A WARNING has been issued about the potential health risks of counterfeit cosmetics.

The advice from Durham County Council’s consumer protection service comes off the back of reports of a number of people, believed to be based in the county, selling suspected fake goods on social media sites such as Facebook.

According to the authority, laboratory tests have shown that fake cosmetics such as eyeliner, mascara, lip gloss and foundation have in some cases been found to contain toxic levels of chemicals and harmful substances such as arsenic, mercury and lead.

Joanne Waller, head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: "Product safety and the health and wellbeing of County Durham residents are our top priority.

“The products we are being told about are substandard and present a clear risk to the user as well as deceiving customers.

"I am very concerned at the apparent lack of concern from some traders who are selling cosmetic products which could contain harmful ingredients and could cause severe injury."

Cllr Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, is urging consumers to always buy from known reputable retailers and to be cautious about buying from social media selling pages.

He said: “When you buy from a legitimate source, you are covered by your consumer rights and the product will be genuine.

“We are highlighting this issue now because in the coming weeks, many of these counterfeit items may be bought as Christmas presents and could cause a serious reaction or worse, depending on the user’s skin."