The Monster In Your Makeup

According to a report in the Daily Mail, women are at risk of bacterial infection from makeup and other beauty products that have passed their use-by date.  Their report alleges that some women admit to retaining items for up to 15 years, and cites expired lipstick as a potential cause of dry, cracked or blistered lips.

The feedback on yesterday’s article includes a healthy mix of skepticism and common sense. There are clearly some basic hygiene precautions any makeup user (men included) need to apply consistently – like avoiding sharing makeup with anyone else, and discarding items if there’s any worry about local infections. But the fact that most people get away with regular application of their favourite beauty products most of the time, suggests that this is less of a problem than the report makes out.

Clearly anyone with a suspected reaction to one of these products needs to (a) stop using it, and (b) seek professional advice. Severe reactions or mild but persistent reactions often need to be managed by a specialist dermatologist.

In the meantime, we can be reassured by the small number of recent reports in the medical journals that implicate items such as mascara as a possible source of infection. For the most part these are old reports, and the beauty products industry has obviously lifted its game with the inclusion of preservatives in many products. Some of those preservatives unfortunately introduce other potential hazards leading to a consumer backlash against preservatives in cosmetic products. Where we need most assurance is from the producers of so-called “natural” product containing cosmetics, which may lack the necessary preservative power to keep them fresh throughout use. This is where we need to hear from the industry about the safeguards they use to avoid unnecessary risks.

For those interested in making a causal relationship between a specific microbe and an infection, the μGnome has his own recommended method. As with many things in life, it’s not simple.


  1. Surely better advice to men using make-up is:


  2. BTW, really enjoyed your ‘Principia aeti0logica’ article – for some reason your priobe approach reminds me of Mataurana and Varela’s autopoiesis theory ( – shifting the lens to cast new light on all too familiar subject, with the creation of a whole new language to give meaning to the concepts.

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