The Risks of Counterfeit Nail and Beauty Products

As the CEO and Founder of Katie Barnes Tool Range, with over 16 years of experience in the nail industry, I have encountered my fair share of counterfeit products. Last year, I made a shocking discovery when I found a company selling counterfeit versions of Katie Barnes Tool Range® products on eBay. It was a wake-up call for me, as I never imagined that my own brand would fall victim to counterfeiting.


These counterfeit products weren't just mere lookalikes; they were exact replicas bearing my logo and name. They were masquerading as genuine Katie Barnes products, being sold under the brand name 'Katie Barnes' at prices lower than my manufacturing costs.

Counterfeit product listing above

Genuine KB Double Ended Cuticle Tool above

Fortunately, we were able to put a stop to these sales through trademark infringement actions, at a huge cost to our business. However, the incident highlighted the loopholes that make brands vulnerable to counterfeiting. By purchasing from counterfeit companies, not only are you risking receiving unsafe products, but you are also inadvertently supporting the counterfeit industry.

Counterfeit nail and beauty products are rampant, infiltrating e-commerce platforms, online marketplaces, and social media channels. They come in various forms, including cosmetics, nail tools, sanitisation products, and electrical items such as e-files and gel lamps.

Unscrupulous sellers prey on consumers seeking bargains, offering poor-quality imitations that may not work properly and could even pose safety risks. Using counterfeit items on clients could potentially void your insurance putting your nail and beauty business at risk.

To stem the tide of counterfeit products in the nail and beauty industry, it's crucial to stay vigilant and informed. Always purchase from authorised sellers to ensure product authenticity, quality, and safety. Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

What to look out for

When shopping for products from a particular brand, it is important to ensure that you purchase from the brand's official website or its authorised distributors and resellers. Avoid following recommendations to buy dupes from influencers and on social media groups. Buying counterfeit cosmetics and beauty electronics from online marketplaces can lead to serious consequences and safety issues. In this blog, we will explore the dangers of purchasing fake products and why it is crucial to only buy from legitimate sources.

Quality and Safety Concerns
Online marketplaces may offer products at a lower cost, but they often come with poor quality and longevity issues. For instance, counterfeit make-up brands sold on online marketplaces may have packaging and products that appear genuine but are filled with harmful substances like arsenic. Using such cosmetics can have serious consequences for your health. Manufacturers and importers follow strict legislation and guidelines to ensure product safety. However, when you purchase from online marketplaces, you become the legal importer, leaving you and your customers unprotected in case of any issues.

"If It's Too Good to Be True"
Sometimes, products may look identical to genuine ones but perform poorly or lack necessary guarantees. For example, designer replicas can be difficult to differentiate from the real deal. Buying cosmetics, electronics, and nail and beauty items from online marketplaces means there is no guarantee, warranty, or support. Additionally, depending on the country of origin, you may become the legal importer, which can have legal implications. Insurance companies may also refuse to insure purchases from these marketplaces, so caution is advised.

Finding Bargains Safely
While seeking affordable alternatives to high-end products is understandable, it is important to approach this cautiously. Joining nail groups and looking for bigger brand products being sold by professionals can be a great way to get good deals on lightly used items. If you ever doubt the authenticity of a product, reach out to the brand directly for assistance.

Authorised Sellers and Counterfeit Products
When we refer to online marketplaces in this blog, we are specifically talking about platforms where anyone can be a seller or buyer. Genuine, reputable brands do not list their professional products on such sites, meaning there is no guarantee of authenticity. It is worth noting that professional brands which also have a consumer division, may have an authorised shopfront on these marketplaces for consumers only. To verify if someone is an authorised seller, contacting the manufacturer or official distributors is recommended.

Follow the Intellectual Property Office top tips on avoiding fake nail and beauty products:

Tips to avoid purchasing counterfeit beauty and hygiene products 

1) Vet the seller. Do they look official? Have you bought from this seller before? Even if on a well know marketplace or retailer website, does this seller seem legitimate? Does the seller have a returns policy? If you are in doubt, look for a genuine online review, not just recommendations from influencers to buy the item.   

2) Avoid payments by bank transfer. Always beware of retailers asking for payment to be made via bank transfer. Well known credit card providers like Visa or Mastercard, and services like PayPal offer protection to buyers if the goods don’t arrive or are proven to be counterfeit.  

3) Trust your instincts. Does the item on offer look and feel like an authentic product? Sellers of counterfeits often make spelling mistakes in their descriptions and sometimes on the products themselves, which is an obvious warning sign. Spelling and grammar mistakes can indicate fakes!  

4) Be wary of social media ads taking you to fake online platforms – many sellers of fakes set up online platforms with the sole aim of conning you out of your hard-earned cash and they use social media ads to entice you. Always check the domain name is authentic – you can use website checkers for this. If you’re buying goods check that the little padlock appears in the URL bar when checking out – this indicates it’s a secure payment platform. Check reviews and make sure they have a returns policy. Fake platforms will often offer no way of contacting the business which is a sign that it may not exist.  

5) Question the price if much cheaper than elsewhere. Whether buying online or in person, always think about the price. Scammers often sell counterfeit goods at discounted prices to make you drop your guard. If the item is significantly cheaper than you’d expect, that’s a good reason for alarm bells to ring. If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.  

6) Don’t just take their word for it. This is particularly the case for those considering purchasing fake products off the back of a recommendation from friends or family. Your skin is unique. What may have worked for them might not for you. Don’t take the risk of putting unsafe ingredients on your skin. Choose safe, not fake. 

