20 May 2022

HPRA & HSE warn consumers to be vigilant when purchasing cosmetics products for Christmas

Counterfeit cosmetics can be harmful to human health.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) today warned consumers to be vigilant when purchasing ‘high-end’ leading brands of beauty products on sale through certain outlets such as markets and websites at Christmas. The HPRA states that in previous years, Christmas has been a time when counterfeit cosmetic products, which can be harmful to human health, have been identified in Ireland.

Last year, a significant quantity (728 products) of counterfeit and imitation cosmetics were detained by HPRA and seized on entry to the country by Revenue’s Customs Service. The majority of these products consisted of eye shadows and lip products, and subsequent tests identified that some contained harmful substances such as arsenic and lead. Some of these products were purchased online from websites based outside of the EU and sold to Irish consumers online and through social media. They were also found in some trade shows and at markets throughout the country. Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner and Urban Decay were among some of the counterfeit cosmetic brands which were found to contain these illegal substances in 2017.

Emer O’Neill, Cosmetics Product Manager, HPRA, states:

“We can’t emphasise enough the need for consumers to exercise caution and to be vigilant when purchasing cosmetics this Christmas. While it may be tempting to avail of cheaper prices, counterfeit products could cost you your health. Unfortunately, the Christmas season is generally the peak time of year for rogue sellers of counterfeit products, which are often found when purchasing products online or from temporary stalls or outlets. Shoppers are strongly urged to apply common sense and to ask themselves; if a product seems very cheap, is it really likely to be the genuine article? The danger of counterfeit products is that their quality and safety is not known”, she says.

“It is extremely concerning that highly toxic substances, such as arsenic and lead, have previously been detected in some products. Prolonged exposure to both of these banned substances can severely damage health causing potential harm to the brain and kidneys, among other organs. The suppliers of these products are unconcerned about the health of the consumers who purchase them. If you are unsure, suspicious, or if a product is much cheaper than in a high street store or pharmacy, the HPRA strongly advise against taking the risk. Legitimate products are always the safest option. Beauty brands usually list their licensed retailers on their websites and this is the best way for consumers to ensure that they are purchasing a legitimate cosmetic product,” Ms O’Neill concluded.

The HPRA states that as well as the possible toxic ingredients which may be contained in counterfeit cosmetics, the way the products are manufactured and the safety and cleanliness of the production environment is unknown, which is yet another reason to avoid purchasing and using these cosmetics. In Ireland, the market surveillance of cosmetic products is carried out by the HPRA and the Environmental Health Service and Public Analysts’ Laboratories of the HSE.

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