Saturday, March 22, 2008

A MAC lover's guide to Ebay

Mac. I love the brand so much that I'm always looking for a deal, which leads me to eBay. It's often a place for a bargain, but along with bargains comes fake products! Can you believe those sneaky asians are actually able to make fake MAC cosmetics?? But hey, they're popular, why not? Being a MAC connoisseur, I can spot the obvious fakes really easily, as I'm sure most semi-educated consumers could. But they do get a little tricky, and here are some ways of spotting fake and/or MAC you don't don't don't want to buy:

1) PACKAGING.  Probably one of the easiest ways of spotting fake MAC is the packaging. If it is without a box or the package looks different than the one in the store, stay away! MAC product design does NOT vary from country to country. They simply have a flip open cap, no screw on, no separate compartments, nothing. Many (many many) years ago, MAC had screw on lids, so if you see those, they could be real, but super ancient. This first example is actually funny if you know anything about MAC:

What a nice little mirror! Err...wait a second, MAC doesn't have little mirrors on their compacts, nor do they contain a cheap-o sponge applicator! Now while it is nifty, it's fake! And hilarious that it's so blatant!

So yea, this is an obvious fake. Also, the description doesn't even say what color it is, which we'll get to in the next section.

Ok so another visual to keep in mind are slight alterations to the container's design. This next one is not quite as easy. The seller has it listed as the color "Parrot", which is a popular and new color. If it is a brand new color, it can't be fake, right? I was tempted to bid on this until I noticed something a little off. Can you see anything? 

I know, it looks so real! But there are two things askew to tip me off. 

1) The hole cut out on the box is smaller than the normal hole. Yea, I know, weird that I notice things like that. But it looked a little off compared to my real MAC products. 

However, I still wasn't sure if it was fake. After all, maybe it's an optical illusion and the hole looks different in the photo. That's possible...right?

2) My 2nd clue however, is the clasp on the box! Even weirder! I noticed it has this half-circle type clasp, and that is just NOT consistent with MAC's packaging. Take a look at this photo for the real clasp:

See how the clasp is completely square? I can't tell you if this product is real or not, but at least the clasp is the same one as on the real products. 
So weird, huh? 

This is an interesting one, as it is very sneaky sneaky! The color of products can sometimes tell you if they are fake or not. The first example is this eyeshadow, in the color "Coppering". 
Yes, it is the same seller with the half-circle clasp, so obviously that give it away, but the color is NOT "Coppering". "Coppering" is coppery red, and although this is a coppery red, it is more brown that "Coppering" is. The true color is more red. Although colors can be distorted in images, this is just not really close to the actual color. 

Another obvious sign is bright, flashy colors all sold in a "lot" meaning a bunch, and all without names. They will simply say "lot of mac pigments" or something but will not tell you the names of the products, such as this set:

This is almost a bad example of what you will find. Most of the time they will have 10-15 pigments, in bright green, yellow, pink, blue, etc. However, like this one, they will not have names listed, they will be bright.

MAC does sell bright colors, but some of these will look like sand art or something! They are not real pigments. What is the difference besides the fact that they are fake, you ask? The pigment will be such poor quality that it will not stay on when you apply. It will be made of unknown substances. You don't want to be using makeup that is made of who knows what.

So beware the bright, nameless colors!

Ahh, one of the most notorious of MAC fakes! Brushes are super easy to duplicate, although like the cosmetics, the quality is clearly different. A real brush will:

- Be made of real hair, not synthetics.
- Have "JAPAN", "FRANCE" or "CHINA" printed on the tip of the brush in black, not in gold or white or any other color.
- Have hair bristles that do NOT bleed color when you wash them. Real hair does not bleed, whereas fake hair that is dyed black will bleed.
- Have a handle that does NOT shimmer or sparkle in bright light. Fake brushes do.
- Handles and metal parts on brushes are not the same color, with the exception of special edition sets. If you get a full-size brush, they will have silver metal and a black handle. 
This brush set is tricky, but take a look and I'll tell you what's wrong.
These brushes are fake for a variety of reasons. First, the metal is black. Obvious no-no. Second, the hair looks cheap in the photo, imagine what it will look like in real life! The little brush roll is a nice touch but no doubt made of crappy synthetic material, as the buyer would see when the product is received. Yes, someone actually bought it!

