Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Smelly Expose. 5 Things To Check If a Perfume is Authentic.


Summer is almost over here in the Philippines.  In two weeks time, schools will re-open.  In preparation, parents with their kids head to Quiapo and Divisoria for bargain-priced school supplies.  These two places are the "go-to's" for affordable school uniforms, bags, shoes, notebooks, and other school accessories.  With their rock-bottom prices, there is no way we can pass that up!  So, I went with my nephew over to a popular mall in Divisoria.  I promised him several months ago that I will buy him some school stuff and a new bag to boot.  My nephew and I are excited.  When we got to the mall, there were too many people.  But we expected that much.  We did get what we wanted.  I was surprised though to see a lot of stalls and kiosks offering colognes and perfumes.  My jaw dropped to the floor when I learned of their prices!  This cannot be real.  Yes, I was right.   They were perfume knock-offs, and they are everywhere!


As a person who aspire of becoming a successful perfumer someday (yes, I love mixing essential oils in erlenmeyer flasks and dream of having my name on labels of gorgeous  perfume bottles), I find this quite disheartening.  How can you compete in a market that sells these counterfeits at unbelievably rock-bottom prices?  I thought I needed to check them out.  I went over to one store that's busy serving their customers.  There were testers on top of a glass cabinet showcasing the counterfeit merchandise.   Most of the bottles and packaging are surprisingly similar to the originals.  I can tell because I have collected original perfume for so long now.  The scents however, are a bit off.  But then again, with the super low prices, some people would indeed be tempted in patronizing these imitations.  The prices are obviously a tenth of those originals sold in authorized resellers and distributors.  I became more curious so I asked one buyer why she was buying those fakes.  She responded that for everyday use, the knock-off will do.  I asked another buyer the same question.  Unlike the first buyer, this one is buying dozens.  He said that he is bringing them to his province and will sell them for a profit.  I felt sad.

With my curiosity unsatisfied, I wanted to ask the owner of the store.  There was a female person there who I thought to be the owner.  She is a Chinese-Filipino because she speaks fluent Tagalog, and Mandarin or probably Fukien (well, I heard her talk with her husband and I am quite sure it's Chinese).  So, I asked her where she got all those merchandise.  She said that they are from Singapore.  She added that the imitations are "Class A".  This is their term for those products that are very close to the originals as there are poor imitations belonging to Class B and C.  The buyers refer to these knock-offs they are buying at the store  as Class A Singapore perfumes.


I bought one knock-off and got excited to go home.  I wanted to make comparisons and see if I could trick my siblings and friends.  Below is a picture of the counterfeit side by side with the original perfume.  The original one was a gift from a friend of mine who got it in the States.  Can you tell the difference?

More likely in a single glance, you could not tell the difference.  They look similar.  They have the same height, shape of the bottle, font and font size for the label, and seemingly the same cap.  The devil however, is in the details.  If you will scrutinize, there are actually a lot of differences.  The tubing of the sprayer is bigger in the fake one.  The name of the perfume is clearly and deeply etched on the top part of the cap of the original.  You can hardly read the name on the cap of the fake one because the way the name was written is erroneous as it's actually a mirror image.   Also, the sprayer of the fake one is poorly constructed.  You can see some plastic protrusion.  The sticker at the bottom that lists the ingredients of the perfume is a dead give away.  The printing is sloppy which is so different from the sharp prints in the original sticker.  The bottle of the fake one if examined closely is not finely formed.  The edges are the dead giveaway.


Some of my siblings and friends were fooled.  Well, probably because they are not familiar with the original's scent.   One of my fiends however, immediately identified the fake perfume.   It turned out that the perfume brand I was trying to fool him with is his all-time favorite.  He told me that the perfume notes of the counterfeit are way, way, way, way, way, way... way, way, way off from the original.  Woah.. that's like a mile way off!

For those who cannot tell the difference in smell, let me give you this list of things to check - red flags so to speak if someone tries to sell you a bottle of perfume.  Here it is:


1.  be wary of the price.  If the price of the perfume that someone is selling you is more than half the price of the commercially available perfume, chances are it's a fake.  There are times that department stores, distributors, and resellers offer big discounts, but it is highly improbable that they will give you a 90% off.  Authentic perfumes sell for 70 to 150 US dollars.  If someone sells you a bottle of a branded luxury perfume for 10 to 15 US dollars then you better stay off of it.

2.  check for peculiar things in the bottle and cap.  Perfume manufacturers spend billions of dollars in research, production, and marketing of their products.  Thus, you are sure that the bottles (and of cours the content) are of high quality.  Some perfumes even have lead crystal, and sometimes expensive silver crystals for their bottles.  A rugged edge or an uneven bottom marks a counterfeit.  The caps should not have protrusions or little things sticking out of them.  The cap should perfectly snug into the bottle.  It should not be loose and should not wiggle.  Bottles and caps should always have fine quality.

