If you looked hard enough, you could probably find any beauty product in the world on Amazon. But that doesn’t mean they’re all equally safe.
Despite strengthened verifications, dermatologists continue to be concerned that the beauty products available on the platform could be expired or stored improperly. Not to mention the counterfeits. If you manage to get the item in question, and not a potentially dangerous duplicate, buyers run the risk of receiving a damaged or expired product.
Staying safe while shopping for beauty on Amazon doesn’t have to be difficult, though.
Sold by Safety
The first place to look when you’ve found a product on Amazon are the lines that say “sold by” and “shipped by.” This will let you know whether you’re buying it directly from Amazon, from a brand who has let Amazon ship its product, or from a third party who is selling and shipping product on its own.
“Many companies choose to sell directly to Amazon, so the ‘sold by’ option could be Amazon.com,” says Brandon Idomoto, InstaNatural’s brand manager. “But even if it is not sold by Amazon.com, it could still be sold by the actual manufacturer of the product, or a company in relation to it.”
If both lines of information are the same, and the brand is legitimate, it could be selling directly to you.
But, because deception is abundant, it’s best to double-check the spelling and syntax of the brand name. Storefronts posing as close dupes of real brands have been known to use similar names to avoid detection. This is one of the many loopholes for scammers that Amazon aims to close completely.
If you’re like me, you may choose to sort the products on each page by low-to-high price.
When it comes to beauty products, however, it’s important to compare that price to other platforms and the brand’s own listed price. If a product that is typically sold for $45 is on Amazon for $20, it may be counterfeit. If legit, such a discounted product may be damaged or expired. If the price seems like it’s too good to be true, it is.
The bad news is that most scammers have become wise to this and tend to line up their prices much closer to the actual retail price.
So, if a product is sold by a third party and is even a few dollars cheaper than it is via verified retailers or from the brand itself, it could still be a fake. In cases like this, the discount is chump change compared to how badly a fake or expired product could harm you.
The discount is chump change compared to how badly a fake or expired product could harm you.
Even when a brand doesn’t work with Amazon or use them as a vendor, its products can still end up on the platform. These are hosted and sold by third-party sellers who purchase and ship the products to you.
Additionally, brands that have storefronts can be sold by third parties, as well. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, created by New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD, has a storefront on Amazon, but can also be found on the platform through third-party resellers.
“It’s important to be cautious when shopping for skin care on Amazon’s marketplace because there are fraudulent third-party sellers that are not associated with the brand or its manufacturer,” Dr. Gross explains. “These products are often diluted, counterfeit and/or expired, which not only makes them ineffective, but they can also wreak havoc on your skin and cause significant damage.” Additionally, skin care needs to be in climate-controlled environments. Formulas can break down and become completely ineffective if stored incorrectly.
Not just anyone can be a third-party seller on Amazon, but vendors selling counterfeit products have historically been a big problem for the platform. In 2019, Amazon launched Project Zero, which aims to eliminate counterfeit products completely, and it claims to have destroyed 2 million fake goods in 2020 alone.
But still, vendors can slip through the cracks.
Beauty Pie, for example, is not sold through Amazon. But, you can still find its products through third-party sellers. Though only six people purchased the supposedly genuine Beauty Pie Superactive Capsules ($40) before I reported the vendor during my research for this story, two reviews complained of stinging and irritation.
Dr. Gross explains that buying through a brand’s storefront significantly reduces safety risks. “When you shop through a brand’s official storefront on Amazon, that guarantees that you are buying from a verified seller, the product is legitimate, and it is being handled, packaged and stored correctly to ensure that it remains efficacious.”
If you choose otherwise, you don’t have a guarantee of any quality customer service from a third party if something goes wrong.
“Checking (the ‘sold by’ line) can provide valuable insight into the product’s quality and the level of customer service you can expect,” Idomoto explains.
***Amazon’s AI claims to have taken down 10 billion counterfeit listings in 2020.
If you’re not sure a product is safe to buy or you come across a suspected counterfeit reseller, consider reaching out directly to the brand. It can let you know who its verified retailers are, so you can be sure you’re buying from a seller who is authorized to sell that product.
Additionally, brands are always on the lookout for counterfeit products to eliminate from the market. If consumers have a negative experience with duped products, it could potentially destroy the trust they had in the brand and create a negative association with its products online. Beauty brands are always eager to learn about suspected resellers.