Importing Cosmetics To Malaysia: Your Risk

I thought I want to share with you my recent experience with purchasing cosmetics online. The buying experience was great, but things went downhill as the package reached Malaysian shores. Let me just tell you that I’ve been purchasing cosmetics online, from makeup to skincare, and I’ve never had any problems getting them delivered to my door. Would you think then, cosmetics are actually not allowed into the country if the items are not registered with the Ministry of Health? Nope. I bet your arse most of the stuff that reached me are not registered. Period.

 

However, in the past week or so, from the 9th to the 16th of June 2015, there’s an international collaborative operation between our customs and the Interpol which made things turn bad. All cosmetics were seized with no appeals given. They’d just confiscate it and destroy it. They won’t even let you have a chance to send it back to sender, to at least get your money back. Why? Oh, because Interpol is involved. Right. Drugs, I understand. But makeup? Makeup for personal use? Only 4 items in that little box, and it’s so dangerous that it can’t be let into the country? WOW. So here’s the gist, in case you innocent beauty buffs who have been lucky all this while didn’t know.

 

If your package is more than RM500, your package will be screened. Most of the time, they will do an internal appeal and let it delivered to you with no hassle. Sometimes, you’ll get taxed. If your package is less than RM500, there will be a RANDOM selection so if you’re unlucky, it will be screened. So basically, it’s playing roulette. When the customs or the pharmacy bureau decides to be strict, you’re screwed. Most of the time, from experience, nothing happened. So this time, I’ve been unlucky. Unlucky that I have things shipped out at this time, but I also feel it’s very unfair. We as consumers are not aware of this. Packages have been cleared from years of purchasing online. We are like unsuspecting victims and if they decide to prowl on us, we’re dead. You’d think cosmetics are legal. Well, they are, but they need to be registered. You’ll have to check with the Ministry of Health. Yes, really. And the answer I was given is that, if the brand is not sold in Malaysia, very likely, they will not be registered.

 

I am angry, I feel cheated, and then again, why am I not surprised? I say, if cosmetics that aren’t registered cannot be brought into the country, let it be streamlined. Do not confuse the consumers. If it’s allowed, then it should be set as precedence that the item can be brought in, and be updated in the registry accordingly. Do not be so fickle. I have seen photos of the items I bought on Instagram, posted by Malaysians who ordered them online as well.

 

Has this ordeal dampened my addiction? Yes. A whole lot. I don’t know if I should be thankful, but immediate reaction is to blame my curiosity for all things new. If I didn’t have this curiosity, then I wouldn’t have bought, then this wouldn’t happen. Then the drama queen in me added that if I didn’t have a hobby (blogging) that feeds the addiction, I’d be safe too. I feel like I’ve been robbed, literally. And lied toΒ by the very people who made me feel safe (from ordering online, from past experience). Who says this is not to happen again? Who says whatever happened to me will not happen to you? Well, I hope it won’t. I have no confidence now. Period. And I’m still boiling. BOILING!

 

 

fffuuuu

 

 

  • HOLY CRAP!! NO!! That’s not cool at ALL. I’d be angry too! they have no right to destroy it! WTF.

    • Lily

      Trust me Tracy. My vocabulary for the past few days has been reduced to WTF, FFS, FFFFFUUUUU!! only.

  • Yvonne Tay

    Oh dear! I know how you feel, being your next-country neighbour and having heard about such nonsense on and off. I was warned not too buy too much at one go so that the amount stays small (and therefore undeclared), no thanks to such fantastic unwritten rules.

    Don’t let this dampen your curiousity or addiction though. My side seems to have a ‘better’ time with purchases. I can be your middleman – send the packages to me, I’ll repackage into smaller bits and send to you separately, so that we all don’t incur the delivery costs from small purchases (which of course, they wouldn’t understand), and we get our stuff! πŸ˜€

    • Lily

      Thank you so much for your offer, Yvonne. I might have to take it up one day. My packages were less than RM500 for sure. The thing is, the include freight and insurance as well! Mine was free shipping, and the customs estimated the freight and insurance at MORE THAN RM400! It’s ridiculous! So, I would just purchase something of RM100 in value and the total value would still cost more than RM500. Why don’t they estimate all shipping and insurance at RM500 so that ALL packages get taxed. Right? Makes me wonder if our country is so poor that they use any means possible to get money from the citizens.
      Your side of the country is better in many things, Yvonne. I won’t even go there, in case they shut down this blog and imprison me. No freedom of speech here, in case you didn’t know!

