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How germy is your makeup?

Can makeup make you sick? You wash your hands after using the restroom and before you eat, but if you’re using four-year-old eye shadow, your hygiene habits may not be enough. Contaminated or old cosmetics can contain germs that lead to acne, rashes, pink eye, staph infections and even herpes.

“Bacterial contamination can lead to eye and skin infections such as cellulitis (generalized infection in the tissue) and abscesses (walled off pockets of pus and infection),” says Piedmont dermatologist Melissa Babcock, M.D.

Read on to find out if your makeup is causing blemishes rather than just covering them up.

When to replace your makeup 

The government does not require cosmetics companies to print expiration dates on their products, so try to keep track of when you opened your products.

Dr. Babcock recommends replacing your makeup according to the following guidelines: 

  • Mascara and eyeliner: Every three months
  • Liquid foundation, liquid concealer and cream eye shadow: Every six months
  • Powder and stick concealer, lipstick, lip gloss, hair products: Every year  
  • Powder eye shadow, face powder, blush: Every two years
  • Sunscreen: Six months after opening or by the expiration date printed on the bottle
  • Fragrance: Every few years if kept out of direct sunlight and humidity
  • Nail polish: No specific expiration date, but eventually it will become dry and difficult to apply

You should immediately discard your makeup if: 

  • You notice a change in color, consistency or scent. Mascara, for example, develops a gasoline-like odor when it expires.
  • You develop an eye infection or a cold sore.

Protect yourself from infection-causing germs

  • Thoroughly wash and dry your hands with a clean towel before applying skincare products and makeup.
  • Never share makeup, particularly mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow.
  • Wash your makeup brushes and sponges weekly, or purchase disposable applicators. “I like to buy cosmetic sponge wedges, which are about $2 for 32 sponges,” she says. “I use one side for sunscreen and makeup, and use the other side the next day. Then I throw it away.”
  • Sharpen lip liners or eyeliners, and wipe off the top layer of lipstick before each use.
  • Don’t pump your mascara – doing so allows excess air into the tube, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Keep all containers tightly closed.
  • Keep your products away from excess moisture and high heat. Consider storing your cosmetics and skincare products in a room other than a damp, steamy bathroom.
  • Allow your liquid foundation or lotion to dry first before applying powder products. Otherwise, powder products can develop a film on the top layer.
  • If it’s machine washable, toss your makeup bag in the washer every few months. If not, wipe it down with a damp cloth and let it air dry.

For more health and wellness tips, visit Living Better’s Health & Wellness page.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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