Don’t Get Fooled By Faux Fragrances: What’s Really in that Bargain Bottle?
by Andrew Brodsky
Counterfeit fragrances are a growing problem, not only for the companies that make the real thing—who, incidentally, lose in the range of $800 million to $1 billion a year to fake perfume alone—but for unsuspecting consumers, who may actually suffer health issues caused by the toxic ingredients they contain. If you’ve ever seen boxes of your favorite branded fragrance for sale at an incredibly cheap price, say on a street vendor’s table, you were probably looking at counterfeit perfume. It’s been estimated that nearly 10 percent of all perfumes and colognes on the market are counterfeit.
How does all this faux fragrance get made, and how can we protect ourselves when scent-shopping?
NetNames recently did a little research to figure out which brands are most vulnerable to being counterfeited. We, also looked into what harmful substances these fakes might contain, and how they are packaged to look so much like the real thing. Since our business is finding counterfeit products and other brand infringements online and taking them down, we had some sense of what we were looking for, going in.
What we found is that several top-selling fragrances, including scents by Chanel, Paco Rabanne, and Ralph Lauren, have such a strong counterfeit market that people actually sell the lookalike glass bottles and fake labels for them over the internet! There’s even a website called MakePolo that sells only high-quality fake bottles and packaging for fragrances like Ralph Lauren’s Polo fragrance. This means that fraudsters can cook up a batch of fake perfume, often containing substances as harmful—and disgusting—as urine, antifreeze, aluminum, arsenic, cadmium and the EPA-classified carcinogen DEHP, and pour them right into the real-looking perfume bottles they’ve purchased online. By the way, all of those substances have been found by the FBI in phony perfumes, and they can cause serious side effects like acne, psoriasis, rashes and eye infections.
So how can we protect ourselves? The most obvious way is to know how to spot fakes, and not buy them. Is it being sold at a third of the price you usually pay, and/or in a place that doesn’t seem to be an official sales rep for your favorite brand? This includes flea markets, mall kiosks, and of course, online marketplaces and fake websites.
Though you may not be in the habit of carrying around your perfume bottle, when it comes time to buy a new one, it may not be a bad idea to bring it along. First, look at the packaging: Does it have even a slightly different color than the authentic brand, different lettering, or wrapping that doesn’t look professionally done? Does it contain the words ‘Limited Edition’? Then it’s probably a fake.
If your (real) bottle of fragrance has even a slightly different color from the one you’re looking to buy, or there’s something even a little off about the scent, beware! The manufacturers of branded perfumes adhere to very strict standards and regulations to ensure that their product is safe and consistent in scent, color and texture. A color that’s too pale usually indicates that there’s more alcohol in it than there should be. A darker color than the original may mean it contains harmful chemicals.
An overall message is to refrain from buying fragrances online unless you’re getting them from a reputable and licensed retailer’s website. There’s much less oversight about what can be sold on the internet, and fake websites are even more rampant than fake beauty products. And as an online shopper, you’ve lost the in-person comparison advantage. Of course, the companies that make the real perfume brands need to work hard at taking down the counterfeit offerings that are all over the web, but at the same time, they have the responsibility to reach out to their loyal customers and educate them about fakes.
About the Author
Andrew Brodsky is the Commercial Director at NetNames, a firm specializing in online brand protection and anti-counterfeiting services.
He is based in New York, and can be reached at Andrew.Brodsky@NetNames.com
Editor’s note: In 2008, after attending a seminar hosted by L’Oreal on the topic of Diversion and grey market goods, I made the decision to link directly to the official web site of the brand or company whenever possible, when items are reviewed on advicesisters.com. We don’t get compensated for these links, but we include them as a resource for our readers, to help them get information and to be directed to reputable sales sites. Advicesisters.com accepts advertising, but we have a policy of vetting those links very carefully. We won’t accept any advertising or links that are “sketchy” no matter how much we’d like to be compensated for our work. I hope this guest article on faux fragrances by Andrew Brodsky gives you some information to help you find “the real thing” when you’re shopping for fragrances. We all want to save money and get a bargain, but if a price sounds too good to be true, be wary! If you have found this article to be helpful, please share it with your social media.
Alison Blackman, Editor in Chief, advicesisters.com –