The Very Real Danger Of Buying Unbranded Or Fake Cosmetics From China

India’s metros are famous for their vibrant markets and cheap products that can otherwise cost a fortune in retail stores, but they are also notorious for selling fake products manufactured in China. Yes, the Nivea moisturizer and Olay anti-ageing cream you got for a steal may actually be fake. While that in itself may not be worrying (or a surprise), these fake cosmetics pose a serious health risk.


Over the past few years there have been several reports of police raiding sellers’ stores and seizing fake products. A few years ago, Delhi Police seized spurious cosmetics and creams worth Rs 50 lakh from Delhi’s famous Sadar Bazar, while Mumbai Police seized fake Garnier Fructis and Studio line brand cosmetics worth over Rs 80 lakhs! That however, represents just a fraction of the illegal market that deals in fake cosmetics from China. As consumers who are always looking for a good bargain, we are often drawn to flea markets and bazaars that stock such products, but is it really worth the risk? While buying a pirated dvd or a fake Gucci bag is unlikely to cause any unpleasant rash or hair loss, fake cosmetics pose a very clear risk.

Risks Of Using Fake Cosmetics From China

Fake products from China have long been sold in the Indian market, but with the ecommerce boom they have been proliferating globally, helping highlight the health risks. From lip gloss and eye shadow, to moisturizers and conditioners, fake cosmetics have been found to contain dangerous ingredients like lead, mercury, arsenic, aluminum, and cyanide, all of which are toxic – some are even carcinogenic. Perhaps not as dangerous, but no less disturbing is the finding that some of the products even contain traces of human and rat urine!

Lead Poisoning From Fake Cosmetics

Counterfeit makeup products contain almost 19 times the safe limit of lead, increasing the risk of lead poisoning, which in the long run can cause memory loss, muscle aches, and headaches. Exposure to lead also increases the risk of miscarriage and complications in pregnant women.

Arsenic Poisoning From Fake Cosmetics

Foundation powders and mascara products that are fakes frequently contain traces of arsenic, which can cause severe abdominal pain, shock, and in cases can even be fatal.

Mercury Poisoning From Fake Cosmetics

Mercury is another highly toxic substance and prolonged exposure can result in damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs, and brain. It also severely compromises immunity, increasing your risk of succumbing to infections.

Aluminum Poisoning From Fake Cosmetics

Another substance classified as a neurotoxin, aluminum traces are frequently found in spurious Chinese cosmetics. This toxin can accumulate in the brain and tissues, causing fatigue, bone disease, memory loss and dementia over a period of time.

The Immediate Danger Of Fake Cosmetics

If you’re still not worried about the health risks of using fake cosmetics from China because the consequences seem like something far in the future, be warned that the short term risks are just as horrifying. There have been numerous reports of people experiencing severe allergic reactions with skin rashes and burns caused by harsh chemicals. In some cases, the skin damage caused has also led to disfigurement, while some cosmetics can also contribute to the onset of chronic problems like hypertension and infertility. So, yes, you may look attractive enough to find a mate at little expense, but you could land up infertile and childless!

Now, not all Chinese goods are spurious or hazardous, but a large segment of the country’s manufacturing industry and factories remains unregulated, which means that there are no safety standards, especially in the case of small scale industries that are typically engaged in the manufacture of knock offs. This makes it important for Indian consumers to be more aware of the risks. Before you buy cosmetics online or at local markets, compare the products and their pricing. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is a fake!

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