DEC 04, 2019 8:35 AM PST

Potentially Deadly Superbugs Lurk in Many Makeup Bags

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

New work from scientists in the United Kingdom has found that many makeup products, including mascara, lip gloss, and beauty blenders are contaminated with microbes that are potentially dangerous. Millions of UK residents apply make products every day that contain Escherichia coli and Staphylococci, bacteria that can cause serious and even life-threatening infections. These items are not getting cleaned, and are often still being used well past their expiration dates. The findings have been reported in the Journal of Applied Microbiology and are outlined in the video.

Nine out of ten products analyzed in this study harbored bacteria that can cause skin infections or blood poisoning, among other illnesses, if they end up near grazes or cuts, or near the mouth or eyes. People with weak immune systems are at even greater risk.

Sponges called beauty blenders that apply foundation and blushes to skin contained the highest levels of bacteria that may be harmful; it was found that 93 percent of those surveyed had never been cleaned, even though 64 percent had been dropped on the floor at one point or another during their use. These sponges have become widely popular and have been endorsed by many celebrities. Around 6.5 million are thought to have been sold around the world. They are often damp after use, making them especially good bacterial breeding grounds.

"Consumers' poor hygiene practices when it comes to using makeup, 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," noted Dr. Amreen Bashir of Aston University's School of Life and Health Sciences. "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 makeup beyond its expiry date."

Image credit: Public domain pictures

The scientists suggested that makeup users are putting themselves at risk unknowingly and that manufacturers and regulators should be more proactive about protecting consumers; cleaning requirements and prominently-displayed expiration dates could help reduce that risk.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Aston University, Journal of Applied Microbiology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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