Eyelash glue agony for online shoppers

Big eyelashes are big business with illicit sellers pushing fake, dangerous eyelash glues at the cost of buyers health

False eyelashes are big business. Fake products and illicit sellers pushing cheap, dangerous eyelash glue are making profits at the cost of users’ health. Buyers of fake, illegal or unregistered unbranded eyelash adhesives have reported swelling of the eyelids, red-eye, dermatitis, skin allergies and allergic reactions. Some eyelash glues and growth serums that are still on sale despite being banned contain chemicals that are unsafe to use, particularly for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Risks from both fake branded adhesives and unregulated, unbranded or copycat glues

There are three main problems that you are at risk from when you shop for eyelash adhesives (and associated products like serums, conditions etc).

1. Cheap fakes and copy-cats of well known brands - for example DUO. Sellers will often try to add plausibility to their listing by using “real” images, claiming to be a UK seller and having a store name that implies they are some kind of clearance outlet or wholesaler. But these fake products are usually China produced counterfeits containing goodness only knows what - certainly not stuff you want anywhere near your eyes.

2. Banned, withdrawn, unlicensed and unregulated products - these have been deemed unsafe for human use and withdrawn from sale across entire regions - yet you’ll still find them on sale in online listings and local/market stores.

One example is the eyelash enhancing serum, 4 Long Lashes by Oceanic, which was recalled and withdrawn across the EU in 2017 after a serious health alert. (The product contains the active substance bimatoprost, which could result in ocular and ophthalmic side effects (e.g. itching and swelling of the eyelids, eyelid inflammation, hyperpigmentation of the eyelids, conjunctival hyperaemia, eye pain or allergic reaction). Yet it is still widely available in online listings today (I just checked).

3. Unbranded and “as good as” copycat products. These are just as bad and dangerous as fakes, without the bonus points for having gone to the half-baked effort of trying to copy the packaging. These predominantly originate from China (some sellers have 600,000 listings scattered around the eBay eyelash adhesives category alone) and they contain unknown, unregulated and potentially harmful ingredients.

The health risks from both fake and unregulated eyelash glue and adhesives are serious and very real. Users have reported swelling of the eyelids, red-eye, dermatitis, skin allergies and allergic reactions, but with cheap fakes and unbranded products, there is also the risk of completely inappropriate chemicals - even toxic pesticides and anti-freezes - being used simply for the bulk.

Do not take the chance, and definitely do not assume that just because it is for sale on a mainstream ecommerce or social media marketplace, that someone else has policed the product and ensured that it is safe for you. Sadly, it simply doesn’t work like that.

Tips for staying safe and well when buying eyelash glue

Izabela, and I (Vicky) have spent a lot of hours looking at fake, unsafe and illegal products in detail. Izabela particularly has had her own eyelashes deep in glues, adhesives, serums, hair colourant, wig glue and eye and hair care products for weeks. Our insights are used in our new eBay Listing Checker, which we’d love to share with you to try out on eyelash glue and related eBay listings. (You can give us your brutal feedback at the end of the post):

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Some of the thing we’ve discovered about false eyelash glue that we hope will keep you safer as you shop:

  1. Recognise the risk is there. When shopping for eyelash glue on online ecommerce platforms (for example eBay, Amazon etc) or social media marketplaces (including Facebook and Instagram) be aware that there is a risk of listings for branded products being fake. This includes sponsored and promoted listings, and adverts promoting those listings.

    Little details can be a give away - for example genuine DUO Striplash is sold in 7g tubes. Yet our analysts have spotted sellers on eBay, Amazon and Pinterest offering 9g tubes. These are fake - genuine 9g tubes do not exist.

  2. Know the price you would pay for the same branded product if you bought directly from the brand or from major High Street retailer’s website. For example, Duo Striplash Eyelash Glue 7g is consistently priced at between £5.79 to £6. These are bulk retail buyers with significant bargaining power - they will pay a lower item price for the stock they buy than a smaller retailer ever can. So how can a small retailer - especially one the other side of the world - possibly have the genuine product so much cheaper?

