City of London police have issued a warning against buying deadly counterfeit make-up online.
Brands such as MAC and Benefit, which are hugely popular with celebrities and women around the world, are being imitated and sold online and in stores at a fraction of the price.
However, these bargain beauty buys have been found to contain worryingly high levels of lead, copper, cadmium and even arsenic.
In the last 18 months, investigators have confiscated £3.5million worth of fake products and suspended 5,500 websites.
Police believe the dangerous cosmetic products are being manufactured in underground labs in China and Eastern Europe by criminal gangs before being smuggled into the UK.
"Criminals are exploiting every opportunity to fool customers into buying counterfeits in order for them to make some quick cash – putting people’s health, homes and lives at risk," according to Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall from the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit.
"Not only could these products have serious implications for your health and wellbeing but by simply going online and buying from a rogue site or dealer, your personal and financial information is at risk."
While saving £13 on a £15 MAC lipstick might sound like a good deal, in reality it really is too good to be true.
Fake beauty products that were seized from a shop in Nuneaton, Warwickshire this year were found to contain up to 19 times the legal level of lead.
Trading Standards were tipped off by a female customer who complained of suffering a bad skin reaction after using one of the imitation products.
High levels of lead can cause high blood pressure, fertility problems and is especially dangerous for pregnant women.
As well as lead, counterfeit make-up seized by police has been found to contain arsenic, mercury, copper and cadmium.
Some fake designer perfume has even tested positive for traces of urine.
These cheap knock-offs contain a cocktail of ingredients that unlike established brands such as MAC and Bobbi Brown, have not been approved by the strict beauty standards and thorough tests that exist to protect shoppers.
Instead, they are made of cheap and sometimes deadly ingredients and sold in near identical packaging for unrealistically low prices.
A simple online search for “cheap MAC make up” brings up a number of sites selling suspicious products.
One features a MAC pressed powder RRP £21.50 for £2.73, Dior lip gloss RRP £22 for £1.88 and Benefit’s best selling Hoola bronzer RRP £23.50 for just £2.60.
Experts are warning shoppers to be extra vigilant when shopping online and on the high street.
Always buy brand beauty products from the brands themselves or trusted, recommended retailers and check packaging for batch numbers.
Have you been caught out by counterfeit products? Let us know in the comments below.
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