Saturday, February 18, 2012

How To Spot Fake OPI

UPDATE: This post has become one of the most popular entries on my blog, so I try to keep this information as up-to-date and in-depth as possible. This post was last edited in August 2014. If you have any questions about OPI authenticity that are not covered in this post, please feel free to ask in the comments section and I'll answer as best I can. Enjoy!

Yes, people seriously counterfeit nail polish. If you're buying your OPI from a reputable store like Ulta or Trade Secret then obviously you have nothing to worry about in terms of authenticity. But many of us, myself included, sometimes turn to Ebay or Amazon to track down older OPI polishes or get a cheaper price. Aside from doing your research into a seller's feedback history and using common sense (if it's too good to be true, it probably is), there are a few tricks you can use to differentiate the fakes from the real deal. Here are some details authentic OPIs will have.


There are a couple little details to look out for on the front of the bottle. "mL" should be lower-case m followed by a capital L and "Fl" should be capital F followed by lower-case l.

The details on the back of the bottle will vary depending on what era your OPI came from. OPI collections from around the 2009-2012 era (The bottle you see below is from the Holland Collection, released in spring 2012.) will have three warning labels in this order:


Slightly older OPIs (but still with the green label on the bottom, not the black) will have four warning labels in this order:


I'm not sure exactly when OPI made the switch from four to three labels but for reference the polish above is A Good Man-darin Is Hard To Find from the 2008 Hong Kong Collection so I'd say somewhere around 2009 is when they originally dropped the fourth label.  

Anything from the Skyfall Collection (Holiday 2012) onward now carries four warning labels again, in this order:



Older OPIs (the ones with black text on the bottom label rather than green text) will have three warning labels. Any black label polishes manufactured from around 1997 to 2002 will have only two warning labels, not three. Any pre-1996 polishes will simply have warning text in place of labels. EDIT: A thank you goes to reader Ashley for helping me fill in some of the date-specific info about older OPIs. I don't have any OPIs with zero or two warning labels in my stash, but the ones with three will have the labels in this order.


On the bottom of the bottle, there will be two labels on top of each other with a "PEEL HERE" tab. The top label should have a barcode, color name and color code. The text will either be green or black depending on when the polish was originally made. Make sure the color code (the five characters listed underneath the color name) and name match what is listed on OPI's official site.

Black label:

Green label:

The second label has the color name and code. Any polish that has only one label on the bottom is suspect. The second label underneath should look like this:


Newer OPIs (say, collections that came out around 2013) have similar-looking second labels, except that the company name is written horizontally above the color name, rather than wrapped around the edge of the sticker as you see in the picture above.

However, please note that OPI minis do not have labels or names on the bottoms but the color code should still be inked onto the bottom of the bottle for reference purposes. EDIT: Thank you to reader FabbyNailedIt for sharing that minis will also not have any mixing balls like the full-sized bottles do.

The majority of OPI bottles will have engraved numbers somewhere on the bottle. There should either be black numbers stamped along the bottom or white numbers faintly embossed across the top--or both. The numbers are unique to each bottle so it's just a matter of whether or not they're there rather than what exactly the numbers are.

However, some of the Japanese-exclusive OPIs, older polishes or ones that come in duo sets will not have engravings. For instance, my Serena Williams duo polishes did not come with any engravings on them. A lot of my newer OPIs from 2013 also do not seem to have these engravings, so perhaps it is a feature that's being phased out. EDIT: Reader Fluff-Anna from Sweden has also reported that her authentic, store-bought OPIs do not have the white engraved numbers, only the black stamped numbers, so it's possible that the numbers may vary from region to region.



Some retailers (even legitimate brick-and-mortar stores) will file the white numbers off the top of the bottle, which according to OPI they aren't supposed to do, but if you notice a little dent around the top of your bottle, that's likely what happened.


Lots of fakes have a plastic seal on the cap advertising the "Exclusive ProWide Brush." Only a few authentic OPIs actually have this seal so if you notice every polish from a seller has this seal, they're fakes.

Fake OPIs are also known to have crooked or visibly shorter lids than genuine OPIs. Many fakes also have a visibly rougher texture on the top of the caps than genuine OPIs do. There should also be a small dot indentation on the "P" on the cap.

