Lip Cosmetics - Can the germs stay on them after you use them when you have a cold or the flu

Dear Beauty Brains,

If you use lip gloss, lipstick, lip balm when you have a virus e.g. common cold, flu would the virus  germs get on them and can you reinfect yourself if you use these products after you have recovered ?

Is it better o dispose of these products after you recover ?

Basically when I get a cold I need to use moisturising lip products such as lip gloss (traditional tube with applicator), lipstick, lip balm otherwise very dry scaly lips and no protection from the sun. I need to use SPF on my lips all year round due to the strong sun in Sydney - had some nasty lip burns when I was a child.

Thanks for all you help....Little Tabby.


  • edited May 14
    If you have a normal immune system, you shouldn't be able to be reinfected with the same virus more than once because your body has immune memory for the virus.  That is why you don't get it again from your cell phone, sheets, etc.  Once you are well, you can only be infected by a different strain.  Someone else, on the other hand, might get it if they use your lip product.  Source: I am not a doctor, this is just my understanding of how the immune system works.
  • Brains, what say ye?
  • I haven't had a chance to look into this but it's less a question about cosmetics and more a question about how long viruses and bacteria remain viable on hard surfaces (well, soft surfaces anyway.) I assume this will vary from virus to virus and bacterium to bacterium. Bacteria could certainly colonize the product if there's water and a food source, I'm not sure about virus replication in this kind of environment. 
  • It depends what you mean by "germ". Specify the virus, bacteria, or fungi, and we'll talk.

    Bacteria for the most are pretty hardy creatures tho. Fungi, mold, etc, not so much. It requires, a specific environment for it to thrive, the same with some viruses. Some viruses survive only seconds to a minute outside it's environment.

    UV light, if you're concerned, is good for most "germicidal" murderings. It's what the CDC recommends in like EVERY contamination case. And like Randy says, you really have to specify your germs.

    I actually don't know how long the flu virus can survive on lipbalm because of it's moist envirnment, it's sealed enclosure, and the amount of the virus being deposited, (Which I assume is a lot, coming from your mouth.) It typically only lasts 7-8 hours outside the host on hard surfaces like plastic or steel. THIS DOES NOT APPLY FOR ALL VIRUSES! My tip, is don't use it for a bit, or get a UV flash light, to sanitize it if you're worried about a flu relapse.

    I looked it up...This I oddly didn't know, and it concerned microbes!
  • Good analysis, thanks AOTNR! (And welcome back.)
  • I can tell you my N of 1 experience.  I NEVER throw away toothbrushes, lip cosmetics, etc after a cold/flu and I always have a period of some months being well before I ever get sick again.  If I were able to contract it from my mouth/lip care products, I would think it would happen right away.  I don't think that's necessarily because the virus isn't there; I suspect it's more because I'm now immune to it (again, immune memory).  So my bet is if you don't share mouth care/ lip care products, you should be fine.
  • Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for your advice - I also haven't had any issues of re-infecting myself. Just want to be safe than sorry. I also never share makeup and never try on testers. 

  • *bows, and in a melodramatic inflection upon return, like a cowboy riding back into the corral she says* I missed ya Randy, and you know I, and my big mouth couldn't stay away for long

    Uh Sarah if that keeps happening consistantly, try some of the tips I came up with then in your wellness period, Also. It's probably not just lip cosmetics, see the flu virus mutates from carrier to carrier whether it be rodent bird or human host. That means you could have the flu again, but not have the antibody because it's a new strain of flu entirely, does that make sense. It's sort of how viruses have what would be their version of sex to advance their odds of survival and proliferation. So when you're getting sick again, odds are you're just getting the latest viral version of the i phone. Does that make better sense and you get first class beta testing privileges!
  • Yeah, I think that's what I was saying--that I don't get sick again for quite some months, and by then, it's a different strain.
  • I DO try on testers, but then again, I live on the edge.  Never got herpes and never got sick after using a tester!  Not that I still couldn't, but so far, so good.  Uh-oh, now I've jinxed it:)
  • OH, lol, sometimes I misunderstand! lol Srry Sarah, (Plus, I think I rather enjoy being long-winded, and to over complicate things for the folly of it.)

    The herpes virus, and other ret viruses are really fascinating to study, But to save you the trouble, you really should stop doing that if you don't want to get the virus. Although you could have the virus and be asymptomatic, or other.

    And that's not all you could even catch :D Isn't it interesting, the tiny little world that exists? .
  • I do make them cut off the tip and clean the tester with alcohol, but I really can't figure out how it will look without trying it on.  Agreed, it's a risk.  But I've survived this long and been trying out testers since I was 14 or 15 years old, so...almost 48 and not about to change now.
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