Fake injectable dermal fillers: A dangerous trend in the beauty industry 

Published: 19-May-2021

In partnership with Red Points

Counterfeit dermal fillers have popped up in the market not long after the genuine ones were generalised. From the unlawful beauticians using illegitimate fillers, to the consumers buying fakes online and injecting themselves, the harm that can be inflicted to consumers are tremendous.

In both 2015 and 2017, the FDA issued a warning about fake Botox and injectable dermal fillers on the market. The counterfeits are entirely unregulated and potentially fatal. Sadly, this trend keeps surging: doctors in Scotland recently warned against fake botox being sold on social media.

In this article, we will take a look at the scope of the problem and what beauty professionals can do about it.

Counterfeit fillers, a fatal problem

While all counterfeit cosmetics have the potential to be harmful, some can actually be fatal. Fake botox and fillers have caused hospitalisation, paralysis and even death for hundreds in recent years.

This has led the FDA to issue official warnings indicating that they had not safety-approved liquid silicone or silicone gel for injection, and urging people to only accept treatment from trained professionals and carefully scrutinise institutions based on certifications. However, the problem doesn’t appear to have disappeared. Last year, the US Customs seized $35,000 worth of counterfeit Botox in Cincinnati.

Although fake botox seems like a counterfeit product people would never buy, fakes are becoming harder and harder to spot. Consumers are almost always duped into purchasing counterfeit cosmetic treatments, and many speak out following bad experiences and unprecedented side effects.

These types of cases are detrimental to both consumers and filler brands like Botox, but more damaging are cases that go unreported and undiscovered, serving to further support the harmful underground industry.

Cosmetics industry is booming, so do counterfeits

Counterfeit cosmetics copy genuine branded products, using the same packaging and trademarks in order to dupe consumers into purchases, usually with an incentive of a discounted price. However, because they are created unlawfully they are entirely unregulated; counterfeit cosmetics can and often do contain many harmful ingredients including lead, mercury and even cyanide.

The beauty industry today is worth an astonishing $603 billion. Unfortunately, where there is success unfair competition tends to follow. By 2022, the global counterfeiting industry is predicted to be worth $4.2 trillion.

According to Red Points’ data, numbers of counterfeit cosmetics and perfumes online are at an all-time high since the Covid-19 pandemic, with 74.14% of cosmetics brands seeing a spike in cybercrime.

The reality of the fake cosmetics market is that they’re everywhere; a simple online search over Google, eBay, Facebook and more reveals a horde of suspiciously-cheap bestseller eyeshadow palettes and lipsticks, designer perfumes, skin care and treatments of all kinds.

As Alisa Lask, general manager and vice president of the US Aesthetics at Galderma says: "Though the beauty industry is strictly regulated, it has unfortunately seen a rise in both counterfeit and illegally imported product sales, especially from unlicensed online distributors."

How to avoid unlawful beauty products

Botox and fillers today represent a billion-dollar industry, and one whose market not only looks younger, but is getting younger. Data shows that the age group 19-34 now represents over 17.5% of consumers using botox. As the market fills out and more consumers hunt for discounts, education on this subject is vital.

Joseph O’Connell, a Connecticut-based plastic surgeon advises on how to avoid counterfeit botox, warning against discounts, which are usually too good to be true: “[Doctors] all pay close to the same price for Botox”, he advises, as it is bought directly from the company. He advises that patients ask to look at box packaging, and check for a hologram which signifies (although does not guarantee) authenticity.

Finally, you can check the ingredients description. OnabotulinumtoxinA is the ingredient approved by the FDA. If you find Botulinum Toxin Type A or other words instead, you should definitely see it as an alarm.


Everyone has a responsibility and an incentive to end counterfeiting of cosmetics: consumers, retailers and brands alike. Consumers interested in fillers should take every precaution possible to find medical professionals to deliver the procedure, and also to be aware of the risks especially when looking for a good price deal.

Brands and retailers are beginning to make efforts to make genuine products verifiable - from holograms to serial codes - and these should be continued with an emphasis on delivering quality products as opposed to large discounts.

Ultimately, to beat counterfeit to their own game brands in the cosmetics industry need to be proactive in monitoring and taking down fakes online. The best brand protection solution can detect fakes in a wide range of online channels and enforce your IP efficiently. To learn more how Red Points can help take the load off your shoulder and automate the process, take a look at our brand protection solution.

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