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How to avoid infections from cosmetic makeup

December 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Do you remember how long you've had your foundation or the last time you washed your brushes? If you don't take care of your makeup and how it's applied, experts say, it's quite common to get eye infections, rashes and breakouts.

Makeup is supposed to enhance your beauty, but with every brush stroke you could be placing something potentially ugly on your face.

Dermatologist Dr. Shirley Chi says the first mistake many women make is leaving their beauty tools exposed in the bathroom.

"A lot of women, they actually put their makeup brushes sort of upright right next to their toilet. I would not recommend that," said Chi. "I'd recommend you store your makeup brushes in a drawer."

Chi recommends shampooing them every two weeks.

But at Naimie's Beauty Center in Valley Village, skincare specialist Molly Taylor says brushes should be disinfected after every use, especially if you're sharing them.

"I have some clients that will come in and they just go right for a brush even in our test unit, and I have to stop them and say, 'Here's some brush cleaner. Here's some alcohol,'" said Taylor.

The eyes are the easiest place for bacteria to get in.

While sharpening and alcohol works well for pencils and brushes, some companies make disinfectant wipes and sprays. Chi says beware of using them directly on powders and shadows.

"I probably wouldn't do that, because makeup already contains some preservatives, and you don't want to mix preservatives with each other," said Chi.

Dry products like eye shadow, blush and powder are not necessarily breeding grounds for bacteria, but you have to be careful about any liquids.

"Bacteria loves to grow in anything synthetic or creamy or that has any sort of water in it," said Taylor. "The main thing is you don't want to double-dip."

"If you're using lip gloss, then it can actually store a lot of germs in it, because you keep pushing that applicator tip back into the container," said Chi.

Disposable applicators can help, but experts say you should throw out foundation, mascara, liquid liner and lip gloss every two to three months. Products with pumps and squeeze tubes can be kept longer.

"I tell people not to buy makeup that's so expensive because you know it's more important that you have hygienic practices than it is for you to have the most expensive mascara," said Chi.

One other thing: whenever you get oily or start to shine, most women will just pull out their compact and apply more powder. Dr. Chi says you're just creating more germs and not getting rid of the oil that's already there. Try blotting first before applying powder.