8 Tips to Buy Makeup on Ebay Safely (And Avoid Fakes)

by Gio
tips to buy makeup on ebay

When I was younger, I was addicted to Ebay.

I’d literally spend hours on the site looking for some great deals. It was my gateway to all those luxury makeup products that weren’t available in Italy. For a fraction of the cost, too!

Can you see why I couldn’t get enough of it?

Unfortunately, eBay has its problems too. The site is riddled with scammers and dodgy dealers who send you something completely different from what you bought… or nothing at all.

Don’t let that put you off. Spotting dodgy sellers on eBay isn’t that hard – if you know what to look for. Here are my tips on making sure you get a genuinely good deal on makeup on eBay:

1. Check The Seller’s Feedback

The first thing to do when you’re thinking of buying something from eBay is to check the seller’s feedback to see if they are reliable. Usually I prefer buying from sellers that have at least 100 feedback (a lot more if the item I want is really expensive).

Keep in mind that, when someone has a lot of feedback, a few of them are bound to be negative. It could be than an item was lost in the post, arrived damaged or maybe the seller didn’t send it quickly enough. As long as the seller solved the problem with the buyer and it doesn’t happen too often, that’s fine with me.

What you should avoid is buying from sellers who:

  • Have been reported selling fake makeup: If someone sells a lot of fakes, someone is bound to have bought it, realized it wasn’t real and left a negative feedback.
  • Have 95% or less positive feedback: Unless they have thousands of transactions, there’s probably something wrong with them.
  • Sell things for the first time: Even if they are honest (if they have good feedback as buyers, they probably are), they might not know very well how the eBay system works and what to do should there be any problems.

2. Google The Item You’re Interested In

If something looks too good a deal or you simply don’t know the brand well enough to know if an item is real or fake, just do your research.

The first place to visit is the brand’s website to see if the picture and description of the item on eBay looks exactly like the real product sold in stores and on the official website.

If instead you’re interested in a LE or discounted item, just google it. If something exists you’re bound to find some pictures, review or mention online.

For instance, MAC eyeshadows don’t come with sponge tip applicators and a quick search on the net will reveal that, preventing you to waste money on fakes.

3. Buy From Sellers Who Take Their Own Pictures

Personally, I prefer to buy from people that take their own picture as that way not only I know what I’m getting, but it is also easier to spot fakes. From a promo picture, you can’t tell if that MAC eyeshadow we were talking about earlier has a sponge applicator and is therefore fake.

Unless the seller has been recommended to you by a friend who has had a positive experience (and knows how to spot fakes!) or has thousands of positive feedback, always buy from sellers that don’t use promo photos or you may end up getting something different from what you thought you’d get.

Also, some people take really close shots of samples they got with GWP or at stores to give the impression they are selling the full size products, so look at the pictures carefully and if the price is too low, then it is probably too good to be true.

4. Buy From Personal Sellers

Personally, I prefer to buy from personal sellers, people who just want to get rid of something they bought or a gift they didn’t like.

Spotting them is easy. Just click on “see other items” to know what else they are selling. Personal sellers won’t just sell makeup but also books, clothes, bags etc.

What if someone has 10 of the same palette, but don’t have a shop or aren’t registered as a business seller? Chances are they are dodgy, so run away.

Of course, sometimes personal sellers can sell fakes too. Maybe they are reselling something they had bought from eBbay without realising it was fake (sometimes mistakes are made in good faith), so don’t forget to carefully look at the picture. When in doubt, ask. Which leads me to the next point.

5. Email The Seller

Is the picture not clear or worse, a stock one? Do you want to know if that blush is 100% unused? Or when the expiration’s date?

Whatever question or concern you have, don’t hesitate to contact the seller. Don’t worry about not trusting their honesty. Just write them a polite message explaining you’ve had a bad experience before.

If the seller is reliable they will soon get bad to you with all the information you need. Dodgy sellers instead will refuse to do so – for obvious reasons.

If you don’t hear back from a seller, don’t bid.

6. Only Pay By Paypal

When you buy something from eBay, pay by Paypal only. Why?

Unlike cash sent by mail or money given in person, Paypal is trackable. If something goes wrong and you get a faulty or fake item, you actually have proof that you paid.

Plus, if you pay by Paypal, you can submit a claim within 45 days and get a refund. But don’t wait more than 45 days or your right to submit a claim will expire and you’ll never get your money back.

7. What “New” Really Means

Due to hygienic reasons, on eBay you can only sell new and unused items.

If a seller wants to sell something that’s been swatched once or twice, they can’t choose the option “used” like they can with clothes or other items. But if they’re honest, they’ll mention the item is light used in the description.

If something is lightly used or just swatched, and the sellers states so, I don’t mind. I don’t worry too much about germs cos products can be sanitized (only liquid eyeliners and mascaras can’t).

But read carefully so that you know in what condition the item you want is.

8. Follow Your Instinct

The most important thing is to use your best judgement and follow your instinct. Always. If after following all the tips above, something still doesn’t feel right, don’t bid.

Of course, if you get a fake you can always get your money back with Paypal within 45 days, but at the end of the day, it’s your hard-earned money we’re talking about. If you’re not sure, it’s best to spend a bit more and go buy what you want in a shop.

