50 Beauty Items Laden With Bacteria

Aly Walansky
beauty items with bacteria

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Bad news, germaphobes. If you are trying to steer clear of anything laden with bacteria, there’s pretty much nothing you love that you’ll still want to be touching. Obviously, you can do so with caution (and lots of hand sanitizer at your side) but since we were curious about what really holds the most bacteria in our beauty-full lives, we got down to the nitty gritty. Read on below to find out what you should be looking out for germ-wise in your everyday life – and see if you’re already passing the “clean” bill of health.

Hair Dryer: The worst thing we can do is use really old blow dryers without cleaning out their air vents, says George Gonzalez, owner of George the salon Chicago.

Flat irons/curling irons: Our style products and hair oils are getting on our hair tools every time we use them – but are we remembering to wipe these tools down after?

Loofah: Use only your hands to wash the body. Anything else is irritating, and oftentimes leads to problems such as keratosis pilaris (think plucked, bumpy chicken skin on the upper arms and thighs). “What’s worse, is that the moist environment of the loofah acts like a fertile petri dish, promoting mold and bacteria growth. Coupling the abrasiveness of the loofah with its unsanitary nature, allows for germs to easily enter the skin through the resulting microtears and cause common dermatoses such as folliculitis (red bumps and pustules at hair follicles) and impetigo (yellow-oozing or crusting on a red base),” says Dr. Rachael Eckels, ZO Skin Health faculty member and dermatologist.

MORE: 7 Sneaky Ways Bacteria is Getting Into Your Beauty Products

Nail salon: It goes beyond sanitizing those tools. Are you being given a fresh bowl of soapy water to soak your nails in? Is your buffer and file new? Is your manicurist washing her hands before she begins to work on you?

Hair salon: Is your stylist washing her hands? Are all the tools and sinks being cleaned between each client? That also goes for robes and towels – there are a half dozen sources of bacteria right there!

Bikini wax time: Or any waxing, really. Waxers who “double dip” are a major bacteria no-no. But also make sure your technician is wearing gloves and all the beds are covered in disposable paper (otherwise, who knows what bacteria you are picking up from the last person!).

Bar of soap: Switch to body wash, already. Bars of soap usually don’t get to dry completely between uses. This is especially true for the bottom, where all sorts of nasty bacteria can accumulate.

Bar of soap with suds

Rubberball/Mike Kemp

Hairbrushes and combs: When was the last time you cleaned the hair out and gave that brush a good cleaning? Your dirty hair and the oils and products therein are accumulating all the time.

Nail clippers, files and buffers: Think about all the places your hands have been. In salons, these tools are mandated to be cleaned between uses, but do you do so at home?

Earrings: Think about it, you are poking it into your skin. Then, you let it sit around, only to put in your skin again. All sorts of bacteria and infections are possible.

Toothbrushes: Especially if you keep them in the bathroom, anywhere near the toilet. Those bristles harbor bacteria from within your mouth, the air, and anything floating around. If you bleed from flossing, etc, there may be blood in there as well.

Razors: They come in contact with body hair, oils, even blood. That’s why you should never be sharing them – and should be changing those blades regularly.

MORE: How to (Really) Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Air: Indoor air, as in what we breathe in our homes and at work,  is often laden with bacteria (mold and asbestos), says Tony Abate, Vice President of Operations at AtmosAir Solutions in Fairfield, CT.

Makeup brushes: This is especially true if you use them anywhere near your toilet bowl. When you flush the toilet, bacteria can become aerosolized and with your brushes sitting on top of the back of the bowl or near them, they become an easy receptacle for this. But, no matter where you use them, your brushes are used to apply product to your face and can harbor bacteria in the bristles.

Mascara: Wands can harbor bacteria so mascara should be changed out every 3 months.

Department store cosmetic displays: Any multi-use cosmetic on the display shouldn’t be sampled – especially if others have already used it – you don’t know where their hands (or lips!) have been.

Gym showers: (Especially the drains) harbor fungus and bacteria, says. Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist.

Yoga mats: Sweat accumulates on the mats – especially because they are used in hot and warm environments which can then also help bacteria grow.

Yoga Mats

Jamie Grill/Getty

The bottom of your toothbrush holder: If you let water accumulate there, bacteria is growing, says Dr. Mariwalla.

Your shower drain: Make sure to clean it out after every shower or bath.

Salon pedicure drains: Similar to to the gym shower, there’s all sorts of bacteria festering within.

The handles on a Pilates Reformer: Think about it, says Cassie Piasecki, a fitness professional; it’s  never washed because it’s comprised of leather and metal! Same goes for your beloved spin bike and the hand weights that you use during class.

MORE: 50 Brilliant Beauty Uses For Common Household Items

Our skin and hair: Our bodies are also a great transportation vehicle for contaminants. “Skin makes dust, which then makes particles, which can attract a bacteria or germ and if airborne we can breathe it in and become ill,” says Abate. Hair makes for a great filter that can trap and hold dust and allergens like pollen and mold spores. Air cleaning is important in indoor environments to remove contaminants. One tip for allergy sufferers, is to wash your hair often, to remove the stuff that the hair will grab and bring down to your nose and mouth.

Cell Phones: “Let’s take a moment to consider your cell phone. This little guy goes everywhere with you, from your pocket or purse to the bathroom, to next your face when you talk. Andrea Eldridge, CEO and co-founder of Nerds On Call, an on-site computer and laptop repair service  refers to a study where scientists from Queen Mary, University of London, in October 2011 that reported “one in six mobile phones in Britain is contaminated with fecal matter.” Yuck. Even if you’ve never headed to the little girl’s room with your smartphone, surely you’ve talked on it when you’re sick or handled it after coughing or sneezing.”

Our cell phones may play host to a plethora of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, says Dr. Roshini Raj, women’s health expert, celebrity doctor and co-founder of TULA. While some of them are not harmful, others may be responsible not only for your recent cold but also for breakouts, blemishes and rashes on your skin. Bacteria and a buildup of dirt and oils are one of the main factors that contribute to acne. When you hold your phone against your face, the bacteria from your screen, together with the heat that simulates more bacteria growth, mixes with oils and dirt on your face and may result in a pimple. If you are breaking out predominantly on one side of your face, chances are you use this side more often to hold your phone. Try using earphones while on the phone to see if that limits your blemishes and develop a habit of wiping down your phone daily.

Bathroom towels/wash cloths/hand towels: We use these to dry off, but they can stay wet for a while after – this leads to lots of fun stuff like mildew and bacteria. And if you are reusing that towel, it means we’re redistributing that gunk back on our bodies. Gross.

Makeup in jars/tubs/palettes: These are opened up to the air every day, exposed to bacteria. Then, we contaminate them further by putting our hands in them. Do you remember to wash your hands every time you are about to apply makeup?

Swimming pools: Do you know what’s really in your pool water? According to the CDC, pools can contain traces of E. coli and other contaminants, leading to sick swimmers and outbreaks of unhealthy bacteria.

Bathroom sink/tap: Obviously, you are using it to wash up. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be washed, itself. Wipe down with a sanitizing wipe a few times a week.

Lipstick: If you add lipstick after eating a meal, food remnants seep into the lipstick itself, which eventually turn to bacteria, says David Dragoo, Health Expert and MD at Money Crashers.

Earbuds and Headphones: They are on your ears, maybe even in them – and when was the last time you even thought about washing them?

Makeup samples: Roughly 20% of makeup samples in the beauty department contain bacteria as well, says Dragoo.

Our purse: The bottom of our purse, its handle, and the entire purse itself (if made from leather) all pick up a lot of bacteria. Plenty of us forget to wash them regularly!