The allure of trying a friend's new eyeshadow palette, borrowing a lipstick shade for a special occasion, or sharing a foundation to save on expenses can be enticing. Yet, lurking beneath the surface lies various hidden perils that may compromise our health. Sharing makeup can come at a cost, and that’s why dermatology providers generally recommend avoiding it!
We know, that can be a bummer to hear—but we’re all about helping you take the best care of your skin. Here, we’ll give you a rundown on everything you need to know about the potential dangers of sharing makeup.
One of the primary risks of sharing makeup is cross-contamination. When multiple people use the same products, bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms can transfer between the skin and the makeup item.¹ This can lead to various concerns, including the following:
When you share eye makeup such as mascara, eyeliner, or eyeshadow, you risk exposure yourself to potential contamination from pathogens on someone else’s skin or eyes.
These microorganisms can transfer to the shared makeup products and then to your own eyes, increasing the likelihood of developing ocular disease due to microbial contamination such as keratitis,² corneal epithelium inflammation, and conjunctivitis (pink eye).³ These conditions can cause symptoms such as redness, discharge, and eyelid swelling and pain.⁴
Using shared makeup products can trigger skin infections and allergic reactions. Bacterial strains like staphylococcus and streptococcus can thrive in makeup.⁵⁻⁶
Sharing makeup with others increases the risk of spreading Demodex folliculorum mites, which can cause itching and redness of eyelids and tearing, and have been associated with rosacea.⁷
Furthermore, a component of mascara, cera alba, which forms an occlusive film on the skin surface as well as on the mites, has been found to cause allergic contact dermatitis in some people.⁸ So, sharing makeup may heighten the risk of allergic reactions since individuals may have different sensitivities or allergies to certain ingredients.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV), specifically the oral herpes virus (HSV-1), can be transmitted through direct contact. HSV-1 is a common virus that causes oral herpes, characterized by cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth and lips.⁹
The virus can be present on the lips or around the mouth, and sharing lip products can introduce the virus to someone else's lips, increasing the risk of infection.¹⁰
Each person's skin has a unique combination of oils, dead skin cells, and other impurities. When makeup is shared, these residues can transfer from one person's skin to the product and then onto another person's skin.
Over time, this build-up can accumulate in the makeup, leading to compromised product quality and potentially clogged pores, acne breakouts, or dull-looking skin.
Every person’s skin type, tone, and concerns vary, which means they need specific products tailored to their needs. Sharing makeup hinders the ability to personalize cosmetic choices. By using shared products, people may inadvertently use formulas that aren’t compatible with their skin, leading to breakouts, dryness, or other adverse reactions.
By building your own personal makeup collections and avoiding sharing, you can ensure you’re using products suitable for your unique skin requirements.
Sharing makeup can also lead to color mismatch issues, as people have different skin tones, undertones, and preferences. Using someone else’s foundation, concealer, or lipstick can result in an unnatural or mismatched appearance, ultimately compromising the desired outcome of your beauty routine.
By following safe makeup practices, you can reduce the risk of infections, allergic reactions, and other potential dangers associated with sharing makeup. Here are some important considerations to ensure safe makeup practices:
Avoid sharing: Refrain from sharing makeup products, especially those that come into direct contact with the eyes, lips, or mucous membranes. This includes mascara, eyeliner, lipstick, lip gloss, and lip balm.
Use personal products: Invest in your makeup products and tools. This ensures that you are using items that others haven’t contaminated. When you choose makeup products customized to your skin type, tone, and preferences, you help guarantee better performance, prevent color mismatch problems, and decrease the likelihood of allergic reactions or sensitivities.
Clean and sanitize: Regularly clean and sanitize your makeup brushes, sponges, and other applicators to remove accumulated products, bacteria, and debris. Use mild soap or specialized brush cleaners and allow them to dry completely before reuse.
Check expiration dates: Pay attention to the expiration dates of your makeup products. Using expired products can compromise their effectiveness and increase the likelihood of adverse reactions.¹¹
Practice good personal hygiene: Wash your hands before applying makeup to prevent the transfer of bacteria to your face. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands throughout the day.
