Chinese Makeup - The Danger of Fake and Counterfeit Chinese Cosmetics

Chinese Makeup - Deadly Counterfeit Cosmetics

If these Chinese counterfeit cosmetics were even close to as good as their authentic counterparts, it's doubtful that anyone would have sounded the alarm. After all, we've endured decades of ineptly stitched "Coash" handbags and lead-filled "Starbocks" coffee mugs without complaint. But off-looking logos and even more egregiously awful ingredients have caused American consumer advocates to look more closely at the cheap cosmetics that are flooding Alibaba, eBay, and Amazon. The results of peeling back this curtain have been downright shocking.

Unbelievably Dangerous Ingredients

Not only are Chinese counterfeit cosmetics pale imitations of their prototypes, but they also contain ingredients that should never end up anywhere near your skin. Some of the ingredients that have been found in fake Chinese makeup include:


Using arsenic in makeup products is so archaic that it's considered ancient history. However, this practice seems to have been revived in modern China, and many cosmetics that end up in America or Europe contain this potentially lethal ingredient.

Arsenic is bad for the body in pretty much every way possible. It is a potent carcinogen, and it also causes diabetes. This substance can even cause heart disease, and it can damage your lungs as well. Keeping arsenic as far away from your skin as possible should be the goal of every cosmetic product consumer, but Chinese companies don't seem to be too keen on helping their Western customers achieve this simple aim.


Aluminum is found everywhere in the consumer environment, but it actually isn't one of the minerals that are essential to human health. Actually, aluminum is a neurotoxin, and it suppresses natural brain function. Up until recent years, many domestic under-arm deodorants contained aluminum, but concerns about this substance's neurotoxicity have prompted many manufacturers to remove it from their products.

Chinese manufacturers, however, don't seem to care that aluminum can cause Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and various other neurodegenerative diseases. Aluminum is often contained in fake Chinese skin care and hair care products that are passed off as the real thing.



While Cleopatra may have used lead for eyeliner, that doesn't mean that you have to. Lead is widely recognized as a seriously dangerous substance, and American consumers have been taught for generations that lead poisoning can cause kidney failure, reproductive issues, pain, or even memory loss. However, Chinese manufacturers of counterfeit cosmetics have thrown caution to the winds and include lead in their products anyway.

While your body can handle occasional lead exposure, chronic exposure to this heavy metal almost always leads to brain damage or even death. Looking good isn't worth those kinds of risks especially when safe and non-toxic alternatives are widely available.


If you've ever seen a spy movie, you know that cyanide is a substance so deadly that it's usually reserved for tiny capsules hidden in fake teeth that spies bite down on to protect vital intel if they're captured by the enemy. Most of us wouldn't believe that anyone would knowingly put this chemical in cosmetics, but Chinese companies have unfortunately done just that.

If it's ingested in small quantities, cyanide is transformed into thiocyanate and excreted harmlessly in urine. If it builds up, however, this toxic substance can starve your cells for air and ultimately kill them.

Rat Droppings

Incredibly enough, consumer advocacy groups have found that knock-off Chinese cosmetics commonly contain rat feces. Even given the ethical failures of Chinese state-run corporations, the idea that anyone would knowingly include rat droppings in products meant to be put on your body seems a bit much. It's more likely that unsafe and unsanitary working conditions have led to the accidental inclusion of little presents from the world's most infamous pest in cosmetics intended for consumption by Western consumers. Needless to say, rat feces are unhealthy additions to cosmetics, and they can carry infectious diseases or bacteria.

Human Urine

This ingredient is a real head-scratcher. Many cosmetic products contain urea, which is a synthetic derivative of human urine. This ingredient is commonly used as a moisturizer, and it is considered safe in concentrations of less than 10 percent. However, no one in their right mind would include actual human pee on cosmetics. Regardless of common sense or dignity, many knock-off cosmetics from China contain pure human urine. While there's nothing overtly dangerous about this ingredient, the fact that Chinese cosmetics include it is incredibly disgusting.


Watered Down and Contaminated

When Chinese manufacturers aren't selling fake cosmetics, they're selling real products instead. The only catch is that these genuine MAC, Estee Lauder, and Maybelline cosmetics have been mixed with water or other ingredients in order to produce more product volume. It seems that Chinese counterfeiters have learned a thing or two from drug dealers who routinely cut their wares with cheaper ingredients to turn a profit.

While receiving a weakened, less-than-pure product is already a blow, the unhygienic processes that are used when creating these watered-down cosmetics can cause more serious issues. For instance, watered-down Western makeup products often become contaminated with bacteria, which can cause eye or skin infections. Powdery products may be cut with baking soda or other ingredients which can cause chemical burns on your skin. Also, Chinese merchants sometimes sell cosmetic products right before they expire, and expired products often contain ingredients that have gone rancid or may otherwise pose a health risk.

