The three bad beauty habits that make you sick (and your makeup filthy)

Feeling under the weather but have no idea why? If you think you’ve covered all the bases by showering daily, taking your vitamins, and washing your hands regularly - think again. We do so many things to keep those dreaded germs and bacteria away, but those culprits for disease may be lurking in our favorite beauty products!

Don’t freak out but these micro-organisms are everywhere, even on stuff that look clean. Not all of them are harmful but those that are can cause anything from eye infections to cold sores, or even a nasty cold! We may not even realize that our love for makeup can increase our exposure to these disease carriers. Are you guilty of these bad beauty habits?

Bad Beauty Habit #1: Using makeup testers directly on your face

Understandably, shoppers want to try products first before buying. The problem is, we have no idea how long those testers have been sitting out in the open or if people washed their hands before coming into contact with the products (they probably didn’t). Yes, we all love going on a swatchfest but it's not worth risking your health over. Here's what you should do instead:

  • Always wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer before and after doing a beauty run.
  • Never ever use the testers directly on your face, particularly for eye and lip products. Swipe it on your finger instead and hold it up against the area to help you visualize how it would look on you. If you really want to try it on your face, ask the SA to sanitize the cosmetics.
  • Bring isopropyl alcohol (at least 70% solution) or anti-bacterial wipes to disinfect surfaces. For powder and cream-stick products, wipe off the surface with the alcohol (on a tissue or cotton ball) to disinfect and take off the topmost layer. Liquids and creams in jars cannot be disinfected so give those a hard pass.
  • Never use applicators on display unless you’re sure they’ve been disinfected. Your sanitized fingers are a safer option. If the SA offers you a free makeover, request for disposable applicators or make sure that the brushes are cleaned first.
  • Your safest bets would be products that are dispensed by pump or squeeze tube. Just wipe off the tip first.
  • If possible, try to get samples to use at home. Bring a small jar if the brand doesn't have ready samples to give away.

Bad Beauty Habit #2: Sharing makeup with both friends and strangers

Trooping to the comfort room with your girlfriends or touching up your lipstick after a meal gives you a peek at your BFF's current HGs. You may have compared and admired items from each other's kikay kits, and perhaps even asked to try it on (it would be really rude to swatch without their consent!) Even if we’re aware of the health risks, we still end up sharing our makeup when asked. You wouldn’t want to be labeled selfish or paranoid over such a small thing but whenever you do so, you also share microbes and that's hardly a nice thing to do.

The same happens whenever you buy or sell used makeup - it doesn’t matter if they’re “gently loved” or simply “swatched.” As long as a product has been opened, you can’t be totally sure it’s completely clean. The makeup may not have been used but it could have been sneezed at (ick) or exposed to household pets. Even if you do know the seller well, you just might be getting more than what you bargained for! Here's what you should do to keep safe:

  • Sanitizing is part of the solution. Do it before and after sharing makeup. When asking permission to swatch, make sure to specify where you're applying the product exactly then clean it off after use.
  • If you're borrowing makeup as part of your look (like for a special occasion), make sure to use your own clean brushes and applicators, or disposable ones.
  • Avoid purchasing used makeup that are impossible to sanitize, like liquid lipsticks, lip glosses, and mascara. Yes, it’s possible to sanitize the applicators but it contaminated everything else when it comes in contact with the product contents. Remember: moisture is a breeding ground for germs and bacteria so if you must insist, buy at your own risk.
  • Check all the details of the product you plan on buying: authenticity, batch codes, expiration dates, and any damage to the packaging (cracks and holes can expose the product to pathogens).

Bad Beauty Habit #3: The tiny thoughtless things we do

Yes, you might be putting yourself at risk with ~small~ things you don't really think about.

  • Do you pump your mascara wand instead of swirling it around in the tube? 
  • Do you forget to wash your hands before doing your skin care or makeup routine? Do you keep beauty products well after their expiry dates
  • Do you neglect to cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough while applying makeup?
  • And here’s a killer: do you use your makeup when you're sick?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you’re inadvertently causing bacteria growth in your cosmetics. Keep your makeup germ-free to safeguard your health and prolong product shelf life with these tips:

  • Always be mindful of everything that touches your cosmetics: brushes, sponges, other tools, and your fingers. Clean your tools properly and regularly (even with a DIY brush cleaner recipe). Cleanse your hands thoroughly before handling skin care and makeup products.
  • After eating, wipe your mouth properly before reapplying lip products. You really don't want to find food particles stuck in your expensive lippie!
  • Sanitize your cosmetics regularly. Products like the Beauty So Clean Cosmetic Sanitizer Mist and Cosmetic Sanitizer Wipes (available from Zalora) are pretty nifty, or stock up on 70% isopropyl alcohol.
  • If you can get away with it, don’t use your makeup when you have a communicable disease like cough, colds, cold sores or sore eyes. If you really really have to, stick to products that can be dispensed with pumps. Otherwise, use a clean spatula to get enough product to use and avoid double-dipping. 
  • Always be on the lookout for any changes in your makeup products. If it changes color, texture, or starts to smell funky, throw it away. It’s just not worth the risk.

The truth is we can’t evade pathogens completely but we should do our best to minimize the risk of getting sick from them. Do you have other tips for keeping your beauty habit germ-free?

Sources: Prevention, Women's Health Mag, Total Beauty, Microbiology Online