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Safe Beauty: When Makeup Gets Ugly

Fifth in a Series of 12

All of our patients at The Plastic Surgery Group in Albany are concerned about germs. Naturally, you expect us to take all necessary precautions to decrease your exposure to fungus and bacteria by washing our hands between patients, wearing disposable gloves during treatments, and using single-application needles and products. Of course, we do those things; we actually take more precautions than you know about! However, you may be unaware of the bacteria that thrive in your makeup products and brushes. Read this article to reduce your exposure to bacteria and fungus in your beauty routines!

Why are Bacteria and Fungus a Concern?

The dangers are well known: skin infections, dermatitis, pink eye (conjunctivitis), styes, keratitis (corneal infection), acne, pustules, impetigo and scarring. Some of these bacteria are resistant to antibiotics, such as MRSA, a form of staph infection that can lead to hospitalization.

Makeup Contamination

The minute you open a new lipstick, mascara, foundation, or skin care product, the process of contamination begins. The air carries bacteria, pollutants, germs, and fungus of various types. Your finger, dipped into your makeup or skin care product, is loaded with bacteria.

Makeup samples are also a cause for concern. ABC’s Good Morning America visited 10 stores in two states and tested 30 specimens of eye shadow, foundation, and lipstick at the makeup counters. The results will shock you: 20% of makeup samples contained mold, yeast, and/or fecal matter. In the words of Linda Wells, Editor-in-Chief of Allure magazine and an expert in the field of make-up and beauty, “To me, makeup testers are like Petri dishes,” she told “GMA.” “I would not put anything in that tester on my face.”

Makeup Tool Contamination

Every time you dip your makeup brush into makeup and apply to your face, you have started the contamination process. Dead skin cells, bacteria, dust and pollutants become trapped in the brush fibers. Over time these contaminants can irritate your skin, leading to dermatitis or even a staph infection.

Safety Tips

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water before applying makeup or other products to your face.
  2. Squeeze makeup sponges in hot, soapy water and rinse well after each use.
  3. Wash makeup brushes regularly. Not sure how? Here’s a Wiki with makeup brush pointers!
  4. Mascara, eyeliner and any cream or liquid used around your eyes have a shorter shelf life than other cosmetics, according to the FDA. Toss after 3 months. Yes, it’s painful to throw away makeup but an eye infection is even more painful.
  5. Each time you add water to a product, such as eye shadow, you add germs. “The things that are most likely to give you an infection are creams or things that are wet or damp,” according to Dr. Andrea Thau, a NY Optometrist and a spokesperson for the American Optometric Association.
  6. Powders, pencils and lipstick or gloss should be thrown away after 18 months. For gloss in a jar, toss after 12 months. Ditto for Blistex, Carmex, and similar lip treatments.
  7. Creams, liquids and moisturizers last 6-12 months if in bottles or jars; slightly longer if in pump bottles, which are harder to contaminate since you don’t dip your fingers into the product.
  8. Do you use an eyelash curler? It’s loaded with dead skin and bacteria unless you wash it with soap and hot water and remove stuck-on mascara between uses.
  9. Since it’s tough to remember when you bought a product, use a Sharpie to write your purchase date directly on the container or on a small sticker you apply to the container. Alternatively, download the iPhone app from Beauty Alert for $1.99 to be reminded automatically on your iPhone! Beauty Alert also sells packets of 20 stickers in 3, 6, 12 and 18-month categories for $5.
  10. Avoid super-sizing your makeup and skin care products. Although it may seem cheaper to buy large sizes, smaller containers can be used completely within the recommended time frame, thus saving you money.
  11. Clean out your makeup bag with hot water and soap, let dry completely. Makeup can quickly absorb germs that love the dark, moist environment of a makeup bag.
  12. Don’t apply your makeup in the bathroom, where humidity creates a fertile field for mold, fungus, and streptococcus (and other bacteria) to grow.
  13. Never share your makeup. Never, never, never.

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