Sharing make-up puts you at risk of infection

Sharing make-up puts you at risk of infection

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How do you feel when someone takes your pressed powder pack and begins to apply the powder with your powder puff? Or, how does it feel when a friend tries on your lipstick, mascara, eye shadow or eye liner?

And these days of beauty-on-the-go, with all sorts of make-up parlors springing up all over the place, are you ever bothered that the beautician uses the same brush for every client?

If you answer ‘yes’ to any or all of these questions, chances are that you’re exposing yourself to bacterial or viral infections, any of which could be life-threatening.

Over the weekend, it was reported that a 27-year-old Australian mother, Jo Gilchrist, is now confined to a wheelchair after catching a serious infection from using her friend’s make-up brush!

According to reports, the infection entered Gilchrist’s bloodstream through an opening in her body. She reportedly caught a staphylococcus infection that eventually attacked her spine after using a friend’s brush to cover up a blemish. Unknown to her, the owner of the make-up kit had a staph infection on her face. So, using the same make-up kit as the infected person led to her own infection. She contracted community-associated Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus – a bacterium responsible for several difficult-to-treat infections in humans.

Gilchrist lost control over her bladder, as well as all feeling below her stomach. Her doctors told her that if the infection had entered her brain, she would have died; and if it went to her limbs, they would have been amputated.

Doctors fought gallantly to save her life, and she survived. But that’s the end of the good news. The grim news: the infection damaged her spine and she would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. In the interim, she will spend the next three months in the hospital as doctors continue to battle the infection with antibiotics.

Dermatologists say many people have contracted viral infection of the eye such as conjunctivitis simply by sharing eye liner.

Consultant dermatologist, Dr. Mary Osaigboho, says if you share lip gloss or lip stick with an infectious person, you risk contacting herpes labialis – an infection that is caused by the contagious herpes simplex virus that causes small painful blisters known as cold sores or fever blisters on the mouth.

Indeed, experts say you can contract herpes even without seeing visible cold sores on the infected person. Worse, physicians warn, there is no cure for the herpes viruses; and just one incidence of sharing a lipstick can lead to a lifetime of contending with the condition if you contract the virus.

Osaigboho adds that sharing cosmetics can mean trading germs. “Make-up brushes and applicators can easily carry bacteria from one person to another. And because make-ups are usually moist and also packed in dark containers, the whole environment allows germs to thrive,” the skin specialist adds.

She explains that mucous membranes such as the lips and the eyes are especially prone to infections. “There are lots of open pores where the eyelashes come out, plus glands and tear ducts, hence the need to exercise caution when it comes to using any product that is applied on this part of the body,” Osaigboho says.

General practitioner, Dr. Maurice Diala, warns that those suffering from diabetes or those whose immune system has been compromised, such as persons living with HIV/AIDS or those who have had organ transplantation, are exposed to higher risks of terrible infections if they engage in sharing make-ups with others.

“Such persons risk stye formation (an infection of the eyelid), blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid) and pustular (deep fungal) infections,” Diala adds.

He says when you share make-up with someone who has pimples, you will end up transferring the acne bacteria onto your body, and that you should not be surprised when you break out in bumps days after.

Experts at the online portal,, say each time you touch a lipstick or mascara, you are potentially introducing germs to the product. And the more people who use it, the greater the likelihood of spreading infection. Since mucous membranes are more susceptible to getting infected, lip and eye products should never be shared under any circumstances, they counsel.

Again, physicians warn, sharing make-up can give you impetigo – a highly contagious bacterial skin infection typified by blisters around the mouth and nose, and caused by a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus.

Diala says this skin infection may occur along with other skin problems, including eczema; or after someone has suffered from an upper respiratory tract infection.

Worse still, experts say, complications of impetigo may lead to cellulitis – an infection that affects the tissues under the skin and which may spread to the lymph nodes and into the bloodstream. Without treatment, cellulitis can become life-threatening. In rare cases of impetigo complications, kidney failure may result if the infection leads to a condition called post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis.

Did you say, ‘All this because of sharing make-up?’ Well, there’s more.

Many people find it difficult to maintain proper hand hygiene. When they use the bathroom, they don’t wash their hands with soap and clean water. Consequently, when such people touch a make-up kit, the result is obvious. And when you go ahead to use such a kit, you may be infected with Escherichia coli or E. Coli – a bacterium that has been linked to food poisoning; the symptoms of which include diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, fever and weakness.

In worst case scenario, the infection can lead to hemolytic uremic syndrome – a life-threatening form of kidney failure.

The bottom line

From the foregoing, it is obvious that the best way to guard your health is to never share your make-ups, while you should also keep them clean by washing the washable applicators.



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