Ladies, when you walk into that cosmetic store, do you request a new brush to test the make-up, or a new spreader for your lipstick or do you use what has already been used?
And do you share the same brush for your make-up or the same lipstick or lip gloss with your friends? How often do you clean the brushes you use? Do you check your product expiry date?
According to researchers, sharing of the products, not cleaning and using expired products, is dangerous and can cause either herpes or blindness.
According to findings published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, the vast majority of in-use make-up products such as mascara, lip gloss, lipsticks and sponges are contaminated with potentially life-threatening superbugs because most of them are not cleaned and are used far beyond their expiry dates.
The new research, led by Dr Amreen Bashir and Prof Peter Lambert of Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, has shown that nine out of 10 in-use beauty products contain superbugs including E.coli and Staphylococci.
European Union guidance holds make-up brands to strict hygiene standards and states that E.coli, in particular, should not be found in any concentration in new cosmetic products. However, there is currently limited consumer protection around the risks of contaminating products while in use.
The study tested 467 make-up products, donated by people in the UK, for bacterial and fungal contamination and found that 90 per cent contained potentially deadly germs.
The make-up products examined (lipstick, lip gloss, eye liners, mascaras and beauty blenders) had between 100 and 1,000 individual bacteria, except for beauty blenders, which had an average of a million bacteria. As few as 100 cells of some bacteria can cause infection.
The products, when shared, could pose a significant health threat if used by a non-infected person.
According to Prof Lambert, both E.coli and Staphylococci were found in used eye-liner and mascara.
“These bacteria can cause irritation and conjunctivitis (pink eye). Although the symptoms of conjunctivitis tend to be mildly itchy, watery eyes in extreme cases can lead to sight loss,” he says.
And the germs causing conjunctivitis can spread to other parts of the body, which can trigger a more serious secondary infection.
The sponges used to apply skin foundation products were found to have the highest levels of potentially harmful bacteria, with the vast majority (93 per cent) not having ever been cleaned, despite more than two-thirds (64 per cent) being dropped on the floor at some point during use.
The researchers found these products (sponges) are particularly susceptible to contamination as they are often left damp after use, which creates an ideal breeding ground for harmful bacteria.
When the Sunday Nation sought the views of Kenyan women with regard to sharing, applying products in cosmetic stores and cleaning the sponges after use, most of them admitted that they always share and that some of the products take years before they are washed.
“Could this be the reason I am struggling with acne that never goes away. I have never washed my sponge since I bought it last year.
“I have been sharing make-up with my sister using the same sponge and lipsticks too. Both of us now have acne,” says Tabitha Mulama.
For one Sylvia Atieno, whenever she wants to go out on a date and she is in town, she goes to any cosmetic shop for a makeover.
“Unfortunately, they use brushes and lipsticks that they use on all customers. I have never thought that this could have an impact. From today I know, I better use my own products,” she told the Sunday Nation team.
In a survey of cosmetic shops in the central business district, the Sunday Nation team noticed testers of lipsticks, powders, however, when one has to test the products they either buy their sponges to apply the powder or use what is provided, which has already been used by others.
There is no new spreader for the lipsticks. One uses an opened one without minding who might have used it before you.
The lipsticks and lip gloss in the sample study contained Staphylococci and various bacteria associated with faecal matter.
The bacteria could cause redness, swelling and inflammation of the lips, which can be treated with antibiotics or antibacterial creams.
“If the germs spread to the blood or deeper tissues of the body, the infection can become life-threatening,” he says.
Make-up brushes also have the potential to act as suitable homes for bacteria.
Often the brushes are dampened to help the application of eye shadows or foundation.
However, this environment has the potential to promote rapid bacterial growth.
The study revealed most beauty products come with preservatives to stop bacteria from growing, but they have a finite shelf life.
All cosmetics have expiry dates, which are calculated based on the length of time the preservatives in the product are able to control contamination.
However, the study shows people are using products beyond the expiry dates and allowing microbes to build up.
“To avoid contamination, make sure you discard make-up that has passed the expiry period, don’t apply make-up if you have an infection or broken skin, never share cosmetics with friends, and definitely avoid using make-up samples in stores,” says Dr Bashir.
Recently, a Californian woman sued Sephora, a cosmetics company, claiming she contracted herpes from using one of the cosmetic store’s lipstick samples.
Dr Bashir advised that to avoid germs from cosmetics, the sponges should be cleaned often with warm soapy water.