You are using an older version of Internet Explorer that is not supported on this site. Please upgrade for the best experience.

Dirty Make-Up: How to Keep Harmful Bacteria Out of Your Handbag (Video)

July 07, 2016
Various Cosmetics

Something in your handbag could be making you sick. Believe it or not, make-up products could pose a health risk.

Mary Ellen Scales, RN, chief infection control officer at Baystate Medical Center says that serious steps should be taken to help keep you from contracting an illness from your beauty products. In 2010, the FDA received 169 reports of infections and other adverse events associated with cosmetics.

While many people use wipes and other disinfecting cleaners all over our houses, , we never think about cleaning the very products we place directly on our faces, lips and eyes- which can be the entry-ways for bacteria and germs to get into our bodies.


A sneeze or cough while applying makeup can leave germs and bacteria on the make-up surface. The skincare products you use before makeup application can contain bacteria which then cross-contaminate your makeup-especially when using a sponge or a puff for application. The hands are always carrying bacteria and those bacteria are transferring into your products-particularly if you use your fingers to apply makeup! Re-applying lipstick or lip-gloss after eating could lead to food particles and possible bacteria on your lipstick.

The following tips below can help keep your make-up free of bacteria:

• Never share cosmetics. Cross contamination occurs when two or more people use the same application tools and make-up.

• Don’t store above 85 degrees Fahrenheit. High temperature can cause the preservatives in make up to weaken.

• Wash your hands and cosmetic tools before application. The bacteria on your hand and brush can increase the risk of an infection.

• Look for chemical changes, including; a rancid odor, color changes or changes in texture or consistency and discard immediately.

• Date your make-up when you buy it. Write the month and year-that way you know when it expires. Six months is a good rule of thumb.


Beware of Tester Make-UpMake Up Compact

It’s not just the make-up in your handbag that can pose a health risk- sample make-up found in retail stores can, too. A recent study found that cosmetic-counter makeup testers can host some potentially dangerous forms of bacteria.

The study found testers and makeup counters were contaminated with a variety of germs, from the type of staph bacteria found on doorknobs to E. coli. It’s possible to contract herpes from a tube of lipstick if a previous user had a cold sore, and conjunctivitis [pinkeye] can be transferred via eye pencils or mascara. Contaminated makeup testers also could lead to problems on the skin's surface.

While store employees practice proper sanitation techniques when applying the testers, the culprit turns out to be poor hygiene by customers. As the day goes on, the samples become increasingly contaminated from dirty hands, sneezing, and coughing.

No need to shun make-up testers altogether, though. Follow these tips to help avoid harmful bacteria:

• Avoid testing on lips and eyes, which are the most vulnerable to infection; use the back of your hand.

• Try makeup at a counter manned by a salesperson who can oversee hygienic usage, including single-use applicators.

• Wash your hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer before and after visiting a makeup counter.

• Test only products that come from a shaker or a squeeze or pump dispenser, or those that are single use.

• The safest route: Don't use testers at all, and buy your makeup from a store where you can return it. Inquire about the return policy first.