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Everything Is Not As It Seems: The Dark Truth About Buying Skincare Online

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Nanyang Tech chapter.

One of my favourite skincare products is the Calendula Deep Cleansing Face Wash from Kiehl’s. The only problem is that it costs a whopping $52 for 230ml. As much as I would like a skincare product to work on my skin because I paid so much money for it, an effective but pricey product does not bode well for my wallet. Skincare can be expensive especially when one needs multiple products for a full routine. In an attempt to save money, I am sure many of us have taken to buying skincare online to get the best deal. So imagine my surprise when I received my “Kiehl’s” cleanser that smelt like oranges instead of the potent calendula flower!

I was sceptical about the product being counterfeit at first. After all, the bottle and the label looked as if I just took it off the shelf of a Kiehl’s store. This was a product I frequently purchased directly from Kiehl’s stores and I knew something was amiss when my bathroom was filled with the scent of oranges and my skin felt parched after using the cleanser. Afraid of any harmful effects on my skin and health, I tossed away the bottle as my plan to save a couple of bucks on skincare backfired. While I do concede that buying skincare from Carousell was not the smartest thing I could have done because there is no authentication, one could accidentally be sold counterfeit products despite official certifications from sites like Shopee.

In October last year, TikTok user Kkapplesauce posted a TikTok where she outlined her confusion when The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution she purchased from Shopee did not work its usual magic. Despite buying from an account that had multiple good reviews and was verified by Shopee to have authentic products, the product had a different colour and smell when compared to an original one she bought from Sephora, an authorised retailer of The Ordinary. 

To ensure you do not make the same mistakes as Kkapplesauce and I did, here are some ways to avoid buying counterfeit skincare:

  1. Only Buy from Authorised Sellers

The safest bet would be to only buy from authorised sellers or directly from the product’s stores. My personal favourites are Cult Beauty and Sephora but there are also sites such as iShopChangi, Look Fantastic, Asos Beauty and Althea Korea to name a few! But what about Shopee? Can we still trust them to have authentic products? The answer is yes! Just ensure that you buy it from Shopee Mall instead of preferred sellers. 

  1. Take Note of Sensory Details

If it is your first time trying a product, I recommend getting a hold of the original from an authorised retailer. Take note of how the original product smells, its colour when out of the bottle or tube and how it feels on your skin. Some products may have discolouration due to different batch numbers so do check the label for additional information.


The batch code of a kiehl\'s lotion
Original photo by Kirshann Venu Das

3. Check the Label

An authentic product should have one or a combination of these things: the serial number, batch number and manufactured date. To check for these, look for a small stamp or sticker on the bottom or back of your product. The batch code is usually a series of numbers and letters. For imported products, there would usually be a sticker that includes the address of the company that imports it.

Just like the Wizards of Waverly Place theme song that goes, “everything is not as it seems”, we have to be more careful about where we are buying skincare from. Who knew that there were people out there catfishing us with counterfeit skincare products? These fakes are also increasingly hard to discern from the original! While counterfeit designer items are worn on the body, counterfeit skincare is more dangerous. These fake products would not have followed regulations or passed clinical tests and may contain toxic ingredients that harm our health. Hopefully with these tips we can become smarter consumers because we are too hot to be bamboozled by fake skincare.

Kirshann Marcus

Nanyang Tech '24

The walking paradox: A broke university student with a taste for the finer things in life. A lover of fried chicken with home-brewed coffee flowing through his veins, this English major will try not to wear the same outfit twice with the same person. Singer and songwriter, check out his music at KIRSHANN on Spotify and Apple Music.