• Scientists Find Harmful Bacteria on 90% of Make-Up

Microscopy & Microtechniques

Scientists Find Harmful Bacteria on 90% of Make-Up

Jan 20 2020

In a finding that could have millions of people around the world rethinking their makeup regimes, a team of researchers from Aston University have found potentially harmful bacteria in around 90% of cosmetics products. Bacterium detected include dangerous strains such as E. coli and Staphylococci, with the highest traces found on mascara, lip gloss and applicators.

While some bacterium occurs naturally on the skin, the strains found on common cosmetics products can lead to serious illness if they infiltrate the body via the eyes, mouth or surface wounds. Skin infections, blood poisoning and diarrhea are just some of the side effects identified by the study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. For people with weaker immune systems, the risk is amplified.

E. coli traces found in up to 90% of makeup

To develop an understanding of the bacterial risks associated with makeup, the team analysed the microbial contamination of more than 450 commonly used cosmetic products, including eyeliners, mascaras, lipsticks and foundation applicators and blenders. After placing samples on cultures, the team recorded E. coli, Staphylococci and C. freundii contamination levels of between 79% and 90%. Over a quarter of the products also contained traces of Enterobacteriaceae, as well as different types of fungi.  

Beauty applicators a breeding ground for bacteria

Sponge-like beauty applicators and blenders contained the highest levels of bacteria, a trend caused by the fact they're often left damp after use and rarely cleaned. This makes them a premier breeding ground for bacteria.

"Consumers' poor hygiene practices when it comes to using make-up, especially beauty blenders, is very worrying when you consider that we found bacteria such as E.coli – which is linked with faecal contamination – breeding on the products we tested,” explains Amreen Bashir, Lecturer in Life and Health Sciences at Aston University and one of the study authors. "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."

Bashir asserts part of the responsibility lies with manufacturers and regulatory bodies, who should do more to protect consumers. She suggests making expiration dates clearer and offering cleaning recommendations on packaging.

Makeup isn't the only thing harbouring secrets, with Scientists working at STFC’s Central Laser Facility (CLF) uncovering new insight into the hidden mechanics of the cell walls of plants. For a closer look at the cutting-edge research, don't miss 'Lasers Reveal the Secrets of Plant Cell Walls.'


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