Leslie takes legitimate and fake fragrances to master perfumer Kendra Hart, who explains that perfumes contain top notes (which are the smells first detected when sprayed), middle notes or the heart note (the smells at the core of the perfume) and also a dry down (which is the scent you might detect the day after using). Kendra says that often a counterfeit fragrance will attempt to fool you with the top note. She also says the fake perfumes use cheap ingredients which are then diluted. In all of the perfumes tested, our master perfumer was able to successful point out which ones were fake and which were real.
We also had these counterfeit fragrances tested by Micro Quality Labs, which found banned phthalates in the fake fragrances. Leslie explains that these banned phthalates are capable of causing cancer. She goes on to explain that for many spotting a fake perfume by simply looking at the packaging can be nearly impossible as there are only subtle differences between the legit product and the imposter. She also notes that information posted online about how to spot an imposter fragrance can often be outdated. She explains that sometimes you can tell a product is fake by how it sits inside the box, as manufacturers of counterfeit products will skimp on this aspect.
She also discusses the "grey market" of perfumes, where products that supposed to only be sold at department stores end up at drugs stores. She explains that these products can possibly be counterfeit or very old, which can affect how the product smells. When Leslie cross-checked the batch code -- which is at the bottom of every perfume and reveals where it was made and when -- of the grey market items that they were 5 years old. When she checked the batch codes from perfumes purchased at a department store, they were around 4 months old.
Leslie says your safest best for a legitimate product is from a department store and warns against purchasing a perfume at a drugs store or online.
As for the safety concerns regarding some of the ingredients in the fake products, dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra says these chemicals can very irritating to the skin and some may have allergic reactions or develop a rash. She also explains that some of the counterfeit fragrances can contain metals like aluminum, which can be irritating when inhaled.