Here’s How To Know If A Makeup Product Is Fake

When buying makeup products, you want to be sure that they come from credible companies that make quality products so that you can get your money’s worth. Another factor to consider is that makeup products from fake companies could seriously jeopardize your skin and overall health. Plus, by purchasing these products, you’re supporting the fake companies producing them.

Read on to learn how you can discern a fake makeup product from one that is credible and of sufficient quality. Most of these tips are quick ways to pick out a fake product just by looking at the packaging or with some quick research snooping online.

Check for a Serial or Batch Number

One of the easiest ways to determine if a product is real or fake is to see if a serial or batch number is present on the packaging. This might be difficult if you are shopping online since the product is only a picture. It might have a serial number on the online picture but not on the package when you receive it.

If your product has a serial or batch number, it will be printed above the packaging’s bar code. When you receive the product or check it in-stores, the serial number on the packaging will match the serial number on the product if it is real. If it is a counterfeit or fake, then the serial numbers will either be missing or won’t match.

Compare the Price

We all want to get high-quality products for the best deals, and sadly, this is how fake makeup companies get their consumers. If you notice a primer, brush, or any sort of product is much cheaper than other competitors, this might be a red flag that the product is fake.

Typically, fake makeup products are made with lower quality materials, which allows the companies to sell them for bargain prices. These materials can also pose a significant risk to your health or ensure that the product has minimal longevity.

Another factor to be aware of is that some fake makeup products are actually counterfeits of real products. This is especially common in online shopping realms such as Amazon and eBay. If you search for a Sephora eyeshadow palette that is $15+ cheaper than it is on the official website, then something might be wrong.

For those of you assuming the product is just on sale or part of a company deal, check the brand’s website to make sure. If you see on the main website or in stores that this company actually is reducing some products’ prices, then this one might be legit as long as everything else lines up.

Otherwise, if you can’t find a legitimate reason why this product has a significantly reduced price from the originals, it could be counterfeit, and you would be better off not purchasing it.

Read the Ratings and Reviews

Another quick way to know if an online product is fake is by reading the reviews. The unfortunate truth is that if a makeup product listed online is fake, it is highly likely some poor soul that purchased it before has left a scathing review about it. As a result, the product probably has some pretty poor ratings. These are the tell-tale signs that you should spare your money.

Although reviews are particularly helpful because you can read explicitly why someone was dissatisfied with the product, ratings are another thing you should keep your eye out for if they are present. Some websites might not allow customers to leave comments on a product, but they will allow you to rate it, typically on a five-star scale.

Other popular online shopping stores, like Walmart, Amazon, and others, will typically have a rating section based on previous customers’ feedback. If you notice that the product either has extremely poor reviews/ratings or very few reviews compared to others on the site, it might be fake.

Yes, it’s possible that a product with only a handful of reviews is just getting started on the market. But more often than not, if you see other products have 100+ reviews and this piece of makeup only has maybe ten, there might be a reason people aren’t buying it.

Additionally, if only 50 people have purchased this product, but it has a rating of 2/5, this means the majority of consumers were dissatisfied with the product, and you should steer clear.

Ask a Fellow User

A lot of products are purchased as a result of recommendations from friends, family, co-workers, and other trusted individuals. If you know for certain that someone else has used this product before, ask them about it.

You can either send them a link to the product listing online or send them pictures of the one you’re considering in-store. These individuals might be able to tell you if the product is real or counterfeit by looking at its packaging, color, consistency, and other key indicators.

If you don’t know anyone who has purchased the product before, we suggest using the previous tip and looking for reviews online.

The Product is From an Unknown Company

Just because a makeup product is in some nice packaging for a decent price doesn’t mean you should purchase it from anywhere.

If you can, we suggest you stick to reputable companies when buying makeup products. Yes, some of them come at a significant cost, but there’s a reason for this.

These companies test their products (hopefully humanely) to ensure they are safe for human use and guarantee effective results. If you buy a product from an unknown source, they likely skipped some health regulations and cut other costs to sell it for cheap.

Some locations you should avoid buying these products include:

  • Flea markets
  • Auction sites
  • Street or mall kiosks

If you notice an unfamiliar makeup product in stores or online from a company you don’t know, look into the company to make sure it is reputable before purchasing. Check to see if they have an official website, a decent internet or social media presence, and products sold elsewhere with customer or critic reviews.

Limited Product Information

The makeup industry is highly saturated with competition, meaning a vast array of companies are constantly fighting to prove consumers should choose their products over others. Once they find a product that suits them, many makeup users will become loyal to a specific makeup product or even the whole brand for life. This loyalty and competition cause companies to go to extreme marketing lengths to entice consumers to buy their products over another brand.

One of the best ways to interest a potential consumer is to provide them with vast amounts of information regarding the product. This might include:

  • Product ingredients (many consumers enjoy makeup products made from organic and natural materials)
  • If the product was tested humanely (certified by animal right’s organizations like Leaping Bunny, PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies, and Choose Cruelty-Free (CCF)
  • Product promises (ex. glycerin in this moisturizer is guaranteed to hydrate and rejuvenate your skin).

In the modern age, a lot of packaging might have a minimalist approach, but for the most part, all major companies will provide this information to entice consumers. If the product you are looking at is completely devoid of these informational elements, especially its ingredients, it might be fake.

Inspect the Packaging

When buying a makeup product, the packaging will essentially provide all the product’s information. Most packages are specifically designed to catch the eye of consumers in the vast ocean of options before them. It is not uncommon for someone to strictly purchase a lipstick, nail polish, or other products because they like the package’s appearance.

