A fake perfume may look like a great deal at first, but it could do lasting damage to your wallet, as well as health. Some of the fake perfumes tested by authorities were found to contain antifreeze, bacteria and even urine. As these products are untested for skin reactions, they can cause cause contact dermatitis, which is inflammation of the skin. Even if a counterfeit perfume causes no skin reaction and is sanitary, it will usually not smell right, potentially forcing you to give up after a few tries and throw it away.

Examine the original. The single best thing you can do to protect yourself against fakes is to become familiar with the authentic product. If possible, visit a quality retail store and take a good look at the perfumes you may wish to buy. Hold both the bottle and the sealed box and get a feel for the quality and details. Spray a little on your wrist and get to know the scent.

Shop with a picture. Print a color picture–or save one on your phone–of the perfume’s original bottle and package. Make sure you know what the color of the perfume inside the bottle looks like. Have multiple pictures where you can see small details such as the location of the bar code, which is one thing that counterfeits often get wrong.

Compare to the original. When examining a product before purchase, first ask yourself if it looks like a high quality product made by a reputable manufacturer. The weight of the bottle, the quality of the paper and wrapping of the package, the clarity of text and pictures on the package should feel very similar to the original you have examined. Counterfeit products tend to have particularly bad cellophane wraps, which can be loose and messy. Excess glue on the package and inaccurate spelling is another typical giveaway. When shopping on-line, ask for close-up pictures and examine them carefully.

Open the package. Often shady retailers will place an authentic bottle on the shelf, but stuff the sealed boxes with fake products. Open sealed packages before you leave the store and compare them to what was shown to you. When shopping on-line, open the packages as soon as you receive them, and do no throw away anything that came in the mail, such as receipts and packaging material, before you authenticate the product. Check the quality of the box, color of the product and the fragrance.

Know the fair price of what you are buying and be suspicious if the deal sounds too good to be true. Keep in mind, however, that tester bottles of expensive perfumes can be bought at a steep discount. So an inexpensive open bottle, sold without a box and the word “tester” on it, does not necessarily mean the product is fake. Such bottles can actually be an excellent buy.