It’s that time of year again. Over here in the UK the air has turned brisk, frost is on the ground, the Christmas songs are on heavy rotation, and, if you’re anything like me, you’re anticipating a mad-dash present run a few days before Christmas actually rears its ugly head. While I love the event itself, nestled in the bosom of my family, drinking mulled wine and eating chocolates galore, the prep work is always a period of harassed frantic organisation, with two whinging children dragged along in my wake.
However, for beauty manufacturers and retailers it is, without doubt, a cash cow. Product development and marketing departments will have long been working furiously behind the scenes to win over the influx of consumers looking for extra stocking fillers for their loved ones, with fragrances, skin care and beauty items being a huge draw for shoppers looking for a quick and easy pick-me-up gift. And it’s these items that become a huge draw for Millennials. The consumer group said to be driving the industry – according to the NY Times, Millennials are ‘rewriting the rules’ – with many companies changing marketing concepts to cater to these social media savvy buyers – beauty gifts are a big draw for them. However, looking to purchase purse-friendly items for both themselves and as presents, it seems that it is this somewhat more easily-led group of purchasers that could be getting themselves caught out by what seems to be an upsurge in counterfeit products coming to the fore around the festive season. Indeed, according to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland, fake versions of beauty products are increasingly being sold via websites, markets and corrupt outlets in the lead up to Christmas, with Millennial consumers often being lured in by the lower prices, and as a result putting themselves at risk of exposure to harmful ingredients such as arsenic and lead.
HPRA cosmetics compliance manager Aoife Farrell told the Sun, “The HPRA is extremely concerned that highly toxic substances, such as arsenic and lead, have been detected in products which are available to Irish consumers.
“Prolonged exposure to both of these banned substances can severely damage your health causing potential harm to your brain and kidneys, among other organs.”
Looking to save money, one 19-year-old, for example, took to eBay to purchase a lower-priced version of her Etude usual brow-tinting gel. The result? A rock-hard formula that felt like ‘tarmac’ to take off, with the product removing half her eyebrow hair at the same time. A counterfeit product with misspelled packaging, original creator Etude told The Daily Mail, “The particular product has been discontinued more than a year ago, and we are currently not selling the product.” A worrying insight for young consumers looking to save money with lower-cost items.
The HPRA also noted it had detained counterfeit products from the likes of Millennial-favorites Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics range and Urban Decay, with Jenner’s holiday palette being among the items seized.
It seems that while reputable brands such as L’Occitane, which has predicted a positive Q3 thanks to Christmas sales, and Estée Lauder Companies, which launched its first multi-brand calendar this year, are happily reaping the rewards of a successful sales period, consumers – in particular the younger generation – should be aware and heed the words of advice from the HPRA, “We can’t emphasise enough the need for consumers to be vigilant when purchasing cosmetics this Christmas; while they may be sold at a cheaper cost than legitimate beauty products, it is never worth gambling with your health when buying these products.” Nicely put.