Faced with a growing global influx of fake make-up, the world's most counterfeited cosmetics brand is warning customers to beware of buying potentially dangerous products.
Tests have shown traces of urine, arsenic and dangerous heavy metals in eye and lip products made in insanitary conditions, mostly in China.
New Zealand is not immune to what M.A.C describes as a "global epidemic", with customs having intercepted 30 shipments of fake M.A.C products at the border in the past five years. Further seizures have been made locally, primarily from online sellers, says its country general manager, Tanya Jackson. Customer queries asking to confirm the authenticity of products purchased online were also on the rise, she said.
In Asia, the company has partnered with law enforcement agencies and other industry players, leading to raids on counterfeiting workshops and unauthorised distributors. Millions of items of fake product have been seized and destroyed and large lawsuits are in train.
"Due to their proximity to China, Australia and New Zealand are impacted by counterfeit issues," said Gregg Mazzarro, senior vice-president and deputy general counsel for the Estee Lauder Companies, corporate parent of M.A.C.
"The most common unauthorised channels specific to the New Zealand market include: social media buy/sell groups, individual websites, cosmetic expos, cosmetic pop-up stores and sellers that operate small retail shops and night market kiosks."
Action has been taken to shut down several Facebook sellers as part of a campaign to get tough on the illegal trade.
The global head of M.A.C, Karen Buglisi Weiler, said she was horrified by what product tests had revealed. Her advice to customers with suspect goods was: "Throw it in the garbage today because you don't know what you have."
• Read more of Janetta Mackay's story on viva.co.nz.