Three Makeup Dangers You Need to Avoid

The last thing you want to do when you’re trying to look beautiful and healthy is get sick or damage your looks. Dr. Oz goes inside your medicine cabinets, purses and makeup kits to reveal the hidden dangers you need to avoid.

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Every day we use a dozen or more products in the pursuit of beauty (or, let’s face it, just trying to look like we got more sleep than we did). In fact our pursuit of looking well rested, beautiful, or younger is a $30 billion dollar industry. But there are dangers lurking on the road to looking good. Here’s your road map to 3 biggies to avoid.

Risk #1: The Bacteria Buffet at the Makeup Counter

Few things are as glamorous as the gleaming cosmetics section in a big department store, packed with fresh-faced clerks in chic, tidy outfits. But, don’t be fooled by appearances. The tubes, containers, and bottles they are beckoning you to sample are filled with the bacteria of the shoppers who came before you. Those shiny testers are touched by hundreds of women who may harbor pink eye, herpes, a cold or flu, or simply hands that weren’t washed after going to the bathroom.

What You Should Know

A 2-year study of germs at the makeup counter found that 100% of samples were contaminated with bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus, strep and E. Coli (yes, the poop germ).  And it didn’t matter if the store was on Fifth Avenue or Main Street.

What You Can Do

  • Employ single-use applicators for anything that will touch your eyes, nose or mouth. On lipsticks, swipe the swab or applicator on the side of the tube, not the top (which everyone else has been touching). With lip-gloss, squeeze a little out and discard, then use the applicator to apply.
  • Disinfect lipsticks, pencils, and brushes with spray alcohol (ask the clerk to use theirs or bring your own). Use a Kleenex to scrape the top layer off eye shadows, blushes, and powders and apply with a cotton ball.
  • Bring your own mascara if you’re getting a makeover at the counter.
  • Avoid sampling on the weekend, when the study found the highest levels of contamination. The lowest levels were on Thursday afternoon.


Risk #2: Eyelash Extending Products

Have you seen those products lining pharmacy shelves promising to actually help you grow longer lashes? Well, it’s all a bunch of hooey. No over-the-counter product can do what nature can’t. So, the biggest risk you’re taking with those is wasting a wallet-full of money. But there is one prescription product – Latisse – approved for hypotrichosis (not having eye lashes) that does actually work. An ophthalmologist who was using the drug for glaucoma patients noticed that one of the medicine’s side effects was growing thick lashes. It is believed to work by elongating the amount of time eyelashes can grow before they fall out.

What You Should Know

Growing thicker lashes is not the only side effect this medication has. It can also cause red eyes, bulging veins in the eye, blue black discoloration around the eye, and discoloration of the iris, burning and inflammation (none of which is particularly beautiful and can be dangerous).

What You Should Do

As with any drug, you discuss the benefits and side effects with a doctor you trust. And only use this product with a prescription from (and under the care of) your doctor. Do not purchase it online or in spas. Make sure your doctor monitors you while you take the medication.

Risk #3: Products that Lighten Your Skin

Lots of women are seeking a solution for dark spots on the skin, often caused by pregnancy, menopause, or acne scars and there are lots of products that claim to help, but they can cause more problems than they solve.

What You Should Know

There is a prescription medication that is very effective for evening complexion – hydroquinone, which stops the development of the melanin that creates dark spots on your skin. However, overusing hydroquinone or using unregulated products with it can cause you to develop blue skin, and doctors are reporting that more and more patients are coming to them with skin discoloration from hydroquinone.

Topical steroids such as clobetasol, are also often purported to help even skin tone, but they have very serious side effects including developing extremely thin skin, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and immune problems.

What You Can Do

  • Read the label. Anything that contains more than 2% hydroquinone should be prescribed by a doctor and used only with his or her supervision.
  • Beware of bootleg products, which can contain unsafe amounts of hydroquinone or harmful chemicals such as mercury and arsenic. Warning signs include suspiciously inexpensive products or those that do not list ingredients on the label.

The Promise of Laser Treatments

Laser treatments are a safe and effective way to treat uneven skin tone when performed by a board-certified doctor with experience using them and experience with your particular skin tone and complexion.

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