makeup stock image
photo: iStocl

There's a reason international governments have cracking down extra hard on counterfeit cosmetics manufacturers over the past few years — cosmetics made outside of the law are made in questionable environments with chemicals that can do serious harm to the human body. You're bound to find some pretty disgusting stuff in makeup that had to be made in secret.

But, uh, that doesn't always mean official cosmetics retailers are free from criticism of their manufacturing spaces, either — last year Revelist covered a whole spree of manufacturing and shipping mishaps that led to some extremely gross customer experiences.

So, without further ado, here's a breakdown of the most disturbing and dangerous things customers and researchers have found in makeup, both fake and the real deal. Maybe don't read this one while eating.


Ants (and other insects)

A customer who made a purchase directly from Jeffree Star Cosmetics' website in 2017 allegedly opened her order to find a swarm of ants. Several other Twitter and Instagram users made similar complaints but did not recall any interactions with customer service. The brand never issued any statements regarding the claims.

Also last year, an Instagram user posted videos of her Kylie Cosmetics order that allegedly arrived full of ants. She said at the time that she'd been promised a replacement by customer service but failed to receive one more than 20 days after her initial package came. The brand never publicly responded to the claim.



19-year-old Natalia Garcia allegedly found a MASSIVE hair in her Jeffree Star Cosmetics highlighter in 2017. "I was putting my highlighter on when I noticed what I thought was a brush hair from my highlighting brush," she told "I pulled it from the pan with tweezers only to find it was a long hair. I one hundred percent think it's a human hair."



Last year, a multitude of photos surfaced on Instagram depicting Jeffree Star Cosmetics Velour Liquid Lipsticks that allegedly arrived infested with mold. The lipsticks in questions were said to have all come from Beauty Bay, which issued a statement declaring "investigations are still ongoing with Jeffree Star."



kkw fingerprints
photo: YouTube/jcmakeupmaster

Shortly after KKW Beauty released its contour sticks in 2017, a YouTuber known as JCMakeupMaster uploaded a video in which he opened his products to find cracks, fingerprints, and lint all over them. 

Similarly, Revelist editor Alle Connell purchased the Kylie Cosmetics summer collection that year and received already opened lipsticks, an eye shadow palette with smudges across the mirror, and what appeared to be contaminated shadow pans. Other customer complaints online detailed similar experiences.


Rat droppings

Both the FBI in 2014 and the City of London Police Department in 2015 reported traces of rat feces in counterfeit makeup confiscated by the government. Due to questionable manufacturing environments, it's one of the most common findings in fake beauty products.



justice highlighter
photo: Justice

A group of journalists discovered via independent testing that highlighters sold by tween retailer Justice contained asbestos, a toxic mineral that's toxic when inhaled, in 2017. Justice issued an apology and immediately pulled the product off shelves for further investigation.

Months later, a Claire's customer sent one of tween retailer's glitter makeup kits to an independent laboratory, where it tested positive for asbestos. Claire's immediately pulled its glitter makeup from shelves and stated it was launching an investigation.



The Health Products Regulatory Authority and Health Service Executive in Ireland confiscated counterfeit Kylie Cosmetics and Urban Decay products that tested positive for both arsenic and lead in 2017. Arsenic is also a highly common ingredient in fake makeup.

Side effect of arsenic exposure include but are not limited to drowsiness, headaches, confusion, and severe diarrhea — and those are on the less severe side.



fake benefit makeup
photo: Blogspot

Arsenic and lead are frequently found hand-in-hand in counterfeit cosmetics. Side effects of lead exposure are much more longterm and include developmental delay, irritability, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and many more.



The same City of London investigation that exposed rat droppings in counterfeits also revealed dangerous trace amounts of cyanide in fake MAC, Urban Decay, and Benefit products. Counterfeit products were so highly sold at the time, the department called a national alert to warn off potential buyers.


Human feces & urine

counterfeit makeup feces
photo: LAPD

In April 2018, the Los Angeles Police Department confiscated $700,000 worth of counterfeit makeup — copying blockbuster brands such as Kylie Cosmetics, Huda Beauty, MAC Cosmetics, and more — that tested positive for dangerous strains of bacteria and human waste.

That "human waste," is indeed poop, by the way. Still think it's worth the low price tag?