Superbugs are crawling all over your favorite cosmetics—here’s how to get rid of them

December 4, 2019 Off By

I’ve used the same old makeup palette since December 2014. It features three different sparkly hues, a pale pink blush, and a bronzer that makes me look like I live in sun-soaked Miami Beach. Oh, and (apparently!) about a million “superbugs.”

A study published Monday in the Journal of Applied Microbiology found that “a vast majority” of cosmetic bag items—particularly beauty blenders, mascara, and lip gloss—are contaminated with superbugs. And yes, the researchers out of Aston University did use the words “life-threatening” in their report.

Amreen Bashir, PhD, and Professor Peter Lambert, PhD, who led the study, found the highest levels of potentially harmful bacteria in beauty blenders. In fact, 93 percent of people surveyed said they’d never washed the blender, even though 64 percent had dropped the foundation-blending tool on the floor at some point. Bacteria found in old makeup items can cause illnesses ranging from a mild skin infection to blood poisoning—particularly when the infected makeup is applied near the eyes, mouth, or an open wound.

“Consumers’ poor hygiene practices when it comes to using make-up, 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,” said Dr. Bashir. “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 make-up beyond its expiry date.”

While the report doesn’t necessarily mean you need to jettison your entire beauty collection, like, yesterday, it does call for taking ditching your old makeup palettes, eyeliners, etc. Make sure those makeup brushes get a weekly (or biweekly) cleaning, check the expiration dates on your winter and summer foundations, and wash your beauty blender regularly.

A dermatologist’s full beauty routine:

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