    As a rough rule of thumb, if the listing price of the same product is 80% or less than a low-cost High Street retailer, be very wary. That’s £4.63 or under - excluding postage! - for the 7g Duo Striplash Eyelash Glue. If it’s cheaper than usual, ask yourself how the seller could possibly buy, store, sell and ship a genuine product at that price and still make a profit?

    Usually the answer is they can’t. This isn’t surplus stock, factory seconds, or almost out of date - don’t kid yourself there. What you’re buying is a very poor quality substitute, made from the cheapest possible ingredients - and when it comes to health and beauty products, cheap means untested, unregulated and unsafe for human use.

  3. The same is true of unbranded/unlicensed, withdrawn/banned and copycat “as good as” eyelash glues, growth serums and conditioners. Part of the reason they are so cheap is that they contain ingredients that have not gone through the expensive process of being made safe for human consumption. This may include ingredients that have been previously banned from the market or are not permitted to be used in contact products (as in things that go on you or in you) because they are unsafe to use and do not comply with health regulations.

    Izabela, our data analyst working on training our software to identify risky eyelash and costmetic products, says she cannot stress highly enough the importance of checking eye makeup/eye care ingredients before using products from unknown brands or sources, especially those in liquid form and coming in contact with the eye/eyelid.

    For example, Hydroquinone, a skin bleaching agent, is still used in a number of withdrawn/banned eyelash glues and skin lightening creams – Ochronosis (bluish black discoloration of the skin) is a complication associated with long-term use, but as the BBC and Trading Standards have previously reported, substances containing Hydroquinone and mercury are banned from being sold over-the-counter in the UK as they can cause liver, nerve and foetal damage. It is prescription-only in the European Union and its use is strictly controlled in many African and Asian countries.

  4. If you suspect the product you have already bought is high risk, do not use it, the risks are simply too high. There are some guides on how to tell fake branded products from the real thing - like this video about spotting fake DUO - but this is seriously nasty stuff, so don’t put it near your eyes if you’re not absolutely confident that it is the real thing.

    If you remember the eBay seller details, then you could run the listing through our checker below - that way there will be a record of the listing and we can use the aggregated data to push for action and make sure it is on the radar of the organisations working to reduce this problem.

  5. Don’t get fooled again. The natural response to getting ripped off from buying fake or rubbish goods is to blame ourselves for being so careless or gullible. But actually these are sophisticated sellers and distributors, often with links back to organised crime, who know all the tricks to tempt you to buy and shame you into staying quiet afterwards. “UK Seller!”, “Clearance stock!” “The more you buy the more you save!” “100% genuine!” - at Vistalworks we’ve seen it all.

    As shoppers, it is our money that provides the fuel to keep the whole illicit trading system going meaning more people get harmed - let’s take that money away.

We need your help to fight back

The problem of fake, unsafe and illegal eyelash glue, serums, creams and cosmetics is widespread. You’ll find products in local stores and market stalls, and in listings and adverts on mainstream ecommerce platforms and social media marketplaces. And although the problem definitely isn’t limited to eBay, as techies who like our makeup, we had to start the fight back somewhere. So we’ve built a free tool so that you can check individual listings before you buy on eBay.

It is still in development, we know our baby is ugly and hasn’t reached its full potential yet - we’d like to keep it safely tucked away until it’s completely perfect. But we really want to make the injuries and reactions from fake and illicit health and beauty products a thing of the past.

So that means sharing the technology as early as possible with people like you and holding our breath to see if it is useful. (If it isn’t, we’ll try again and again until it is!)

Paste in an eBay listing URL for eyelash glue (it works on loads of other product types too) and see if it as safe or risky as you assumed. And then please give us your feedback!

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This is sophisticated data technology but it is crafted and trained by humans like me and Izabela and ultimately we want to make something that makes the world a tiny bit safer.

There is a text box below if you want to share your comments or thoughts, or simply tell us about you experiences from fake or unsafe eyelash products. Thank you!!

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