Microbiological study of used cosmetic products: highlighting possible impact on consumer health

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AIMS: To investigate the nature and extent of microbial contamination in five categories of used cosmetic products (lipstick, lip gloss, eyeliners, mascaras and beauty blenders) and highlight the potential risk posed to consumers in the UK.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Used products were donated and microbial contents were determined by microbial culture and identification. About 79-90% of all used products were contaminated with bacteria, with bacterial loads ranging between 10 2 and 10 3 CFU per ml, beauty blenders contained an average load of >10 6 CFU per ml. Presence of Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Citrobacter freundii was detected. Enterobacteriaceae and fungi were detected in all product types, and were prevalent in beauty blenders (26·58 and 56·96% respectively). Ninety-three per cent of beauty blenders had not been cleaned and 64% had been dropped on the floor and continued to be used.

CONCLUSIONS: Significant levels of microbial contamination occur during use of cosmetic products and presence of pathogenic organisms pose a potential risk to health.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: The nature and high level of contamination in used cosmetic products indicate that greater user awareness and education are required. Manufacturers should ensure that product expiry dates are prominently displayed and consumers can identify the symbols used on product packaging.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Early online date9 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Oct 2019


Bibliographical note

This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Bashir, A. and Lambert, P. (2019), Microbiological study of used cosmetic products: highlighting possible impact on consumer health. J Appl Microbiol. Accepted Author Manuscript, which has been published in final form at https://doi.org/10.1111/jam.14479.  This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.


  • Escherichia coli
  • fungi
  • microbial contamination
  • staphylococci

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