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Sharing cosmetics invites infection

By Al Varela

A reader asks: I recently bought some makeup at a garage sale and I noticed after putting on some of the mascara that my eyes started to water and itch. Could the makeup have gone bad? Is it possible to catch an infection by using used makeup?

I have heard from people that the first item that sells at a garage sale is usually makeup. It amazes me how women who are so meticulous about the cleanliness of their floors and pots and pans, would buy and use someone else's old, discarded makeup. There is no way to tell how old the makeup is and how long it sat in the sun or the heat of the garage.

The average shelf life of most cosmetics, if properly stored, is about five years. I know of women who still have the lipstick, eyeshadow, and mascara from their first makeover over 10 years ago buried in a drawer or hidden away in a box.

Although it's hard to tell if bacteria are still present after so long, the chemicals in the product have probably decomposed and deteriorated considerably. It is very possible that using it now could cause a rash and that the mascara could cause the eyes to water and sting.

Whenever a client tells me they have an eye infection I always instruct them to discard their contaminated mascara. They should also cut the tips and re-sharpen any eye pencils. A thin layer of their eyeshadow should be removed with a cotton swab and all brushes and sponges should be washed.

I always advise my clients to avoid sharing or trading cosmetics for the same reason retail stores should discourage customers from using cosmetic display products directly on their skin.

With all the trading and swapping going on I wonder why these women purchased their makeup in the first place. Obviously they purchased trendy colors that they only wore once and couldn't bring themselves to wear again. It seems to me that with proper consultation at the time of sale, women would buy colors best suited for them that can be worn for several seasons.

Garage sales are not the only source for old makeup. There are actually Internet web sites where you can trade used cosmetics from the comfort of your own home. Of course you should always use a good anti-virus software program!

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