In October last year, e-commerce portals like Amazon and Flipkart were issued notices by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for allegedly selling “spurious and adulterated” cosmetics. Reportedly, among cosmetics being sold on these websites included imported brands without valid documents and containing ingredients in the “negative list” of the BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards). However, far from the world of digital space, markets like Sadar Bazaar, Sarojini Nagar and Janpath are flooded with cheap makeup products and imported brands like MAC, Huda Beauty and Kylie, all available at less than half the original price. Though the customers for such products vary from college students to homemakers, but 70% clientele of these suspiciously cheap cosmetics and beauty products are beauticians and makeup artists.
‘Beauticians and makeup artists 70% of our clientele’
On a recent visit to Sadar Bazaar, we were approached by a tout who asked if we wanted to buy cheap makeup products. We were then lead to a shop with a surprising variety of makeup products. The seller asked us, “Do you own a parlour or are you a professional makeup artist? We have everything from MAC and Kylie to Lotus and Blue Heaven. Not just makeup, we also sell facial kits, fake eyelashes, masks and lotions that you need at your parlour.”
When we inquired if they have more such buyers, the shopkeeper replied, “Online portals, malls and beauticians – sab Sadar se hi leke jaate hain.”
Another shopkeeper from the market added, “Seventy per cent of our clients are beauticians. We get such clients from all over India and it is all safe. Aaj tak kisi ne wapas aa kar nahi kaha hai ki products kharab thay, humari guarantee hai. Humara dealer bahar ka hai, baaki log fake dete hain, par humara original hai. Hum bulk mein mangate hain tabhi prices kam hain,” he said.
Fake make-up products in Sarojini Nagar and Sadar Bazaar (BCCL)
‘Beauticians buy products in bulk for their parlours’
As we visited another shop in the market, we tried a foundation from Huda Beauty. As we hesitated to try it on, a woman buyer told us, “You can buy these products. They look original and people are only concerned about the brand. Original toh nahi hote ye sabko pata hai, par saste mil jaate hain toh sab le lete hain.”
The shopkeeper interrupted her and added, “If you buy this foundation from outside, it will cost you `500, but here you can get it for `100 because we sell in bulk. People also ask for lipsticks from international brands like Kylie and MAC. We sell them at `150 and can reduce the price if you buy more. Hum log ye maal China se mangwate hain aur ye consignment crores ka hota hai, toh hum saare shop wale mil kar mangwate hain. You can get anything here – from hair and makeup brushes to any other product needed for your parlour at cheap prices.”
However, another shopkeeper told us, “These are all fake. Aapko koi bataega nahi kyunki sabko maal bechna hai. Par itna sasta maal kahan se layenge itne bade brands ka? Ye sab local hi manufacture hota hai aur ye log custom ka bolke bechte hain.”
Sarojini is popular for kajals and nail paints
While one can buy all beauty/cosmetic products at Sadar Bazaar, sellers in Sarojini Nagar do not put too many items on display due to regular raids. The market is popular for smaller items like kajals, nail paints and eye liners. While original kajals of brands like Maybelline and Lakme are available for `150-300, in SN, you can easily get them for `50. And if you buy in bulk, you can get them for `30-40 as well, depending on your bargaining skills. “We sell our products in bulk only to those customers who have been buying products for a while now. Yahan zyada samaan rakh bhi nahi sakte kyunki squatters ko hatate rehte hain. Bahut parlour wale aate hain. For regular customers, we bring out products from storage. Hum toh sab asali bechte hain, baaki ka pata nahi,” said one of the squatters in Sarojini Nagar.
‘Shopkeepers peddle fake products across NCR’
While the sellers say these products are ‘custom ka maal’, experts tell us that anything which is on a 70-75% discount is fake. Vandana Luthra, founder, VLCC Group, told us, “It is not only Sarojini Nagar or Sadar Bazaar where shopkeepers peddle fake products, but this is across Delhi-NCR. Counterfeit makeup often contains known carcinogens, arsenic, beryllium, and cadmium. These compounds can potentially harm your skin, and sometimes organs, beyond repair. From effects as minimal as small scarring or burning to total disfigur ement, these products can be very harmful. In the end, you will shell out a lot more on treatment than what you saved by buying fake products.”
Makeup artist Ambika Pillai, who has been in the profession for over 20 years now, says that salon owners use such products on one-time clients. “Unfortunately, there are too many spurious products that use names of big brands. The price is less than half the usual cost, that is why salon owners pick them up. In most cases, salons use these on one-time clients so they don’t really care about the feedback. I have come across many people who have got very bad reactions and needed treatment. I had a bride who came to me with lips swollen to twice the normal size. I told her that it was a reaction to the lipstick she used, but she said that her local parlour girl had used only MAC on her. Now what can one say to that? I also had a client who had white lashes. She said she had used a liner that smelt a little off and itched for an hour during her function. On her way back home, when she removed her makeup and all her lashes came off as well! I was shocked to hear that, and now, her lashes have turned white. That poor girl is scared for life,” she shared.
Shahnaz Husain, chairperson and managing director of Shahnaz Husain Group, says, “As a manufacturer of cosmetics, we have also faced the serious problem of fake cosmetic products being marketed by unscrupulous people. Raids have been conducted and according to the police, the fake products, on testing, have failed in quality and hygiene. However, raids hardly help, as the sellers are back after a few days. The modus operandi of people dealing in imitations is to manufacture containers and print labels that are copies of the branded products. They ensure that differences between original and fake are so minor that they are not noticeable to the customers or retailers. Use of fake cosmetics can have serious consequences in terms of skin and hair damage and thus poses a great risk to customers.”