Counterfeit makeup found in Houston with lead and arsenic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- It is far from beautiful.

Counterfeit makeup that was seized in Los Angeles this week was found with traces of bacteria and even human waste.

Houston police tell Eyewitness News the counterfeit cosmetics industry is a crime they're fighting across the city.

"We have recovered counterfeit MAC, Urban Decay, Kat Von D, Kylie. Just about any brand you can think of, even Chanel," said an undercover officer with the Major Offenders Division for the Houston Police Department.

He says phony makeup is often produced in unsterile garages and bathrooms with unknown ingredients and is shipped in from overseas.

"The labels and the shipping, it all comes back from China."

He says testing has found high levels of lead, aluminum and even arsenic in the powders, glosses and creams, "that could stop your heart, it can have your kidneys and your lungs shut down on you."

"They use the chemicals because they think that's what it takes to make the makeup and they don't know the consequences on the public, either they don't know or they don't care."

He tells Eyewitness News a recent bust at a Houston beauty store found hundreds of thousands of dollars of phony makeup, in name-brand packaging.

"Every piece of makeup in there was counterfeit."

Dermatologist Dr. Reena Jogi, with Village Dermatology warns bogus beauty products, like mascara, eyeshadow, foundation, and lipstick, can have very severe consequences.

"What we see is that either you're using something that's just not going to work and so you may as well not spend any money, or in worse case scenarios you get a reaction, you get a bacterial infection, you can get a fungal infection, all sorts of bad things can happen."

Jogi says customers can end up with a wide range of skin problems from rashes and scaly patches to acne and burns.

She explains healing can take anywhere from six to eight weeks with steroids and antibiotics.

"Good isn't cheap and cheap isn't good," Jogi says.

Spotting the bad makeup can be hard. It's packaged in name-brand bottles and boxes to look like the real deal.

"We've seen everything from mobile deliveries of counterfeit makeup to actual shops, even counterfeit makeup in mall kiosks," said the undercover officer.

Police warn you to watch out for steep price discounts, usually around 70 percent lower than the normal price, misspellings on the packaging and off-color or faded products.

Houston police have made arrests for selling counterfeit makeup.

The charge is called trademark counterfeit and ranges from a state jail felony to a first-degree felony.

Right now, they are currently working on two investigations.
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