Have you ever bought makeup on eBay? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Dao May 26, 2010 - 2:27 pm

Good tips, Gio! I’m not buying from eBay anymore. I guess you can avoid all the hurdles eBay has if you buy from Etsy. Most Etsy products, unless vintage, are handmade and new. I just like Etsy a whole lot better. It’s like stepping into an upscale gallery 🙂
.-= Dao´s last blog ..Lancer Dermatology Giveaway Winner =-.

addy May 26, 2010 - 3:59 pm

Thanks so much for these tips as I’m still scared to purchase from Ebay as I don’t know much. At least these could be a help to me 🙂

beautifulwithbrains May 26, 2010 - 8:56 pm

Dao, I love Etsy too. There are so many talented people on there that create beautiful and unique pieces. And I like the idea of supporting the business of these creative and gifted people too. Plus, there are usually less problems and concerns than on ebay. But I still like browsing ebay for LEs or items I can’t find elsewhere. 🙂

beautifulwithbrains May 26, 2010 - 9:03 pm

Addy, I hope these tips will help you. I know that buying makeup from ebay can be scary, especially if you’re not familiar with the brand. But if you look carefully at the pictures comparing them to the original ones on the brands’ websites or blog and ask for more info if unsure, you should be fine. And if you pay by paypal, you can always get a refund should something go wrong. 🙂

Jess May 29, 2010 - 12:04 am

How do you sanitize makeup? Could you do a post? I’d love to be able to sanitize my stuff.

Sade Adedeji August 30, 2016 - 7:12 pm

Using a spray bottle with some rubbing alcohol in it! I’ve just ordered some spray bottles and 71& isopropyl alcohol to cleanse my palettes x

Gio August 31, 2016 - 1:20 pm

Sade, thanks for sharing. That’s a wonderful tip indeed. You can never be too safe, can you?

Vonvon May 29, 2010 - 2:19 am

Thanks for these tips. I have purchased from eBay several times but not makeup items. Mostly bags. So far good experience.

But I used to love browsing through, or rather virtual window shopping on eBay in the beauty category. 😉
.-= Vonvon´s last blog ..Photos: MAC To The Beach – Look, Outfit & Tote! =-.

beautifulwithbrains May 29, 2010 - 1:30 pm

Jess, sanitizing makeup is easy. Just spray cosmetics with rubbing alcohol and wait a few minuts till they dry. Once they are dry, you can (but it’s not mandatory) wipe off the top layer and you’re done.

Of course I can write a post about it but in the meantime you can check out Enkore’s channel on youtube as he did a couple of video on how to sanitize every makeup item. 🙂

beautifulwithbrains May 29, 2010 - 1:59 pm

Vonvon, I’m glad you had good experiences with ebay too. I have never bought bags there but I know there are lots of bag fakes as well.

I love virtual window shopping too, it’s addicting! 🙂

Viv in the UK December 30, 2010 - 9:52 pm

Great tips – and so useful. Googling the product first would have saved me some pennies. I got stung recently – bought a set of Mac Hello Kitty Lipglasses from a dealer in Malaysia. They sent a message saying if I left good feedback in the next six hours or so they would include a freebie. Like a total idiot I left great feedback….duh 🙁 Well, by the time I received them I’d learnt that there weren’t even twelve(!) different Hello Kitty lipglosses, and I’d been truly conned. I opened a case on ebay, and was told to send parcel back – did so (by tracked international – not cheap!), for it to be refused in Malaysia, and returned to me. In the end I closed the case, as ebay wanted an ‘expert’ to say the item was fake! I had previously said that any cash I got back could go to a Paypal nominated charity, so it wasn’t for the cash! But to go to London to get a Mac expert to say they were fake was more expense than I was prepared, as the train fare etc would have been more than the cost of the lipglasses! So buyer BEWARE. (This said – at length, I am sorry!, I have had good bargains, and this was my first bad experience.)

beautifulwithbrains December 31, 2010 - 10:39 am

Viv in the UK, I’m so sorry you had such a horrible experience! I love ebay and you can get some great bargains on there, but unfortunately there are also a lot of scammers that sell fake items. A lot of MAC stuff on there is fake and if one isn’t very familiar with the brand is easily to get conned. Ebay should really do something about it to protect buyers imo. But for them to ask you to get an expert to say the item is fake is absurd! I mean, you just have to google the set to find out MAC never released it! What more proof do they want?! I do hope these tips will help you in the future and you will have more positive experiences on ebay.

Jane July 25, 2016 - 7:09 pm

I am a 15 year old girl obsessed with make up and as I buy lots of things from eBay, I wanted to buy make up products too. So as I first searched for eyeliners, I found them for 0.11$ and thought “I could try buying this. Even if it doesn’t come, I’ll lose so little money it’s almost ridiculous.” But then, I realised they could put God knows what kind of paint in and sell it as eyeliner. I don’t exactly have money to spend on those expensive eyeliners, and this seems like a good deal. I’m really not sure how legit those cheap products are.

Gio July 31, 2016 - 7:00 pm

Jane, I know how frustrating it is to be a teen with an obsession with makeup and little money to buy it. But I wouldn’t risk it. To be that cheap, there’s probably something iffy about them. Better save what money you can and buy a cheap eyeliner from the drugstore. At least you know it’s legit.

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