The deadly bugs lurking in your make-up kit

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The older I get the less likely I am to slap on the make-up – I am what I am. But I do love a little mascara. A tube lasts me quite a while – over a year. Or did. My adult daughter was horrified by that admission, threw out the old tube and bought me a new one for my upcoming birthday. Surely an over-reaction, I thought. But maybe not given further research.

The majority of in-use make-up products, such as mascara, lip gloss and beauty blenders – those sponges and brushes that some more motivated types use – are contaminated with potentially life-threatening superbugs, according to new research from Aston University in Birmingham and published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Make-up products used every day by billions of people are contaminated with potentially deadly bugs, such as E. coli and staphylococci, the researchers say.

How and why? Because most products are not being cleaned and are used far beyond their expiry dates, say lead researchers Dr Amreen Bashir and Professor Peter Lambert, of the university’s school of life and health sciences.

Bacteria that can cause illnesses ranging from skin infections to blood poisoning if used near eyes, mouth or cuts or grazes were found in nine out of 10 of the products. And the risk is amplified for anyone with a compromised immune system, they say.

The journal report was most critical of the beauty blenders. They were found to have the highest levels of potentially harmful bacteria with the vast majority (93 per cent) never having been cleaned even though more than two-thirds (64 per cent) had been dropped on the floor at some point.

The research is the first to look at the make-up sponges used to blend foundation and apply to the face. Regularly endorsed by celebrities, these sponges are sold in their millions worldwide. The Aston researchers found they are particularly susceptible to contamination as they are often left damp after use, which creates an ideal breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

The researchers say that consumers are unwittingly putting themselves at risk and that manufacturers and regulatory bodies should do more to protect their customers by making expiry dates and cleaning requirements more prominent on packaging. E. coli, in particular, should not be found in any concentration in new cosmetic products.

Dr Bashir said: “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 faecal contamination – breeding on the products we tested.

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

So, over to you to check expiry dates and either ditch or wash your beauty blender or face powder application pad.

Were you aware of the risks in using make-up products past their use-by dates?

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Written by Janelle Ward


Total Comments: 4
  1. 0

    I have had the same makeup sponges for many years and they are washed every time I use them — I also wash any makeup brushes –I also wash my combs very often too and I use my mascara till it is GONE

    • 0

      I’m led to believe A minute in a Microwave Oven kills germs in face washcloths, dish washcloths etc. I wonder if it would work on microwave-safe makeup items; Not that I use makeup LOL:-)

  2. 0

    Is it any wonder that I don’t wear makeup? I don’t bother with it as it comes off just as fast as I can put it on.

  3. 0

    Well al my cloths and the like are always washed — dish cloths used once also tea towels — face washers — bath towels changed every 2nd day



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