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Makeup hygiene dos and don'ts

Through the centuries, makeup has been used as a form of expression and enhancement. From copper, kohl, lead and oil, ancient Egyptians were fascinated by the ability to change their appearance, even if the ingredients they used were sometimes toxic.

Fast forward thousands of years to the 20th century — the cosmetic industry has come a long way from using poisonous ingredients to all natural products.

The trend is now to use healthy, nontoxic ingredients, but even with the "greenest makeup" bacteria still looms in your favourite mascara and eyeshadow.

“While makeup isn't what it used to be centuries ago, we still have to be mindful of our hygiene practices to avoid skin irritation and potential infections,” says Maureen Acomb, an Infection Prevention Specialist in the Infection Prevention and Control Department at North York General Hospital (NYGH). Maureen Acomb, Infection Prevention Specialist, North York General Hospital

Maureen Acomb, Infection Prevention Specialist in the Infection Prevention and Control Department at North York General Hospital
 
“Makeup contains preservatives to protect most formulas from outside bacteria once a tube has been opened,” says Maureen. “Contamination usually occurs from our skin or hands. While these skin bacteria are often found naturally on human skin, people with a compromised immune system due to illness, old age or chronic illness may develop an infection.”

Maureen says a good example of our own skin bacteria is our eyelashes; they naturally have bacteria on them which can be transferred to a makeup brush once used on the eyelash or eyelid.


Eyelashes naturally have bacteria on them which can be transferred to a makeup brush once used on the eyelash or eyelid.
 
To avoid infections, never share eye makeup.

Over time the infected brush leads to a buildup of bacteria in the cosmetics container. This increases the chance for an eye infection or an allergic reaction with each use of the product.

Contamination of cosmetics can lead to several types of skin and eye infections that range from mild to severe. “Most makeup contains preservatives that help prevent bacteria from forming, but it is still possible to have bacteria grow,” says Maureen.
 

Tips on how to avoid getting germs in your makeup

  • Discard eye makeup after three months.
  • Never share eye makeup.
  • If you develop an infection, immediately discard eye makeup.
  • When sampling eye makeup in stores, use only fresh applicators or fresh sample makeup.
  • If you are allergic, introduce only one new makeup at a time.
  • Before applying eye or face makeup, be sure your face, eyelids and hands are clean.
  • If makeup is discolored or strange-smelling, discard it.
  • Don't allow cosmetics to become covered with dust or infected with dirt or soil (wipe off the container with a damp cloth if you can see dust or dirt).
  • Clean/change brushes used for makeup often.

Remember not to store cosmetics at temperatures above 29 degrees Celsius. The preservative in cosmetics held for long periods of time in hot cars is at greater risk of weakening.

Lastly, Maureen highlights the importance of hand hygiene. “It is a critical first step in preventing contamination of makeup as well as in its safe application."
 
February 6, 2019

This article first appeared in the February 2019 issue of The Pulse, North York General Hospital's community newsletter. Subscribe to receive 10 issues per year.

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