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Here's How Much Bacteria Is Actually On Your Makeup Products

Makeup addicts and lovers, brace yourself.

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Makeup is a glorious thing, but we all know that it can get a little gross over time.

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Every time you touch your makeup, you transfer all the dirt and tiny little organisms on your skin into the product. The same goes for any brush or sponge applicator — all those germs will inevitably get into your makeup, too.

And it's safe to assume that the average person is not diligently washing and sanitizing their hands and brushes before and between using products. So over time, makeup products will become full of all kinds of things.

Most of the germs that end up in our makeup are harmless and ones that are found naturally on our skin.

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"The makeup will contain your natural flora from your face, which is kind of like a germ fingerprint," Susan Whittier, PhD, associate professor of clinical pathology and cell biology at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, tells BuzzFeed Health.

Germs include bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and fungi, and they exist everywhere. Actually, everyone has a specific bacterial ~flora~ (germ profile) on their skin and inside their bodies, so germs are totally natural. "These include things like Staphylococcus epidermidis, Streptococcus viridans, and Micrococcus," Whittier says.

But you should avoid pathogens — which are different from normal germs. A pathogen is any bacteria, virus, or other organism that causes disease or infections. Think: staph aureus, E. coli, strep, salmonella, etc.

But using the same products forever without cleaning them can allow bacteria, viruses, and fungi to grow that put you at risk for a whole host of health problems.

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For instance, if you apply makeup with dirty hands, use your products when you're sick, share makeup with someone else, never clean it, etc. And it's not just that you’re transmitting germs to your makeup — you’re then getting that bacteria-ridden makeup in your mouth, eyes, and any broken skin.

"If you have an open cut or pimple, the dirty makeup could get in there and cause an infection like staph — or if it's your eye, it can cause irritation or conjunctivitis [pink eye]," Whittier says. And viruses like the flu or a cold — or even the herpes simplex virus — can also survive on lipsticks for days to weeks thanks to the waxes and proteins in them.

So no, contaminated makeup won't kill you, but it could cause a nasty skin or eye problem that requires a doctor's visit. Not to mention, there might be poop in your old makeup, too. "After three months, makeup will probably also have some fecal matter since it's usually stored and used in the bathroom next to the toilet," Whittier says. Fantastic.

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Obviously the lesson here is to clean your makeup. But...how? And does it really work?

"For most products, you can spray them with alcohol or use an alcohol wipe on the outermost layer — when it dries, it'll be clean," Whittier said.

That sounds easy enough, actually.

We decided to test our own makeup for bacteria to see just how gross it was — and if cleaning it actually made a difference.

All the makeup we tested came from BuzzFeed employees, and each product had these three things in common:

1) It was something they used every day as part of their makeup routine

2) It was at least three months old

3) It had never been sanitized or cleaned before

So we swabbed the (probably disgusting) makeup products.

John Gara / Via BuzzFeed

Then we transferred the makeup on the swab to a petri dish filled with nutrient agar, which is food for bacteria and other germs to grow. For the Beautyblender, we cut a small piece and put it in a test tube full of liquid amies, vortexed, then swabbed the solution onto a petri dish.

We popped the petri dishes into an incubator set to 98.6 degrees (the average internal body temperature of a human) and waited 48 hours.

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Ready to clean your makeup yet? US TOO. So here are three easy, DIY cleaning methods you can use on any of your makeup products:

These methods were approved by both our germ expert and our makeup expert, BuzzFeed Senior Beauty Editor Augusta Falletta, to make sure they were both effective enough to kill the germs and gentle enough to not damage the makeup.

Here's what you'll need:

SUPPLIES:

* 1 mini spray bottle

* 70%–90% isopropyl alcohol (you can find this at the drugstore)

* alcohol wipes

* 1 bowl filled with warm water

* liquid soap (dish, baby, hand) or a soap bar

Method one: Spray with isopropyl alcohol.

John Gara / Via BuzzFeed

Directions: Fill a small spray bottle with the isopropyl alcohol and spray it onto the makeup once or twice, holding the bottle a few inches away. Allow to dry before using.

Suitable for:

* Pressed powders

* Cream makeup

* Metal tools

* Lining of makeup bag

Method two: Clean with an alcohol wipe.

John Gara / Via BuzzFeed

Directions: Take an alcohol wipe and gently wipe the outermost layer or surface of the makeup. Allow to dry before using.

Suitable for:

* Lipstick

* Concealer sticks

* Metal tools

* Pencil eyeliner

* Lip liner

Method three: Wash with warm soapy water.

John Gara / Via BuzzFeed

Directions: Fill a medium-sized bowl with four cups of warm water and mix in one or two tablespoons of liquid soap, or rub the blender on a bar of hard soap until it's covered. Submerge it in the water and start to gently squeeze and compress the blender so it creates a lather. The water should start to change color. Rinse the beauty blender until the water runs clear when squeezed out.

Suitable for:

* Beautyblender

* Makeup sponges

* Brushes

Turns out, cleaning your makeup works! Here's what grew on the petri dishes when we tested the same makeup products after using these cleaning methods:

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So, in conclusion: Your makeup will grow a ton of germs and maybe pathogens over time, but cleaning your products regularly can make a big difference.

We definitely aren't trying to scare you here or suggest you toss all your makeup in the trash. As we mentioned before, most of the germs in your makeup are probably from your own skin (unless it's shared) and they won't make you sick. But you never know which germs could be on your hands, or what might be living on the bathroom counter where you rest all your products.

So it's always a good idea to clean and sanitize your products every week or so to cut down on the amount of germs and the possibility that any of them will make you sick. It's an easy end-of-the-week habit and you can do it at home with budget-friendly products.

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