The Fake Makeup Dilemma: Save A Few Ringgit, Or End Up Spending More Fixing Your Skin?

Harmful bacteria, toxics, and even rat faeces were found in fake makeup.

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The Fake Makeup Dilemma: Save A Few Ringgit, Or End Up Spending More Fixing Your Skin?
Counterfeit products aren’t something new to the Malaysian market. To be honest, it’s brazenly sold everywhere from Petaling Street to wholesaler markets. Don’t believe us? Just visit your nearest wholesaler or even the nearest pasar malam.

Among the popular counterfeit items are luxury handbags, accessories such as belts and sunglasses, perfumes, and the latest fad – makeup.

We recently visited a local wholesaler and got the shock of our lives. From skin care, cosmetics, to high-end makeup; they’ve got it all. What’s even more unnerving is the price these items were sold.

Eyeshadow palettes from high-end brands such as Huda Beauty, Urban Decay, and Anastasia Beverly Hills were sold for as low as RM10!

From drug stores to high end, the fake market has it all.
We admit, the affordable price tag sounds very inviting especially for beauty addicts or those who have longed to own these coveted items but don’t have the means to do so.

But then we thought to ourselves, is it even worth it? Just because you want to own something so badly and save a few Ringgit in the process, are you willing to ruin your skin and put your health at risk? And you don’t even know the exact content and origin of the products!

Sadly, not many people are aware of the harm and danger that they are harbouring in their cosmetics bag.

Dr. Liyana Dhamirah is also a host on the local medical show, 'My Doctors'
So, we sought some professional advice from a doctor. We spoke to Dr. Liyana Dhamirah, a clinical physician and aesthetician from PrimaNora Medical Centre and also host of TV talk show,  'My Doctors'.

Dr. Liyana has dealt with a number of patients in the past who had horrible and unfortunate experiences using fake makeup.

Do You Know What Goes Inside Your Makeup?

Are you 100%25 sure of what you're putting on your face?
Since some of these fake makeups come in pretty convincing packaging, there’s no way you can know exactly what substances were used to make it.

But according to various studies, there are a few harmful substances that are commonly found in it.

Lead, mercury, cyanide, paint stripper, and arsenic are the most common substances found”, Dr. Liyana told Rojak Daily.

In case you didn’t know, some of these substances can actually be found in common household items.

Paint stripper is used to remove paint; lead is found in terracotta pottery or even your ceramics, mercury is used in thermometers, batteries, and fluorescent light bulbs; arsenic is commonly used in insecticides and corrosion-resistant alloys, while cyanide is widely found in cigarette smoke, the combustion of plastics, and even a war weapon during World War II.

So technically, you're using a weapon of mass destruction on your skin.

If you saw the ingredients in its raw form, would you still buy fake makeup?
Have you ever read the news where contamination squads have to come and clean up mercury from broken thermometers at schools? If they went to the extent of showing up in safety suits and equipment just to clean up mercury, imagine how dangerous the stuff you’re putting directly on your face.

Besides the ingredients used, no one knows for sure whether these items were packed and manufactured in a hygienic or proper manner.

“You don’t really know whether these makeups were prepared in a hygienic environment which means there’s a great chance that the contents might be compromised making you exposed to harmful bacteria such as E. coli and rat faeces.

"These findings were found in counterfeit makeup based on some studies,” Dr. Liyana added.

How Harmful Can Fake Makeup Be?

Kylie Jenner's makeup collection has also fall victim to the counterfeit market.
If the list of substances doesn’t intimidate you, well, wait until you hear how counterfeit makeup can harm your body and health.

According to Dr. Liyana, you’ll first experience visible effects on your skin such as rashes, itchiness, dry scaly skin with redness, acne breakouts, cracked and dry lips, small, bumpy reddish spots, or worst-case scenario – chemical burns.

Depending on the severity of your condition, you skin might heal within three days or months. Sometimes, scarring might also occur so you will be haunted by this bad experience for life.

Image for illustration purposes only.
Speaking of lifetime or long-term effects, did you know that you are also at risk of multiple health hazards? Health issues such as infertility issues, damage of the nervous system, hormone imbalance, abdominal pain, and also cancer as the items may be carcinogenic.

“This is due to lead which is a neurotoxin where it can cause menstrual difficulties and hormonal problems, while mercury is a highly toxic substance which can harm the heart, kidneys, immune system, lungs, and brain,” says Dr. Liyana.

Lead is very commonly found in your lipsticks and other lip products.

Would you wear counterfeit lipsticks even if you knew there's lead in it?
“As for mercury, if found in fake eye makeup such as mascara and eyeliner, it can put you at risk of permanent vision damage.”

Yikes, imagine going partially or fully blind because you used a fake mascara or eyeliner!

Besides lipstick, mascara and eyeliner, other counterfeit items that Dr. Liyana’s patients often fall victim to are foundation, powder, and blusher.

Damage Control

Five-minute thrill for a lifetime scar.
When one notices an abnormal reaction to the fake makeup they used, they will immediately seek medical assistance. But some would also opt to wait it out to see if the effects would go away which sadly, do not.

And by then, the treatment would be more extensive due to the severity of the patient’s condition.

Dr. Liyana would usually prescribe her patients with some oral medication and topical creams to help with the allergic reaction. The reaction will normally go away within three days to a week, she said.

But for some, it’s a long, expensive battle. Weeks could turn into months and months would ultimately turn into years of recovery. There are cases where patients who had never had acne would have a severe breakout for a prolonged amount of time.

And consequently, the allergic reactions and breakout would cause scarring and even black patches on your skin. And these things won’t go away within a blink of an eye; it stays with you a lifetime, which is why doctors would recommend laser treatments to get rid of it.

Nobody likes scars, it's like a reminder of a bad memory.
Black spots, deep-pitted scars, acne scars, and the list goes on.
The price tag that comes with the laser treatment may range from RM300 up to over RM4,000 and patients often have to come for multiple session to ensure it is effectively removed.

So, isn't it ironic that just because you wanted to own something you couldn’t afford so badly, you’re willing to compromise your skin by getting the fake one, which in return caused you to spend probably 100 times more than the price you paid to fix your skin?

Cheap Price Tag, Hefty Consequences

Always buy original makeup, never compromise your skin just to own branded items.
“Love your skin, never settle for anything less,”
stressed Dr. Liyana. The National University of Ireland alumni says that besides physical effects, counterfeit makeup will also take a toll on your emotional and psychological wellbeing.

“I once had a patient who bought a lipstick that was sold for a ridiculously low price online. She tried it on and after four hours using it she started having allergic reactions to it."

"It was stressful for her because she had a huge presentation the next day but unfortunately the reaction did not subside and it affected her work performance greatly.”

This is an actual photo of someone who used a fake Kylie Jenner lip kit.
Having breakouts, swollen lips, reddish skin, and any allergic reaction will definitely affect one’s self-confidence. Most of them will shy away from any interaction and prefer staying at home and not socialise.

“They feel embarrassed meeting people but it’s normal to feel that way,” says Dr. Liyana.

She also advised everyone out there who are trying out newly purchased products for the first time to not do it 48 hours prior to a major event to minimise the distress that might occur in the event that you get an allergic reaction.

To all makeup lovers out there who have been using fake makeup or are considering using it, we hope that this revelation would somehow shed some light on the dangers and health hazards of fake cosmetics.

Just like how counterfeit sellers are gambling away their luck with the authorities, you too are actually gambling your skin away just because you wanted to save a few ringgit.

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