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Your Makeup Might Be Harboring Toxic Bacteria — Here’s How to Protect Yourself


You may have heard that there could be some potentially harmful bacteria hanging out in your washing machine and dryer, but did you know that your makeup bag could also be harboring germs too? New research out of Aston University has found that your cosmetic products could be contaminated with nasties like E. coli and even Staphylococci — yuck!

The researchers for this study set out to determine the nature and extent of bacterial contamination in used cosmetic products including lipstick, lip gloss, eyeliner, mascara, and beauty blenders. Used products were donated and bacterial cultures were collected from the samples. Results showed that a whopping 79 to 90 percent of them were indeed contaminated with high levels of potentially harmful bacteria.

All (yes, 100 percent!) of the beauty products studied showed traces of fungi and enterobacteriaceae — a family of bacteria including species like E. coli and salmonella. Unsurprisingly, the dirtiest of them all was beauty blenders or makeup sponges. Of the donated beauty blenders, it was noted that 93 percent had not been cleaned and 64 percent had been dropped on the floor (mostly in the bathroom!) and continued to be used. The study authors also explain that since sponges tend to absorb moisture and remain damp when enclosed in a makeup bag, they become the perfect breeding ground for bugs. 

“Cosmetics with high water content are at risk of supporting microbial growth following in-use contamination,” the study noted. This means products like lip gloss and mascara are more likely to harbor bacteria. Luckily for us, there’s a growing trend in waterless makeup products that are also environmentally friendly, like this hydrating lip oil we love from Pinch of Color ($21, Amazon)! 

What’s more, the research also highlighted how common it for people to use toxic expired products (especially mascara), showing that 97 percent of those who donated makeup admitted to using products past their expiration dates. Perhaps it’s time to check your product labels!

In general, the researchers noted that the best thing to do to protect yourself from harmful bacteria in your makeup is to practice better makeup hygiene. In a press release, lead researcher Amreen Bashir, PhD,  stresses washing beauty blenders regularly and drying them thoroughly. More specifically, consider storing your makeup away from areas like the bathroom, and toss products that aren’t good anymore. Additionally, keep products that you use every day like makeup brushes clean. Need a refresher on how to do it? Check out our expert-approved method, here.

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