Real vs. Fake MAC Makeup: Spot the Fake in 5 Easy Ways

If you're paying for the quality that comes with the name, you'd better be sure you're not accidentally buying fake MAC makeup.


Jessica Braun Gervais
Updated 12 May 2021
Real vs. Fake MAC Makeup: Spot the Fake in 5 Easy Ways
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United States Counterfeit Goods Statistics


$1.3 billion in counterfeit items seized each year
$200 billion yearly loss to businesses

$959 billion (estimated value of the counterfeit market by 2022)

Source: Library of U.S. Congress

Sections on this page
  1. 5 Ways to Spot Fake MAC Makeup
  2. How To Avoid Purchasing Fake MAC Makeup
  3. What To Do If You Buy Fake MAC Makeup
  4. Frequently Asked Questions

MAC Cosmetics is a high-end cosmetics brand selling professional-quality makeup and beauty products. They are part of Estee Lauder Companies, sell products in more than 120 countries, and are known for their artistic approach to makeup. Collaborations with names such as Rihanna and The Rock Horror Picture Show put MAC in high demand for professional makeup artists, the general public, and, unfortunately, scammers. Knowing how to identify fake MAC makeup from the real deal is easy once you know what you're looking for.

5 Ways to Spot Fake MAC Makeup

Many scammers attempt to recreate popular MAC makeup using inferior quality ingredients and altered branding to lower prices. If you've purchased discounted MAC Cosmetics, and you're wondering if they're real, there are some ways to identify if you've got the real thing. Pay special attention to the:

  • Packaging
  • Smell
  • Product name
  • Price
  • Quality

Packaging

All MAC Cosmetics makeup has similar packaging. The boxes and makeup cases are almost always black with a slight shimmer and a white logo. The logo is centered on the product and in all caps. Fake MAC Cosmetics will come with dull black or gray packaging, and the casing of the logo may not be in all caps. Fake MAC Cosmetics may also have an off-centered logo on either the packaging or the case.

Also, look for inconsistencies with the copy itself—fake MAC makeup may have misspellings or information in the incorrect order.

Real vs fake MAC Makeup box
(Source: Cosmopolitan Philippines)

Smell

MAC Cosmetics have a distinct smell. They smell sweet with a hint of vanilla. Fake MAC Cosmetics often don't smell great because scammers don't make them with quality ingredients. They might smell like plastic or have a chemical smell.

Name

Many MAC Cosmetics, especially products with multiple shades like lipstick, have a fun name such as New York Apple or Crème de la Femme. Go to the MAC Cosmetic website and search the product's name to see if it shows up on the website.

If it's an authentic MAC product, the search should bring you to the product's purchase page. If it's fake, you won't be able to find it on the MAC website. However, a fake MAC product can use an actual product name, so seeing it on the MAC website doesn't guarantee it's real. However, if you don't find it, it's likely a fake.

Real vs fake MAC Makeup color
(Source: Style Vanity)

Price

MAC Cosmetics are generally on the more expensive side of cosmetics. Most of their lipsticks and lip glosses sell for $18 to $25, and their foundation is $36 to $40. If you're unsure of the price of a MAC product, look up the product on their website.

If the price is significantly more or less than what's advertised on MAC, it's likely fake. For example, you're not going to find a genuine MAC foundation for $4. If you want discounted MAC makeup, visit the clearance section at an official MAC store or department store.

Composition

MAC Cosmetics takes pride in using high-quality ingredients in its products that are good for the skin. The composition of fake MAC makeup is what makes them cheap to produce and sell. You can examine the quality of your makeup with a swatch test. With clean fingers, lightly brush the surface of the makeup, then apply the makeup to the inside of your forearm.

Fake MAC makeup will tend to have a creamy consistency and take more of the product to cover the skin. If you're testing lipstick, take note of the color. Fake lipsticks are dull, whereas real MAC lipsticks are vibrant and apply thicker with a single stroke.

How To Avoid Purchasing Fake MAC Makeup

The best way to ensure you're purchasing real MAC Cosmetics is to shop online directly from MAC or a trusted makeup retailer such as Macy's or Nordstrom. MAC does not allow selling their products through street vendors, flea markets, or independent boutiques.

While it's possible to find real discounted MAC products on sites such as eBay, the sellers legally shouldn't be selling the product, and you can't be sure what you are purchasing is authentic until you receive it. You can find trusted sellers near you on the MAC Cosmetics website.

If you're shopping from an unauthorized seller such as an independent boutique or street vendor, scrutinize the product before making a purchase. Check out the logo on the packaging and the makeup case to see if it's off-center or not in all caps. If you have a smartphone handy, search the product's name on the MAC website to see what comes up. If you can smell the product or do a swatch test, do that to help identify any red flags.

If you're shopping for cosmetics online from a site such as eBay, pay attention to the advertisement. Scammers will often have misspellings, sentence fragments, and other grammatical errors. They also tend to use generic photos of the product, so you can't get a good sense of the product's packaging or coloring. Scammers online may also be reluctant to questions about the product's composition or where it was made.

What To Do If You Buy Fake MAC Makeup

According to the MAC, they take the counterfeiting of their products seriously and work with local, regional, and federal law enforcement to stop scammers from producing and selling fake MAC products. If you've purchased fake MAC Cosmetics, you can report the seller to MAC by contacting their Counterfeit Education team. When you report fake MAC Cosmetics, they'll ask you to provide the seller's location name and address, the product sold, and any details about the product that led you to believe it's fake.

If you purchased the products from eBay from a seller advertising the product as real MAC Cosmetics makeup, you could report the seller to eBay. They likely won't be able to refund you, but they can take steps to remove the seller and keep others from falling for the scam. Unfortunately, if you unknowingly buy counterfeit MAC Cosmetics, there's not much you can do to get your money back.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell if MAC makeup is fake?

You can tell if what you purchased is fake by examining the logo on the packaging and the composition of the makeup. You can also try searching the product's name on the MAC website to see if it exists or smelling the product for chemically or stale smells.

Where is the best place to buy real MAC makeup?

For real MAC makeup, purchase directly from MAC online or at one of their retail stores. You can also find MAC Cosmetics at many department stores such as Nordstrom, Dillard's, Bloomingdale's, and Macy's. To find a store near you, use the MAC Cosmetics store finder.

Is fake MAC makeup safe to use?

Many counterfeit MAC Cosmetics don't use quality ingredients that are safe for the skin, which is why they can be manufactured and sold at such a low price. Using fake MAC makeup could cause breakouts, eye infections, and rashes.

Where is MAC makeup made?

MAC Cosmetics are primarily made in the U.S. and Canada, although some products are made in Italy and other European countries. Fake MAC makeup is often manufactured in China. 

Where is fake MAC makeup sold?

Scammers sell fake MAC makeup at independent boutiques, eBay, street vendors, and flea markets. You won't find counterfeit products at an official MAC Cosmetics store or a department store. It's worth noting that selling fake makeup is illegal. While the price may be great, it is better to purchase authentic makeup directly from MAC.

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