Local 4 Defenders expose counterfeit makeup

Everyone from super models to soccer moms use makeup, but the real stuff can be pricey. The average woman spends hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on the beautification process.

Criminals know this and want to get in on the profits.

"What the counterfeiters are looking for is the popular products out there. They are going to try to make as much a profit on these things," said Homeland Security special agent Derryk Burgess.

A real tube of lipstick from MAC is $16, but a "fake up" version is $8.


Federal investigators have seized millions of dollars in counterfeit makeup at the border, and they say demand for it is through the roof.

"That is really the starting point, the gateway, for all this illegal activity - the demand," said Homeland Security deputy special agent Williams Hayes. "For people who are trying to save money, I would just say, ‘Buyer beware. Is your health and safety worth the risk?'"

Hayes said many people who think they have found a good deal don't realize they are buying low quality knock-offs that could be filled with something hazardous. He said investigators have found heavy metals, arsenic and even crushed glass in counterfeit makeup.

"I actually had a very bad eye allergic reaction to very cheap makeup," said Bloomfield Hills resident Monica Miller. "So now I can't do it. Eyes were swelling. It was a mess."

Miller said she missed a week of work because of the infection.

Eighty percent of the counterfeit makeup comes from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan -- and one of the key ingredient used is bull urine.

ICE has established a toll-free number for the public to report illegal activity, including information about suspected trafficking in counterfeit merchandise. The number, 866-DHS-2ICE, is monitored 24 hours a day.

Submit a tip to the National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center