How To Safely Buy Beauty Products Online (And Avoid Ingredients Like Gasoline and Glue)


In today’s world of modern conveniences, most women think nothing of scouring the Internet for the best deals when shopping–especially for beauty products. In fact, in 2013 CEW and The NPD Group found that 57% of beauty consumers shop online for products. It’s quite likely that that number is even higher today.

Unfortunately, the attempt to save money on expensive beauty products by seeking out a deal online may be costing women more in the long run in terms of their health. The simple fact of the matter is that, unless you purchase a product directly from the brand’s website or an authorized seller such as Sephora, you cannot know for sure if the product you are purchasing is authentic and safe… and free of arsenic and rat droppings. Wait, what?

Yep, rat droppings. A recent report by 11Alive has been serving as a rude awakening for women who make a habit of ordering discounted beauty products from the likes of eBay and Amazon. 11Alive spoke to Homeland Security Agent Nick Annan, whose department has seized a thousand counterfeit beauty products entering the country. Many are from China, where product control isn’t always as strict as one would hope. After testing the products, Annan said they found that some “contain everything from cyanide to arsenic to rat droppings.” Very astutely, he added, “That’s not the sort of thing you want to rub on your face or your lips when you go to buy a product.” Women everywhere would agree with him if they weren’t too busy gagging and throwing out every product they ever ordered from a random seller.

Of course, poison and poop are the worst case scenarios. Much more common are smaller issues that are not quite panic-inducing but still annoying. Knock-offs might save you a few dollars but in return you’re likely to receive a smaller, inferior product that might be expired. The packaging might break easily, the fragrance might be off, and the color could be the wrong shade. Even if a product seems to be the real thing, dermatologist Dr. Christine Law told 11Alive there’s no guarantee that it’s not in fact “either expired and thrown out by the manufacturer, or it’s stolen, or it’s from the black market overseas.” There’s simply no sure way to know where the product came from–or why it’s being offered at such a discounted price.

So, hopefully by now you’ve been somewhat deterred from online bargain hunting. But supposing you still want to buy your beauty products online and save some money while you’re at it (because who doesn’t?), rest assured that there are safer ways to do so. At the very least, skip eBay and rely on Amazon when ordering beauty products. The latter allows you to bypass the seller and instead return a defective product directly to Amazon, which you should absolutely do if you notice a product is slightly off in terms of the smell, colour, or packaging. Amazon also has user reviews which can be helpful. And if the price seems to good to be true, know there’s probably a reason for that.

Your best bet, however, is to always purchase from an authorized seller. That doesn’t mean you always have to pay full price though. Sign up for Sephora’s rewards program and email list to get notified of sales, receive free samples and birthday gifts, and rack up points with every purchase. Also be sure to check out the travel size category of each beauty section on Sephora’s website; if you rarely use up a full-size product then this is a great way to save money and counter space.

Many drugstores offer similar rewards programs that you should sign up for to save money on your favourite budget beauty buys. Speaking of budget beauty, don’t forget about dupes. Low-end products that closely resemble the high-end versions in terms of color and performance are called “dupes” (short for duplicates). Follow @dupethat for money-saving finds like that.

You should also sign up for the email lists of your favorite beauty brands via their websites to be notified of sales and discounts. Don’t forget to follow them on social media as well so you never miss out on a sale (plus, many brands offer exclusive discount codes to their social media followers). And finally, be sure to check out your favorite beauty stores after the holidays for big savings.

As you can see, there’s plenty of ways to save money on expensive beauty products without rubbing rat poop on your face. Don’t let your eagerness to save some money cause you to be careless with your health. Always think twice before buying beauty products from an unauthorized seller and inspect products carefully before putting them anywhere near your face. To paraphrase the immortal words of Cher Horowitz: remember how picky you are about your shoes, and those only go on your feet.