Watch CBS News

Seen At 11: Experts Say Up To 10 Percent Of Perfume Is Fake, And Could Be Toxic

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Your favorite perfume or cologne could be fake – and even dangerous.

CBS 2 has learned about a booming counterfeit fragrance market, and experts said as many as 10 percent of all perfumes for sale are phonies.

As CBS 2's Alice Gainer reported Tuesday night, consumers and perfume makers are both getting ripped off. But buyers could also be risking their health, as the counterfeit fragrances often include toxic chemicals.

Carol Goldich said she never expected that perfume she received as a gift would make her sick.

"How could they do something like that to me?" she said.

Perfume makers and consumers are both getting ripped off, but buyers could also be risking their health, doctors say.

"They could be harmful resulting in reactions, sinus problems, asthma, itchiness, all sorts of issues," said dermatologist Dr. Jeanette Graf.

The impostor products are often made with cheap ingredients, such as alcohol -- or worse.

"What is often in fake fragrances are ingredients like antifreeze, poorly based chemicals -- and urine," said Valerie Salembier, president of the Authentics Foundation, an organization dedicated to raising public awareness about counterfeiting.

Graf said the packaging on fake fragrances is so perfect that it can be nearly impossible to detect.

"The consumer would have no way of knowing it until they put it on their skin," she said.

That was exactly what happened to Goldich.

"I put a little bit on my earlobe, and I just noticed a terrible itching," she said.

Salembier said New York City is a hub for fakes – from handbags to DVDs and fragrances.

At one Manhattan building, police arrested nine people after a 2008 raid uncovered counterfeiters mixing batches of fake perfume in the basement.

Now, fake perfume is sold everywhere. It is typically sold online, by street vendors, and discount retailers. But there are signs to look for.

"If it's too pale, that means it's heavy alcohol," Salembier said. "If it's too dark, it is most likely using faux chemicals."

In hindsight, Goldich says the fragrance didn't smell right to her -- a sure sign, experts say, it's a fake.

"When I opened (the gift), I thought, oh God, what did my friends do? They shouldn't have," Goldich said. "And they shouldn't have."

To avoid buying a counterfeit fragrance, experts advised shopping only at reputable retailers or buying directly from manufacturers.

You May Also Be Interested In These Stories

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.