Germ City: Bacteria thriving at the makeup counter

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(PIX11) — Makeup: so many shades, so many choices and so many women using the same testers in stores to get that perfect match. But with all those hands touching the free samples, PIX11 News set out to find what kind of bacteria could be lurking on those testers.

Nourhan Khaled knows all too well what can happen if you use a tester infected with bacteria.
She used a mascara wand from a high-end makeup story in New York City and within hours saw her eye double in size.

“As soon as I got home, my eye was bloodshot red and completely swollen,” Khaled said.

It turns out she had a nasty case of pink eye that she thinks came from that mascara.

So our PIX11 News producers went undercover, armed with medical culture swabs from Jersey City Medical Center and visited a number of local high- and low-end makeup stores. They swabbed lipsticks, glosses, eye makeup and foundations before we sent them off to the lab for testing.

About 30 percent of our samples came back positive for some kind of bacteria. Michelle Malabanan is the medical center’s chief microbiologist and said in many cases that bacteria isn’t just on the applicators.

“It can multiply inside the makeup,” she said.

The eye makeup came back with a bacteria that could cause irritation and infection to your eyes. We showed the results to a dermatologist as well.

” All the organisms that grew in the cultures can be problematic if you are immuno-compromised,” dermatologist Doris Day said.

Day added if you are prone to acne or sensitive skin , bacteria could be more prone to getting in the skin and causing an infection.

For the most part, we did see plenty of throw-away applicators and alcohol pads in the stores, but, more often than not, we saw people simply using their hands.

Day said don’t risk it.

“Don’t test it,” she advises. “Buy ones that are returnable. Take it home, try it out and if it’s not right then take it back. “

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