Fake OPIs

First up, let me just say this, what I am posting below is through my own experience and research on the net. I do not claim to be an expert on this matter. The opinions below are mine and mine only. 

I know there has been many online discussions on this issue - Real vs. Fake OPIs and there are many claims on how to spot FAKES - ridges in bottle caps, the dot in the middle of P on the cap, the 2 ball bearings, the prints & fonts, etc etc etc. All I can say after my own research is that, all these are non-conclusive. The only thing I am quite definite about is that if the barcode number is wrong it is definitely a FAKE.

One thing for sure is that the counterfeiters have gotten smarter! The fakes are so much closer to the real thing now.  This is a website selling fake OPIs from China

There are plenty floating around in Gmarket as well.

One of my customers also bought a fake Teenage Dream from a flea at SCAPE. How did we know?
OK, after all that research, the only thing I am sure is that the barcode for the same colour is always the same for the same polish colour.

Another blogger has shown a pic of the a fake vs. real Mad As A Hatter on her blog.

Pic from the-trace-face-philes.blogspot.com
She has written a whole post on this

Pic belongs to trace-face-philes.blogspot.com

The real Mad As A Hatter's code is 942971 and not 947272, which incidentally is the same as the 1 displayed in the China website. And if you wanna know, the code for Katy Perry's Teenage Dream is 943231.  These 2 colours are popular amongst the fakes cos the real ones are discontinued and very hard to find.

So what started all these saga on Fake OPIs?

Alexis Links, the Official Distributor of OPI in Singapore, has published an article on this.

I do understand that being the official distributor, Alexis Links has to pay for the rights to distribute in this region, and all these "parallel importers" or online businesses are damaging their business. Thus the steps taken to shut down the competitors.

According to Alexis Links, all authentic OPIs will have the OPI Warranty Seal Security Sticker.  Bottles bought from Metro, Parco or OPI Authorised Salons will have this sticker, as shown in pic below.

I would just like to clarify that this is only pasted on by Alexis Links Singapore, not OPI, Inc.

All OPIs imported directly from the U.S. will not have this sticker, just like any OPI bought in a store in the U.S., e.g. Ulta.  So yeah, my take on this - No warranty sticker does NOT guarantee that the bottle is not authentic. Just not from your local Alexis Links distributor.

Label Sticker on Bottom of OPI Polish Bottle
As far as I know, almost ALL OPI bottles "originally" have 2 layers of stickers on the bottom.
Why are there many bottles with only 1 sticker then? Or worse, totally NO stickers?!? Are they FAKES?!

In short, NnnnnNNNoooOOOoooo,  there is not sufficient evidence to condemn that bottle just yet.

Despite what a lot of websites (when you google FAKE OPIs) may say, I feel this is the most unreliable method to banish the bottle to the bin!

Based on my experience, for cases with no stickers at all, while not common, do happen. Simply because, it dropped! Yeah, there were a few times I found the stickers inside the white boxes they were packed in. Sometimes, I can't find them at all, simply because, they may have dropped off somewhere else.

For those with only 1 sticker and no barcode - this is simply the inner label, after you peel off the outer label with the barcode. Why peel this? Well, because on those stickers with barcodes, there is usually a production code as well. And more recently, I have seen stickers with both the serial numbers and production codes. Apparently, with the production code, OPI is able to trace the source of where these are purchased. So to avoid getting into trouble with OPI, some e-tailers have taken off the outer layer.

While I do agree that logically if someone were to make fakes, it would be cheaper to produce just 1 layer of sticker instead of 2, I also do not think that peeling off the sticker 1 layer at a time is fun. It must be serious enough that the folks who are selling them cheap do this to avoid getting into trouble.

It seems that in recent years, OPI has toughen up and started hauling some of the e-tailers to court:
1) Against the popular Trans Design
2) Against Enailsupply Corporation
3) Against Beauty Treats International
4) Against Ball Beauty Products
5) Against Beverly Beaute (UK)

One blogger (http://www.mclaughlan.org/carinaeletoile/) has made available the case against Trans Design here.  Or if you are interested in any of the other cases, you can purchase the reports here.

