Makeup & Germs: 5 Habits We Need to Break Now

makeup-1-842778-mSome of you may have seen the BuzzFeed article that says 1 in 5 makeup testers at department stores contains “yeast, mold, and–brace yourself—fecal matter”? You may find this news surprising or at the very least, disgusting. Years ago this might have surprised me. But sometime after I got my first autoimmune disease, Myasthenia Gravis, I became really conscious of germs in every aspect of my life, which of course includes makeup.   Thankfully, there are precautions we can take to keep makeup fun and safe.

  1. Don’t Use Testers at Stores: Have you ever seen children at a department store playing with makeup testers? Have you ever looked really closely at a lipstick tester and seen hair on it? Thankfully, there are alternatives to testers. A couple years ago (before I became an Arbonne consultant), I was shopping for cosmetics for an awards ceremony. I wanted to look my best when I accepted my award at this national convention. Knowing the risks out there, I brought my own makeup brushes, which I cleaned (see tip #2). I told the salesladies, who are used to using the store’s brushes and their fingers to apply makeup, that I had an autoimmune disease and could not get germs. I also told them my brushes were clean. (I cringe whenever I see women in makeup stores using the store’s brushes, which have been used on at least a dozen other women that day.) I insisted that a tester not be used on my face—some department stores will open a new package of eye shadow for you. Some will not. Other steps you can take including keeping receipts and then returning your purchase if you’re unhappy with it. If you have an urgent need (example: your friend’s wedding is tomorrow), you can buy two different shades of lipstick. Then return the shade that doesn’t work after the wedding’s over. Another option is to ask department stores for samples of products you’ve never tried before. Bringing your own brushes, keeping receipts, and asking for samples are all alternatives. Honestly, isn’t anything better than testers at this point?
  2. Clean Your Brushes: Would you wear your favorite shirt again and again and never wash it? It’s the same way with makeup brushes. You’re supposed to wash brushes every two weeks. I honestly don’t have the energy for a biweekly cleaning. But cleaning them as often as possible is better than not cleaning them at all. Try Japonesque Makeup Brush Cleanser 4.25 oz at Ulta ($12.50). 41kXGbQjLdL._SY300_And I use the Sigma Spa® Brush Cleaning Glove, $35.00. Sigma’s glove has cut the time I spend cleaning brushes in half. The glove also comes with instructions.
  3. Throw Away Mascara After Three Months: After three months, you should throw away your mascara because it becomes a breeding ground to bacteria. Why risk it? Would you keep using milk a month after its expiration date? People tell me they keep using a tube of mascara after three months because they still have a lot left. Fortunately, some mascaras come in deluxe sizes, which are a great way to save money especially if you don’t wear mascara everyday. Some brands also include mascara in sample sizes when they have “free gift with purchase” specials.
  4. Put a Lid On It: Be sure to put caps and lids on all of your makeup products. It’s easy when you’re in a hurry to leave open a pot of eyeliner or a tube of lipstick. But leaving anything uncapped increases your risks of getting germs.
  5. Use Sponges—Not Your Fingers: When I’m applying primer (which makes my makeup last longer) and foundation, I no longer use my fingers. Our hands are always carrying bacteria. My skin is clearest when I’m using these sponges from Target (up and upTM wedges 32 ct, $1.77). These sponges come with and without latex.

–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno


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Hi there! I am a patient advocate, writer, and public speaker most well known for my TEDx Talk, “How to Get Stuff Done When You Are Depressed.” As someone who is juggling 5 illnesses: bipolar 2, myasthenia gravis, endometriosis, psoriasis, and asthma, I’m passionate about helping people who navigate life with both chronic physical & emotional pain. If you’re interested in hiring me to speak at your event, check out the CONTACT tab.

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