Shoppers hoping to bag top names at a cut price are being warned not to be tricked into buying counterfeit cosmetics which could contain toxic chemicals or rat faeces.
Durham County Council’s consumer protection service has issued the warning having received reports of a number of people, believed to be based in the county, selling
suspected counterfeit cosmetics on social media sites such as Facebook.
The department say certain branded beauty products such as Kylie Jenner and Mac are becoming increasingly popular and are sold online legitimately, sometimes on social media sites by third parties at significantly reduced prices.
However, officers say checking the authenticity of a product seen online is more difficult than buying in shops as consumers cannot gauge the look and feel of what they are purchasing.
Some social media sites use generic stock images to deceive consumers into believing they are buying the real items.
Laboratory tests have shown that fake cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have in some cases been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals and
harmful substances such as arsenic, mercury and lead.
All of these can cause allergic reactions, such as skin irritation, swelling, rashes and burns as well as leaving the user with longer term health problems.
Some of the products the council has been told about are even alleged to contain glue, urine and rat faeces.
This is because a lot of counterfeit make-up is produced in un-sanitised and un-hygienic factories - putting the user at even greater risk.
Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: "Product safety and the health and wellbeing of County Durham residents are our top priority.
“The products we are being told about are substandard and present a clear risk to the user as well as deceiving customers.
"I am very concerned at the apparent lack of concern from some traders who are selling cosmetic products which could contain harmful ingredients and could cause severe injury.
“These products are made to be used on the skin and without being tested, they could cause serious complications to the unsuspecting user.
"We shall continue to advise traders on their responsibilities and will consider enforcement action if we discover make-up products being sold which are fake and potentially harmful.”
Councillor Brian Stephens, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, is urging consumers to always buy from known reputable retailers and to be cautious about buying
from social media selling pages.
He said: “When you buy from a legitimate source, you are covered by your consumer rights and the product will be genuine.
“We are highlighting this issue now because in the coming weeks, many of these counterfeit items may be bought as Christmas presents and could cause a serious
reaction or worse, depending on the user’s skin.
"We want sellers to understand that there are serious safety concerns about offering cosmetics from an unknown source.
“Counterfeit cosmetics can cause real harm and there is no guarantee that they will be safe or match the ingredients listed on the packaging.”