How Much Are Indie Beauty Brands Dealing With Copycats And Counterfeits?

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 17 brand founders and executives: Have you ever dealt with product copycats or counterfeits?

Charlotte Knight Founder and CEO, Ciate London

We have had a few counterfeit issues over the years, for example, our magical transforming matte-to-glitter lipstick Glitter Flip. It was such a successful launch for us and the first product of its kind. Others obviously wanted a slice of the action. The main issue was that the copies were terrible quality, and we had lots of customer service complaints. Luckily, it wasn’t too widespread, and we complained to Facebook and asked them to remove any ads for the fake products.

Jesseca Dupart Founder and CEO, Kaleidoscope Hair Products

It is mind-blowing how comfortable brands are with duplicating our work. I’ve seen several brands that have recreated the exact color and look as our Miracle Drops. I don’t think it has hurt our business. It initially confuses customers though. We’ve added an authenticity icon to our packaging to ensure our customers know it is Kaleidoscope. We just keep doing what we do best, which is creating line extensions and new products. By the time copycats are done studying and duplicating, we’re on to the next.

SELMIN KARATAS Co-Founder and CEO, Kazani

An encounter I had was when I started selling on Amazon. Many websites started to advertise my products without my consent. There were 40 to 50 websites trying to sell it with different price points. Legally, I couldn't do anything about it. What I decided to do was take my products off Amazon.

Annie Tevelin Founder, SkinOwl

Very early on, someone wanted to purchase a large quantity of products in Argentina. I was so green and so excited. They wanted me to use a credit card and have me cover shipping ahead of time. While I was new to running a business, something didn't seem right. If I was a different person, it would have been really easy to get caught up in a 10,000 order, but I'm so happy I trusted my intuition. I later was emailed by another brand telling me to steer clear. Crisis averted!

Mila Moursi Founder, Mila Moursi

We haven’t had many problems with counterfeits, but we have definitely dealt with diverters and unauthorized sellers on eBay. I haven’t done anything about it yet. We’re still looking into the best ways to deal with it honestly. The internet is a huge place, and it’s hard to put a stop to these types of things. Luckily, it hasn’t impacted our business much.

MARCELLA CACCI Founder, One Ocean Beauty

When you create something distinctive and new, someone will always seek to replicate it. We have noticed a few smaller and larger brands who are obviously “inspired” by our ocean packaging, visuals, graphic approach, etc. This shows us that we are doing something right and, at the same time, encourages us to keep moving forward and breaking new ground. Thankfully, we have not encountered any major counterfeits as of yet.

Natalie Novak-Bauss Founder, KPS Essentials Skincare

Unfortunately, brands have tried to duplicate our likeness, from naming conventions to actual packaging in the past. Luckily, we know our product works unlike any other on the market, so we don't have to worry about them stealing our customers away! However, when we've felt that they tried to represent themselves as KPS, we have dipped our toes into lawyer land because ultimately this business is my baby, and I have to protect it—and the loyal following I've built—from pretender products.

Ray Shealy CEO, HaloSmile

Due to the unique nature of our products, we have not yet dealt with counterfeits. It is incredibly hard to do what we do and would be hard for anyone to replicate exactly, especially since we have patents on some of our key ingredients. Additionally, with being on Amazon, our Amazon agency SellerSlice monitors the site and has put in measures to keep counterfeiters and fakes off Amazon.

Myounghoon Jang CEO, Franz Skincare USA

All of our research, development and manufacturing is done at our own labs in Korea. So, we say, good luck! Our technology is patented but since we are vertically integrated, ingredients and components of our quality are simply unavailable. We are an agile company. Any needs in the market we can quickly shift to meet our customers needs. If companies are able to copy us, give us a call, we want to work with you! Yes, we are skincare, but also a technology platform. We welcome any collaboration! I personally oversee our lab, test products and ensure quality.

Shivonie Tirbhawandat Founder, Sahasra

I haven’t really dealt with counterfeits. I have seen other small brands deal with having their ideas copied. It’s unfortunate, but awesome to see the skincare community offer kind words and support to small brands who deal with it. It’s a reminder to keep going and push through the chaos.

Jacinta Kanakaratnam Disruptor and Founder, The Veddas

We clearly are not the first company to create a line of male grooming products. However, we are the first to create an Ayurvedic-inspired line of grooming products created to change the narrative on men’s health. We have not encountered counterfeits in the sense of same label, same name. However, we have seen our content copied brazenly, even by larger more established companies and tiny makeshift businesses alike. 

We have opened the door for other people to attempt to create what they think is an Ayurvedic beard oil and hair oil, but nothing matches our product, product research, our mission and the way we operate. As of 2020, everyone and their mom think they can turn out an Ayurvedic product with zero expertise or cultural competency. 

When it comes to counterfeits and ripping off content, we are lucky to have legal resources and avenues we can utilize to address it if it gets to that point, but we mainly just brush it off and keep going. In business success, I believe that there is enough to go around. We encourage use of other products and brands that we know come from similar ethos of ethical, clean, affordable, cruelty-free. There is a sense of camaraderie with companies that are doing business the right way.

Anna Brightman Co-Founder, UpCircle

We’ve had fraudulent orders via our website in the past. We changed security settings to make sure we got as much warning as possible about potentially high-risk orders so that we can pull them before they’re automatically processed. This has helped a lot in reducing these sorts of orders from slipping through the net.

Shalom Lloyd Founder, Naturally Tribal Skincare

Counterfeits are not something we have experienced. However, we are aware of the damage this can do, hence ensuring that, from our packaging to our labelling, we are unique. Our trademarking process is underway as well as other activities which will safeguard our brand as much as possible.

Isabel Aagaard Founder, LastObject

No counterfeits as of yet, but there are a lot of copies of our product. We have a Danish Law firm that handles this for us.

Safi Tshinsele Van Bellingen Founder, NEBEDAI

Not yet! Even though I think counterfeits are quite flattering: People like your brand so much that they want to copy it. However, in beauty, the issue is counterfeits can harm people’s health. If I had to deal with counterfeits, I’ll have to implement extra layers of security so people can tell apart the genuine products from the fake ones. 

Tiffany Buzzatto Founder, Dew Mighty

Not yet! We are patent-pending on our technology and process, so we feel relatively confident we might be some length of time away from this happening.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala Founder, Alaffia

This would not be a threat to our company’s success, but rather it would be a win for us all as fellow humans on the same journey to better humanity.  I would encourage more entrepreneurs to create business models that solve social dilemmas and address human and environment-centered needs. This can be achieved through maintaining both personal and entrepreneurial integrity.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].