Makeup is a glorious thing, but we all know that
it can get a little gross over time.
Every time you touch your makeup, you transfer
all the dirt and tiny little organisms on your skin
into the product. The same goes for any brush or
sponge applicator — all those germs will
inevitably get into your makeup, too.
And it’s safe to assume that the average person
is not diligently washing and sanitizing their
hands and brushes before and between using
products. So over time, makeup products will
become full of all kinds of things.
Most of the germs that end up in our makeup are
harmless and ones that are found naturally on
“The makeup will contain your natural flora from
your face, which is kind of like a germ
fingerprint,” Susan Whittier, PhD, associate
professor of clinical pathology and cell biology at
New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University
Germs include bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and
fungi, and they exist everywhere. Actually,
everyone has a specific bacterial ~flora~ (germ
profile) on their skin and inside their bodies, so
germs are totally natural. “These include things
like Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus
viridans, and Micrococcus,” Whittier says.
But you should avoid pathogens — which are
different from normal germs. A pathogen is any
bacteria, virus, or other organism that causes
disease or infections. Think: staph aureus, E.
coli, strep, salmonella, etc.
But using the same products forever without
cleaning them can allow bacteria, viruses, and
fungi to grow that put you at risk for a whole host
of health problems.
For instance, if you apply makeup with dirty
hands, use your products when you’re sick,
share makeup with someone else, never clean it,
etc. And it’s not just that you’re transmitting
germs to your makeup — you’re then getting that
bacteria-ridden makeup in your mouth, eyes,
and any broken skin.
“If you have an open cut or pimple, the dirty
makeup could get in there and cause an
infection like staph — or if it’s your eye, it can
cause irritation or conjunctivitis [pink eye],”
Whittier says. And viruses like the flu or a cold
— or even the herpes simplex virus — can also
survive on lipsticks for days to weeks thanks to
the waxes and proteins in them.