INSIDE EDITION Investigates Counterfeit Makeup

Everyone loves a bargain and in big cities around the country, one can often find street vendors selling what appears to be brand name makeup at insanely cheap prices. Inside Edition investigated makeup being sold on the street and found that what's be

Designer makeup doesn't come cheap, and it's only available at leading department stores, or boutiques. It's a luxury many women just can't afford.  

So, how was INSIDE EDITION able to purchase what looked like brand-name products for only $10?  

We bought it from a guy on the street.  INSIDE EDITION's undercover cameras found he and other vendors selling what looked like the hottest makeup trends.  

"This is Lady Gaga mascara and eye liner," one vendor said to our undercover producer, showing her what appeared to be some M·A·C Cosmetics.  

"Oh, wow.  How much is this?" Our producer asked the vendor.  

"Ten," he said.  

We bought what appeared to be a MAC multi-color eye shadow compact for only $10. A similar looking product at a department store would cost you about $190.

"Basically, we're getting the surplus [makeup]," another vendor told our undercover producer.  

The vendors assured us that the makeup was the real deal.  

"Is it real?" INSIDE EDITION asked one of the vendors?  

"Yeah," replied the vendor.  

But, we know something most shoppers do not.  

The makeup they sold to INSIDE EDITION is counterfeit and potentially dangerous.  

When you buy your makeup from a department store, you can trust the products are legitimate, and more importantly – safe to use on your skin.  

But, we've learned that the cheap counterfeits can contain harmful ingredients that may put you at risk for serious infection, even permanent scarring.  

On the surface, the packaging for the counterfeit M·A·C, Lancôme and Chanel products appeared to be identical.  So, you would think that it was the real thing.  

But, what's really in the counterfeit makeup? To find out, INSIDE EDITION had it tested at Upstate Labs near Syracuse, New York.  

The results were frightening.  Tests found high levels of aluminum, which has been linked to Alzheimer's disease. Five of the counterfeit products tested positive for the metal Beryllium, a known carcinogen. What was more concerning; there were dangerously high levels of lead in seven of the counterfeit products, including two bogus M·A·C eye shadows.  

A counterfeit Chanel eye shadow turned out to be loaded with potentially dangerous bacteria.  

"The amount of bacteria you found in this counterfeit makeup was disgusting," Dermatologist Dr. Robert Buka told INSIDE EDITION.    

He said fake makeup can lead to infections, burning and disfigurement.  

Dr. Buka said one of his patients developed an infection after using a counterfeit M·A·C product, leaving her scarred for life.

"I see about two to three cases of counterfeit makeup dermatitis in my practice every month," he said.  

INSIDE EDITION's Deborah Norville went back to that vendor who sold us the counterfeit makeup.  

"Did you know you were selling counterfeit makeup?" Norville asked the makeup vendor.  

"Not at the moment." He said. "I know now."

"A number of the makeup items you were selling were contaminated with lead," Norville told the vendor.  "Were you aware of that?"

 "I am now." He responded.

"Does that concern you?" Norville asked him.  

"Yes, it does." The vendor admitted.  

He became a little more defensive when Norville questioned him more about the counterfeit products he was selling.  

"Why are you questioning me on everything?" The vendor asked irately.      

"Why am I questioning you?" Norville replied. "Because you're out here selling this stuff, people are going to buy it, they assume it's safe. And, we found it's not safe."

"Are you going to keep selling the counterfeit makeup?" Norville asked.

"Maybe, maybe not," the makeup vendor replied.  

The manufacturers of the legitimate makeup confirmed to us the products INSIDE EDITION bought are counterfeit, adding their cosmetics would never be sold on the street.   

M·A·C sent INSIDE EDITION the following statement regarding counterfeit cosmetics:

"We have a very strong connection with our consumers at MAC and have a responsibility and commitment to provide them with the finest quality and safe prestige makeup products.  We take consumer safety very seriously.  Counterfeit products claiming to be MAC cosmetics, can be harmful to our consumers.  We work closely with dedicated and diligent law enforcement agencies around the globe and participate in numerous counterfeiting enforcement efforts to help put a stop to counterfeit MAC products.  We also urge our consumers to shop at one of our authorized retail channels, so that they can know for certain that they are purchasing genuine MAC products.  A complete listing of authorized MAC retailers can be found at and clicking on the MAC Store Locator, or by calling us toll free at 1-800-387-6707, option 8."

Bobbi Brown also responded to INSIDE EDITION's investigation into counterfeit makeup, with the following statement:

"At Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, we truly value our consumers and have established a reputation for providing them with prestige makeup products that are of the finest quality and have passed extensive safety testing protocols. Counterfeit products claiming to be Bobbi Brown products can be harmful to our consumers, and we are working diligently with law enforcement agencies around the globe on counterfeit enforcement efforts to help put a stop to the buying and selling of fake Bobbi Brown Cosmetics products.  We encourage our consumers to purchase Bobbi Brown Cosmetics at one of our authorized retail channels or online at, as we cannot guarantee the authenticity of a product purchased elsewhere. A complete listing of authorized Bobbi Brown Cosmetics retailers can be found on our website by clicking the Store Locator link, or by calling us toll free at 1 (877) 310-9222."