Revealed: the deadly superbugs lurking in your make-up bag

Revealed: the deadly superbugs lurking in your make-up bag

Could your make-up kill you? A new study has revealed that superbugs could be lurking in your cosmetic bag.

The vast majority of in-use make-up products such as beauty blenders, mascara and lip gloss are contaminated with potentially deadly superbugs, according to new research from Aston University published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Make-up products used by millions of people in the UK are contaminated with potentially deadly bugs, such as E.coli and Staphylococci, because most are not being cleaned and are used far beyond their expiry dates.

Deadly superbugs in your make-up bag

The new research, led by Dr Amreen Bashir and Professor Peter Lambert of Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, has shown that bacteria can cause superbug infections – ranging from skin infections to blood poisoning – if used near eyes, mouth or cuts or grazes were.

These bugs were found in nine out of 10 of the products. This risk is amplified in immunocompromised people who are more likely to contract infections from opportunistic bacteria.

The relatively new beauty blenders – sponges used to apply skin foundation products – were found to have the highest levels of potentially harmful bacteria, with the vast majority (93%) not having ever been cleaned, despite more than two thirds (64%) being dropped on the floor at some point during use.

The study is the first to look closely at beauty blender products, which are hugely popular make-up sponges used to blend foundation and contouring on the face. Often endorsed by celebrities, these sponges are estimated to have sold over 6.5 million worldwide.

The Aston researchers found these products are particularly susceptible to contamination as they are often left damp after use, which creates an ideal breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

EU regulations

Researchers say the findings reveal that consumers are unwittingly putting themselves at risk, and that manufacturers and regulatory bodies should do more to protect their customers by making expiry dates and cleaning requirements more prominent on packaging.

EU guidance holds make-up brands to strict hygiene standards of manufacture. The guidance states that E.coli in particular should not be found in any concentration in new cosmetic products. However, currently there is currently limited consumer protection around the risks of contaminating products while in use.

Post-Brexit, UK consumers could be at even greater risk as they will no longer be protected by EU regulations and could find themselves purchasing more beauty products from the US, where there are no regulatory requirements to put expiry dates on make-up packaging at all.

Proper hygiene

Commenting on the new findings, Dr Bashir said: “Consumers’ poor hygiene practices when it comes to using make-up, especially beauty blenders, is very worrying when you consider that we found deadly superbugs, such as E.coli, which is linked with faecal contamination,  breeding on the products we tested.

“More needs to be done to help educate consumers and the make-up industry as a whole about the need to wash beauty blenders regularly and dry them thoroughly, as well as the risks of using make-up beyond its expiry date.”


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