How To Spot a Korean Skincare Fake

As K-beauty becomes more popular, an unfortunate side-affect has been the rise in unscrupulous sellers selling counterfeit versions of our skincare favourites. These fakes not only fail to deliver the promised benefits but may also contain harmful ingredients that can jeopardise your skin's health.

We'll take a look at how to spot a fake, how to avoid buying them in the first place, and what your rights are if you suspect you've been duped. 

Check Your Seller

The easiest way to avoid being scammed with skincare is to buy from a reputable source. Korean skincare tends to be available from two types of supplier - UK based online stores that import from Korean, and Korean-based sellers that buy direct from the brands. UK based sellers tend to be slightly more expensive but with faster delivery times and no risk of any customs fees to pay, while Korean stores have cheaper prices and often stock the latest trends first.

With any seller it pays to do your research. If you haven't used the store before check out their reviews on Trustpilot and Google to see what other people are saying. A low number of reviews, bad reviews or a low rating should set off alarm bells that they may not be trustworthy. 

If you're buying from a marketplace like Ebay or Amazon check the seller's rating and see how long that have been active. Those with few or negative reviews, or those that have been selling for a short amount of time may be ones to avoid. 

Reputable online stores will also offer an extended return window and satisfaction guarantee; check their policy before you buy. 


Refresh Skincare Trustpilot Rating

Too Good to Be True

Another early warning sign that makes a fake stand out is price. The old saying "too good to be true" has never been more relevant, and if a product's price is way below what anyone else is selling it for this may be because it is fake. Compare prices amongst different sellers, and don't be afraid of asking a seller why it is so cheap. A good business should be easy to contact, so if there is no obvious way of contacting them - website chat, email - this could be a sign that they have something to hide. 

Telltale Signs

Even with all this due diligence, you may suspect that you've been sold a dud. One of the first indicators of a fake Korean skincare product is discrepancies in packaging and branding. Here's our check list:

  • Logo - It it centred and symmetrical? Counterfeit products may have logos that are off-center, misaligned, or poorly printed.

  • Font & Colour - Are the font sizes and colours consistent? Mis-matched styles and tones could be a sign of a fake. 

  • Spelling and Grammar- Are there mis-spelt words and typos? Check the text for any inconsistencies or inaccuracies, as authentic products undergo thorough quality control checks.

  • Design & Quality - Does the packaging look premium? Authentic Korean skincare products are crafted with attention to detail and high-quality materials. Look for signs of flimsy packaging, cheap materials, or poor print quality.

If you have used the product before keep the empty bottle and packaging so you can compare it with your new order. Things like foil and holograms are often used on genuine products but are missing from counterfeit versions due to their complexity and expense. 

How to spot a skincare fake

Fake Formula

Another giveaway that you've been sold a lemon is a change in the formula. A notably difference in colour, consistency and fragrance could be a sign of a sub-standard product. Test a small amount on your hand before applying to your face to avoid damaging your skin with dangerous ingredients, and stop using immediately if your skin reacts badly. 

Fakes versus New Versions and Rebrands

Just to make things more difficult K-beauty brands frequently change their formulas, packaging and branding. This can take time to filter into the UK market, meaning different stores stock different version of the same product at the same time. 

For example, Purito have rebranded to Purito Seoul, giving everything a new look and completely changing their packaging. Innisfree reformulate their products regularly, launching the new version with a completely different look. This causes confusion as suddenly your K-beauty fave looks completely different, has a different texture, smell and colour! All alarm bells of a possible fake. 

Skincare Rebrand and Reformulations

So how do we separate a reformula from a con? The answer to to go direct to the brand website. This will usually contain up-to-date images of the latest version of the products, even if the text is in Korean (Google translate is your friend here). The easiest way to find them is through Google Korea. If you have concerns over any changes contact the seller - any decent K-beauty store will be happy to explain about any rebrand or reformula. 

Protect Your Payment

Being clever about your payment method gives you an extra layer of protection against online scammers. Using a credit card to pay means you are covered by Payment Protection and can get your money back if there is a problem, but only if each item in the order is over £100, which with K-beauty is unlikely! For items under £100 you are better off using a debit card, but check first if your bank offers a Chargeback option as this is voluntary and varies between providers. With chargeback you can reverse a payment if the order is a fake. 

If you use PayPal you are covered by their Buyer Protection and can get your money back if your order is not as described. 

Skincare Payment Protection

Help Is At Hand

If you suspect you have been sold a fake there is protection for you. Under UK law, a seller must offer a refund if an item is faulty, not as described or does not do what it is supposed to do. There is no time limit on this right.

There is extra protection when you buy online. If you change your mind about your purchase for any reason, you have the right to cancel your order within 14 days for a refund, and then have a further 14 days to return your item(s). 

So if you think you have been sold a fake, you are legally allowed to return it for a refund. But remember, this only applies to sales from a UK business. If you've purchased from a seller outside the UK these protections do not apply. 

More information is available on the UK Government Website

Refresh Skincare - Here to Help

Here at Refresh Skincare we are UK based (in leafy Cheltenham) and import genuine products from our long-term wholesale partners in Korean. You can check out our reviews on Trustpilot. We offer a 30-day returns window if you change your mind about your purchase for any reason. We're available to contact through email and the website chat button. 

We offer free tracked UK delivery in 2 to 3 days for all orders over £25 and you can save 10% on your first order when you sign up for our email newsletter. 


About the Author

Priscilla Puga


Skincare fanatic and co-founder of Refresh Skincare. Follow the author on social media:

PLEASE NOTE: While we have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article the information does not constitute legal advice. Where legal rights and protections have been mentioned we have provided links to the relevant websites where we obtained this information. We accept no responsibility for any inaccuracies in that information or any loss that may be incurred through the use of that information. Please contact the relevant UK consumer rights services for further information. 

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