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Dirty Secret: Trying on Makeup

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

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.

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