The inside of the cap should have ridges like a gear. EDIT: Thanks to Rachel for pointing out that DS polishes do NOT have gears inside the lid since they have silver tops, not the usual black ones. Black label OPIs also do not have the gears inside the caps.


The wand of the brush for genuine OPIs should have OPI imprinted on one side of the brush. You will likely have to wipe polish off the brush since it can be pretty faint. Apparently some of the fake bottles have this imprint as well, so you'll need to do some other tests to make sure you've got an authentic product. Older OPIs (pre-2006) also may not have this imprint.


I've also heard that some fake OPIs smell really terrible, since they're likely made with different chemicals from genuine OPIs, so that's something to look out for as well. Some fakes are easy to spot while others can be a bit trickier since manufacturers of fakes are becoming increasingly attentive to detail. Remember to always do your homework before purchasing and trust your gut!

70 comments:

  1. Wow, this is so in-depth!! Thank you for sharing all this information with us!!! :D

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    1. You're welcome! :) I'm glad it was helpful!

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  2. Thanks for this post! It's really helpful. I read something similar a while back and I checked all of my OPI after and they're all fine. I've never bought any online, so I don't think I had a reason to worry, but I had to be sure. It's crazy how many OPI fakes are out there! It's the only brand I've heard about this happening with.

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    1. You're welcome! I have one bottle that I'm a little iffy on. I got it on Ebay quite a while back and it's missing the black barcode and the top label at the bottom of the bottle but has literally all the other little details so I'm not sure... I know, I can't believe all the fakes! I've never heard of anyone knocking off anything other than OPI either.

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  3. I have 4 OPIs that I bought on Amazon. Thankfully they are the real deal, I checked them a few days ago. but I do know what to look for now. Thanks for your post!

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    1. You're welcome! I've had good luck with all my OPI Amazon purchases--I think generally it's a little safer than Ebay. But it's always good to do your research and be safe!

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  4. Thanks for posting! This stuff is good to know.

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  5. Wow-I never knew all this info-methinks my nail tech student kit had "fake OPI" in it believe it or not-it didn't have the bottle engravings and the kit included "new" colors! I'm going to SPOTlight this on my Blog. : )

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    1. Haha wow, that's pretty funny that a student kit would possibly have fakes in it! XD And thank you!

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    2. No-and I'm shamed to say part of the Kit came from an "insider" in the Company, too-(the old, soon to be moved factory still resides here in L.A.)I shan't name names, however, out of respect-the Company (OPI) has since been sold to Coty as is public knowledge-I still have those durned bottles, though-I use them to practice my polishing skills! I can't wait 'til I move out of L.A. in a few years back to my home state; I really feel like I "know" too many people here in the Industry, if ya get my drift!! :P

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    3. Hmmmmm, sounds much shadier than I first thought! I didn't know part of your kit came directly from the company! That takes things in a completely different direction, doesn't it? :-/ I can understand how living in a place where you're so close to the actual industry can be a little taxing and perhaps disillusioning at times. Sometimes it's better to be an outsider looking in than the other way around.

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  6. Wow, great post Chelsea! Very informative! Any idea why some retailers and/or sellers get rid of the color codes? If it's authentic, why would you do that?

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    1. You're welcome! :) I honestly have no idea why the codes would get filed off, it doesn't make sense to me either. Plus they never seem to do anything to remove or obscure the black ink codes, only the faint white ones. It's seriously a mystery!

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  7. OHHHHHHHHH My my my. It has never even occurred to me that people would even create fake nail polishes. Thank goodness I have never purchased any polish online.

    I can not believe. NAIL POLISH?! Thats just so low. Thanks for the awesome post! I am very sure this will be super handy for some people!

    THANKS! And keep up the GREAT posts!

    Anna

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    1. I know, isn't it crazy?! It's not like nail polish is a super expensive item like how people knock off luxury handbags.

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  8. Wow this is a great and informative post, thanks for all the info and will be on the look out!

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    1. You're welcome, I'm glad you liked it! :)

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  9. It's so sad that people have to fake polish. Why not just make your own brand?

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    1. I don't understand it either. It seems like way more trouble than it's worth!