      • Yvonne Tay

        ESTIMATED by customs?! @#$&!@$#% I feel you. Yes, the offer will always be open! πŸ˜€

        • Lily

          Right? It’s beyond ridiculous. Tax me for something I paid for. Not something estimated by you. Well, in this case, I didn’t even get a chance to pay the tax. WTF πŸ™ I’m literally crying right now.

  • Oh my god, what the HELL??? It’s frigging MAKEUP and SKINCARE, not GUN RUNNING. I’d be spewing the F bombs as well. This is INSANITY!!

  • Jaa

    Ugh. I’m getting really nervous reading this post! I have one small package coming and am worried our customs will pull the same stunt! I’m like you, getting less and less excited about ordering things online because you never know if your stuff will reach you! So much headaches.

    • Lily

      Thailand might be different? I don’t know. But seriously, this never happened. They were late sometimes, and I might have to pay tax, but this time, I feel like murdering someone. So, feed on the unlucky instead of the guilty. What kind of bulls*^# is that?

  • Bella

    No way Lily!!!! Was this your Charlotte Tilbury parcel? I’m actually quite dumbfounded!! How can they be destroying makeup?! What on earth does this have to do with anything Interpol might be interested in? And will this be the permanent state of affairs or will this stupid action be over sometime? I seriously can’t belive this, I feel so bad for you!!

    • Lily

      Yes, my CT and also some Colourpop which I bought through a shopper assist. I couldn’t sleep for a few nights because of this. I was and still am livid! So in all the other times, cosmetics are considered safe items but now just because of this ridiculous joint operation with Interpol, cosmetics suddenly become poison. I don’t know how to react to this stupidity but to cry for my goodies!
      I contacted both Beautylish and Shop And Box to see if they can do anything on their end. I’ve already done all I can. I actually cried because I was so mad. And I was in a foul mood for a few days already. Ugh.

  • That’s awful! We can all understand how you’d be in a foul mood over that. Its amazing how government officials will nitpick over stupid things (like cosmetics… as you say, if it were drugs, then totally understandable). In Spain we have the Canary Islands which is part of Spain but surprise surprise Spain puts customs there and so I get clients ringing all angry asking me where is their order. 99% of the time customs has decided to retain it because its “a cosmetic”,… crazy…

    • Lily

      It would make more sense if they sent the order back to the shipper if it’s not allowed into the country. I can’t understand this.

      • You’re right, they should send it back and then the shipper would return your money…

        • Lily

          In this case, I have 2 packages, 1 of them is a purchase from Beautylish. They decided to give me a full refund, without me asking! That is so generous and understanding of them. That email made my day πŸ™‚

          • Yay that was great customer service πŸ™‚

  • Hey Lily, I am so so sorry to hear this… It’s crazy!!! Why would Interpol ever meddle with makeup?! Why would anyone?! That’s just NUTS!

    Speaking of crazy customs story, there is one that I’ve never told before. A couple of years ago a friend sent me some stuff she bought from a big French brand’s friends & family sale for me. We’re talking a concealer, a brush, and some small sample tubes. When the parcel arrived, the customs decided to seize it and check if it’s counterfeited goods. The process took a LONG time, and one day I received a cease and desist from the brand’s lawyer demanding that I pay several hundred euros because the brand had determined the stuff was counterfeited. Since my friend knows the local PRs (and the local PRs basically function as cashiers during F&F sales), she wanted to see if they could maybe write to the HQ and tell them it’s nonsense. Alas, no such luck. It turned out that the HQ doesn’t actually allow such sales, so the Taiwanese division has always been doing it behind their backs. The PRs told us to say the SAs gave my friend the products that were meant for on-counter samples, and that’s why they have different serial numbers (in fact, that most probably is why the HQ determined they were fake. They sell limited edition stuff that’s past the season as well as on-counter samples of products that are going to be discontinued during such sales). I told the lawyer. Fortunately, the brand decided to give me the benefit of the doubt and I didn’t have to pay those several hundred euros after all (can you even imagine how scared and panicked I was?!).

    Afterwards, the parcel went back to the customs. The customs asked for receipt, but it was already MONTHS after my friend bought the stuff so naturally she didn’t have it anymore. The customs then decided the content was worth 55 euros (5 euros more than the tax-free quota for a present) and asked me to pay the handling fee and VAT. I was so vexed by that point that I wrote to them and say do whatever you want with this parcel I do not wish to see it and I will not pay 20 something euros to liberate it.

    From then on, I have told everyone not to send me anything. If I buy stuff from the US and so on, it’s only when I have friends who are traveling between the two countries. I never told the story and I will never name the brand publicly because it is one that I work with very often both in my professional capacity and as a blogger. I thought I’d share just so that you know s* can get pretty crazy all over the world…

    *Hugs* I am so sorry to hear about your parcel.

