There's A LOT Of Bacteria Lurking In Your Makeup Bag

Deep in the depths of your makeup bag, there are some shocking truths that you’d probably rather not know. From that year-old liquid foundation to those unwashed brushes, there's a lot of bacteria building up. And while we’ve been turning a blind eye, it's been multiplying. Big time.

“It’s a well-known fact that makeup bags are a breeding ground for bacteria,” explains Dr. Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. “Many laboratory-based tests where makeup items have been swabbed have shown the growth of all sorts of different microbes that can cause infection.”

Nancy Crossley, makeup artist and founder of Beauty So Clean, adds, “We have done studies with outside labs and on average, 11 out of 25 products tested contained Staphylococcus aureus [a common cause of skin infections and food poisoning], Pseudomonas aeruginosa [which can trigger bloodstream infections and pneumonia], and E. coli.”

So how much bacteria could be in YOUR makeup bag? Short answer: probably more than you think. But there’s also a lot you can do about it. Read on to find out how.
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Learn how to store your stash.

We know you love your printed-nylon makeup bag, so we’re sorry to tell you that it’s actually a lot more beneficial to use a standard clear one. Bye, bright colors and personalized initials. Hello, see-through plastic. Why?

“Bacteria can build up anywhere that is dark, warm, moist, and has nutrients — so your makeup bag is the perfect place,” warns Dr. Helen Webberley, general practitioner for “Imagine the warm petri dishes you used during science at school — a foundation compact is a pretty similar piece of kit!”

Suffice to say, where you store your makeup bag is key, too. Keep it away from heat and out of direct sunlight.
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Keep it clean.

As well as putting your makeup bag through the wash once a month, the products you keep in it need to be regularly sanitized, too.

“Use alcohol wipes to clean tweezers and eyelash curlers, and wash your makeup brushes monthly,” Dr. Mahto recommends. “To do this, use either a mild olive oil, antibacterial soap, or shampoo mixed with warm water. Rinse them thoroughly, blot them dry with a clean towel, and leave them to dry flat overnight.”
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Check the expiration date.

All items have a different shelf life, so keep an eye on how long they should be kept in your makeup collection for. This can be found on the label. For example, a liquid foundation lasts for around 12 months (seen as 12M) while a mascara should only be used for about three (3M).

“Contaminated mascara wands and eyeliners can increase the risk of conjunctivitis,” explains Dr. Mahto. “Contact lens wearers are also in danger of contracting a condition called keratitis, which is when bacteria from makeup contaminates the lens and causes problems with the cornea.”

After an eye infection, make sure you start fresh with all of your eye makeup — it’s costly, but essential.
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Think before you buy (and apply).

Before you hand over your credit card, it’s important to consider what your makeup is in. With liquids, “Go for ones that come in tubes rather than pots and jars,” advises Dr. Mahto. “Every time you put your finger into a pot of makeup, you deposit bacteria into the mixture.”

Use a clean spatula, brush, or cotton pad to apply, so that your hands don’t have to come into contact with the contents. If your absolute favorite product doesn’t come in a tube, empty it into a disposable one.

How you apply products counts, too. “Our hands always carry bacteria from daily travel on the tube, in taxis, and public washrooms. It can transfer to your products, especially if you use your fingers,” warns Crossley.

The same rule applies to foundation sticks. “The key is to minimize the amount of bacteria you put into the product in the first place, so avoid applying it directly onto your skin,” says Dr. Webberley. It’s also good to be aware of your surroundings. That means you should skip subway application.

Touching-up after meals can be hazardous, too. “Reapplying lipstick or lipgloss after eating could lead to decaying food particles and bacteria left on your lipstick,” says Crossley.
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Don’t let the bag bugs bite.

While all this sounds slightly scary, it really doesn’t have to be — as long as you’re aware of the risks and know how to stay on top of them. Stay hygiene-savvy, keep everything up-to-date, and for goodness sake, don’t become so neurotic that you feel you have to stop wearing makeup altogether.
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