Avoid Infection from Makeup: When to Toss, What to Keep

+ CV Skinlabs Team

When even the grocery store starts providing anti-bacterial wipes to use on shopping carts, you know that as a culture, we’re terrified of germs. However, we seem oblivious when it comes to makeup. Old makeup puts our health at risk just as much as a neighbor’s touch-perhaps even more so when we’re going through cancer treatment and our defenses are down.

According to Betsy Stevens of “All You Magazine,” aged cosmetics can cause skin infections, eye infections, and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Yet a survey by the College of Optometrists found that 25 percent of women used cosmetics older than four years, 92 percent kept their mascara longer than six months, nearly two-thirds used eye makeup more than two years old, and a quarter shared makeup with friends. “Mascara can be a hotbed for bacteria,” says Dr. Susan Blakeney, Optometric Adviser, “and most women are either unaware of or simply ignoring manufacturers’ recommended use-by-dates.”

The second you break the seal, the deterioration process begins. Air, your skin, and moisture all introduce potential bacteria, and it gets worse with each use. “From the time you open it,” says nationally known makeup artist Jeni Lee Dinkel, “the life span and effectiveness of the product decreases and bacteria grows.” Unfortunately, most makeup products don’t have expiration dates. You probably already know the items in your makeup drawer that are older than they should be. However, here are a few basic guidelines. Throw away:

•    Any damaged products (broken containers, cracked seals)
•    Mascara over 3 months old
•    Liquid foundations and concealers over 3 months old
•    Lipstick, lip pencils and eye pencils over 6 months old
•    Natural cosmetics over 6 months old
•    Powders, eye shadows, and blushes over 1 year old
•    Any product that changes color or texture, or begins to smell funny

Store makeup in a cool, dry place (away from the bathroom), and always close products securely to limit exposure to contaminants.

How about your makeup brushes? With your sensitive skin, it’s best to run these through a wash cycle at least once a week (more would be better). Run the brush under tap water, drop some shampoo in your palm, swirl the brush around, rinse until the water runs clear, reshape the bristles, and air dry over the table or sink edge. For lip and eyeliner brushes with more stubborn product cling, try a little olive oil on the bristles, then wipe on a paper towel until the color is gone before washing.

What about your eyelash curler? Find mascara caked to the rubber strip, even the metal? Use some hot water and soap and wash it well, and use wet wipes to get off any stubborn material left behind. And even if you’re obsessed with clean makeup, here’s one you probably forgot: your makeup travel bag. Powders, pencil tips, and liquids can get onto the inside lining, where they then sit for months or years, usually in the dark-the perfect setup for bacteria. Take a wet wipe to that inside lining, or turn it inside out and soap it up good with a small brush. If yours is cloth instead of vinyl or plastic, dunk it in the sink with some gentle laundry cleaner. And by all means, if you have old makeup or sponges in there, throw them out.

Of course, in today’s economy, it’s not always easy to replace makeup products. However, according to Dr. Bowers, “saving money” by using old makeup isn’t worth it. “If you end up in the doctor’s office with an infection, all those savings are negated.”
Do you have some tips on keeping your makeup drawer fresh? Let us know!

Photo courtesy of Cvalentine, via

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