My make up bag, like so many other women, is one of my favourite bags. A wondrous bag full of old faithful products and new found loves. Sounds completely harmless?  Your make up bag may seem completely safe, but it is most likely harbouring thousands of bacteria, many of which can cause bad skin and infections.

Under EU guidelines all cosmetic products should have a shelf life displayed. If you’re not sure what it looks like, it’s the little pot with a number in it, indicating the months of safe use after opening. Most cosmetics have a shelf life of two and half years or less.

Look in your make up bag and I can bet you’ll have a product you love and can’t bear to part with. Now look at the shelf life, is it in date? If you’re like me and a serial hoarder of products it’s probably not. My favourite liquid eyeliner, which has seen me through numerous nights out, working days and early morning lectures, has been loyally sat in my make up bag since year 12, three years when the shelf life is 18 months. Sounds pretty disgusting when put like that.

According to a survey conducted by Debenhams in 2007, 68% of women only replace make-up and skincare when they run out. Mascaras, like your toothbrush, should be replaced every three to six months, kohl liners can last up to eighteen months if regularly sharpened and kept covered, and eyeshadows should be thrown after two years.

If you would place yourself in this 68%, your make up could hold a harmful amount of bacteria and even mould. One of the most common types of bacteria found on eye products is staphylococci epidermis, due to the contact with a mucus producing area, which if continually used can lead to reoccurring eye infections such as conjunctivitis, sore and itchy eyes and styes.

Lipsticks and lip glosses peak at a year’s use from the moment opened. A change in texture such as a thickened gloss that’s hard to apply, or a colour that doesn’t transfer how it used to and even smell (due to bacterial growth) indicate it’s time to say goodbye and buy a new one.

In the same survey it was revealed that 81% of British women also regularly go to sleep without removing make up. By not removing make up and then reapplying over the previous application, pores are blocked and blemishes and spots are bound to make an appearance, alongside prematurely aged looking skin.

Although liquid foundations are less likely to have a high number of bacteria due to the air tight container (unless you leave the lid off, leaving it vulnerable to contamination from air and dirt), they still need to be replaced after a year and cream or mousse foundations after six months. The bacteria in these products are transferred daily either by brush or fingers. So make sure you wash your hands before and after to decrease the risk of further spreading.

Although they may not necessarily be kept in your make up bag, make up brushes are a hotspot for bacteria as they are in contact with your skin everyday and should be washed once a week, even though 72% admitted to never washing them. Bathe them either with a specialised product such as Mac’s Brush Cleanser or a gentle shampoo which will clean and disinfect the bristles.

If you use sponges, throw them away after a couple of uses. You’ll be surprised and even disgusted at the colour of the water from your brushes, which will hopefully prompt more frequent cleansing.

Also keep an eye on your make up bag itself by keeping it out of a warm area such as the bathroom and wiping, washing or even replacing it every so often, due to the constant contact with your make up and brushes which allows spreading of bacteria which can cling to the material.

Feeling slightly repulsed by your make up bag after all that? Although I can’t promise you’ll have perfect skin, if you have a deep cleanse of your make up bag and brushes, you should notice some changes such as smaller pores, less irritation in the eyes, and clearer skin.

After losing half my products including that beloved eyeliner, I can however promise you’ll have fun refilling your make up bag. 


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