Before you buy that moisturizing in the shiny neon-colored box, take a close look at it first. If this is a product you have purchased before from a reputable company but are now buying it from a less familiar vendor, check to make sure the packaging matches. If you are at the store in-person, check the product and packagings:

  • Scent
  • Texture
  • Font
  • Dimensions
  • Weight

Another indicator of the product being counterfeit is if it is offered in a shade that the company does not make. If you are familiar with the brand and know their product names often adhere to a certain style, and the name on this product does not match, either steer clear or confirm the product is real on the company’s website.

If any element of these seems off or doesn’t match how it normally looks when you buy it from a more reputable vendor, it is quite possibly a counterfeit and should be avoided. If you are shopping for this product online, check the picture.

Most reputable companies will use a customized photo with various angles and are accompanied by product information. If the photo provided is just a stock photo with minimal information, it is most likely a counterfeit.

But what if you aren’t familiar with this company or its packaging? The same concepts apply; you’ll just have to be a bit warier since you don’t have previous experience to rely on.

Many counterfeits or fakes will attempt to copy or imitate the packaging of reputable companies like Sephora, but since they are more driven by money than producing a quality product, they will often cut corners on the package’s appearance to mitigate costs.

This could be demonstrated in a few ways:

  • the cardboard of the package might feel less sturdy
  • if the package has a window, the screen might be thin or flimsy
  • the ink might seem washed out or poorly printed
  • the overall packaging looks cheap despite the product having a competitive price
  • noticeable spelling mistakes or grammar errors (reputable companies have editors who ensure these don’t occur on their products)

In addition to these factors, you could also grab a few reputable product packages, such as L’OrĂ©al Paris or Maybelline. If you notice a lot of discrepancies between the product in question and those that are reputable, it’s probably best to avoid it.

Inspect Inside the Packaging

In addition to inspecting the exterior of the packing, the interior can provide clues regarding a product’s credibility as well.

Most makeup products will have some sort of padding or mold plastic casing inside the packaging for security. Some smaller and slimmer products, like mascara or eyeliner, might not have these if they are in slim boxes, but if you notice the box is much too big for the product, it most likely should’ve had some sort of padding that was removed or exempt, which could indicate it is fake.

Additionally, if you have purchased this product before and know for a fact that it usually has some sort of padding and the one you have does not, it is most likely a counterfeit.

This tip is certainly tricky since you can’t really use it if you’re shopping online, and nowadays, a significant amount of shopping is done online. This means that if you have purchased the product through an online vendor, you won’t be able to inspect inside the package until after you’ve spent money on it.

Although you might not be able to return the product to get your money back if it is fake, you can still spare your skin the potential harm of using it.

If you are in-stores, some locations will allow you to test products there as long as you use a cue-tip or other provided materials and don’t damage the product. You could ask an employee if you can open the packaging, as long as you don’t break any seals on the product, to check the interior for any red flags.

Inspect the Product

If you have used makeup products before, you are most likely familiar with how products typically look, smell, and feel. This skill is extremely useful when discerning a fake product from a real one. Sometimes, everything about a product’s cost and appearance will line-up, but once you take it out and are about to use it, you can tell it’s fake just by its functionality.

Here are some indicators that common makeup products are fake versus real. Overall, if you notice any odd substances, odors, or textures to the product, it is likely fake.


How to tell it’s fake

Cosmetic cremes

Should have a smooth consistency. No separation, clumping, or impurities.


Foul odor or overly perfumed. Product comes out in long strings of liquid rather than sticking to the brush cleanly (almost unnoticeable). If counterfeit, the wand might be designed improperly.


Unappealing appearance. Does not hold shape well. Product contains imperfections or is made in the shade inconsistent with the brand.


Appear to be made of cheap material. Ununiform appearance of bristles. Color does not match the brand original.

You should also compare the product’s description to its appearance. For instance, if a product is supposed to be matte, it shouldn’t sparkle or shimmer.

Additionally, scents can be extremely important here. Many reputable companies that make mascaras will lightly scent them. If your mascara has a repugnant odor or is heavily perfumed, it is most likely fake.

The horrific smell means it might be made with potentially harmful ingredients, and the heavy perfume could indicate they have gone to extremes to cover up those scents.

Test Them

Again, this is a difficult tip for the online shopper, but if you are in stores, particularly if you are at a store that explicitly allows product testing, take the opportunity to do this. Carefully testing a product is one of the best-guaranteed ways to determine if it is real or fake.

To ensure your safety, only test a little bit of the product, and apply it to the back of your hand. Never test a new product by putting it on your face or near your eyes. If it is fake, it could be made with potentially harmful ingredients you don’t want on your sensitive skin. It is also much easier to wash the product off of your hands than your face.

When you apply the product, pay close attention to its consistency. If it is real, it should have a smooth and uniform consistency. It shouldn’t separate, clump, or irritate your skin. The consistency of many fake products is often extremely thin or chalky.

Pay close attention to the color and the smell as well. As we mentioned previously, if a product has a harsh odor or has a strong fragrance, it is most likely fake and made with poor materials. This shows that the creators either neglected to mask these ingredients or are overcompensating for them by dousing drowning the product pungent scents.

In terms of color, if it seems faded or much too bright, it is probably made cheaply with poor pigments.

When in doubt, you can always compare the product to a reputable one you have nearby. Ultimately, it might just be best to save your money and spare your health by avoiding a questionable product altogether.