Why Women’s Makeup Can Be Dangerous

Posted on: December 10th, 2019 by Pat Mesiti 2 Comments

As the father of daughters I was horrified to read a recent study that found most women’s make-up bags are nests of harmful bacteria. The study, led by Aston University in Birmingham, found that there are enough bacteria in most women’s makeup kits to cause sickness.

The researchers looked at five key products most women own: lipstick, lip gloss, eyeliners, mascaras, and beauty blenders. They tested the bacterial contents of 467 used beauty products donated by women in the UK. Researchers then asked those women to fill out a questionnaire about how often they used each product, how often the product was cleaned, and whether the product had been dropped on the floor. And believe me what these researchers found is enough to make you want to dump all your makeup in the rubbish bin! And ladies, I know how expensive makeup is but their findings were SCARY!

90 per cent of makeup is contaminated with bacteria

The researchers found that about 90 percent of all used makeup products are contaminated with bacteria, including E coli (a cause of food poisoning), Staphylococcus aureus (which can cause pneumonia, even death), and Citrobacter freundii (the bacteria that causes urinary tract infections). When these types of bacteria find their way to areas like your mouth, eyes, nose, or open cuts on the skin, the researchers say they are “capable of causing significant infections”, and they are particularly dangerous to people with compromised immune systems for example older people, pregnant women, etc. The researchers also warned that not cleaning your makeup regularly can cause you to put hundreds of tiny, itchy dusty mites into your eyes.

The study has been published in a highly reputable scientific journal, The Journal of Applied Microbiology. The researchers may have only look at about 500 makeup products, but there is no reason to believe that the sample is not representative of most women.

Less than 6.4 per cent of all makeup is ever cleaned

The scientists also found that only 6.4 percent of all makeup products they looked at had ever been cleaned. The least frequently cleaned product was the beauty blender sponge. 93 percent of the sponges had never been disinfected, and 64 percent of blenders had been dropped on the floor.

I asked some women friends of mine if they regularly clean their makeup and the answer was no. They felt that makeup was expensive, and only used on their faces and so there was no need to clean it. Also they didn’t want to wash away expensive makeup. After I told them about this study, they all headed out to buy new blending sponges! Sponges are the ones used to apply liquid-based products, like foundation, aren’t they? Because they are always damp I guess it’s no surprise they were teeming with bacteria like E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

Don’t ever share your makeup

The study also found that one of the worse things you can do is share your makeup with someone else. I am so going to tell my teenage daughter about this. If you have a teenage girl in your family I suggest you also tell her about this research. Sharing products increases your changes of coming into contact with harmful bacteria. Cripes, will you ever use a tester in a chemist ever again?

The researchers also warned makeup users to check the use by dates on products. Even if an expired cream or lipstick seems okay, it could be contaminated with bacteria. Gosh, I am so glad I am not a woman.

Throw all your makeup out regularly

Ideally most makeup products should be thrown out between three months to a year, depending on the formula. Liquid eyeliners and mascaras should be kept for a maximum of two months, lipstick for a year provided you haven’t had an infection or shared it with someone else.

After reading this article I told my female friends they would be better off buying cheaper makeup and throwing it out more frequently. They were horrified by the idea of going cheap. What about going to independent websites and reading review for the best, CHEAPEST makeup and buying that, then throw it out more frequently! You’ll be pleased to know this was an acceptable solution to my friends.

How to Clean Your Beauty Products

The experts who did this study recommend cleaning your makeup weekly. I went online and found tips from a professional makeup artist on how to clean your makeup. She recommends using a mild fragrance-free soap, baby shampoo, or face wash to clean your makeup bag and brushes.

You'll also want to be sure your fingers are clean before applying any makeup. Remember every time you dip your finger into a jar of cream or foundation, you're introducing bacteria into it. Also weekly, wipe tweezers and eyelash curlers down with alcohol.

As for solid products like lipstick, they can usually be cleaned with a wipe. You need to remove the surface layer, where the bacteria live.

And don’t forget to give those blending sponges a good soapy wash and rinse and then leave them to dry.

You know there is another option – wear less makeup. True beauty comes from the inside.


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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


  1. Melysa Cathcart says:

    Wear less make-up… You are funny, Pat!
    I had not thought of cleaning down the tweezers, good idea, and easy to wipe off a layer of lipstick now and again.
    A very thoughtful post. Thanks Pat.

  2. Melysa Cathcart says:

    And… Throw away cotton for blenders, no sponges for me, thanks. I use two different brushes to apply, one thicker density one to apply and a broad loose one to blend. They can be washed because I do not use heavy oil based anything on my skin. Oil is for the tips of the long hair… 😉

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