Makeup Store Samples Contain Bacteria

by Jessica Willingham

By now, we hope you know that using your friend's mascara wand or blush brush is a big no-no. Makeup is meant for a single person's use, which is why it should come as no surprise that makeup counter samples contain bacteria that could make you sick, break out, or worse.

We've all been there: you're at the makeup counter and want to test out a foundation shade or lip color before splurging on the full-sized item. While some stores, like Sephora, have great return policies, others are not so forgiving. So, you use double-dip the tester Q-tips or apply a swatch on the back of your hand from the bottle, or worse, directly apply the makeup to you skin. While we all do it, it could mean bad news for shoppers with sensitive skin or ones who are auto-immune compromised, according to PIXQ11 news.

One shopper, Nourhan Khaled, learned the hard way. After sampling mascara directly from the tube from a high-end makeup store in New York City, her eye doubled in size with some pretty nasty swelling.

"As soon as I got home, my eye was bloodshot red and completely swollen,” Khaled said, according to PIX11 news. While she can't be 100 percent sure where is came from, she's confident her case of pink eye came from sampling the mascara.

PIX11 News producers went undercover to collect medical culture swabs from the Jersey City Medical Center. They visited various local high and low-end makeup stores, swabbing lipsticks, glosses, eye makeup, and foundations to send off for bacteria testing.

According to PIX11, about 30 percent of samples came back with some kind of bacteria. Bacteria lives on the wands, yes, but also inside the makeup formula itself.


Here are 7 tips for keeping your makeup, and face, clean and germ-free.

1. Buy makeup from a store with a solid return policy

According to dermatologists, avoid makeup samples altogether. Instead, shop at a beauty store with a great return policy. Buy what you are thinking about, try it on at home, and return it if it's not for you.

2. Never use your hands to swatch samples

Your fingers are naturally oily and germ-filled. Keep them off your face, and off the makeup product everyone else has already had their hands in!

3. If you have to swatch in store, use Q-tips or cotton pads

Some stores provide cotton tips and pads for swatching colors, and cleansing cloths for removing any reside. Pro tip: always swatch on the back of your hand, not your face, with a cotton swab and promptly remove it with a cleansing cloth. This routine helps prevent a bad allergic skin reaction on a place you don't want, like your face.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

4. Clean your makeup brushes, thoroughly and often

True makeup pros, like Makeup Geek's Marlena, know that makeup goes on better and lasts longer when your brushes are clean and bacteria free. Need a tutorial? Here's a step-by-step guide for cleaning your makeup brushes.

5. Never share makeup

You're close with your friends, but y'all don't need to be that close: never share makeup unless you want to swap germs, bacteria, and other gross stuff that could make you break out and permanently ruin your tube of high-dollar mascara.

6. Buy lipstick in metal, not plastic, tubes

Metal doesn't retain as many germs as plastic, so this goes for about any kind of makeup. To clean your lipstick, wipe off the top layer with a Q-tip, then submerge the tip in alcohol.

7. When in doubt, throw it out.

If that mascara is looking chunky, or your concealer is goopy, just throw it out. Every bit of makeup has a shelf life, and using a product long after it's due can cause irritation and breakouts. You can look up the shelf life of your makeup online, but if you have some doubts about a tube, just trash it.

Images: Getty Images (2)