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  10. That's just craziness fake nail polish! ugh drives me crazy! so many things to look out when making any purchase any more! Excellent article! Thanks!

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    1. You're welcome! I know, it's nuts! I think the biggest thing though it just to research the seller then you should be in the clear. :)

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  11. GREAT POST!!! I had no idea but then I guess what can we really expect from so many people trying to make a quick buck. I've never bought any polish from Ebay but this is really good to know! :)

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, it's not much of a concern if you don't buy on Ebay or Amazon but definitely something to keep in mind if you do decide to go online polish hunting. :)

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  12. Great tips!! Thanks for sharing Chelsea!

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  13. I was just looking through some of my OPIs and found that none of my DS bottles have the "gears" in the lid, but do have OPI stamped in the post of the brush. I was really happy to find that the couple I've bought off eBay had that stamp. Also, my newest, Black Cherry Chutney has the color code impressed on the outside the handle of the bottle. I wonder if that's something new they're starting?

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    1. I looked inside the lid of my bottle of DS Coronation and it doesn't have the gears either--must be because they make the lid tops out of a different material. Thanks for pointing that out! I'll add it to the post. I haven't seen any OPIs yet with the code on the handle but I'll keep an eye open! You could be right that it's a new anti-counterfeit measure.

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    2. I was looking through my stash for a particular polish and noticed that three of my OPIs (all from different collections, albeit all recent ones) have the number on the handle. Interesting! I wonder what it's for/which bottles are given it.

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    3. I stopped in a salon today to see what they had on sale and noticed that the serial numbers were located - one pressed into the top and one in the exact same place where your fakes are filed, only the numbers were intact as I was visiting an OPI Authorized Retailer.

      You've got a lot of great tips here, thank you.

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  14. Awesome informative blog post! I have a question, does the texture of the cap matter? For example teenage dream feels smoother than another OPI polish I have.

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  15. Here is a photo...see the difference? Left cap looks more rough than right cap. http://www.flickr.com/photo.gne?short=bwZ8Vc

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    1. I've never read anything specifically pointing out cap texture as an indicator of authenticity. I'd imagine since the bottles are all made by machines that a little difference on the cap texture is normal. So long as nothing else looks really "off" to you about the polish (most fakes are fairly obvious although there are some detailed ones out there) I'd say you're good to go. :)

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    2. Pheww..thanks! I believe I own all originals now.:)

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    3. No prob! Glad to be of help. :)

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  16. Question - I found an 'Electric Eel' that the label matches the one you show in your pictures - but, it doesn't have the pro-wide brush or the gears in the cap. Are the older ones like this? Like any that have the black label? Thanks! :)

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    1. Black label OPIs do not have the gears in the caps. I've added that to the guide now to clarify. :) Not every OPI bottle has the pro-wide brush and most of the old black label ones do not. Hope that helps!

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  17. I have a black label purchased from a Beauty First or Beauty World called Chile o Caliente? and it only has two warning symbols on the back. I doubt it is a dupe since the shop has been around for at least 17 years and is very reputable. Just thought you might want to look into the warning symbol bit

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    1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention! I did some additional research and it appears the third label was added in 2002. I had never heard this before, hence its original exclusion. But the post is now updated to reflect this. :)

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  18. Great post! I was looking for what factors makes a fake after noticing a texture difference on the lids of a few OPI's. It's weird because I've got some polishes from approved retailers with engraved writing on the lids and newer bottles without. I also brought two bottles from a importers sale here that had the codes filled off but everything else adds up. I can though see why people are making fakes and selling them online, they cost $26.90 a piece here in NZ so I imagine people looking online for a cheaper deal end up getting pinged with fakes. Glad the online store I buy from within NZ, still more expensive than in the US but cheaper than in NZ, has authentic OPI's as buying in store here can get pretty pricy very quickly haha. Thanks for an in-depth post!

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  19. When I worked at ULTA a ton of our OPI's had that plastic over the cap. Sometimes I removed them, sometimes I didn't. This was in 2008.

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  20. Hey Chelsea, how does the fake actually compare to the real one in terms of quality? Would you say that getting a bottle of fake lacquer for maybe $5 instead of the exorbitant $20 is worth while? I'm just wondering whether you feel that these fakes are a decent alternative to buying other brandless lacquers if they function well and if not better than some other cheaper brands.

