Arsenic and lead detected in counterfeit cosmetics - HPRA and HSE warn of dangers of counterfeit products in lead up to Christmas

News Category: Regulatory news

Date: 06/12/2017

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE) are today advising consumers to be vigilant for counterfeit ‘high-end’ beauty products on sale through certain outlets, markets and websites in the lead up to Christmas. Tests carried out by the HSE on a number of the 728 counterfeit and imitation products the HPRA have detained, identifies  some contain harmful substances, such as arsenic and lead, which can be potentially harmful to people’s health. Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner and Urban Decay were among some of the forged cosmetic brands which were found to contain these illegal substances.

The counterfeit products detained by the HPRA include, Kylie Holiday-Burgundy and Bronze eyeshadow palettes, Kylie Matte liquid lipstick and lip liner, and Urban Decay eyeshadow palettes. The HPRA warns that the Christmas season is the peak time of year for rogue sellers of counterfeit products and shoppers are strongly urged to avoid these potentially harmful products. 

HPRA Seized Cosmetic Products 2 WEB

The HPRA states that over the past few months significant quantities of counterfeit and imitation cosmetics have been seized on entry to the country by Revenue’s Customs Service. The majority of counterfeit cosmetic products seized have been eye-shadows and lip products. Some of these products can be purchased online from websites based outside of the EU and are being sold to Irish consumers online and through social media. They have also been found in some trade shows and at markets throughout the country.

Aoife Farrell, Cosmetics Compliance Manager, HPRA, states:

 “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. The suppliers of these products are unconcerned about the health of the consumers who purchase them. 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.”

“As well as the possible toxic ingredients which may be contained in counterfeit cosmetics, the way the products are manufactured and the safety and cleanliness of the production environment is unknown, which is another reason to avoid purchasing and using these cosmetics at all cost.”

The HPRA highlights that the genuine Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner are currently only available from the company’s website in the USA, and other genuine high-end cosmetic products are usually only available through high street stores or pharmacies. The HPRA and the HSE advise extreme caution if consumers are offered such products at markets or through non-reputable websites. In Ireland, the market surveillance of cosmetic products is carried out by the HPRA and Environmental Health Service and Public Analysts’ Laboratories of the HSE.

“Beauty brands usually list their licensed retailers on their websites and this is an easy way for consumers to ensure that they are purchasing a genuine cosmetic product. If a product is much cheaper than in a high street store or pharmacy, consumers should be immediately suspicious and think twice before buying the beauty product,” Ms Farrell advised.



For Further Information:

Weber Shandwick PR                         (01) 679 8600

Siobhan Molloy / Rachel Galligan        (086) 817 5066 / (087) 791 9901



  • Is it significantly cheaper than on the high street?
  • Is the distributor reliable? Beauty brands usually list their licenced sellers on their website.
  • Physically check counterfeit cosmetics for:
  • Uneven fill levels e.g. in eye-shadow palettes
  • Faded packaging
  • Misspelling on the packaging or in the information leaflet
  • Slight differences in the name of the product or shade
  • A different print (font or style) on the container
  • Mirrors that don’t quite fit or are of bad quality


The HPRA always advises consumers to:

  • Ensure that the product is labelled with a European address (this means there is a company in  Europe responsible for ensuring it complies with quality and safety requirements);
  • If you have any concerns about a product you have purchased that you think may be counterfeit, do not use it. Contact the supplier and the European manufacturer listed on the label;
  • Report any sellers of counterfeit cosmetic products to An Garda Síochána on 1800 666 111;
  • Report anyone who is illegally importing counterfeit cosmetic products to Revenue on 1800 295 295;
  • Report any undesirable health effects to your healthcare professional, the manufacturer (contact details on product packaging) or directly to the Health Products Regulatory Authority. Consumers can do that through our website or by email to



The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) protects and enhances public and animal health by regulating medicines, medical devices and other health products. The products under its remit include human and veterinary medicines, medical devices, blood and blood components, tissues and cells, organs for transplantation and cosmetics. 

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