Most Cosmetic Products Contain Potentially Life-Threatening "Superbugs": Microbiological Study
Tue, April 20, 2021

Most Cosmetic Products Contain Potentially Life-Threatening "Superbugs": Microbiological Study

Nine out of ten cosmetic products used every day by millions of people are contaminated by potentially life-threatening superbugs, such as Staphylococci and E-coli / Photo by: Africa Studio via Shutterstock

 

Nine out of ten cosmetic products used every day by millions of people are contaminated by potentially life-threatening superbugs, such as Staphylococci and E-coli because most are not cleaned by the users or are used far beyond the expiry dates. This is according to new research that appeared in the Journal of Applied Microbiology.

Professor Peter Lambert and Dr. Amreen Bashir detailed in their study titled "Microbiological study of used cosmetic products: highlighting the possible impact on consumer health" that beauty blenders, mascara, eyeliner, lip gloss, and lipstick pose potential health risks to the public. Their study focused on cosmetic products in the UK.

Bacterial loads in used cosmetic products in the UK

To investigate the extent and nature of the microbial contamination of the five used cosmetic products, they utilized cosmetic products in the UK that were already used. They then determined the microbial culture as well as identification in the said products. The results showed that about 79 to 90% of all used cosmetic products have bacterial loads between 102 and 103 CFU per ml. In microbiology, a colony-forming unit (CFU) is a unit used to determine the number of fungal cells or viable bacteria in the sample.

The researchers have also detected the presence of Citrobacter freundii bacteria, e-coli, and staphylococcus aureus. Fungi (56.96%) and gram-negative bacteria Enterobacteriaceae (26.58%) were prevalent in beauty blenders. The authors added that 93% of the make-up blenders they used in the experiment had not been cleaned and 64% had been previously dropped on the floor but were continuously used.

How bacteria cause illnesses

Bacteria is a  germ that can grow on cell-free media. It invades the body and multiplies within the host by evading the person’s immune system. It can cause illnesses, such as blood poisoning and skin infection if bacteria enters the eyes, grazes, cuts, or the mouth. This is the risk of using cosmetic products filled with bacteria and the risk is doubled for people who are immunocompromised.

Contracting infections from beauty blenders

People can contract infections by using beauty blenders or the sponges that are used to apply skin foundation and contouring women’s faces. Compared to other cosmetic products, beauty blenders have the highest level (93%) of potentially harmful germs if not cleaned and more than two thirds (64%) if dropped on the floor at some point.

The Aston researchers added that beauty blenders are highly susceptible to bacterial contamination because they are usually left damp after use. Gradually, it becomes a breeding ground for potentially harmful bacteria.

Bacteria is a  germ that can grow on cell-free media. It invades the body and multiplies within the host by evading the person’s immune system / Photo by: paulista via Shutterstock

 

Poor hygiene practices

Dr. Bashir explains that the poor hygiene habits of consumers are “very worrying,” considering that they found e-coli bacteria in cosmetic products. It is the same bacteria linked with fecal contamination, she said. The authors emphasized the importance of awareness and educating the consumers as well as the people working behind the make-up industry that beauty blenders should be washed regularly and dried thoroughly.

Use life of beauty products

Before this research, dermatologist Dr. Neil Persadsingh had already shared via Jamaica news provider Jamaica Observer that expired cosmetics can lead to allergic reactions, redness on the skin, irritation, and skin rashes. Old mascara and eyeshadow can likewise lead to eye infections and an old lipstick can cause swelling of the lips.

The dermatologist went on to say that lipsticks should only be used for a maximum of 18 months, a mascara for three months, eyeliner pencils for 3 years, blush for one year, concealers for six months, moisturizer for two years, liquid eyeliner for three months, and foundation and powders for six months. Serums should also be discarded after six months of use, sunscreen after one year, baths and loofahs after three weeks, deodorant after three years, toothpaste after two years, shampoo after two years, mouthwash after three years, nail polish after two years, perfume after two years, and soap after three years.

Dr. Persadsingh said that to make sure that cosmetics will have a longer shelf life, they should not be kept open. Keeping the products away from direct sunlight and making sure that the lids of the cosmetics are closed properly after every use are some helpful storage tips he included.

People can contract infections by using beauty blenders or the sponges that are used to apply skin foundation and contouring women’s faces / Photo by: RomarioIen via Shutterstock

 

Cosmetic industry: trends and statistics

Total global sales of cosmetic products for 2012 were as follows: make-up sales (US$932 million), skincare sales ($844 million), fragrance sales ($501 million). The total market share by category includes facial skincare (27%), personal care (23%), hair care (20%), make-up (20%), and fragrance (10%), according to marketing platform Brandon Gaille.

Meanwhile, Reuters Plus reported that the cosmetic industry continues to grow more rapidly than before. The global beauty industry will be worth more than $805 billion by 2023 and will have a compound annual growth rate of 7.14% from last year to 2023. In 2019 alone, the cosmetic industry of the United States was worth $93.5 billion and women in the US are spending nearly $3,000 on cosmetic products annually.