05 December 2019

Which deadly superbugs could be lurking in your makeup bag?

Harmful superbugs can be transferred from your personal makeup products and tools to your face.

Are you aiming to get all "glammed up" over the festive season? You might, however, want to take a careful look at your makeup bag after reading this.

According to new research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, even the most basic make-up products that you only use on your own face (such as beauty blenders, mascara and lip glosses) can be potentially riddled with superbugs.

Makeup products are used by women all over the world, and unless you are a trained, qualified makeup artist or very aware of germs, chances are you are not cleaning your makeup products and tools nearly as often as you should.

According to lead researchers Dr Amreen Bashir and Professor Peter Lambert from the Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, your everyday makeup can be contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococci.

This is because we don’t clean our makeup products nearly as often as we should. The research especially scrutinised the new-generation egg-shaped makeup sponges (known as beauty blenders) that are used to apply cream products such as foundation and concealer. These were found to have the highest levels of bacteria.

And what’s more shocking, the vast majority of these sponges (a whopping 93%) have never been cleaned or sanitised by their users, even when dropped on the floor after use.

Nasty bugs = nasty health complications

The bacteria found during the research can have dire consequences on your health, ranging from skin infections to blood poisoning, especially since these products are all used on the face, around the mouth or on the eyes.

Another factor that should be taken into consideration is the fact that the sponge is often dampened before makeup application. If you pop the sponge back into your makeup bag or cosmetic drawer, harmful mould or bacteria can continue to flourish on the wet surface. Pair this with bacteria that could have been transferred from your face, or from the makeup product and you have a bacterial hot spot.

Manufacturers should do more, say researchers

According to the news report, researchers believe that manufacturers and regulatory bodies should do more to protect their customers by displaying expiry dates and cleaning instructions more prominently on the packaging.

In addition, it has to be said that some of the most popular brands do manufacture a specific cleaner to be used on these sponges, and it is recommended that the sponge be replaced every three months and cleaned and dried properly after every use.

Clean up your act

If you are a regular user of makeup and are worried about these organisms lurking on your products and face, there are some steps you can take to ensure that your makeup bag stays clean and sanitary:

  • Wash your makeup brushes at least once a week (for personal use – professional makeup artists will clean their own equipment after every use) with a dedicated makeup brush cleaner or a mixture of a mild shampoo, tea tree oil and warm water. Let them dry properly and follow manufacturer recommendations to avoid any damage.
  • Take stock of your makeup bag regularly – chuck everything out and give your containers a good wipe, especially around the openings. Take note of the texture and smell of the products, especially when it comes to mascara, or cream-based products.
  • Many makeup professionals prefer not to use the beauty blender type sponges and invest in disposable latex wedges for their clients. If, however, you do use a beauty blender, wash it regularly in hot water and a detergent such as shampoo or dish soap. Let it dry properly before storing.
  • Don’t share your makeup products with friends and family members, especially mascara and lip products.
  • Educate yourself by checking the expiry date on your products – it will be printed as a little lid, with the number of months before you should throw it out (for example 24m = two years of use before expiration).
  • Wash your hands before handling your makeup and only use on a freshly washed, clean face.
  • Avoid using makeup on an open sore, infected eye or an active breakout (pimples that are still busy erupting) and if you did, discard the product or sanitise the tool. 

Image credit: iStock