Uh-oh. It seems makeup testers are even more unhygienic than we suspected.

Image: iStock

If I had to list my top hobby, it would probably be taking long, romantic walks… down the makeup aisle. I’m always curious to see what’s new and typically leave with a bag of goodies and a hand covered in colour swatches.

If you’re anything like me, you never buy a product without using the tester first. And it’s a habit you’ll probably be dropping after reading the information I’m about to share with you.

You see, while testers are a great way to try before you buy, research has shown they’re also a serious breeding ground for bacteria. And we’re talking E-Coli kind-of-bacteria, the kind that usually comes from faeces.


Put those testers down. Image: iStock.


In a 2004 study, researcher Elizabeth Brooks took cultures over a two-year period from various testers for eye, lip and face products from department stores to take a closer look at what else they contained. As Into the Gloss reports, her team found that anywhere between 67 and 100 per cent of samples contained bacterial contamination, depending on the day.

Their tests showed the worst days to play with makeup samples were Saturday and Sunday, when stores were busiest. On Sunday, 100 per cent (yes - every single one!) of testers contained bacteria, compared to 80 per cent on Saturdays and 67 per cent on Fridays.

So... it might be time to stop relying on makeup testers to do your makeup in emergencies.

Along with traces of E.Coli, the bacteria most commonly detected by Brooks was Staph Aurus, a bacteria which although found on human skin can cause serious problems if it's introduced to the eyes, nose or mucous membranes.

"It certainly is not hygienic even if it is not a huge health concern. If it got into eyes, someone could get bacterial conjunctivitis. It's certainly not a risk we should be taking for makeup," she said(Post continues after gallery.)

It shows the serious risk of sharing makeup, particularly when you don't know where the potentially hundreds of people have been or doing before they come into contact with the tester.

"If a woman has a cut on her lip and borrows lipstick from someone who has a cold sore, she'll get a cold sore. You can pass herpes [the cold sore virus], conjunctivitis [pink eye] and all sorts of things through sharing makeup," Beverley Hills-based dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi told the LA Times.


A more recent study published by the International Journal of Cosmetics Sciences in 2013 threw up similar findings.  Two Brazilian universities tested 40 mascara samples for bacteria, with results showing 79 per cent were contaminated with staph.

So given we're unlikely to stop trying out makeup altogether, is there anything you can do to minimise the risk? (Post continues after video)

In the research findings, Brooks recommended testing out makeup on weekdays, when there has been less customers and less people contaminating the testers.

"Because the makeup does not supply nutrients for the bacteria to grow, the bacteria don't replicate. That means, even though there may be 100 percent contamination on a Sunday after heavy makeup use on a Saturday evening, those bacteria will start to die off as the week progresses," she explains.

Otherwise, consider washing your face immediately after with soap and water, try and avoid lip or eye products or request salespeople to dip samples in alcohol and dry them out before using as the alcohol will kill any bacteria.

Do you regularly use testers or steer clear?