Is it Dangerous to Share Eye Makeup?

Sharing makeup? We've got news. Learn about the risks of sharing eye makeup

You might not want to share your eye makeup after reading this

You share everything with your best friend, clothes, shoes, purses, and sometimes, in a club or restaurant ladies room, even your lip gloss and mascara. But how dangerous is it to share makeup, especially eye makeup? After all, if your bestie isn’t sick, it’s safe right?

Wrong, according to Dendy Engleman, MD, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. While it’s not exactly safe to share any beauty products, the worst cosmetics you can share are mascara, eyeliner, and eyeshadow. The eyes are more susceptible to infections because they don’t have the layers of protection that your skin has.

What Can be Transmitted Through Sharing Eye Makeup?

You may think you are safe from developing pink eye (conjunctivitis) from sharing eye makeup with a friend if your friend’s eyes look healthy, but it’s important to note that some people are more susceptible to certain types of infections than others. A friend’s eye makeup or applicators that she uses could be harboring infectious bacteria that hasn’t caused a reaction for her, but could for you. Conversely, your own eyes can be harboring bacteria that hasn’t impacted you, but could begin to breed in your friend’s eye makeup and cause a problem for her later.

According to research, mascara is one of the worst culprits for breeding bacteria because the dark, damp interior of the bottle is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. Every time you pull the mascara wand out, and push it back in, you are feeding air to whatever microorganisms are being harbored in the tube, and adding new ones.

According to dermatologist, Jeanine B. Downie, sharing eye makeup can lead to both bacterial and viral infections like conjunctivitis, styes, staph, and even flat warts which can result from a benign form of the HPV virus.

Is it Safe to Try Department Store Eye Makeup Samples?

Any time you sample from makeup store testers, you are sharing bacteria with many strangers who have been there before you. It’s a very common way to catch a bacterial or viral infection. Even a harmless-looking sample of a powdered eyeshadow can be teeming with bacteria. When we swipe on eye makeup, the applicator wipes over our sebaceous glands and picks up oils and bacteria.

According to dermatologist, Toral Patel of Chicago’s D&A Dermatology, patients have ended up in her office to be treated for pink eye, cold sores, bacterial infections, and boils, all from trying on makeup at department store counters. Anytime you try out a sample, you are also sampling the random bacteria left behind by those before you, and you have no way of knowing if everyone else who has tried the testers washed their hands after using the restroom, or if they’ve been sick, or exposed to a sick friend or family member.

According to published reports from the FDA, in rare cases people have been temporarily and even permanently blinded from eye infections picked up from cosmetics. Viruses need a host to survive but can live in cosmetics long enough to travel to the next user. It’s especially important not to share eye makeup products if you are a contact wearer because bacteria can become trapped behind the contact lens and put you at further risk for infections.

Dermatologists recommend that if you must sample from makeup counters, always apply the sample product to your wrist, arm, or neck. And of course, never apply near a scratch or open sore. Never use any sample product near your eyes, and avoid trying mascaras completely. Even if you are offered a single use applicator, there is no way of knowing if the person sampling before you might have dipped an applicator in twice.

The safest choice in sampling cosmetics in department stores is to ask for single use samples, or stick with sampling products in pump bottles. And if you absolutely can’t resist using a friend’s eye shadow or eyeliner, your safest bet is to use a tissue to wipe the top layer of product completely off before using it. If it’s a pencil-type eyeliner, you can sharpen it first to remove the outer layer.

So while it’s wonderful to share everything from shoes to secrets with friends, makeup is something that you should absolutely be selfish with, and keep your own favorite cosmetics all to yourself.

Resources — WebMD, Cosmopolitan, FDA, WestLake Dermatology, Bustle, Chicago Tribune

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