Recently, Refinery29 reported on something called the "gray market"—legal but unauthorized retailers who sell (potentially fake) cosmetics we know and love. The makeup attracts consumers with prices falling far below normal retail. Price cuts sure sound great to us, in theory. But since these are not original or approved points of sales by the manufacturer, quality cannot be guaranteed. In short, you risk ending up with a less-than-genuine, expired, or simply unhygienic product. That sounds awful.
The most popular example is Costco, who was sued by Yves Saint Laurent and other brands for selling counterfeit merchandise. As is the norm, after being referenced in a roundup for the best bargain cosmetics available at Costco, high-end brands reportedly requested to be removed from the list. Why? Costco isn't an authorized retailer, and therefore brands like YSL cannot guarantee the same level of quality and authenticity you would receive when shopping at their approved retail partners. The distinction is a tricky one as a consumer, since these products typically look exactly the same on the shelf, but with much more appealing price tags.
To be clear, this product makes its way to places like Costco through legal means and isn't necessarily counterfeit or damaged. But, considering the tactics of getting into a deep discount store isn't on the up-and-up and the brands themselves are so up in arms, it makes us more than a little untrusting. And, if you have a strong stomach, you can head on over to R29 for separate (but equally terrifying) video footage of a young lady who documented what she found inside a Beautyblender she purchased from an unauthorized retailer. Seriously, we couldn't even bring ourselves to repost it here. Shiver!
Listen, we're sure there are plenty of other stores (and websites) out there to avoid. Here's our rule of thumb: If a deal feels too good to be true, it probably is. And, to guarantee your retailer is approved, you can search under the "stockists" or "store locations" tabs on most any brand website. If it's not there, it's likely not approved. We strongly recommend not cutting corners when it comes to shopping for new makeup. Forking over a few extra dollars to a trusted source for that Beautyblender ($20) or YSL Touche Éclat High Cover Radiant Concealer ($35) might save you a big headache in the long run. Because a cheap product that's expired or full of bugs isn't a deal, now is it?
Have you experienced counterfeit or expired beauty products when shopping for discounted makeup? Knowledge is power. Share your experience with us in the comments!