Product Categories and Regulations

Different categories of products used in the nail industry have specific regulations. It is crucial to understand these regulations when purchasing nail products:

  1. Cosmetics: Professional cosmetic products like powders, gels, and nail polishes should never be purchased from online marketplaces. Genuine brands do not sell their professional range products there, and any similar-looking products are likely to be counterfeits and unsafe for use.
  2. Medicines: Products that claim to treat or prevent certain conditions require a license. Legitimate sales of these products do not occur on online marketplaces and are prohibited in the license terms. Products claiming to have medicinal properties in such marketplaces are likely to be fake or unsafe.
  3. Articles: Items such as nail brushes and cotton wool are considered articles and fall outside the scope of the EU Cosmetics Regulation. These can generally be purchased from online marketplaces, but quality may vary.
  4. Biocidal Products: Sanitation and disinfection products used with equipment and articles fall under The Biocidal Products Regulation. While efforts are made to regulate the sales of these items on online marketplaces, counterfeit substances remain a persistent issue.

How can buying fake affect you?

As a nail technician, it is crucial to prioritise the safety of your clients by using genuine nail products. Unfortunately, the availability of fake nail products on the market poses significant risks that can not only harm your customers but also jeopardise your career.

Allergies: A Threat to Customers and Technicians
One of the most concerning risks associated with fake nail products is the potential for allergies. Counterfeit products often contain harmful substances and unknown ingredients that can cause severe allergic reactions in both clients and technicians. This can result in skin irritation, nail separations, nail infections, and irreversible nail damage. In some cases, allergies can become so severe that they may even prevent individuals from receiving dental or orthopaedic treatment in the future due to the potential for allergic reactions with certain materials.

Poor Results and Lack of Support
Using counterfeit products considerably increases the likelihood of poor results. Genuine nail products are formulated based on extensive research and development, ensuring optimal performance and durability. Conversely, fake products lack the same level of quality control and may not deliver the desired outcomes. Additionally, counterfeit products do not come with product training or support from the brand, leaving technicians on their own in case of issues or questions.

Insurance and Legal Ramifications
Using fake nail products can have serious consequences for your business. Most insurance policies require the use of authorised, certified products, making the use of counterfeit items a violation of policy terms. If an incident occurs involving fake products, your insurance may be invalidated, leaving you financially responsible for any damages or claims. It is crucial to maintain proper certification and adhere to industry standards to ensure compliance with insurance requirements.

Electrical Items: A Potential Fire Hazard
Counterfeit electrical items, such as nail lamps or drills, are particularly dangerous. These items may not adhere to safety standards and can pose a significant fire risk. Genuine electrical nail tools undergo rigorous testing to guarantee their safety and provide certification, whereas counterfeit items lack this assurance. Using fake electrical items not only puts your clients at risk but also endangers your workspace and the integrity of your profession.

The Importance of Warranty and Certification
Authorised sellers provide warranties on their products, ensuring that you are covered in case of any manufacturing defects or malfunctions. Counterfeit items, on the other hand, offer no such protection, leaving you vulnerable to financial losses. Additionally, genuine products come with the necessary certifications, demonstrating their compliance with safety and quality standards. Using fake products may mean using items that have not been certified, potentially compromising the well-being of your clients.

A counterfeit KB E-File being promoted on a nail group. This was purchased by a Nail Technician, who when she used this on clients had extremely high vibration, poor quality bits and caused damaged to the customers nails. When she contacted the seller, they had disappeared. The techs insurance company advised that she was not covered to use this under her policy as it was a fake and didn't hold any of the certification legally required.

An example of a fake version of KB E-File. 

An example of a fake version of KB E-File. Whilst this model is not branded with the KB logo, you can see the KB in the title, where the seller is implying the model is a KB e-file.

Benefits of Buying from Official Sellers

There are several reasons why purchasing from official sellers is crucial:

  1. Product Confidence: Buying from online marketplaces provides no guarantee of product authenticity. Suspiciously low prices may indicate that the item is a counterfeit.
  2. Brand Support and Guarantee: Legitimate sellers provide ongoing technical support and product guidance. In case of issues, counterfeit products offer no manufacturer guarantee or support.
  3. Shelf Life: Products have a limited shelf life, and discounted items may be past their expiration date, making them unsafe for use.
  4. Insurance Coverage: Counterfeit or online marketplace purchases may not be covered by insurance policies, leaving you financially vulnerable.
  5. Customer Confidence: Clients trust that their nail technician is using safe and genuine products. Using counterfeit items undermines this trust.

Taking Action

If you suspect a product is counterfeit, report it to the official brand for confirmation. If confirmed fake, take the following steps:

  1. Report the seller or website to Citizens Advice Consumer Service 0808 223 1133
  2. Report the seller or website to Trading Standards.
  3. Report the seller to Action Fraud through their website or by calling 0300 123 2040.
  4. Report the seller to Crimestoppers.

The allure of convenience and affordability should never compromise safety when purchasing beauty products. Investing in genuine and certified nail products is not only crucial for the safety and satisfaction of your clients but also for the longevity and success of your career as a nail technician. Fake products pose a range of dangers, including allergies, skin irritation, poor results, insurance invalidation, and fire hazards. By purchasing from authorised suppliers and ensuring proper certification, you can protect your clients, safeguard your business, and uphold the professionalism of the nail industry. Don't let the allure of cheap alternatives endanger your customers or compromise your reputation - prioritise safety, quality, and support in your nail product purchases.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.