Turns out your makeup bag is crawling with superbugs and bacteria

Ladies, it doesn’t matter if you store your make-up in luxe cosmetics bags like the currently popular TUMI Voyager cosmetic case, $195, or the bright pink Tory Burch Perry Quilted cosmetics bag, which will set you back $118.

Whatever you carry, if you don’t wash your hands, or clean your makeup applicators, chances are makeup bag riddled with dangerous superbugs including E. coli, Staphylococci, and salmonella. Researchers from Birmingham’s Aston University tested 467 in-use eyeliners, lipsticks, mascaras, sponges and lip glosses and found the bacteria in more than nine out of ten in-use beauty products.

“The results were astonishing,” said study leader, microbiologist and Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences Dr. Amreen Bashir, in a release. “We found that 70% to 90% of all our products were contaminated.”

Beauty blenders the worst in bacteria

The worst culprit, she said, were the beauty blenders, a hugely popular cosmetics product that can be described as a teardrop-shaped sponge that is used to apply makeup. They were not only the most likely to contain harmful bacteria, but, “twenty-six percent of these had fecal matter present on them,” said Bashir.

The tests found that nearly all beauty blenders (93%) had not ever been cleaned, despite more than two thirds (64%) being dropped on the floor at some point during use. The research is the first to look at beauty blenders, whose are ubiquitous, and have who operate under the trademarked name BEAUTYBLENDER (although there are knockoffs) and have sold 6.5 million products worldwide. A standard BEAUTYBLENDER costs $20 and recommends that it be replaced after three months, and the brand does sell a liquid and solid accompanying cleanser.

After the bacteria on the beauty blender products, the highest concentration was found on eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick.

The problem

Researchers found the bacteria on blending sponges, mascara and lip gloss testing. But there was also user error: owners said the items had not been washed after being dropped on the floor or were far past their expiration date.

Next steps: companies should educate consumers

Study leader Dr Amreen Bashir said cosmetic companies should do more to protect customers by making expiration dates and cleaning requirements more recognizable on the packaging. She also expressed concern over consumers’ “poor hygiene practices when it comes to using make-up, especially beauty blenders.”

Bashir called for more to be done to educate consumers and the cosmetics industry about the necessity to cleanse beauty blenders often and make sure they are completely dry, as well as not using cosmetics after its expiration date.

Tips: wash, clean, and repeat

Bashir had some tips to keep your makeup bag and makeup as bacteria-free as possible. Although it seemed surprising that adult women needed tips about washing their makeup applicators, hands, and face – apparently this study proves they do.

  • “Always wash your hands and your face before applying any products.”
  • “Always discard your products by the expiration date.”
  • “Always keep your products clean. This means washing your applicators, your brushes, and your beauty blenders.” (All you need to do to cleanse a beauty blender is run it under warm water and rub it against a bar of soap).
  • “Never, ever share your products with anybody else.” Well, that’s just common sense!

The research was led by Dr Amreen Bashir and Professor Peter Lambert of Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences.

The findings were published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.