    • Lily

      Oh dear. I’m sorry to hear this, Sunny. It must have been scary though. I definitely learned it the hard way.

  • Oh dear… this is insane. I have never heard of any country just plainly confiscating a package (and destroying it w/o even giving the receiver the chance to clarify) just because cosmetics (until now that is). I mean, how are you gonna do anything that-is-not-legal with some cream eyeshadows. Like what… I mean, even if it were potentially “drugs”, surely they could open the package and inspect the goods to make sure it isnt instead of just throwing it straight into the incinerator. It..just…baffles…me…And now that I’m back for the summer, I might as well cancel my plans to ship anything (including the new beautylish x chikuhodo brushes I’ve been eyeing on.. sigh.. they tax on their “Estimated prices” anyways…. the desperation is real).

    • Lily

      Hey Robert, just to let you know that my Koyudo order was taxed RM105. And there were only 3 brushes, valuing RM800 including shipping. Best to order when you’re still in the UK? (If I remember correctly, you study there?)

      • Yeah but I came back to Malaysia for the summer haha, so not much ordering online for me >.<

        • Lily

          I’m also weighing out my options – we need our stuff that’s not sold here. I understand that the KL peeps have it easier – due to the vast number of packages sent there, the customs get overwhelmed and a lot of things get past unnoticed. LOL!

  • Aww, I’m so sorry to hear about this, Lily! I remember reading your tweets but didn’t know that you’re not getting your stuff after all. That really sucks!! As someone who shops online and overseas all the time, this is alarming. One time some handmade earrings from Russia were held at the custom for a month, but I still received them later. I hope things like this would never happen to any of us. After all we are educated sensible consumer and have no intention but for hobbies and personal use.

    • Lily

      I hope none of you have to go through this. In Malaysia though, their regulations seem to be inconsistent so while this post is to get my inner rage out, it’s also to let Malaysians know the worst case scenario.

  • Anat13

    Hi Lily,
    I’m sure you didn’t think it through and weren’t intending to be cruel, but it really trivializes the experience of rape victims to compare their experience to not receiving cosmetics you paid for. Perhaps you could consider rephrasing?
    Thanks,
    -Anat13

    • Lily

      Hi Anat, first let me apologise if you’re offended. This post is meant as a rant of my recent experience with importing cosmetics which I think will be helpful to those who live here. In no way was I trivialising the experience of rape victims.
      Just like how my posts of purchases are not meant to show off or rub it in the faces of those who can’t afford it, and posts about fitness and eating clean not meant to offend those who don’t even have enough to eat.
      Posts about rape, social epidemics, religious war, political unrest and economic struggles deserve their own attention, but not on this blog which is meant for frivolity of cosmetics and a break from serious grown up issues.

      I hope you understand Anat.

      • Anat13

        I don’t understand. You shouldn’t post about rape if you’re going to compare it to not receiving a makeup package. It absolutely trivializes it. I would appreciate it if you would remove me from your email subscription list.

        • Lily

          Hi Anat, I misunderstood your reply as to the entire subject of this post. I just realised I used the word “rape” in one of the sentences and it only just occurred to me it is this sentence you were referring to.
          I apologise for my insensitivity and will rephrase it as soon as I get home.
          I will remove your email from the subscription list of you still wish. My sincerest apology again as I misunderstood your initial comment. All my fault.

          • Anat13

            Oh, yay–thank you! I really appreciate it! Please leave me on the list after all. I really enjoy your blog.

            • Lily

              Post edited. Thanks for staying, and for pointing out my insensitivity. Things like this happen when I write like an emotional madwoman, and post it unedited πŸ™‚

              • Anat13

                Not a problem! It’s a word that’s entered a lot of people’s vocabulary in the context you used it in. I can certainly understand using it like that without thinking about it. The important thing is that you listened, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. It means a lot. Thank you so much!

  • Liz

    Ugh, I’m so sorry you lost your packages to bureaucratic nonsense. I swear, sometimes they just make up random rules to swindle money from citizens. I’ve had Europeans ask me to declare low value on packages because of customs and realized we have it pretty good here in North America. I saw on Twitter that Beautylish reimbursed you though! My god, they are awesome.

