UK councils have issued a warning to consumers about the dangers of buying fake cosmetics.
The Local Government Association (LGA), an organisation which comprises local authorities in England and Wales, said bogus products can pose "serious health risks".
Chemicals in these counterfeit products can cause chemical burns and skin rashes, the LGA said today.
A stash of fake cosmetics seized by the Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service was found to contain mercury, whose high toxicity can affect the nervous, digestive and immune systems, as well as the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
This stash of phoney products also contained illegal levels of a skin-whitening agent called hydroquinone, which can cause skin depigmentation, especially among consumers of colour.
The LGA's report makes clear that the sale of fake cosmetics is a nationwide problem. Following an investigation by Nottingham City Council, two women were found to have sold £48,000 worth of fake Benefit mascara on eBay.
Meanwhile, 275 fake makeup products masquerading as leading brands including Benefit, Dior, Nars and MAC were seized from a property in Grimsby.
The LGA has advised consumers to be especially diligent when buying cosmetic products online, especially if the price tag seems too good to be true.
“People should always do their research and take a pragmatic approach when they are buying make-up and cosmetics. Check the reviews of online sellers, and bear in mind that if something is really cheap, it’s likely to be fake and could potentially be harmful," said the LGA's Simon Blackburn.
"Anyone who has purchased make up that they think is dangerous should stop using it immediately and report it to their local Trading Standards team."
The fake cosmetics industry is also a significant problem in the US, where the FBI reports that its agents have found aluminium, human carcinogens, dangerous levels of bacteria and even horse urine in the products they've seized.