- Video report by ITV News Reporter Sejal Karia
Local authorities have warned those using fake cosmetics they are in danger of chemical burns, skin rashes, and risk developing toxic effects on important organs.
Rogue dealers are selling counterfeit versions of well-known makeup and cosmetic brands including MAC, Chanel and Benefit, according to the Local Government Association.
An investigation by ITV News found that shoppers - increasingly fuelled by the desire to emulate their Instagram idols - are buying fake versions of these popular brands at a fraction of the price.
- Spot the fakes
Fraudsters - taking advantage of advancements in production techniques - have flooded the market with fakes which look remarkably similar to the legitimate products.
Would you be able to tell the difference?
Cosmetics seized by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service included products containing chemicals such as highly toxic mercury and illegal levels of the skin whitening agent hydroquinone.
One skin lightening product was found to contain hydroquinone at a level of 10.8%, and another product, JJJ Golden Spot Removing Cream, was analysed and found to contain mercury.
This toxic element can accumulate in the body and cause liver, kidney and brain damage.
The prosecution of a tanning salon owner in Cheshire who had sold more than £100,000 of fake designer goods, which included makeup brands and perfume, such as MAC and Chanel.
The sales of counterfeit makeup was uncovered during an investigation led by trading standard officers at Cheshire East Council.
An investigation by Nottingham City Council discovered fake ‘Benefit’ mascara sold by two women.
The trading standards officers found 349 counterfeit mascaras with an eBay sales value of £1,690 and one of the women had received PayPal payment in excess of £48,000 from the sales of fake makeup.
275 fake makeup products which had a street value of £2,258 seized from a property in Grimsby.
They included mascara, eye brow, lip pencils, lipsticks and concealer and were copies of well-known brands such as Benefit, Dior, Nars and MAC. Counterfeit investigations are being carried out by North East Lincolnshire Council.
Fake cosmetics cost businesses and the taxpayer thousands of pounds each year.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: "Councils have been targeting rogue retailers selling these fake products, and the fines they have received should deter others from selling these dangerous products."
“People should always do their research and take a pragmatic approach when they are buying makeup and cosmetics. Check the reviews of online sellers, and bear in mind that if something is really cheap, it’s likely to be fake and could potentially be harmful."
”It is vital that people report any concerns, so that councils can take action to prevent anyone being harmed or scarred for life.”