guarantee the customer experience, efficacy, or safety of the product,” Michelle Miller, senior vice president of global marketing at hair-care brand K18, tells POPSUGAR. Fortunately, if you know what to look for, you can avoid Amazon fakes and shop for all the beauty products you want without worry.

How to Spot Counterfeit Beauty Products on Amazon

Shopping Tip 1: Check the Product Page

A close reading of the product’s Amazon listing can help you suss out a fake before you even think about clicking “add to cart.”

If you notice the price is really low – suspiciously low – chances are it is too good to be true, Miller tells us. Check the brand’s official website to see how the product is typically priced. If the Amazon price is far less than usual (and it’s not on sale), it may be because it’s not the real deal.

Another telltale sign? The images on the product page. Check to see “if the product is packaged or displayed differently than usual,” Miller says. “For example, if a product that comes with a box is being sold unboxed,” chances are, it’s not legit. Not sure what the standard packaging looks like? Refer to a high-resolution image from the brand’s official site.

The available sizes of the product may also clue you into whether or not they’re real. “I’ve seen sizes that the brand does not offer for sale on Amazon,” says Charlotte Palermino, a cofounder of the skin-care brand Dieux Skin and social media creator who posts a lot of “buyer beware”-type content. “If you can’t find it on the official site, proceed with caution,” she says.

Shopping Tip 2: Make Sure You’re Buying From a Verified Reseller
“Do not buy from random stores on Amazon,” Palermino says. Your best bet, always, is to make sure you’re shopping at the brand’s official Amazon storefront.

There’s a simple way to tell if a brand’s shop is legit. Above the name of the item you’re looking at, you should see a link that says “Shop the [insert brand name here] store.” Click on that, and if it takes you directly to the brand’s Amazon storefront – not a search page list of other products allegedly from the brand – you’re on the right track.

Verify it again at checkout: “If it’s direct from the brand, on checkout, you’ll see the ‘sold by’ link, which will bring you to the seller’s store,” Palermino says. “Make sure the brand lists the seller you’re buying from or that you’re buying directly from the brand.”

Miller suggests also checking the brand’s website to see if they have a list of authorized resellers. Some brands may also have a logo indicating if a seller is official – check for that, too.

Shopping Tip 3: Check the Packaging
You can’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of counterfeit products, you can often spot fakes by their packaging – if you know what to look for. It’s helpful to have previously purchased the product at an official store, like Sephora or Ulta. It makes it easier to tell “if your product looks different from what you have purchased from authorized sellers in the past,” Miller says.

Look for small visual cues: Is the bottle you bought matte, whereas the previous one was shiny? Are the ingredients written in a different font than last time? Another telltale sign of a bootleg is misspellings in the brand’s logos. “COSRX becomes COSSRX or the font changes – look for any spelling or design variations,” Palermino points out.

Can’t remember or don’t know what a legit product looks like? Head over to a Sephora or Ulta store to get the real thing in your hands so you have something to compare the listing to. “Look at the texture, the packaging, even something like the actuator of the pump – is it the same?” Palermino says.

Shopping Tip 4: Look For a Lot Code
A lot code or batch number allows a manufacturer to keep track of the products – and can help you ID a fake. (As an added bonus, the lot number can also tell you when something was made and when it expires.)

Lot codes usually appear as a sequence of numbers and letters directly on the packaging – not to be confused with the numbers on a bar or QR code (those are often longer). Sometimes they’re printed or embossed onto the seam at the top of a tube. Other times you’ll find them on the sides or bottom of the bottle, near the sharpener on your eyeshadow stick, or on the underside of your eyeshadow palette.

Palermino says lot codes are especially important on sunscreen products. “Make sure there’s a lot code and an expiration date. By law, sunscreen has a clear expiration date,” she says.

Deciphering the codes can be tricky. Letters refer to the month the product was manufactured (A for January, B for February, and so on), but they can be different depending on the factory where the product was made and the naming system used. However, the key here is just making sure the lot code of the item you’re scoping on Amazon matches the genuine article. So, if you’re unsure whether the code you’re looking at is legit, try to find the product in a real store and compare the codes to see if both follow the same system.

With these tools, you should be able to keep your stash free of counterfeit products. Keep this post in your back pocket (or your bookmarks) to refer to next time you find yourself shopping for the next viral product on Amazon.

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