Counterfeit make-up found to contain arsenic

Warning to consumers ahead of Christmas
  • Deborah Condon

Members of the public are being urged to only purchase cosmetic products from reputable sources, after arsenic and lead was detected in a number of counterfeit products.

The HSE has carried out tests on some of the 728 counterfeit and imitation products detained by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), and found that a number of these contained substances that are harmful to health.

The warning relates to forged versions of ‘high-end' make-up brands such as Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner and Urban Decay.

The HPRA has emphasised that Christmas is the ‘peak time of year for rogue sellers of counterfeit products'. Over the last few months, ‘significant quantities' of counterfeit and imitations cosmetics have been seized by Revenue's Customs Service. Most of these have been eye shadow and lip products.

Some of these products can be purchased online from websites that are based outside of the EU, while some have also been found on sale in trade shows and markets nationwide.

"The HPRA is extremely concerned that highly toxic substances, such as arsenic and lead, have been detected in products which are available to Irish consumers. Prolonged exposure to both of these banned substances can severely damage your health causing potential harm to your brain and kidneys, among other organs.

"The suppliers of these products are unconcerned about the health of the consumers who purchase them. We can't emphasise enough the need for consumers to be vigilant when purchasing cosmetics this Christmas. While they may be sold at a cheaper cost than legitimate beauty products, it is never worth gambling with your health when buying these products," commented the HPRA's cosmetics compliance manager, Aoife Farrell.

The HPRA pointed out that genuine Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner products are currently only available from the company's website in the US. Furthermore, other genuine high-end cosmetic products are usually only available through high street stores or pharmacies.

The HPRA and the HSE said that consumers should exercise ‘extreme caution' if they are offered such products at markets or through non-reputable websites.

In Ireland, the market surveillance of cosmetic products is carried out by the HPRA and Environmental Health Service and Public Analysts' Laboratories of the HSE.

"Beauty brands usually list their licensed retailers on their websites and this is an easy way for consumers to ensure that they are purchasing a genuine cosmetic product. If a product is much cheaper than in a high street store or pharmacy, consumers should be immediately suspicious and think twice before buying the beauty product," Ms Farrell added.

The counterfeit products detained by the HPRA include Kylie Holiday-Burgundy and Bronze eyeshadow palettes, Kylie Matte liquid lipstick and lip liner, and Urban Decay eyeshadow palettes.

The HPRA offers the folllowing advice on how to spot a counterfeit cosmetic product:
-Is it significantly cheaper than on the high street?
-Is the distributor reliable? Beauty brands usually list their licenced sellers on their website
- You should physically check counterfeit cosmetics for uneven fill levels e.g. in eye-shadow palettes, faded packaging, misspelling on the packaging or in the information leaflet, slight differences in the name of the product or shade, a different print (font or style) on the container, and mirrors that do not quite fit or are of bad quality.

The HPRA also advises consumers to:
-Ensure that the product is labelled with a European address (this means there is a company in Europe responsible for ensuring it complies with quality and safety requirements)
-If you have any concerns about a product you have purchased that you think may be counterfeit, do not use it. Contact the supplier and the European manufacturer listed on the label
-Report any sellers of counterfeit cosmetic products to An Garda Síochána on 1800 666 111;
-Report anyone who is illegally importing counterfeit cosmetic products to Revenue on 1800 295 295;
-Report any undesirable health effects to your healthcare professional, the manufacturer (contact details on product packaging) or directly to the Health Products Regulatory Authority. Consumers can do this through the HPRA website or by emailing


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