High levels of lead among growing concerns in fake makeup industry

Credit: CBS News

(CBS) -- The U.S. is seeing an uptick in the sales of fake beauty products, creating a very real health consequences for consumers.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency seized more than 2,000 shipments worth about $1.4 billion. The amounts have risen so much, the fake toiletries are even more common than fake handbags now.

A CBS News crew in Los Angeles inspected some of these suspicious packages, noting that the majority of them are from China or Hong Kong. The fake packaging looks almost identical to the real deal, but the big differences show up in lab tests.

Two items tested, real and knock-off Mac lipstick and a Jaclyn Hill eye shadow palette, were tested for 12 metals. Some of the fake eye shadows contained nearly four times the amount of lead as the real versions. And the faux Mac lipstick was even more concerning; it had nearly 15 times the amount of lead, which far exceeds the FDA recommendation of no more than 10 parts per million.

"Often the unsafe consumer goods are made in factories… have unsanitary conditions," said Brenda Smith, executive assistant commissioner for Office of Trade at U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "So the quality is not to what you need it to be."

One beauty blogger found out the hard way. She bought both a real eye shadow and a knockoff, testing them both. The next morning when she woke up, she said that her eye was burning, uncomfortable and itchy.

"Within the first 45 minutes, I realized that it was an eye infection. I couldn't get my contacts on," Beauty blogger Tanya Arguelles said. "I looked back at the footage and it was on the fake side. Hundred percent."

To avoid buying these products, beauty bloggers have offered a few tips. Pay attention to prices of products online; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Finally, check the product against the cosmetic company's actual website to make sure it's an official retailer.