    • Lily

      Seriously though, I don’t know what it is anymore. I think I went from angry to confused to sad to numb. Lol

  • Danny Wong

    Hi Lily, recently I have requested my friend from US to purchase a few boxes of Instantly Ageless which is a sensational and a must have product and gotten her to FedEx to me. It was confiscated by the Pharmaseutical department upon reaching KLIA and they said I do not have the right importation permit to bring it in. I explained that it is for personal use and they did not accept the reason. I have wrote two appeal letters and of course were rejected. I was also warned that I could be fine upto MY 25,000 or end up in the prison for the offence of bringing in unregistered cosmetic/drug into the country.
    It’s hilarious as it’s just an eye cream and for personal use.
    I am still trying to get an appointment to meet up with the officer in charge in KLIA and as of now still no respond…the FedEx guy is trying to help me to secure an appointment for my very last appeal before they destroy it.
    I do agreed we need to have control in place to prevent illicit drugs from getting into the country but there should also be a certain flexibility especially for personal use item.
    I know how you feel.

    Danny

    • Lily

      I’m sorry to hear that Danny. If you don’t mind, may I know when your products were seized?
      I guess we all have our unfortunate run ins with the customs. I hope you’ll get it settled soon!

      • Danny Wong

        Hi Lily, mine was detained since 14 May. It’s been slightly over a mth. I am still waiting to personally explain to the klia officer in charge and since it’s puasa month so it may be even difficult.

        • Lily

          I heard that they only hold the things for 1 month and will then destroy them. I hope you can get through before that!

  • rahainah m.

    Hi Lily,
    I understand how frustrated it could be when dealing with something like this.
    My packages have been detained by Kastam Malaysia too many times before and the main problem that I see (in my case) is when the package enters Malaysia through Penang Airport.
    No matter how much the package weight or how much item you got in the package or the package value, they’ll get detained and if lucky, they’ll just tax you. If you’re unlucky, then they’ll say they needed release letter from Farmasi Malaysia. When contacted Farmasi, they say unregistered cosmetics are illegal and even if it’s for personal use, must be for 3 months usage.
    The latest package that got detained in Penang Airport, got me so frustrated that I don’t bother to clear it. Coz I also sent a package to KL so that it’ll enter Malaysia through KLIA airport and guess what? The package didn’t even get detained nor get taxed! Quantity is the same, value is the same and weight of package is the same (bought ELF stuff) as the package detained in Penang.
    Since then, I don’t bother to import cosmetics if the final destination is other than KL!
    Also, I need to mention that DHL KL is very awesome but not FedEx KL but FedEx Penang is better in handling cases if packages got detained by Kastam in my experience.
    If packages got detained and you need some clarification from Farmasi, I urge you to call Farmasi and speak to the officer in charge yourself. Asked the courier service to give you the Farmasi officer’s phone number. Save you time and money.
    And, I need to add. This is to quote the Farmasi officer, “barang-barang cosmetics yg masuk melalui Penang, strict sikit lah. Kalau masuk dari KL tu, kurang sikit” …..so you’re saying the government is not standardized?!

    • Lily

      Thanks so much for your input, Rahainah! From a comment below, looks like he couldn’t escape the customs in KLIA either. I spoke to the pharmacy officers in Penang directly as well. I think I spoke to a few, but all of them have the same answer. It’s the joint ops period hence no appeal. Otherwise, my items would have reached me already. They were really nice and friendly about it, and they did sound sympathetic, but apparently their hands were tied.

      Don’t you think it’s strange though? I mean, basically, those unlucky ones are penalized during this period. I still think it’s ridiculous!

  • That all sounds a bit familiar, although we here get our goods, provided we pay the fee. There’s a customs fee for pretty much everything that isn’t books if the total adds up to more than 350 NOK, and then the shipping company adds a charge for handling it as well. So none of those beautiful brushes they sell over at beautylish for me.

    That said, I’m horrified that they actually destroy perfectly good makeup. And hey, does this mean that if you say, traveled to London, picked up some new lippies not available there, or if I came to Malaysia, carrying products from brands not available there, these items might be confiscated and destroyed as well?

    • Lily

      Good question, Siri. I really don’t know! I gather from feedbacks and past experiences that it’s just very inconsistent here. I guess it comes down to whether or not we’re lucky to avoid all this nonsense. If they’ve been consistent all along, then, my reaction would be different, and I will never purchase any cosmetics online ever again. However, the pharmacy officer actually said that for personal use, cosmetics are usually OK (albeit certain appeal letter has to be approved).
      Beats me. From years of ordering online, this is the first time I encounter this!

      • Danny Wong

        The definition of personal use according to the pharmaseutical officer I spoke to in Shah Alam office mist be on a single package of each item. It can’t be 2 tubes or 2 jars as it’s not consider as personal use…..and when we purchase online usually we try to get a fair bit of stocks per delivery as to save on the courier charges but this in the ministry definition is not allow.

