There was a time in my life where I was young and carefree and did reckless things. I kissed strangers. I stayed out until the sun came up. I disappointed my parents. I lost my keys twice in one weekend. I drank, a lot, without fear of spending the entire next day in bed spooning an empty 32 oz bottle of blue Gatorade. Worst of all, I repeatedly — not once, not twice, but multiple times, day after day, for years on end — stuck my fingers into open jars of moisturizer, put the product on my face, screwed the top right back on, and continued on with my life like nothing ever happened.
It is my personal prerogative that putting a moisturizer in a jar and then putting your fingers in that jar and putting your fingers on your face over and over again is irresponsible and, frankly, disgusting. I wouldn't dream of doing it now, the same way I cringe to think of the friend of a friend of a friend, whose name was either Alex or Alec, whose iPhone charger I accidentally stole in the mad rush to get him out of my shared apartment in the morning five years ago. Now, in my old age (mid-twenties), I am wiser and more cautious, and certainly know much more about skin care than I did then. Am I also more neurotic? Yes, that too. But goddamnit, I am right.
"Generally speaking, traditional jars are the least sanitary of all the different types of skin-care product," says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. "As you open the top and dip in your fingers, you are exposing the products to microorganisms, which increases the risk for contamination." Contamination! Microorganisms! In your moisturizer. "Using contaminated products can increase your risk of infections as the microorganisms are spread from the cream to your skin."
If you live and die by your frosted-glass jar of crème, you're fine, probably. "To maintain shelf life, these creams contain preservatives that prevent overgrowth of bacteria and other microorganisms," Dr. Zeichner says. But they're not foolproof, and the fact remains that pump dispensers are simply the more sanitary option; twist-off jars are cheaper to manufacture, which makes them more appealing from that standpoint, but the concept of spending money on a nice moisturizer only to put my fingers right back in there boggles my mind.
Still, Dr. Zeichner says, "So long as you are using clean fingers and there is no visible soiling, preservatives within skin-care products should protect them from contamination." Which leads me down a different path: Maybe it's not the packaging that's the problem in my particular situation, but me, at least a little bit. There's always a stray eyelash that gets trapped in the jar, or a tiny piece of lint from my sweater. I have a large dog who sheds, profusely.
For people like me, neurotic people with less-than-spotless lives, many brands make very nice moisturizers that don't require putting your appendages in there: tubes, pumps, even pump jars, like the ones Drunk Elephant makes. I'm not nearly as messy as I used to be — but apparently I'm still nowhere near clean enough to be the kind of person who can put on moisturizer without getting lint in the jar. In the end, I think I'm better for it.
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