And lastly, be cautious with testers. When trying makeup products in stores, use disposable applicators or request assistance from staff to ensure the products are hygienic. Avoid directly applying testers to your face or lips.
With a focus on customization, product safety, and professional guidance, Curology offers a solution to help you maintain a personalized and hygienic skincare routine. To start with Curology, you just need to complete an online questionnaire about your skin concerns, medical history, and current skincare routine, as well as snap a few photos of your skin.
Based on this information, a dermatology provider will review your information and, if appropriate, prescribe a personalized formula for you. Curology’s formulations may include prescription-strength topical retinoids, antioxidants, and other skincare ingredients to address specific concerns like acne, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, or texture issues.
The formulated product is then conveniently delivered to your doorstep through a subscription service. You can also check in with your licensed dermatology provider to monitor progress, make adjustments, or address concerns. Join Curology now* to start your skincare journey with tailored solutions to your unique skin care needs.
The lifespan of bacteria in makeup can vary depending on various factors, including the specific type of bacteria, the formulation of the product, and how the product is used and stored. For example, moisture and water content in products can create an environment conducive to bacterial growth.¹²
Improper storage, such as leaving products open or exposing them to high humidity, can also contribute to bacterial growth.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is primarily transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact. However, sharing lipstick with someone who has an active HPV infection may potentially increase the risk of transmission.¹³
To minimize the risk of potential infections or complications, it is generally recommended to avoid sharing the following types of makeup products:
Lipstick and lip gloss: Sharing lip products can increase the risk of transferring bacteria and viruses including cold sores, especially if there are any open sores or cuts on the lips.
Mascara: Mascara wands come into direct contact with the eyes and can quickly transfer bacteria, viruses, or fungi potentially leading to eye infections. Sharing mascara increases the risk of spreading these pathogens, so it’s best to use and replace your own mascara regularly.
Eyeliner: Like mascara, eyeliner can transfer pathogens, especially if applied along the waterline or close to the eyes.
Makeup brushes: Makeup brushes can harbor bacteria, dead skin cells, and residual makeup. Sharing these items can lead to the transfer of impurities and increase the risk of skin issues.
Also avoid sharing cream or liquid products in jars. Makeup products such as foundation, concealers, or cream blushes that come in jars require direct contact with the skin or application tools. Sharing these products can introduce bacteria or other contaminants, compromising their safety and efficacy.
Dadashi, L., and Dehghanzadeh, R. Investigating incidence of bacterial and fungal contamination in shared cosmetic kits available in the women beauty salons. Health Promotion Perspectives. (2016, August 10).
Wang, M.T.M., and Craig, J.P. Investigating the effect of eye cosmetics on the tear film: current insights. Clinical Optometry (Auckl). (2018, April 3).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing the Spread of Conjunctivitis. (2019, January 4).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Conjunctivitis (Pink Eye). (2021, August 4).
Bashir, A., and Lambert, P. Microbiological study of used cosmetic products: highlighting possible impact on consumer health. Journal of Applied Microbiology. (2019, October 9).
Dadashi, L., and Dehghanzadeh, R. Investigating incidence of bacterial and fungal contamination in shared cosmetic kits available in the women beauty salons. Health Promotion Perspectives. Ibid.
Sedzikowska, A., et al. Shared Makeup Cosmetics as a Route of Demodex folliculorum Infections. Acta Parasitologica. (2021, January 19).
Sedzikowska, A., et al. Shared Makeup Cosmetics as a Route of Demodex folliculorum Infections. Acta Parasitologica. Ibid.
World Health Organization. Herpes simplex virus. (2023, April 5).
Saleh, D., et al. Herpes Simplex Type 1. StatPearls. (2022, August 29).
Ortiz, V. Effectiveness of Commercially-Available Cosmetic Cleaners on Cosmetics and Cosmetic Brushes. UNLV University Libraries. (2016, May 1).
Lundov, M.D., et al. Contamination versus preservation of cosmetics: a review on legislation, usage, infections, and contact allergy. Contact Dermatitis. (February 2009).
Cook, R.L., et al. Sexual Behaviors and Other Risk Factors for Oral Human Papillomavirus Infections in Young Women. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. (2017, July 26).
Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.
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Meredith Hartle, DO