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How Germy Is Your Makeup?


The Huffington Post   Posted: 02/17/2012 7:58 am

Maybe it's your favorite shade of eyeshadow or blush, a seemingly-endless bottle of moisturizer, or a killer lipstick you only use sparingly -- whatever the reason, we all have at least one makeup product we hold onto ... for far too long.

You probably know to be skeptical of a discolored foundation or a dried-out tube of mascara, but do you know the general shelf-life of your cosmetics? If your makeup has dried up, smells strange or generally looks off, it may have become a bacteria feeding ground. Jeffrey Benabio, M.D., a Kaiser Permanente dermatologist in San Diego tells The Huffington Post that all kinds of bacteria, viruses and fungi can make a home out of your beauty products.

Makeup can also go bad, says Dr. Benabio, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. "Some of the more natural makeups that don't have preservatives are prone to spoiling," he explains, but those searching for all-natural cosmetics or products for sensitive skin often want to avoid those same preservatives. "It's a trade-off that we all have to make," says Dr. Benabio.

The best thing you can do to prevent both germy growth and spoiling makeup is to take better care of your products. Just like with sunscreen, products exposed to high heat or direct sunlight -- say, if you left your makeup bag in your car -- need to be tossed sooner, says Dr. Benabio. You'll also want to keep containers and bottles closed tightly, as exposing active ingredients, like vitamins and antioxidants, to the air can cause oxidation, the same process that turns a sliced apple brown, he explains. "It's not that it's spoiled, but it's not going to help you at that point, it's used up its potency," he says. Last but not least, don't store makeup in the bathroom, where heat and humidity encourage all sorts of icky growth. "Take a look in your shower," says Dr. Benabio. "That can grow in your makeup, too."

Assuming you follow the rules of proper care, how long will your favorite beauty products last? Click through the slideshow below to find out when it's time to toss your makeup and the health risks of hanging on to it too long.

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  • Stick Concealers Or Concealers With Wands

    If you use these to cover up breakouts, they may have picked up bacteria from those blemishes. In general, it's best to <a href="" target="_hplink">toss them within a year</a>, according to <em>SELF</em>.

  • Mascara And Liquid Eyeliner

    A good rule of thumb is to <a href="" target="_hplink">replace liquid eye products</a> like mascara and liner every three months, according to the FDA. If that sounds a little excessive, you're not alone: 92 percent of women surveyed by the College of Optometrists in London in 2007 said they <a href="" target="_hplink">kept their mascaras longer than six months</a>. However, eye infections, especially pink eye, can easily spread via makeup. "Anything where you know you're contaminating the [products] you're using, it's worth tossing them and starting over," says Dr. Benabio. The wand may even pick up errant <a href="" target="_hplink">airborne bacteria</a>, worried Jaklin Idris, North American director of education for Paris-based skin-care brand Darphin, in the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">whitneyinchicago</a></em>

  • Concealer Or Foundation

    If you touch your makeup, then touch your face, then dip back into the makeup again, you're essentially hand-delivering bacteria into your makeup supply. It's best to apply face makeup with a brush or a sponge and <a href="" target="_hplink">replace the product every six months</a>. But brushes and sponges aren't immune to bacteria invasions either. Brushes should be washed in between applications and <a href="" target="_hplink">sponges should be replaced once a week</a>, according to WBAL TV. Dr. Benabio recommends using disposable sponges whenever possible, since so many of us forget to regularly clean our brushes (guilty!). "People don't think about the bacteria that can lurk on them," he warns. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">Jörg Weingrill</a></em>

  • Moisturizer

    No surprise here -- products meant to <a href="" target="_hplink">hydrate your skin</a> are full of, you guessed it, water. The more water in a product, the better chance bacteria have of breeding and surviving, according to Discovery Health.

  • Lipstick Or Gloss

    The water content in wet lip products ups the risk of spreading germs, so <em>Good Housekeeping</em> recommends <a href="" target="_hplink">tossing after two years</a>. However, if you have a hunch something is lurking on your lipstick, ditch it sooner. "If you just had a cold sore, you certainly would want to start over with any makeup used in that area," says Dr. Benabio. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">Mai Le</a></em>

  • Blush, Bronzer, Shadow And Powder

    Because <a href="" target="_hplink">powder products</a> contain little water, they last longer than other makeup, as long as two years, according to Discovery Health. <em>Flickr photo by <a href="" target="_hplink">Franklin Park Library</a></em>

  • Keep Your Wands To Yourself

    Now that you know all about the creepy-crawlies living on your beauty products, it's a good time to remind you that you don't really want to go around<a href="" target="_hplink"> sharing those products</a> with, well, <em>anyone</em>. Lip products can spread the herpes virus, even when no visible cold sores are present, and mascara wands and other eye products are notorious spreaders of pink eye.

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