REAL OR FAKE? Where You Buy Your Shampoo Could Affect Your Health

I recently reposted this on Instagram and it went viral. Why? Because the beauty industry is under attack by counterfeiting organizations and they're best platform to reach you, is at your favorite place to shop.

no time to read?
ask the experts
Get personalized hair product recommendations hand-picked for you by our Master Stylists.
get recommendations

Most don’t realize that professional salon products sold on Amazon are either fake or expired. While there are some brands that have a storefront, if you don't see that it is legitimately from the brand itself then move on. The same goes for websites like Ebay, Overstock, Alibaba, Wish, Poshmark and random beauty sites like Ecosmetics.

I hear you...but ever sit back and wonder why it's cheaper?

Do Beauty Products Expire?

Absolutely! However, because the beauty industry is unregulated, brands are not required to list it on their products like the FDA requires it of food. Why? That’s another story.

What you need to know is that most shampoo and conditioners are paraben free and sulfate free. These are synthetic chemicals used as a preservative. To avoid these chemicals, many companies are using essential oils as a natural preservative; however, that means they have a shelf life of about 12-24 months only. After that, bacteria starts to grow.

When someone unknowingly purchases an expired product from an illegitimate company, they end up using a pool of bacteria to wash or style their hair.

Learn more at Does Shampoo Expire?

There are Fake Beauty Products?

1000%. Most don’t realize but counterfeit beauty is a $5.4 billion industry. Shady entrepreneurs and organized criminal organizations have found that demand for beauty products, or skin care and hair care, allows them to make more money than selling narcotics. Because of the money behind these fake products, most of which are manufactured in mainland China, they are becoming more and more hard to spot.

“Usually, the price is the best tipoff that the goods are counterfeit,” says Chris Schwegmann, a lawyer in Texas who has represented a number of cosmetic companies and sued online retailers over counterfeit products. “If the price looks too good to be true, it is usually a sign that you are buying counterfeit goods, especially if you see these products on a website like Amazon or eBay.” Healthline

Most don’t realize that professional salon products sold on third party seller websites are either fake or expired. The same goes for websites like Ebay, Overstock, Alibaba, Wish, Poshmark and random beauty sites like Ecosmetics.

Counterfeit goods have tested positive for known carcinogens, like arsenic and beryllium, and heavy metals, like lead and mercury. In high quantities, these ingredients can cause issues like headaches, memory loss, and infertility.

Not scared yet?

How about this? Most of these products are produced in filthy clandestine labs and tested positive for high levels of bacteria, like for urine, fecal matter, and particularly staph! After using these counterfeit products, dermatologists have time and time again seen boils, styes, pink eye, and pustules caused by these imposter products. I highly suggest checking out the Netflix series, “Broken” episode “Makeup Mayhem”. It is terrifying!

Is that $5 savings on that luxury shampoo still sounding worth it?

The thing is major hair care brands do not sell on Amazon or these other websites, therefore when it says the “Seller” is “Oribe” that is actually not true. Amazon sellers are able to list the brand as the seller without transparency that it is actually coming from who knows where. To earn the right to major brands, you have to be attached to a salon and go through a stringent application process where you agree against Diversion….I’ll get to this later.

I found it necessary to write this article as North Authentic has recently experienced a massive upswing in purchases of Davines Liter Pumps. My concern is, where is everyone buying these Davines Shampoo liters that they don’t also have access to liter pumps? Red flag!

Found this searching for Davines Shampoo Liters online. Davines changed it's packaging over 5 years ago!

How is Amazon allowed to do this?

Amazon works with 3rd party sellers or independent sellers that can sell anything that you can think of. The thing is Amazon has no control over these products. Randomly, these sellers may get caught and be shut down, but with the sheer mass of sellers on the platform make oversight almost impossible.

Don’t get me wrong, there are actual REAL brands selling on Amazon, but high end luxury brands are usually not one of them.

Here’s an example. Recently, @aleck_ shared information about a shampoo her client purchased on Amazon that she supposedly bought directly from “Kevin.Murphy”. The client didn’t know that it is actually all caps ‘ “KEVIN.MURPHY”. Sellers use little things like this to trick people into buying fake products. In recent years, counterfeit products have become more and more authentic looking. Just like a bootleg purse, they look like the real deal but the fonts can be slightly different. According to Aleck, the fake shampoo was yellow in color, watery, and smelled like vinegar. The real shampoo is pearl/pink and smells of citrus.

What is so sad is, according to a recent survey by Instyle, 31% of women are currently shopping for their products on Amazon. I recently did a test. I simply searched “best shampoo and conditioner” on Google. The 3rd website to be listed was Amazon Best Sellers in Beauty. The same when I searched for “Oway shampoo” and even “best purple shampoo." It is in your face constantly and as more and more people are shopping online, these criminal enterprises have access to you on a daily basis.

What is Diversion?

It is when a product is sold outside of its authorized chain of distribution potentially putting the quality of the product at risk. Brands spend millions of dollars a year on diversion campaigns to keep people from selling their products that are not authorized to keep counterfeit or expired products out of stores and support their small business salons and distributors.

When you see Kerastase, Davines or any other large brand at the end of an aisle in your local pharmacy, outlet or big box store, they are generally expired products purchased from someone going out of business. Remember, these expired, contaminated or counterfeit products could cause irritation or even infection.

So how do we stop this?

The onus is on you...the consumer. If you don’t buy the products on these websites, there will be no demand for counterfeit beauty as they will no longer have access to you. Only purchase hair products from your hair stylist or an authorized retailer, like North Authentic, so you can rest assured that you are using authentic products. After spending so much on your cut and/or color at the salon, the last thing you want are cheap toxic ingredients and bacteria that will ruin your dream hair.

I get we are all trying to save a buck here and there, but most of the time you end up spending the same amount or less because of the difference in product performance. Plus, salon professional products are very concentrated, so a little goes a long way. Just emulsify in your hands and add water. That dime or quarter size is generally all you need.

Would you like to learn more. I loved this Netflix documentary “Broken.” Check it out.


meet the founder

Natalie Palomino is the owner of North Authentic and a 10+ year Pro Stylist. She started North Authentic to give women and men expert-guidance in finding the right hair care regimen for them while also ensuring all products are free of toxins.

ingredient preferences
Shop "Free Of"

All North Authentic products are free of: Sulfates, parabens, EDTA, 1,4 Dioxian, and many more all provided in our Hair Crimes List. While we work with our brands to become even more conscious, we identify additional "Free Of" ingredients on every product page.

Shop "Free Of" ingredient preferences using our Filters. You can also take the North Authentic Hair Quiz to get your personalized hair care prescription of the best products for your hair curl type.