Is it ever a good idea to share makeup? Experts explain what is and isn’t okay to borrow
If you’ve ever gotten ready for a night out with friends, you know that when someone pulls out a concealer that actually covers dark circles—or any other highly coveted beauty product—there will be at least one person who asks if they can borrow it. Sure; in most cases, sharing is caring. But not when it comes to your makeup. Germs can live on your beauty products, and sharing makeup products or tools may cause infection. If you want to share your cosmetics, you should take precautions first.
“It’s uncommon, but certain infections—like herpes from lip products and bacterial infections from eye products—can be spread if people share makeup,” says Sandy Skotnicki, M.D., a dermatologist and the author of Beyond Soap.
Typically, you’ll be able to see if someone has a cold sore or pink eye, but it’s not a great idea to swap products even if the person you’re sharing with isn’t showing symptoms. Also, you don’t know exactly how long your friend has had certain products (no judgment, we’ve all held onto a beloved product for way too long), and according to Dendy Engelman, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist, using expired makeup can open yourself up to viruses such as conjunctivitis, dermatitis, and ophthalmic infections. It can also potentially cause breakouts and skin irritation.
While it’s true that makeup artists use the same products on many clients, and stores like Sephora have samples available for anyone to try, they either sanitize their products in between clients or make sanitizing products readily available. If you’ve ever had your makeup professionally done, then you may have noticed that the artist takes precautions. They use a new spoolie for each mascara application; they dab foundation onto a clean brush or sponge each time they use it; they sharpen their liners; and the lipstick they use isn’t applied straight from the bullet, but instead is sanitized with alcohol and then applied to the lips using a brush.
“Ideally, you don’t want to share things that go on your face unless they can be properly cleansed and thoroughly sterilized,” suggests Dr. Engelman.
But sharing among friends is human nature: We borrow clothes, ask for sips of matcha lattes, say oh my god you have to try this about a particularly good bite of food, and hand over lip balm without thinking twice. Dr. Engelman says that, realistically, some products can be shared in a pinch, especially the ones that come out of tubes and can be dispensed on a clean brush. However, lipsticks, makeup brushes, and eye makeup should never be shared if you don’t have the proper sanitizing tools. You should also avoid borrowing anything that comes in a pot that requires you to dip your finger into it, like certain balms and concealers, since the product can hold onto bacteria transferred to it from the hand.
The worst makeup products you can share are mascara and eyeliner. “Each time you pull the wand out and push it back in, you push air into the bottle’s base and feed the aerobic bacteria that can survive in the oxygenated area,” Dr. Engelman says. Dr. Skotnicki agrees and adds that when she gets her makeup professionally done she usually brings her own mascara.
If you’ve recently shared makeup or know that you’re going to keep using your friend’s lip gloss, don’t worry too much. “Worst-case scenarios and fear drive information these days,” Dr. Skotnicki says. “[Remember that] products have preservatives, and they prevent the growth of microorganisms in the product.” Any product that contains water, even a natural or “clean” beauty product, needs a preservative in it, and that should help prevent bacteria from accumulating.
The consequences of using someone else’s makeup aren’t dire, but Dr. Engelman says that, in most cases, it’s just not worth the risk.
If you love something your friend is using and you don’t have sanitizing wipes or spray with you, it’s better to wait to try it out in a beauty store, where a makeup artist or other trained professional can make sure the product is properly cleaned.