Tuesday, January 2, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, January 2, 2001

Bacteria and rancid oils lurk in stale cosmetics

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Island Style Writer

Jess Aki, assistant professor of cosmetology at Honolulu Community College, teaches the importance of sanitation and disinfection in beauty salons and spas.

She warned of the dangers that lurk in unclean cosmetics.

"Never touch your cosmetics with your fingers because hands carry bacteria. Use a small tool to get the product out," Aki advised.

"You should change your mascara as often as you change your toothbrush. Once a month is ideal," Aki said. Bacteria can form in mascara, causing the highly contagious eye disease, conjunctivitis. The pumping action many women use to get the mascara onto the wand can propel airborne bacteria into the tube, exacerbating the problem. Aki said it’s not necessary to pump because the brushes are designed to grab the appropriate amount of product with one swoop.

Eye pencils can splinter if not sharpened smooth — and a splinter in the eye can mean a trip to the ophthalmologist.

Aki said she has seen too much of a disease called acne cosmetica, blemishes caused by soiled implements such as powder puffs, sponges and brushes. Since many products are made with natural oils, they can go bad when in contact with the oils of the skin, and disease can erupt.

"Lipsticks have to be digestible, so they are made with natural ingredients that can go rancid," Aki said. "You’ll notice a faint smell of rancid salad oil if they’ve gone bad."

Like paint that settles and separates when it gets old, makeup can change color and texture when past its prime. Aki recommends removing the top layer of a product with a plastic knife if changes are observed.

Aki places makeup not in current use into the freezer. Lip pencils, eye pencils, lipsticks, even foundations and powders can be preserved this way. Oil-based foundations may separate a little, but will reconstitute when shaken.

An added bonus: Freezing pencils makes them easier to sharpen.

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