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Make Up Bacteria Safety Tips

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

My daughter and her friends share make-up. It doesn't bother me when they share blusher and eye make-up, but it seems very unsanitary when they share lip gloss. Is contamination a problem with lip gloss or do the preservatives help kill bacteria? My daughter thinks I'm worrying for nothing.


Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned Mom,

Cosmetics do contain preservatives to kill bacteria, but there is still the risk of contamination with shared make up. Eye make up has the highest risk of contamination with possible irritation and eye infections. Lip gloss can also spread germs from saliva and lip infections such as cold sores. You could explain to your daughter that sharing make up is the same as sharing bacteria.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlines these cosmetic safety tips to reduce contamination (

1. Keep makeup containers closed tight when not in use.

2. Keep makeup out of the sunlight to avoid destroying the preservatives.

3. Don't use eye cosmetics if you have an eye infection such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), and throw away any makeup you were using when you first discovered the infection.

4. Never add any liquid to a product unless the instructions tell you to.

5. Throw away any makeup if the color changes or an odor develops. Preservatives can degrade over time and may not be able to fight bacteria


Preservatives lose effectiveness over time so the shelf life of cosmetics is limited. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends throwing out old cosmetics because old make-up may have spoiled or become contaminated.

The AAD recommends these make-up products be tossed when they reach their life spans (

1. Powders and shadows: 2 years.

2. Foundation: 1 year

3. Lipstick: 1 year

4. Mascara: 3 months

Also, powder puffs and foundation sponges should be washed or changed regularly

In addition, testing out the make up in department stores has an even higher risk of contamination given the many people who try out the cosmetic. When testing cosmetics in the store, never apply the make up directly, but use a clean cotton swab or tissue to apply the cosmetic to your face.