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All killer no filler: why the FDA issued fake Botox warning

Posted by Red Points on Monday, Nov 6, 2017

The FDA have recently issued a warning about fake Botox and fillers on the market, which are entirely unregulated and potentially fatal.


The beauty industry has exploded in recent years. Today it is worth an astonishing $445 billion, and startups are breaking into the market around the globe. Unfortunately, where there is success unfair competition tends to follow.

Counterfeit cosmetics seizures are on the rise

According to the latest OECD data, numbers of seized counterfeit cosmetics and perfumes are at an all-time high and skyrocketing, with 2012 seeing a 50 per cent year-on-year increase. The reality of the fake cosmetic 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, skincare and treatments of all kinds.

Counterfeit cosmetics copy genuine branded products, using the same packaging and trademarks in order to dupe customers 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.

A fatal counterfeit

While all counterfeit cosmetics have the potential to be harmful, some can actually be fatal. An alarming recent trend? Fake botox.

Fake botox and fillers have caused hospitalisation, paralysis and even death for hundreds in recent years, leading the FDA to issue an official warning that it has not safety-approved liquid silicone or silicone gel for injection, and urging that people only accept treatment from trained professionals, carefully scrutinising institutions based on certifications. The problem appears to be growing: as resident doctor of E4's Body Fixers Dr. Tijion Esho tells BuzzFeed news, a third of his daily appointments are increasingly treating the aftereffects of counterfeit fillers, which he says simply “aren’t fit for purpose”.

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.

Botox and fillers today represent a billion-dollar industry, and one whose market not only looks younger, but is getting younger. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, the age group 19-34 now represents over 15% of consumers using botox. As the market fills out and more consumers hunt for discounts, education on this subject is vital.

Although fake botox seems like a counterfeit product you would never buy, unfortunately counterfeit goods 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 consumers and filler brands like Botox, but more damaging are cases that go unreported and undiscovered, serving to further support the harmful underground industry.


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 to verification checks that use public ledger blockchain - and these should be continued with an emphasis on delivering quality products as opposed to large discounts. To find out more on how brand protection can be implemented to guard against counterfeits, take a look at our free eBook.

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Red Points

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Red Points is the smart and technological solution against online counterfeit, brand abuse and digital piracy