Undercover Video: Makeup Samples Could be Laced with Hidden Bacteria

Health

LOS ANGELES -- What woman doesn't enjoy a bit of pampering at the department store cosmetics counter? Of course it seems harmless enough, to get spoiled as you sample. But under that party of blush and mascara, there could be a downside. How do you really know what's in those makeup samples, and what's going on your skin?

What the experts tell KTLA News may shock you.

Undercover video shot by KTLA News reveals that every woman enjoys some makeup 'sampling' at the store counter. But findings of an often-cited East Coast study, testing store counter makeup on busy days, found that fully 100% of the makeup was tainted with bacteria!

At the Obagi Skin Health Institute in Beverly Hills, world-renowned dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi laid out the risks for us.

"You may be contracting skin infections," Dr. Obagi explained. "You may be creating what we call an immune response, like an allergic reaction. And you may be creating fungus transferred to your skin, so you get a fungus infection."

And according to Dr. Obagi, many tools in the cosmetic tackle box could make for a bad brush with bacteria.

"If you put it on you, and then the next lady comes in and we do it on her, no!" Dr. Obagi demonstrates, using a blush makeup brush. "We are picking up bacteria from everyone and spreading it around!"

Dr. Obagi says another nasty danger from shared cosmetics is herpes sores through the lips.

"I would not let anyone sample on me, for instance, a lipstick that's been used on somebody else," Dr. Obagi says. "Let's say you have herpes on your lips. That virus will end up on that lipstick. You put it on, if you have a crack in your lip, you get herpes on your lips."

Other horrors from the makeup counter could include conjunctivitis (or pink eye) to the eyes, and even e coli.

"I have seen a new type of liquid lipstick," Dr. Obagi says. "I've seen women lick their lips, and if they have some e coli contamination, it's definitely going to make you sick."

So – what's the ladies' salvation from contamination? Dr. Obagi gave KTLA News a little hands-on lesson in application sanitation.

First: some common sense about those old, overused applicator pads.

"If I look at this under the microscope," Dr. Obagi says, holding up a much-used pad, "I guarantee you I would see bacteria, fungus, and mold. And you'd say my God, I'm putting that on my face?"

Next: use air tight pump-style products like Dr. Obagi's own skin care line, rather than 'squeezables' that lead to air contamination and moisture loss.

And of course: test lipsticks and other products somewhere other than on your sensitive lips and eyes – like on a clean piece of paper or the back of your freshly-washed hand.

"Don't sample the product on your lips," Dr. Obagi warns, "Especially if it's been sampled by different women."

In the end, Dr. Obagi says: let the buyer beware...and be demanding!

"Don't hesitate to tell the sales people, 'I don't want to sample or use anything that's been used,'" Dr. Obagi advises. "The consumer should demand it, and the cosmetic companies should comply."

For much more from Dr. Obagi about the dangers of shared cosmetics -- and how to judge whether or not the stuff you've been lugging around in your purse for months is safe -- just head to http://www.obagiskin.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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