How to Avoid Counterfeit Injectables

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Injectables are rising in popularity, with droves trading in a fear of the needle for a zhuzhed-up visage. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the use of soft-tissue fillers increased 13% in 2013 over the previous year. But, as with any luxury good or service, all sorts of fakes are floating around out there; with a frightening increase of counterfeits hitting the market. If you're gearing up to get pricked, we think you'd like to know exactly what you're putting into your face. So, let's talk: What's the deal with faux injectables, and how can you prevent literally getting stuck with one?

We placed a call to Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, to get the 411 on what could potentially be a 911-level medical issue. The first question is: Where are the fakes coming from? "They're made in China," says Graf, adding that many counterfeits head to pharmacies and distributors outside the U.S., while a good number make their way directly into the States. "Customs isn't really looking for them, so there's no way [currently] to control the influx of these products."

A girl's gotta cut costs somewhere, right? What makes a fake so bad? "There can be all sorts of oils and other ingredients in counterfeits, including preservatives and silicones," Graf explains. "These are definitely things you don't want in your face." Yikes. And, what if one does get used on you? "It's not great. They could create severe allergic or scarring reactions. They could also theoretically poison you. You never know what could happen since there's no way to tell what's in there." Yeah, you do not want that. Sorry to say, the terrifying news doesn't stop there. We asked the good derm if the average gal or guy could spot a phony, and she answered unequivocally. "No, they make them look really similar to the real ones, down to the holographic stickers on the boxes."

So, how do you avoid letting someone use a fake product on you? According to Graf, the first rule is to only allow a licensed professional to stick you. "Board-certified dermatologists, plastic surgeons, and cosmetic surgeons are the only people who should be performing these procedures," she cautions. She advises you skip pediatricians, family doctors, and general practitioners who aren't really trained to administer the product.

She adds that derms and plastic and cosmetic surgeons are also likely to use stringent guidelines when purchasing the products used in their offices. "The only way to know you're not using a fake is to get the product directly from the manufacturer or one of their licensed distributors," she states. "It's up to your dermatologist to make sure they're buying directly from the source or from a reputable distributor. They shouldn't try to cut corners." She suggests doing an online search to make sure your chosen professional is a board-certified professional. That license goes a long way toward quality control.

The other way to avoid fake injectables is not to bargain shop. "Chances are, if you run by a med spa and they're running an offer for Juvederm or Botox for a low price, you might have a fake. If something is too good to be true, it usually is." Injectables are priced by the actual injection made, meaning that multiple needles — and visits — may be needed to achieve the look you want. So, plan accordingly and save up for the good stuff. It seems obvious, but don't go bargain shopping when it comes to medical procedures. We're all for drugstore shampoo, but we'd lay down the bank for the real deal when it comes to needles in the face. Hopefully, that's not just us.



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