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    1. As far as I know, I don't have any fake (or at least blatantly fake) OPIs in my collection, so I've never tried any myself. But from what I've read, the fakes tend to be *very* hit or miss in terms of formula and many people say they have a distinctly strong, chemical smell to them-much stronger than regular nail polish. Potential ethical concerns with buying fakes aside, I wouldn't knowingly buy a fake because you have literally no idea where it came from or what types of chemicals (and who knows what else) are in that bottle.

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  21. Hi, I am very confused when read your post. Cause I have an OPI nail polish "Anti bleak" belong to the newest collection of OPI. But it has 4 labels, so I wonder it is fake or not. Pls help me :(

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    1. I don't have any polishes from the Mariah Carey collection but the Oz polish I just bought today has four and so do my Skyfall polishes. I'd say yours is authentic, looks like OPI has just changed the warning labels, so I'll update the post. Thanks for pointing this out!

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  22. Great information!! Chelsea I was wondering if you would have any information like this for GelColor by OPI? I get mine from an authorized salon but it is $22 a bottle! I see drugstore.com has some but I have no idea if they are legit or not. Thanks so much!!

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    1. Unfortunately I have never used gel polish so I'm not very knowledgeable about it. Since OPI's gel polish hasn't been on the mass market for long compared to their regular polishes, I'd imagine it'll probably take a bit longer to establish how the real things look versus whatever fakes pop up. I have no idea if fakes of the gel colors are being produced yet but sadly I'd say it's only a matter of time.

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  23. Wonderful post!

    I just received two polishes from Amazon that I felt compelled to order since they were so cheap (Movin' Out and Man of La Macha each under $6!). Thanks to this site, I am sure that they are real black labels and am beyond amazed I scored these two lemmings for so cheap! Thanks!!

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  24. I live in Sweden, and all my polishes from the Skyfall / Christmas 2012 collection have 4 symbols in an entirely different order than yours. From left to right, they are: round symbol with arrows, fire symbol, read-symbol, and lasting quality. They were all bought at one of the few authorized retailers here (different retailers at different times, but the bottles match each other). This also goes for my polishes from the Euro Centrale, Oz, and Bond girls collections. So I think the order of the warning signs might be a question of what region of the world you buy your polish in / where it was bottled. All my bottles with 3 warning sign on are in the same order as yours though.
    Also, none of my 100% real, store-bought in Sweden polishes have any engraved numbers on them. When almost all e-tailers stopped shipping to Europe a few years ago the reason that was given was that these e-tailers was only authorized to sell within the US, and the reason transdesign started filing off the engravings was so they wouldn't get caught selling to non-US costumers (which was big business, since an OPI polish costs $23 in Sweden...). So my conclusion is that the engraved serial numbers have something to do with the US market OPIs, maybe even that the purpose of the serial numbers is to mark these batches as only sell-able in the US. However, almost all (26 out of 28) of the polishes I've bought in stores in Sweden have printed numbers, always at or close to the bottom edge of the bottle (so not on the bottom, but the bottom edge... I hope I'm making myself understood :-) )
    All the polishes that this applies to are 3-4 years old.

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    1. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! I checked on some of my newest OPIs (like from the Bond Girls Collection and Euro Centrale) and they seem to have the labels now in the same order as you described. I will update the guide accordingly with a new picture! I think you are right about the serial numbers being a way to limit selling to only authorized vendors or within authorized regions. The only time I've seen bottles that had the serial numbers filed off is when I bought it at somewhere like a grocery store. I've noticed that fewer of my recent, store-bought OPIs seem to have the numbers on them too, so maybe it's a feature that is being done away with? Thank you for helping to keep this guide as up to date and thorough as possible!

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  25. Hi,this is a great post! I just received in the mail opi from a trade me seller. all of them pass the tests, but one's lid is different; it isn't gear shaped and is slightly more rounded on the edge, also the metal balls inside are very big. do you think it would be a fake? do you know of any old lid styles possibly?

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    1. I I don't know exactly when OPI adopted the gear lid style, but I know old black label OPIs do not have it. I don't have anything older than the black label polishes in my stash, so I can't speak to anything older than that, but when comparing my black labels to a modern OPI, the black label lid is a touch shorter and appears ever so slightly more round as a result, if that makes sense. The mixing balls inside appear to be the same size (or at least very close).