Health Risks Posed by Counterfeits

The dangers of counterfeit Chinese cosmetics first started coming to light due to a flurry of customer complaints. Some consumers had knowingly purchased knock-off products, but others naively believed that they had found genuine Western makeup for rock-bottom prices. Upon using these products, Western consumers started to experience potentially debilitating symptoms such as:
  • Skin rashes
  • Swollen lips
  • Allergic reactions
  • Headaches
  • Chemical burns
  • Eye infections
  • Loss of vision
It should also be noted that many of the deleterious effects of contaminated cosmetics don't make themselves known for months or even years. For instance, the ingredients that Chinese manufacturers include in their products for the sake of expediency can cause serious hormonal disruptions. These toxic ingredients can also cause birth defects, autism in children born to people who are exposed to them, or infertility. In some cases, the ingredients used in fake Chinese cosmetics can even cause cancer.

When all of these factors are taken into account, the price of knock-off cosmetics is far higher than meets the eye. If you take a chance and try a cosmetic product that was made in China, you could end up with health costs that set you back a fortune. Choosing a fake product in order to save a buck could even cost you your life.

From Bad to Worse

The practice employed by Chinese companies of watering down or downright counterfeiting Western cosmetics simply adds insult to injury. While they're surely of much better quality than their fake Chinese counterparts, American and European cosmetics have their own problems.

Even after years of outcry from concerned consumers, many cosmetics companies still test their products on animals. These animals are kept in inhumane living conditions, and they often die as a result of the testing process.


Ethical concerns aside, many Western cosmetics also contain dangerous ingredients. While some manufacturers have read the tea leaves, realized that educated consumers are less and less prone to use products that are detrimental to their health, and now make safe products that don't contain any harmful ingredients, the following toxic ingredients are still often included in American and European cosmetic products that are then tampered with by the Chinese:

  • 1. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): This ingredient is commonly found in perfume products, and it is a known carcinogen. It can cause skin depigmentation, and it can also cause stomach cancer and liver damage.
  • 2. Sodium lauryl sulfate: Commonly found in body wash, shampoo, face wash, and foundation, this ingredient causes acne, canker sores, and skin irritation. It can also disrupt your skin's oil balance, and it can even damage your eyes.
  • 3. Parabens: These ingredients, which are used as preservatives in cosmetics, have been linked to cancer and decreased sperm count. Many safe alternatives to parabens are available, but some cosmetics manufacturers ignore this fact.
  • 4. Fragrance: American law doesn't require that cosmetics manufacturers disclose the ingredients in their fragrances. This practice is upheld to protect trade secrets, but it ends up being dangerous to consumers. For instance, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently found that 17 name-brand fragrance products contained more than a dozen chemicals that weren't listed as ingredients.
  • 5. Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde isn't just for corpses; it's also used on living humans who make the mistake of using tainted cosmetics. This substance can cause birth defects, and it is also an endocrine disruptor. However, formaldehyde is commonly found in Western nail polish.
As you can see, there's a much bigger problem here than simple Chinese meddling in our cosmetics; many of our cosmetics were never safe to begin with.

Economic Consequences for Domestic Manufacturers

There's another reason why you shouldn't use knock-off cosmetics from China: These products take money out of the pockets of the actual manufacturers.

While it can be tempting to opt for a counterfeit product with a lower price tag, the economic implications of this practice are plain to see. Chinese scam artists would never have had world-renowned Western cosmetic products to rip off if American and European companies hadn't been built up by the loyal patronage of generations of customers.

Without your support, the authentic manufacturers of the products that you love so much that you want to buy them as cheaply as possible will cease to exist. In time, the absence of these products would prompt Chinese companies to stop making fake versions of them, and then the possibility would loom that we'd only have access to original (and terrible) products made by domestic Chinese companies.

Since China's state-run corporations seem hell-bent on making a profit no matter the cost, it doesn't make much sense to fuel this engine of destruction with your patronage. If the cost of your favorite cosmetic product seems too high, you might be able to find a domestic alternative for the fraction of the price. It's even possible that you'll be able to find a company that makes products that don't contain the dubious ingredients that are present in your favorite name-brand cosmetics.

1 comment

  • I recently purchased a product called 4D Silk Fiber Eye Mascara from an on-line offer. It took over three weeks to receive the product and I noted that it was sent to me from China. The packaging had both Chinese and American printing on it with the ingredients that were listed all being in Chinese. I am wondering if you are familiar with this product and if it would be considered safe to use. I’m concerned because I have heard how unsafe so many products are that come out of China and even more concerned after I read the information on your website. I’m looking for advice as to whether to keep this unopened product or to try to send it back. Any information or advice is greatly appreciated.

    Sherry Blanchar

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