Have you ever worried about the bacteria that may be growing inside your beauty products? It's a valid concern, but not one that should keep you up at night—for the most part, preservatives work to prevent bacteria from getting out of control. However, there are several simple things you can do to keep your beauty products—especially those packaged in jars or pots, which require you to use your hands to apply them—as bacteria-free as possible. For starters, dermatologist Annie Chiu, MD, founder of The Derm Institute, recommends using clean hands or spatulas during application and checking expiration dates to make sure your products don't cause breakouts or other bad reactions. Ahead, more of Chiu's best tips for reducing the amount of bacteria in your jarred or potted products.
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"Obviously tubes, pumps, droppers, and ampules decrease contamination to a degree by keeping your fingers away from the product that is being dispensed for use," says Chiu. "However, thicker creams or ointments can only be formulated in a pot." But this packaging type shouldn't prevent you from using the more emollient options. Chiu's best advice for avoiding contamination? "Always wash your hands before using these products, and consider disposable mini makeup spatulas to keep your fingers out of the pot completely," she adds. "Most importantly, make sure you close the jar tightly, and keep it in a cool place."
Check Expiration Dates
Most makeup, face washes, and other skincare products have a defined expiration date. Pay attention to these, and toss whatever's left if the date has passed. "[These products] are able to stay stable on your bathroom shelf—without bacteria—due to different kinds of preservatives that they are formulated with," explains Chiu. "These preservatives can be natural or synthetic, and their goal is to prevent chemical structures from breaking down. They also prevent the overgrowth of bacteria and keep oils from becoming oxidized."
Once an expiration date hits, "the product formulation has lost integrity, meaning it can accumulate bacteria. Key ingredients can get oxidized and become inactive or emulsified oils can become unstable," she continues. "This can cause acne, rosacea breakouts, infections, and even allergic reactions. Even if none of these things happen, the product is probably no longer performing effectively past its expiration date."
Keep Applicators Clean
If you're using makeup sponges or brushes to apply potted beauty products, be sure you maintain their upkeep: They need to be cleaned weekly to prevent bacteria build up (Chiu recommends using a gentle shampoo to do so).