When it comes to looking and feeling your best, you invest your time, energy, and money in finding beauty products you love. For many, this includes spending time at the makeup counter looking over the myriad products and trying on the ones that are most appealing. However, when was the last time you thought about the safety of trying on makeup samples?

    Trying on makeup before buying it may be a great way to determine which products look the best; however, using shared samples may be cause for concern. Shared samples are, unfortunately, a breeding ground for bacteria and germs that are capable of spreading infections from customer to customer. Sharing products with friends and family at home may also put you and your loved ones at risk for shared infections.


    Unfortunately, open samples at the beauty counter are often used by many people, most of whom are complete strangers. Without proper sanitation and hygiene habits on behalf of the store, makeup artists, sales staff, and even the customers, sharing samples may also mean sharing bacterial and viral infections. By sharing makeup, you are also sharing germs. Among the most common germs shared through cosmetics are bacteria that cause pink eye (also called conjunctivitis), flu and cold germs, and germs that cause cold sores.


    While it may be difficult to completely avoid all germs at the makeup counter, there are steps you can take to increase your odds of safety and decrease the risk of spreading infections.

    Single-use samples and the back of your hand: Whenever possible, ask for single-use samples. Such samples should be in closed packages that have not been used by anyone else and thus should not have been exposed to any bacteria or germs from other shoppers. If single-use samples aren’t available, consider applying samples to the back of your hand or to your wrist instead of your eyes, mouth, or face. By doing so, you may be able to avoid infections by limiting exposure to possible bacteria or germs in shared samples.

    Use your best judgment: When trying on makeup at the store, spend time looking around first. Samples should look clean and in good condition, and staff should be using clean or disposable single-use application tools. Even if everything looks clean and the staff appears to be using fresh tools, you may benefit from asking how they ensure safety and what steps they take to reduce the risk of infection.

    Applicators: Ask the salesperson or makeup artist for disposable, single-use applicators or cotton swabs before trying on makeup. If the makeup samples are testers that multiple people have access to or have been used on previous customers, ask that a tissue be wiped across the top. Although this may not remove all bacteria from the sample, it will help reduce risk of infection.


    Once you have purchased your makeup and application tools, you are not entirely out of the woods. Even at home there is the risk of spreading infection through makeup and application tools.

    Keep your products to yourself: Most commonly these infections are spread by sharing makeup with friends or family. Even if you or your loved one does not have a visible or obvious infection, the germs may still be present — putting you both at risk should you share makeup. Thus, the first rule of preventing spread of infection through cosmetics is to simply not share products or applicators.

    Replace products regularly: Although makeup may not show obvious signs of bacterial growth or other infectious germs, it is still important to treat them as products with an expiration date. In the right conditions, bacteria breeds and using a cosmetic product over a prolonged period of time may increase your risk of infection. As a result, be sure to replace products every four to six months, even if there appears to be plenty of makeup left in the container. If you have experienced any type of eye infection, dispose of your eye makeup and application tools immediately. Even expensive, high-end applicators can become contaminated, risking spread of infection or reinfection. Always store your makeup and tools in a clean, dry area at room temperature unless the packaging specifies otherwise, and inspect them regularly for signs of excess wear, damage, and for any other signs that indicate they may not be in ideal condition.

    Although there is no guarantee that you won’t at some time suffer from an infection due to makeup or applicator tools, following good practices will help greatly reduce your risk. Should you develop an eye infection of any kind, whether related to your cosmetics or not, be sure to schedule an evaluation with your eye care specialist at Silverstein Eye Centers. Call Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 for the Kansas City / Independence office to schedule an eye exam.

    Posted July 8, 2014 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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