Applying Make-up to Under her Eyes

A new study has revealed that the majority of opened, in-use makeup products, such as lip gloss, mascara and blending sponges are contaminated with potentially dangerous bacteria such as E.coli and Staphylococci.

The research published today in the Journal of Applied Microbiology by researchers at Aston University in the U.K., found that 9 out of 10 products tested contained bacteria capable of causing illnesses such as skin infections and even blood poisoning if used near the eyes, mouth or cut or grazed skin.

The risk is especially high in people who are immunocompromised and more susceptible to contract these infections from bacteria which might normally be otherwise kept in check by the immune system. However, the presence of potentially dangerous bacteria in this makeup does not necessarily mean people will get sick and substantial research is currently lacking correlating this.

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The research looked at a variety of makeup products, comprising 467 individual items, including ‘blending sponges,’ contoured sponges used to apply makeup such as skin foundation to the face. These sponges were found to have the highest levels of potentially harmful microbes, likely due to often being left damp after use, creating a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

The study found that two-thirds of users had dropped their sponges on the floor at some point, but that 93% of them had never been cleaned by their owners, further contributing to the likelihood that harmful microbes would be present.

“Consumers’ poor hygiene practices when it comes to using make-up, especially beauty blenders, is very worrying when you consider that we found bacteria such as E.coli – which is linked with fecal contamination – breeding on the products we tested,” said Dr Amreen Bashir, lead author of the study from Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences.

The requirements to put expiry dates on makeup vary widely around the world. In the European Union, most cosmetic products are required to have a “date of minimum durability” i.e. “best used before the end of” or a “period after opening” to show how long the product should be kept or used. However, in the U.S., there are no laws or regulations that require cosmetics to have specific shelf lives or have expiration dates on their labels, according to the FDA.

“More needs to be done to help educate consumers and the make-up industry as a whole about the need to wash beauty blenders [blending sponges] regularly and dry them thoroughly, as well as the risks of using make-up beyond its expiry date,” said Bashir.


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