When you’re feeling under the weather, adding a touch of makeup in the morning can make you feel so much better as you trudge through your regular routine (good-bye under-eye circles and Rudolph-red nose). But contamination with cold and flu germs can be an issue. Does this mean we have to toss out our holy grail products along with the chicken soup container and Vick’s scented tissues? Not necessarily.
According to Philip Tierno, PhD, Microbiologist and author of The Secret life of Germs, sick germs can indeed linger on your favorite red lipstick, not to mention your brushes and makeup bag. But the bacteria that might have spread onto them is unlikely to make you sick again. “Cold and flu viruses don’t last too long in or around inanimate objects,” explains Dr. Tierno. “And by about 10 days after your illness, you develop the antibody to that infecting organism, so it will most likely not harm or re-infect you again.”
It’s still a good idea to disinfect your makeup and beauty tools after you’ve been sick. “Wipe off the surface of the product with an antiseptic or alcohol wipe, which can help to kill off the surviving viruses,” says Dr. Tierno. “The wiping action alone will remove most, if not all, the contamination.” In fact, cold or no cold, periodic disinfecting will help prevent breakouts and is just good hygiene. Keep a stylish alcohol dispenser and brush cleaner with bacteria-fighting ingredients on your vanity to make it easier to disinfect your makeup products as needed.
As an additional precaution against infection, makeup products are designed to withstand common germs, which explains why many of your cult-favorites have already lasted for years. “Most makeup products also have antimicrobials within the makeup formula, which help control or stop the growth of germs,” Dr. Tierno says. However, those antimicrobials have a shelf-life of one tor two years, so throw away a product if its texture, color, or smell changes or seems off. (Here are the bathroom products to chuck right now! So long, clutter.)