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There aren't germs in that communal makeup at the cosmetics counter -– or are there?

By Shelley Levitt

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

WebMD Magazine - Feature

Dirty Secret: Trying on Makeup

Q: I love trying on makeup, but I don't use those tiny plastic swabs at beauty counters. Am I going to bring home something besides a great new shade of gloss?

A: It's quite possible. To a dermatologist, that's like strolling through a public restroom. Those tubes and jars resemble petri dishes, teeming with microbes and bacteria. The viruses that cause herpes and pink eye thrive on moist, inanimate objects -- making a pot of lip gloss, foundation, or eye shadow a perfect breeding ground.

Even if the salespeople are careful about wiping off testers after customers use them, they may not be aware of all the passing shoppers who dipped a finger into a product or swept it onto their lips, cheeks, or hands.

So, a disposable tester is a good defense against contamination. Just make sure that lipstick tube or blush brush is wiped with alcohol and dried before you try.

--Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research, Department of Dermatology, Mount Sinai Hospital, N.Y.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD the Magazine." 

Brush Up on Beauty

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