Fake perfumes and cosmetic products

Health risks from fake products

  • Using a counterfeit perfume or cosmetic product means you have no quality guarantees and poses risks to health. When you buy fake goods, you are waiving your rights as a consumer. There are no guarantees if the product is faulty or irregular, leaving the consumer defenceless in the face of any incident.
  • Illegally sold perfumes and cosmetics lack health and safety controls, are not tested in laboratories and do not have to pass toxicological analyses before being sold, unlike authentic products; they may even include ingredients that are not authorised for use in cosmetics, which could lead to skin irritation, allergic reactions or breakouts.
  • The ingredients of counterfeit perfumes and cosmetics have led to inhalation toxicity, eye irritation, dermatitis, severe allergic reactions, marks on the skin, photosensitivity, or even more serious health problems in the long term.

Most fake perfumes are up to 50% water, plus industrial or low-quality ethanol used as a solvent. Some include diethylene glycol, a toxic substance that is not permitted in cosmetic products except in trace amounts, and other prohibited substances have also been detected. A small amount of basic perfumery ingredients like geraniol or citrol can mask the formula and fool consumers. Fake products do not contain UV filters, so they may break down in sunlight and generate substances that are a danger to health.

Most fake perfumes contain very different ingredients and may include industrial solvents or toxic or prohibited components, which can be very dangerous if in contact with the skin for several hours.

Consumer advice

Raising awareness among consumers and encouraging them to avoid fake products is essential to combat the proliferation of counterfeit perfumes and cosmetics.

We want to help consumers identify the type of products that can endanger their health and their rights.

There are details that can indicate if a perfume is real or fake. Here are a few to look out for:

  • Foam in perfume: Many fake perfumes will foam up if shaken and stay that way for some time. Real perfumes produce hardly any foam and it quickly disappears.
  • Dip tube: The small tube that is part of the spray mechanism tends to be longer or thicker in fakes.
  • Bottle: Fake perfume bottles often have visible seams in the glass.
  • Plastic wrap: The folding is more irregular and not perfectly smooth in the fakes. If you rub it, you can hear it crinkle.
  • Cardboard: Many fakes have low quality cardboard packaging with faulty printing.
  • Labelling: References, such as the ingredients list, barcode or batch number, may be missing or incomplete.

The easiest way to make sure you aren’t buying a fake is to buy it from a reliable establishment.

How fakes impact the economy and jobs

  • The Spanish perfumery and cosmetics industry loses 16% of its sales per year due to fake products, a loss of nearly a billion euros a year. These losses mean Spain is the second worst affected country in the European Union in terms of the impact of counterfeits on the sector.
  • Fake goods also impact jobs. The Spanish perfumery and cosmetics industry loses 8,000 jobs a year.
  • The fake goods business contributes to the underground economy, feeding into money laundering and illegal networks, gun and drug smuggling, illegal employment and worker exploitation, and even human trafficking.
  • Counterfeiters take advantage of the viral nature of the internet and undermine the reputation of brands, stealing their traffic and reducing the sales of legal brands. In perfumery and cosmetics, 50% of sales of fake products take place on social networks.