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Deadly Christmas Gifts You May Be Unwittingly Giving This Season

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Deadly Christmas Gifts Fake Cosmetics

Looking for a great deal online or at a local street market for a Christmas gift to give to a loved one? Here’s a warning about some deadly Christmas gifts you may be unwittingly giving this season.


Christmas is the season of giving and as such we want to give gifts that our loved ones’ desire, but would not buy for themselves because of the cost. One example is cosmetics. So, you focus on finding a good deal online or walk along a street market in search for a deal that is too good to pass up and you find that coveted name-brand eye shadow or skin cream that promises health and beauty. Inside you know that it’s too good to be true, but…the packaging looks exactly like the same product in stores. Finances and Christmas further cloud your judgement, and so you make the purchase and gift it to a loved one for the holidays.

However, there’s a reason why that old maxim “if it’s too good to be true, then it is” has existed for so many years. According to a recent CBS News report, consumers need to be aware of the dangers of using counterfeit makeup and other knockoff products like toothpaste and cologne.

According to the report, Customs agents have seized more than 2,000 shipments of counterfeit beauty products last year, outnumbering the previously more common knockoff handbags. The concern here aside from that it is seriously eroding profits from many companies, is the fact that fake toiletries can be hazardous to your health.

"Often the unsafe consumer goods are made in factories…have unsanitary conditions," said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner for Office of Trade at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "So the quality is not to what you need it to be."

But it’s not just the unsanitary conditions, but the lack of any type of quality control to ensure that the ingredients used are safe. Lead is a major offender found in cosmetics due to that “natural” ingredients typically constitute the make-up of makeup. According to the FDA, lead occurs naturally in the environment, and its occurrence as an impurity in cosmetic products can’t be avoided. But, lead exposure can be limited legally.

One of the benefits of the FDA to cosmetics consumers is their taking action whenever necessary to remove products from the market that contain unsafe levels of lead. Currently, that upper limit of lead they have determined that is safe to be exposed to is 10 parts per million (ppm) when used topically such as with lipstick and or other lip cosmetics. In addition to lip-related cosmetics, the FDA also looks at multiple other topically applied cosmetics, including eye shadows, blushes, mascaras, foundations, body powders, lotions, compact powders and face paints for unsafe lead levels.

However, when fake cosmetics are sold online and on street markets, there are no protections for the consumer who may wind up exposing themselves or others to lead levels that are significantly higher than the limits set by the FDA as reported in this CBS News video “Fake makeup can be an easy buy–and a health hazard.”

One Cosmetic Blogger’s Fake Cosmetic Experience

On YouTube, beauty blogger Tanya Arguelles tells viewers that fake cosmetics can be harmful and relates her fake cosmetic experience when she decided to do a comparison test between a legitimately purchased eyeshadow of one brand and a cheaper knockoff that poses as the same eyeshadow product.

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"I just wanted to know, can this possibly be as good as the $50 that I just spent?" Arguelles said.

The next day she found herself in pain with an eye infection in the eye that had the knockoff eyeshadow product applied to it.

"Within the first 45 minutes, I realized that it was an eye infection. I couldn't get my contacts on," Arguelles said.

According to CBS News, Arguelles isn't alone as other reports have surfaced of consumers using counterfeit makeup resulting in allergic reactions, skin rashes, swollen lips and chemical burns.

How to Protect Yourself from Fake Cosmetics

The best protection is to avoid buying makeup products that are sold outside of a traditional retail store. However, as online shopping is the current trend, do some research. Contact the manufacturer of the cosmetic you are interested in and ask if that online source is a legitimate seller of their products. Or, at the very least, log onto the cosmetic company's official website for information on where and who sells their products.

It’s also a good idea to do sample skin test on the arm of any new cosmetic (knockoff or not) to find out if you are skin sensitive to the product before applying it to the face, eyes and lips.

If you have had any experience with potentially or known knockoff faked cosmetics, tell us your experience with what you tried and how it affected you.

For more about Christmas gift safety, here’s and informative article on popular dangerous toys for children.

Reference: CBS News “Fake makeup can be an easy buy – and a health hazard.”

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