The picture below shows the imperfections in the sprayer of a fake perfume.

3.  inspect the quality of the tubing and sprayer.  When you spray an original perfume, it will spray a very fine mist.  Yes, this is known as "vaporisateur" natural spray.   Most perfume manufacturers employ this.  Fake ones can hardly achieve this fine mist.  Most sprayers of fake perfume "squirt".

The picture shows the difference in the tubing.  The one on the left has a thick and somewhat opaque tubing while the one on the right has a thin and transparent tubing. Obviously, left is fake and right is authentic.

4.  examine the labels.  Originals have high quality labels.  Spellings are correct.  Prints are readable and perfectly positioned on the cap, body and bottom of the bottle.  Prints should not be easily scratched off.

The pictures below show the quality of the etching on the caps.  The first picture shows the poor quality of the fake cap.  The spelling is incorrect and some letters are inverted.  The second picture shows the high quality etching of the cap of an authentic perfume.

5.  examine the packaging.  Originals have high quality packaging.  Fakes have poor quality images and colors in their boxes.  One of my friends who worked for a printing press tells me that you can tell that the images in the fake packaging are of poor quality when you check the edges of the pictures.  He said that this is because they are scanned images (probably from the original packages), blows them up, then reprints them.  The quality degrades in this process.  The images aren't as sharp as the original.   Also, the original perfume packaging are sealed.  Fake ones do not even use plastic shrink wraps.  They use ordinary thin plastic films and wraps the boxes with them.  They use an empty glue gun to heat the edges of the plastic wrap.


I hope that my list guides you in discerning fakes from the originals.  Please do not buy counterfeit perfume.  I checked FACEBOOK and it is flooded with pages selling Class A Singapore perfumes.  One page of a seller even justifies that the Singapore-made perfumes are real perfumes and that the difference from the ones sold in department stores is the number of hours the scent would last.  The advertisement for the fake perfume added that the reason for this is because the Singapore-made perfume is alcohol-based while those expensive original ones are oil-based.  As a "would-be" perfumer (I mentioned that already, right?), this is RIDICULOUS!  First, NO European or American-branded luxury perfumes are manufactured in Singapore.  They are either manufactured in Europe (notably France, Italy, and UK) or in the States.  Second, alcohol-based?  This is preposterous.  All EDT (eau de toilette) are alcohol-based.  The main composition of EDT is alcohol, water, and the fragrance which is made up of essential oils.  You can see how sellers are manipulative by providing untrue and misleading information in order to convince their preys.  Or I might just have overestimated them.  They could also probably be simply ignorant.



  1. Thank you very much for the information.. Now I am contented and satisfied with what I read here.. More power!

  2. I just bought a lot of perfumes from this store at Bedok Point Mall, they have a temporary place in the basement 1 floor.
    They are selling for buy 1 take 1 so I bought a lot ... after reading this article I found out I was fooled.
    I call them and told them I want to return all the perfumes they told me they have a no return policy.

    Can anyone advice me what to do?
    I feel I was cheated.
    Am I not protected by some laws regarding their practice of selling fake items?

    1. Hello there.

      First, let me tell you that I felt sad for what happened to you. It is unfortunate they told you that "there's no return policy". I am not familiar with Singapore's laws on consumer protection, but here in the Philippines and in the States, consumers are protected. "No return. No exchange." policy is against the laws here in the Philippines. Consumers have the right to return or exchange the merchandise they bought provided of course they are returned within acceptable conditions. In fact, in the States as long as the tags are intact, the merchandise is returned without damages by the buyer, and returned within the prescribed period, no questions are asked!

      It would be very wise to ask the return and exchange policy first before purchasing anything.

      Secondly, perfumes are considered luxury items. As such, buy one take on is a bit uncommon. Usually, they offer premium gift items. If you see super bargain perfumes, make sure that they are from "authorised resellers or distributors". I do not know the mall nor the store from which you bought the perfumes. Is it a small store, a kiosk, or a stall in the basement? Luxury items such as perfumes are usually carried by big department stores and posh boutiques. So, from a basement store? No judgment, but sounds a bit off.

      May I know which particular/specific aspects in the article made you think to return the perfumes you bought from that mall? You do know what they say about deals that are too good to be true, right?

  3. Thank you for the tips. Your list is pretty useful since many non-authentic fragrances are being sold in the market today.
    -Pauline @ Kallony

  4. Hi, thank you for the tips. I wanted to know if you know any online shop that really sells authentic perfume? Thanks so much. :)