From lipstick to eyeliner and blush to mascara, the average person puts about 515 different synthetic chemicals on their body every day. But if you’re not careful, you could be putting on a lot more than you bargained for. Makeup runs the risk of carrying some truly terrifying germs. And your face isn’t the only thing at risk! Although eye and skin infections are the most common ailments derived from bad makeup, the bacteria that can build up in them can spread through the bloodstream or air and infect other parts of your body. In a worst-case scenario, an expired mascara or blush could lead to a respiratory tract infection or even worse. Sound a bit hyperbolic? Well, on Feb. 25 of this very year, Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $72 million in damages for the death of a woman from ovarian cancer that was caused by the talc in its baby powder.
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Unfortunately, cosmetics manufacturers are under very little obligation to protect customers from such nasty scenarios. In fact, there are no laws that require cosmetic manufacturers to print expiration dates on the labels of their products, and federal regulations for makeup have not been updated since 1938. That means when it comes to keeping your face healthy and clean, the only guaranteed safeguard you have is yourself. There are a ton of awesome tips and tricks that you can use to keep your cosmetics fresher longer.
Tip 1: Keep It Cool
You may apply your makeup in the bathroom, but you shouldn’t store all of it there. Bacteria and fungi thrive in moist environments, and the humid conditions in your bathroom will deteriorate your products much more quickly. Storing your makeup somewhere cool and dry will help keep it clean and preserve it longer. Perfume and nail polish are OK to keep close to the sink; the solvents in these products are chemically toxic to microorganisms, degrading their cell walls within seconds of contact. But most other products should be kept somewhere else. You can even kill some bacteria by keeping products in the fridge overnight.
Tip 2: Use a Makeup Station
Construct a small area in your bedroom to organize your makeup. You can invest in a small vanity, available from places like Target and IKEA, or you can make one yourself with a little ingenuity. All it takes is a mirror, a few lights and a couple of small drawers to organize your products. This will give you a cool, dry environment to store your makeup and provide you with a mirror and lighting source to apply your makeup with ease.
Tip 3: Keep Applicators Clean
Overused makeup applicators can be a huge source of potential contamination because every time you use them, you’re exposing them to whatever germs and bacteria are lingering in the air. The best way to protect yourself against this is to invest in disposable applicators. You can buy foundation sponges or mascara brushes in bulk, ensuring that every time you use one, it’s completely clean and fresh. If you do have applicators you reuse on a regular basis, make sure to clean them on a regular basis, too. Wipe your eyeliner pencil with alcohol on a fuzz-free cotton pad; it will dry quickly and stay sterile. If you’re using a makeup brush made from real hair, wash it with baby shampoo. If your brush is made from synthetic hair, use dish-washing liquid.
Tip 4: Know When to Toss It
Keep an eye on your makeup and make sure to get rid of it at the first signs of contamination. It would be great if you could just follow the expiration dates on the packaging, but in most cases manufacturers determine the lifespan of their products themselves, and the dates they decide on can be arbitrary. You have to know when it’s time to toss your cosmetics. Each product has different warning signs. Foundation has spoiled when it starts to go on unevenly, creating a streaky, inconsistent finish. Lipstick will start to dry out and no longer look smooth and creamy on your lips. Mascara turns chalky and powdery, and any lengthening or thickening fibers often separate from the fluid. The smell will also turn, transforming into a gas-like odor. Aging eye shadows and blush will start to get packed down, making it harder to pick up with your brush. Of course, with all these products, you can also use common sense. If you feel your makeup might be going bad, get rid of it. The extra money it costs to buy a replacement is well worth avoiding the health risk.
Tip 5: Don’t Share
We know it goes against one of the most important lessons you learned in kindergarten, but you should never share makeup with friends — unless you’re also cool with sharing whatever germs or bacteria they may be carrying.
Makeup may make you feel amazing, but just be sure to use caution and common sense with your cosmetics. The next time you’re about to apply a little blush, lipstick or whatever, give it a good look and make sure it’s something you’re comfortable putting on your face. And be sure you take steps to keep your cosmetics clean and uninfected. It won’t just increase the life of your makeup; it could increase the length of your own life as well.