Googling all the stuff has been pretty mind bogging, and I also came across this article in which OPI Inc sued Coty Inc. Wow, and now they are the same family. FYI, Coty Inc. has acquired OPI Inc. in Nov 2010 for a cool speculated $1 billion!!!

OK on to the labels itself. There are a lot of articles online about the colour, position of barcodes, fonts etc.
For me, I just think OPI is as fickle as you and me! And these are just for normal OPIs (do not even include Designer Series or Suedes/Mattes, which may have different colours again/designs!). Again, I stress, I do not believe any of these are conclusive.

For those who insist that only green labels are not FAKES, you have not been an OPI fan long enough. :)

Here is a whole bunch of bottles that I have that have black labels. Yes, they are not fakes, just from older collections!

And even then, just look at the position of the barcodes, colour codes and names. Confused yet?
Here is someone who has done a lot of research on this -> Ainnir (Unfortunately, she has not updated for the newer collections)

If you have bought a repeated colour, and the labels are different, do not panic...I repeat, DO NOT PANIC. It is just a newer batch, so the new label will be green, and the production codes will be different.

These are the exact same colour, but from different batches of production. The Green label one is newer (obviously) and has the pro-Wide brush, whereas the older Black label one has the narrow brush. Also notice that the fonts are different, and the production codes will also differ. 

These 2 are from the same series, but again from different batches - 1 older, 1 newer.

OK on to the newer, green labels! Yes, even amongst them, there are variations.
click to enlarge
Like I said, I recently noticed some labels have both sets of codes (left in pic), while some only have 1 set of numbers (right in pic). However both sets have matching codes imprinted on the bottle (refer red lines in pic). I am guessing, after checking the hundreds-thousands of bottles I have, the production codes (with the numbers & alphabet mix, indicated by yellow line in pic) can be different for different batches (maybe this is how OPI traces where and when the batch is produced, in case of recalls or what) but the barcodes (blue line in pic) for same colour ALWAYS match (at least for the colours I have in stock).

So for me, if I do notice the barcodes are different for the same colour, I would start to worry! 

A reader from Poland, Margaret has shared with me that her 2 bottles of original (i.e. not fake) OPI Shootout At The O.K. Coral has different barcodes. The first is the original A07 from the American Collection (black label) and the second is the E26 from the Colorcopia Collection (green label). 

I would just like to clarify that the only case this happens is when the new release is a totally different collection, in this case the Colorcopia Collection in 2009. The color code is totally different - A07 vs E26.
Thus the barcodes are different too. :)

Lovely pics courtesy of Margaret:
A07 from American Collection 1995 (left),
E26 from Colorcopia Collection 2009 (right)

Both color codes (A07, E26) and barcodes (941761, 942211) are different

A07 from American Collection 1995 (left) - only 3 symbols,
E26 from Colorcopia Collection 2009 (right) - 4 symbols

After doing more research on this, I did find out that although the same colour always have the same barcodes, the same barcode can be re-used, i.e. they are not unique to each colour.

Different colours can also have the same barcode, but only if 1 of the colours has been discontinued. I do not know why out of 999999 numbers, OPI chose to reuse them cos although OPI has a lotttt of colours, they sure do not have 999999 colours!

Bottle Design
Ainnir's blog has listed very detailed info on this, and I feel that she is one of the most reliable sources out there in the world wide web on info on OPIs!! But unfortunately, she has not updated since.

And I suspect now, it is even harder to tell by timeline as OPI may have increased their manufacturers, so at any 1 time, there may slight differences in the bottles produced by different parties? (I am not sure, if anyone knows, do share)

I am first going to touch on the CAP design

1) Shape of cap - I will not be touching on this. Some blogs pointed out on the shape, some being more crooked, some straighter. I will just attribute this to the slight manufacturing designs (defects) and poor QC.