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  26. I thought this post was so helpful! To help you out I have a good portion of black labels and the ones from back to 1997 have the two hazard pictures, the ones from 1996 and before have the writing.

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    1. Yay, I'm so glad it helped you! I will update the guide with your info. Thanks! :)

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  27. Thank you for this super helpful post!
    When I was looking into buying a Spookettes set on eBay, I was told by a fellow OPI fan that for new mini's (2010+), there should not be an 'E' after the content (1/8 Fl. Oz.), and that the mini polishes don't have balls (okay, that sounded weird).

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    1. That's good to know about the minis! I only have two OPI minis (both of the same color) so I don't know too much about them. I will add some info on minis to the guide. Thank you! :)

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  28. Hi, may I ask, since you've got some 2013 OPIs, do their serial numbers printed on the bottom contain only numbers or numbers with letters in the end? Thanks in advance!

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    1. The serial numbers printed on the bottom label of my 2013 OPIS contain numbers with letters at the end. Hope that helps!

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  29. Thank you for your great post. I just discovered OPI recently but I am getting hooked really fast! I like some of the older collections and wanted to ask if these nail polishes stay in good condition after so many years. Is it safe to buy them now? I am talking about the non-fake one of coarse... How far back in time is it safe to go with a nail polish ? I though they go bad after a while?
    Thank you and kind regards

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    1. The oldest OPIs in my collection are 10+ years old and they still look and apply as good as new. Polish might gunk up or separate over time, but there are easy ways to fix that. There's a really great post on a blog called The Polished Medic about whether or not nail polish expires/goes bad. I think it's a really great explanation so I'll share the link here (but if you're wondering, the short answer, according to OPI, is no):

      http://sugarmedic88.blogspot.com/2011/04/does-nail-polish-expire.html

      Hope that helps! :)

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  30. Do you think your very first point about the mL and Fl. is the same for black labels? I just saw this post (http://thenailpolishrehabcandidate.blogspot.com/2012/12/manis-over-holiday.html) and the first thing I noticed about the OPI at the very end was that ml was lowercase... hopefully hers isn't a fake! :-/
    Thanks for all the helpful info!! I just wish I could find a comprehensive list of OPI black label polishes. :)

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    1. I only have a handful of black label polishes in my collection but on mine, they still have the mL and Fl. Hope that helps! :)

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  31. OMG! I think my My Private Jet holo is a fake! The label on the bottom is the second one, not the first one with the barcode. There is no engraving/stamping on the bottle. There are no ridges/gears in the lid. The P on the OPI on the lid doesn't have that black stamp in the middle (which I read from another site). There is OPI on the brush handle, and mL/Fl, though. I'm so confused!!

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    1. That's a tough call, since My Private Jet is pretty unique in that it has gone through many different versions over the years. I checked my bottle of My Private Jet, which I bought from an authorized OPI salon, and it has the black numbers printed on the side of the bottle and the gears inside the lid. Hope that helps! I'm sorry to hear you think you may have a fake. :(

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  32. Hi Chelsea, I just found your site today. That a nice article you have on spotting fakes. Interstingly I have two version of Not Like The Movies (the original duochrome and the less colourful version). They have different symbols on the back! The original has 4 and the second cerrsion has only 3. I found this to be a bit strange. What do you make of that?

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    1. Thank you! My guess would be perhaps since they were made at different points in OPI's production cycle, the original was probably back from when OPI used four labels and the later version was from the period from 2009-2012 or so that they only used three. Hope the helps!

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  33. Hi Chelsea,

    I've checked all my newly purchased O.P.I from the latest collections. I've checked all the above, they're all fine. But I realised 2 out of 4 bottles do not have any engraving (no dent, no sign of the engraving being file) and black stamping. The other 2 do have engraving but without black stamping.

    I would like to know if you ever come across authentic O.P.I without any engraving or stamping?

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    1. Hi Cherry! Sorry it took me so long to get a response to you! I have noticed a lot of my newer OPIs don't have the engravings. It seems like they might be phasing that feature out with the newer collections.

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