So avoid fake brushes. Just because they are in a little plastic wrapping also does not make a brush real. The brushes are reproductions so why can't the plastic be reproduced as well, right?

4.) AGE
A lot of sellers think they're clever by selling old MAC products as "brand new". Although most of my products have lasted a long time, you probably don't want to buy old cosmetics. Many hygienists have recommended that makeup be tossed in a matter of months to one year. While this may be true for mascara and nail polish, I don't worry for the majority of products. But still, buying old cosmetics may not be as effective, adherence diminishes, etc etc. It's usually very difficult to know how old a product it is, but if it comes from special collection lines or is discontinued in the MAC company, you can bet it is getting up there. 

Case #1: 
This "glitter" may or may not be real. The reason I have a hard time determining its authenticity is because MAC does not make products in these little vials anymore. It is entirely possible that this is authentic, however, it is going to be at least 5 years old. The packaging is grievously outdated.
Any special collections that you saw 2 or 3 years ago are obviously 2 or 3 years old. However, the good news is that special collections are generally real. It would take a lot of effort for the sneaky knock-off artists to produce the special collections, so they generally stick to the tried and true colors. However, still use caution. That color "Parrot" is a brand new special edition color. It seemed unlikely that it was fake until I looked at the packaging. The fake maker probably had a turquoise color and slapped a "Parrot" label on it.

Case #2:

This selection of products is most likely real. Why? First, it has a blush brush that is part of the recent Stylistics collection. A fraud is not likely going to reproduce the brush because it is limited and a hassle. Second, palettes are PRO items, which are somewhat common. But mostly the brush tips me off that this is real MAC.
This next collection of Heatherette products is also probably real, because as I mentioned previously, special collections take a lot of effort to reproduce and since this collection is brand new, it would be hardly possible to reproduce so quickly. 

Man, don't you wish you could get your hands on this collection!

Products that are old can easily be spotted by verifying them on Look up the product name and description on the site. If the color "Budding Beauty" is not on their website, it means it is discontinued. If it has been discontinued, chances are it's been gone for a while. 

Rounding out the top 5 ways of telling a fake, is the seller. This can also be a tricky pursuit, but often a very telling sign as well. Check the seller's feedback. Even though there may be 500 positive ratings, if there is even 1 single negative that says the product was fake, beware! Most people can't tell the difference, or they like the product anyways, so they give positive feedback. However, an occasional buyer will know that what they got was not authentic. Also, read the positive feedback that relates to your item. Sometimes they will give positive feedback even though the item was fake. They may note that it was fake but that the seller was good anyways.

Sometimes you will see a seller note that "what you see is what you get-no refunds". They are showing the photo and telling you to figure it out before you bid, or you're okay with getting fake products. Others, will say "if you're not satisfied, i will refund". I saw that comment on the fake eyeshadows page. Obviously this seller doesn't want to get bad feedback so they're opening it up in case you can tell it's fake. That's awfully nice of them.

Also be wary of sellers that have low feedback. These are usually fakes.

CONCLUSION: These tips aside, sometimes there is no way to tell if it is fake until you receive it. Ultimately, purchasing anything on Ebay is at your own risk. Granted, we have probably all have had good and bad experiences on Ebay. But if you purchase MAC products, please keep in mind that PayPal does not offer refunds for fake MAC products anymore, without pulling a lot of strings. You basically have to get a letter from MAC stating the product is fake, which I'm sure is very difficult if not impossible to get. MAC does not look very kindly on purchasing their products on Ebay, with reasoning I'm sure you can figure out. Just be smart, know your seller, know your MAC products and designs. If in doubt, ask for more photos, go to, ask me, or simply purchase directly through MAC.

Additional Resources:
The following link has great images:
This link is textual, but still gives great ways to spot a fake:

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