When Autumn, 21, found her favorite mascara — Laura Geller GlamLash — listed on eBay for half-price, she jumped on it. Her retail high didn’t last long.
“I noticed the tube was missing the brand’s lips logo, and the brush’s bristles looked uneven,” she says. Still, she applied it.
“It felt like sandpaper on my lashes! The brush was so scratchy,” she says. “My eyes immediately started burning and were irritated for the next five days. My doctor felt it was an adverse reaction to a product.” Autumn assumed it was a fake and filed a complaint with eBay.
“Cosmetics counterfeiting is a global epidemic,” says Gregg Marrazzo, senior vice president and deputy general counsel for Estée Lauder Companies. He leads the company’s Intellectual Property Group, which focuses on anticounterfeiting — a reality for many in-demand brands, including MAC Cosmetics, part of Estée Lauder’s portfolio. A few of its most hotly counterfeited products are Studio Fix Fluid foundation, Spice Lip Pencil, and Ruby Woo Lipstick.
Marrazzo cites a recent case in which a group of bloggers outed an Australian department store for selling faux MAC products. The store paid out $1 million and ran corrective advertising.
While companies are concerned about knockoffs — it hurts their image and profits — these copies can have much more dire consequences for consumers.
“About 90 percent of these counterfeit items come from China, where manufacturing is cheaper and there’s a copycat culture,” says Bob Barchiesi, president of the International Anticounterfeiting Coalition, a D.C.-based trade organization.
“It’s horrifying,” says Karen Buglisi Weiler, the global president of MAC Cosmetics . MAC is one of the rare beauty brands bringing awareness to this issue. Many companies (including Laura Geller), when approached for this story, declined to comment. It’s easy to understand why they wouldn’t want to publicize these counterfeiters or admit that their brand identity has the potential to be (or has been) hijacked.