Real vs Fake: A Look Into the Beauty Black Market

Jeffree Star

On April 2nd, YouTube makeup guru Jeffree Star released a video revealing how his new concealer (which has yet to launch) and other products stolen and leaked at a value of over $2 million. Star is the owner and CEO of Jeffree Star Cosmetics and the line has grown into an empire in the last two years. The robbery occurred while he was away promoting his new Blue Blood Collection and was unnoticed for three days. All of his products are shipped from a warehouse in California and, according to video surveillance, the thieves broke into one of the buildings and went in through the roof and stole a number of units of his highlighter palette, Northern Lights, and thousands of the concealer shade, C5. Star was set to launch the concealer at the end of this month, but has said that he is now moving up the release to mid-April.

After filing a police report and talking with investigators in the FBI, a photo of the concealer popped up on the Facebook Marketplace of someone with Star’s concealer and attempting to sell it. The photo has since been taken down and the woman has been arrested and claims that she stole the photo from someone else selling the concealer. On Star’s Snapchat later that day, he announced that someone who actually sells the stolen makeup has been arrested, but that’s only one person in a massive industry.

Fake Jeffree Star Products on Twitter

This is still an ongoing investigation and according to Star, he will be getting the money back due to insurance, but that doesn’t mean he will be getting the products back. Some of the items are being sold in bundles on places like the Facebook Marketplace and Poshmark by changing the spelling of his name so they won’t get flagged. According to Star, some of the products could already be overseas. Back in 2016, unauthorized vendors were also caught selling counterfeit versions of his velour liquid lipstick.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance

This is not the first time this has happened in the beauty industry. In 2017, Anastasia Beverly Hills was hit with $4.5 millions worth of product stolen. The suspects sawed through the roof of their warehouse and snatched more than 100,000 packages of the “Modern Renaissance” eyeshadow palette that retail for about $42 each.

James Charles addressed part of it last month by releasing a video of him trying a fake version of his own palette that was released back in November.

The makeup category exploded with 12% growth in 2016. At the same time in 2013, it was estimated that 2.5% of the world’s trade is made up of fake goods. This includes makeup, handbags, fine art, shoes, even medicine.The CDC reports that up to 30% of all the medicine in the developing world is counterfeit and that number gets higher in certain countries. These are for life-or-death prescriptions that treat malaria and heart diseases. In 2015 alone, there were about 2,000 seizures of counterfeit cosmetics and beauty products that totaled about $75 million dollars.

Downtown Los Angeles’ infamous Santee Alley shopping district was bursting of fake Kylie Lip Kits, Anastasia Beverly Hills Highlighters and MAC lipsticks, until a recent raid mid-April. The LAPD found over $700,000 worth of counterfeit makeup products. Refinery29 interviewed an anonymous seller in Santee Alley, who said that, “most people are aware that they’re buying fakes, and they simply don’t care.” What’s even worse, she says, “A lot of people who come down here are makeup artists.”

Buying stolen goods from an unauthorized seller isn’t only illegal- it can also be extremely dangerous. The FBI reports that they have found aluminum, human carcinogens, dangerous levels of bacteria, and even horse urine in the products that they’ve seized. Some products have caused conditions like acne, psoriasis, rashes and eye infections, which isn’t surprising when you see where these fakes are coming from. Gregg Marrazzo, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel of Estée Lauder Companies said, “If I could paint a picture of what it’s like in one of these [counterfeit factories in China]…If you took the most disgusting frat house bathroom, it looks like a surgical suite compared to these conditions. It’s filthy, there’s bacteria everywhere…it’s disgusting.” Star revealed that some of the makeup that was stolen was expired, and had been taken out of a ‘destroy pile.’ He pointed out the old label on the cosmetic as proof. Fortunately for Star, loyal fans have shown support by taking to Twitter to help him hunt down the culprits.

As a college student, I’m all for purchasing makeup at a discounted price, but in an ethical, safe way. Legality aside, if you are a true makeup lover/consumer/coinceur, support makeup brands by buying their authentic products from a trusted, authorized seller. Counterfeit products may compromise your health- and frankly, that’s really not worth shaving a few bucks off a new concealer.

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