Like any product, there is a perception that products made in China are cheap and therefor inferior, which, in my experience, is not the case, except with counterfeit products. China has extremely strict laws for cosmetics manufacturers, so any of the brands you commonly see on Aliexpress and Alibaba must adhere to these laws and regulations. Aliexpress has stamped out blatant plagiarism, and brands like Beauty Glazed, Focallure, UCANBE, Maria Aora, Anmor Beauty, Maange (unfortunately named) and O.TWO.O (there are lots more) offer replica or inspired by versions of cult products, and from my experience, are comparable, maybe with cheaper packaging, but the colours are just as pigmented, and do vary slightly from the original. In one case I found, the replica was better than the original.
“Inspired by” and “replica”
I don’t have a problem with a brand almost copying a product. It happens in fashion all the time. Not everyone can afford couture, some of us go to places like Zara or Top Shop who offer cheaper versions of catwalk originals.
Take the case of Michael Kors. His bags are inspired by all the top line handbags, yet are still quality and are still costly, but they are nowhere near the original design. He changes just enough not to plagiarise, but we all know where the idea is from. I personally would rather buy an original design from a lesser known brand, that carry a Michael Kors that is an expensive replica.
On sites like AliExpress there are key makeup brands selling very similar products to cult products, and while the brands don’t mention the original inspiration, but it’s easy to spot. They are not pretending to be the product, they are offering a cheaper option for those to whom the original is price prohibitive. The Chinese branded product is made in a regulated factory (or else Alibaba would not allow them to be sold as they have clamped down on fakes and are also subject to export regulations) and are also must follow rigid testing requirements and a very strict list of banned ingredients, and the high level of licensing and regulations to be licensed with the CFDA Ithe Chinese regulatory board for beauty products). As far as I can tell from my knowledge of the FDA and the TGA here in Australia, and what I have read, the guidelines are similar, apart from the animal testing component. Any product being sold in China, must have been tested on animals, but products being exported and not sold in China do not have this requirement.
This means that products from the known larger brands coming out of China would be strictly regulated and licensed to produce cosmetics on any scale out in the open.
Counterfeit Makeup and Skin Care
I recently purchased some products on AliExpress, that were branded as Fenty By Rhianna. Now I know that this is a fake. But there are many people that would take the site at it’s word. AliExpress is very strict about counterfeit products. The product could not be more different in quality from the real deal. The palette below is supposed to be encased in a holographic palette cover, with a foil stamped logo and the colours inside are glittery and duochrome in the real thing. What I got was this:
As you can see from the above, the fake shadow pans are approximately the correct colours when you open the palette, but when you scratch a little deeper they are different colours. The quality of colour and richness of pigment just isn’t there and I have no idea of the ingredients because they have copied the Fenty ingredient list. The fake is all crooked and frankly I am scared to put these on my face because I don’t know what the fakes have put into the eye shadows.
Because counterfeit products are clandestine and therefor cannot be regulated, there is every chance they contain banned for a reason, harmful metals and contaminants. I don’t know who has produced this, because unlike brands like Focallure, all the information on the box is fake. The palette was $17 in AliExpress which is a case of ‘too good to be true’, but it is still $17 that I wish I hadn’t spent. Luckily for me, Aliexpress has a returns policy for counterfeit products. I’ve also noticed that the product, since I put in the complaint, have been removed from Aliexpress. There are still fakes, but not from that seller. I reported it and got my money back. But it was a good exercise in buying fakes.
As far at the fakes that appear on sites like eBay, you can tell they are fakes because they are significantly cheaper and look too good to be true, and they really are. The difference between a replica or “inspired by” and a fake/counterfeit product is that the fake is pretending to be the real deal, and thus must be clandestine in order to produce and import in any quantity. Like drugs, counterfeit cosmetics are made for the sole purpose of tricking customers and don’t care about brand reputation, loyalty or returning customer. Once they have the consumer’s money that’s it. And that’s the concern I have for fakes.
Like fake bags for example quality is not the issue. As long as they look the same to an untrained eye, what’s the harm?
Like any counterfeiting operation, fake make up is different from branded but replica or inspired by products. Counterfeit makeup cannot be regulated because it is illegal in the first place and thus would have to fly under the radar of Chinese licensing authorities for exporting. Thus the manufacturing process may be compromised, ingredient listings are probably fake (with cheap fillers being used, similarly to drugs, to pad out the products, as can the packaging, and the regulation of ingredients, hygiene and safety as well banned substances. All this could present issues with consumer’s health and safety. Is it worth taking a risk to have a fake? I don’t think so.
So next time you are on eBay and you spot the Jaclyn Hill Morphe Palette for $12 with free shipping, when the original is around $80, ask yourself why and how?
If you see the same colours and similar packaging, but not proporting to be the real deal, at $12 with free shipping the why and how is simple. People love the palette, the palette is cheap to produce, but the Chinese brand isn’t paying for advertising, PR and marketing, giveaways Jaclyn’s name, testers, and a million other things that retail cosmetic brand have to pay for. A palette inspired by Jaclyn Hill’s on Aliexpress by a brand like Focallure, is the Zara/Top Shop of makeup.
I hope this is useful when deciding whether to by “inspired by” (dupes) makeup made in China under and Chinese brand name, or whether you choose out and out fakes on eBay.