        • Lily

          Oh gosh, what happens if 2 friends share a package to save on shipping and order the same things? This sucks!

  • Interpol??? This sounds ludicrous! I’m so dismayed for you, Lily!!

    • Lily

      Sigh. SIGH! I don’t even have anything polite to say anymore.

  • Celine Lim

    I have been warned by the ministry of health by calling me just now, I have order lipstick at Burberry online store, but this is my first time, so they didn’t confiscate my parcel, before they sent my parcel, the UPS ask me to snap my IC, I don’t know this is the procedure of UPS or the ministry of health want warning me. And lastly thanks for sharing your experience. Omg, this is my first time to receive a warning call…

    • Lily

      Hi Celine, I recently received another email from a reader saying her things are held as well! It’s so ridiculous though, because you KNOW they are inconsistent. Some get away with it, some don’t. When I brought up their flaw, they just ignored that statement completely. Totally unreliable, unpredictable, unfair.
      It just depends on how lucky or unlucky you are. I’m sorry you had to go through this but the good thing is, you still got your stuff πŸ™‚

      • Celine Lim

        Did the reader are also the first time purchase cosmetic online? But did you also receive any call from the ministry of health before?

        • Lily

          I didn’t hear from her after our initial email. I actually talked to the Pharmacy department at customs, not the ministry of health. What can a lipstick do though? And it’s Burberry, which is already available for sale in our country, which means it’s something that is approved to be brought into the country. I tell ya, sometimes I wonder if they know what they’re actually doing. Maybe there’s another audit and they just want to show they’re actually working >_<

          • Celine Lim

            Ohh okay. Ya so ridiculous, and the people of ministry of health ask me to purchase at the outlet of Burberry at KL, I’m from Penang how can I bought just a lipstick and decide go to KL? Omg our sucks goverment just know how to warning and confiscate our stuff, or they just makan our stuff? πŸ˜‚

            • Lily

              I’ve heard so many horror stories! And since I experienced it myself, I have to say the whole thing is just so inconsistent. Then again, why does it not surprise me too much?

          • Celine Lim

            And also they are have no authority to open our parcel to check, we did pay our tax! Sucks goverment.

  • Angela L

    i’ve encountered this as well! I ordered two mac blushes from US just because it was limited edition. They held it for so long!! in the end i got the blushes but with a warning letter inside stating that if we were to import cosmetics without registration, we would get fine up to 2k & jail time. x.x might as well just state we are not allowed to import cosmetics then.

    • Lily

      I don’t understand. I was told that if the brand is already in the country, then we could import cosmetics in. I guess that’s not the case. What bothers me is the fact that they are so vague about it. So mysterious, when things should be transparent and clear cut. I mean, I was half expecting them to say “Ah, produk ni dalam akaun tapi kami tak tau macam mana ia berada di sana”, you know, since this is the trend the government is taking. HAHAHAHA!

  • Yichin Peh

    I recently shipped a suitcase, when I received it everything in my suitcase is a mess and I lost a pouch that contains more than 10 lipsticks! I doubt it’s because of the law because they’re all MAC Chanel and YSL pretty sure they’re registered. They even open my vacuumed bag of clothes! Weird thing is, my suitcase was pretty packed before I shipped, they can still close my suitcase after opening my vacuum pack (which takes up a lot more space), I really don’t know what else I’ve lost.

    • Lily

      That’s horrible Yichin! When I came back from studying in Australia, my bags were ransacked too. My mobile phone was stolen and other digital things which I couldn’t put in my carry on. These people are crooks I tell ya!

  • yeewon lim

    Hi Lily, I was thinking of shipping some cosmetics from the US and came across your post. Im still doubting whether I should do it or not. Have you tried purchasing any cosmetic from overseas after this experience?

    • Lily

      Hi Yeewon, I have purchased overseas after that but I kept it minimal. I made sure my purchases are small, and I know I’m putting myself at risk. However, I haven’t purchased anything from the US. I bought a few things which were shipped from the UK. There is a skincare product I really want but I won’t purchase it due to the price, and the sad reality that it might be confiscated if I’m unlucky. I know some people who are very lucky, but I have also received many emails (aside from these comments) that their things were confiscated as well. So, I wish you luck!

      • yeewon lim

        Thanks for your reply!Its really heartbreaking to pay so much and get confiscated in the end. but the feels of you can see it but can’t get hold of them is equally terrible. Fortunately I worked my way out this time, I’m asking a friend to bring it home for me. Hopelessly hoping that online shopping in Malaysia can get as convenient as US or UK ..