2) Smoothness/roughness of cap - Look at my examples below - both caps feel different to me, but both have the so-called Warranty Sticker by Alexis Links, the Official Distributor for OPI in Singapore, and according to them, bottles with these stickers are authentic.. Some blogs have claimed that smooth caps are a sign of fake OPIs. So anyone wanna haul Alexis Links to court for selling fake OPIs? :D (juz kidding!)

Sorry, it may not be so clear, as I am using my hp camera. Click on pic to view enlarged (clearer) view.

3) OPI logo on cap - A lot of sites also claim that those OPIs without the "." in the middle of "P" on the caps are fakes. Oh really? I will let you decide. Look at both bottles - uou can still see the Alexis Links' Warranty Stickers on the sides of the bottles.

You can also see the texture of the cap is different, 1 more rough than the other.
Click on pic to enlarge for clearer view.

4) Ridges inside the caps - Again, many sites claim that new OPI collections ALL have ridges inside the caps. Both bottles are from the Miss Universe collection - pretty darn new colours I'd say...and ta da....maybe they had left over caps from old production (ha ha..just a joke, I don't know why they are different!)

These are the 2 bottles used, both with the Alexis Links' Warranty Stickers,
bought from the same place, at the same time

No Ridges inside cap
(U03 - new collection, not some old old colour)

Very obvious ridges
(U02 from same collection)

4) Shape of bottle - Similar to the shape of cap, I will not be touching on this as I feel that this is more a manufacturing defect and poor QC. Just to prove a point, I absolutely must show this..ha ha..thanks Cheryl!

pic courtesy of Cheryl from legallypolished.blogspot.com
Her Silver Shatter is the authentic one but just look at the base of that bottle!!
She has posted a very fun quiz on spotting fake OPIs, do take a look if you have time!

5) Logos on the back of the bottle - some blogs out there have claimed that only those with 4 logos are real, but this is not true. Somewhere along the way, OPI switched back to the 3 symbols again. The positions, fonts etc are also varied over the years. Just take a look at the pics below.

Even for those with 3 logos, there are different sizes. The logos are also different.

For those with 4 logos, there are differences too.
The newer ones have 24M imprinted, while the older ones have 36M imprinted.
So, as I have said, none of these are conclusive, although some fake polishes do have funny looking fonts.

6) Serial numbers on cap and bottle - Although most bottles do have some sort of numbers inscribed on them, some numbers may have been removed by e-tailers, who are scared of being traced.

This is the batch number, easiest to be removed as it rubs off easily with any polish remover.

As you can on the bottle on the left, there are faint numbers inscribed on the glass bottle. Some distributors have scrapped off the numbers, resulting in a faint scratched mark, as shown on the bottle on the right.

As shown on the bottle on top, the serial numbers are inscribed on the cap itself. Some distributors have also scrapped away this on the caps, resulting in what you can see on the bottle at the bottom.

As you can see, the distributors even bother to scrap away the batch number on the boxes the OPI bottles are packed in.

Similarly, the barcodes and serial numbers on the boxes are scrapped off.

Therefore, if your bottle has any marks, or no numbers, there is no reason to panic either. They are not necessarily fakes.

So just to reiterate, the only conclusion I can draw from all my past experiences with OPI colours is that the barcode number is the only way to tell if the polish is real or fake (as of now...until the counterfeiters get smarter.....>.<)


  1. Thank you for this. You are the first to take a serious look at all of the information and tell it like it is. Very observant, and very thoughtful. It has helped immensely in trying to decipher all of the panic from thought through research. I thank you, as it has really opened my eyes on perhaps not being so accusatory or judgemental of those who are selling OPI at a reduced price to be competitive, without selling ANY fakes, who are simply trying to stay out of trouble so that they may remain in business (mainly e-businesses), so thanks!!!

  2. Hello The Information was very helpful but I still have a question does the batch number on the bottle match the code on the label on the bottom? For example if the batch code is 11125ABV would you know what color that is suppose to be?If so what color is it? Thanks

  3. Hi, the batch number on bottle will match the batch number on label, but it doesn't tell you the colour. The code that tells you the colour is the barcode, the 6 digits starting with 9xxxxx. :) Do bear in mind my research above was done quite a while back, so not sure if they have changed since.