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Would you buy used makeup? Episode 103

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Would you buy used makeup?sexy_nova_by_ravinwood


Have you heard of this company, Glambot? It’s a startup company that is apparently sells a million dollars a year of pre-owned makeup. The company, which was founded in 2013 by CEO Karen Horiuchi, buys used makeup and resells it online. They clean and sanitize every product before resale. (They use heat or alcohol to sterilize containers or in some cases to “remove layers of product to get down to a fresh one.”

Here are their guidelines:

  • They only buy products on their “accepted brand” list which covers about 60 major brands. Glambot does not purchase drugstore brands such as Cover Girl, Rimmel, Revlon, and Wet & Wild.
  • You have to have at least 20 used products to sell at one time qualify. (So most of her sellers are people in the industry, like beauty bloggers) who receive free samples.
  • Items with reusable applicators (like mascara and lip gloss can’t be resold.) But things like lipstick, blush are.
  • They do not resell nail polish or fragrances
  • The products have to be at least 50% full (the price is based on how much remains)
  • The products have to be clean and free from dirt, mold, or other foreign contaminants
  • They do NOT accept “expired products.” Most cosmetics don’t have an expiration date so how does that work?

I can think of 2 advantages of this program:

  • You can pick up some great products at a reasonable price.
    You can make a few bucks on products that you’re never going to use.
  • Disadvantages

I can think of 4 disadvantages:

  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Pseudomonas Aeruginosa
Escherichia coli (aka E. coli)
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis

These are the 4 most common types of bacteria that are found in cosmetics and they cause anything from skin rash to eye infections to bloody diarrhea.

So, given the risk factor I’m curious to see how this business works out in the long term.

Old make-up contains meningitis bacteria


Researchers at the London Metropolitan University did a study on some make-up products and found that a number of samples of out-of date make-up tested positive for the Enterococcus Faecalis bacteria which is known to cause meningitis.

In the study they examined five products and found four of them tested positive for the bacteria.  The products studied included a lip gloss, blush, lipstick, and mascara.  Notably, the lip gloss which was a year old but still not expired tested positive for the meningitis bacteria.

So what does this mean?  It’s probably not a good idea to keep using make-up that is more than a year old.  I know there are a number of consumers who do this and you are taking a risk from exposure. Normally, cosmetics are tested for stability for one year so if the product is older than that, you probably don’t want to continue to use it.  Also, I would avoid products that claim to be preservative free.  There is a reason we put preservatives in cosmetics. Disease-causing microbes are not something you want with your lipstick.

Does this anti-wrinkle cream ingredient cause MORE wrinkles?


I read an article on Prevention.com that said some anti-aging ingredients, like preservatives, can cause skin irritation and allergy. They cited a study about the effect of methyl paraben (MP) on human skin.
The researchers measured concentrations of MP in human skin using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spec and found that MP remained unmetabolized and persisted slightly in the stratum corneum. They also found that long term exposure to “decreased the proliferating ability of keratinocytes” and reduced collagen and the expression of an enzyme that makes hyaluronic acid. Therefore they concluded that “MP might influence the aging and differentiation of keratinocytes.”

So how do you react to this information? First consider the evidence that the evidence extrapolates lab data to actual effects on humans which isn’t necessarily valid in this case. Second there’s no context for the effect that methylparaben may have on wrinkles. For example is it 100 times worse than being exposed to UV radiation? Is it 10 times worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes? Does it caused more wrinkles than the hydrating your skin from drinking alcohol? Before I would freak out about methylparaben containing products I’d like to get a sense of how strong the effect is.

Also, even if you do decide to err on the safe side and get rid of products containing methylparaben what do you go to? You could be going from the frying pan into the fire. At the very least you could be going from a well preserved product which protects you from bacterial contamination to a product that uses a preservative that is not proven to be as effective. So you may be trading off a very small long-term benefit of fewer wrinkles for a more serious short-term benefit of skin infection. Given the number of cases of contaminated products we’ve seen, it seems like the latter is a much greater risk.

One more thing, The article also says “By law, the ingredient is always included on the ingredient label, but it does go by some sneaky names.” Synonyms include Metaben, Methyl Chemosept, Moldex, Paridol, Preserval M, Tegosept M; and methylparahydroxybenzoate. This implies that companies are tricking you by hiding behind different names. But by law companies must use the official INCI name of “methylparaben” which means that only smaller, less informed companies are likely to get this wrong.

Reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17186576

Is anti-bacterial soap a waste of money?


Here’s a story about research questioning the usefulness of antibacterial soaps.  In a study published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy researchers found that hand cleaners with antibiotic triclosan were no more effective at killing germs than regular soap.

The way they proved this is that they exposed 20 different strains of bacteria to a formulation of regular soap and a sample of regular soap with 0.3 percent tricolsan.  Bacteria was exposed to these samples for 20 seconds which simulated hand washing.  They found that there was no difference in terms of killing between the two treatments.

They did a second experiment in which they had people wash their hands with the different products and found that there was no difference in the number of bacteria that each removes.

So the bottom line of this research is that washing your hands with antibacterial soap provides no real benefit over using regular soap.  And considering that we use our antibacterial agents like triclosan too frequently (Because it might develop resistant bacteria) it’s a good idea to avoid antibacterial soaps.

Can eating toothpaste kill your kid?


Here’s an analysis that our friend Colin Sanders did over at this blog, Colin’s Beauty Pages. He answered the question Can eating toothpaste kill a child?

Apparently this came up from in a tweet by a “celebrity dentist” who said “There is enough flouride in a standard tube of toothpaste that, if ingested, can be fatal to two small children.” That, as I like to say, is a testable proposition and so let’s look at the numbers to find out the truth.

First of all, it’s true that if you ingest enough fluoride it can make you sick. But in terms of toxicity we have to look at a value called the “lowest toxic dose” which is the lowest dose at which harmful effects can be detected. The lowest toxic dose for fluoride is 3mg/kg per day. So if we assume a toddler weighs 12.5Kg and we are talking about killing two of them we will need 2 x 3 x 12.5 mg of fluoride or 75mg. Again, this is not a lethal dose but just enough to cause some ill effects.

At the high end of the spectrum, the lowest dose that has ever been recorded for killing someone was 4000mg (that was an adult in Canada). So somewhere between 75 mg and 4000mg of fluoride can be fatal.

So how much fluoride is in a tube of toothpaste? Colin, being based in the UK, used the EU regulations but they’re almost identical to US regs which stipulate about 0.15%. Using that figure he calculates that a large tube of toothpaste contains 150mg of fluoride. That’s a LOT close to the lower limit of 75 mg that may or may not make you sick and quite a ways from the upper limit of 4000mg that can kill you.

The bottom line is you probably don’t need to worry about this (but call a poison control center if you have any concerns!)

Image credit: http://orig08.deviantart.net/8309/f/2010/127/9/b/sexy_nova_by_ravinwood.jpg

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lyn Caf October 6, 2015, 7:49 am

    Thanks for the info! Do you know if any of the products tested for bacteria were powder products? I was under the impression that creams and liquids (anything with water) can grow bacteria easily, but that powders are unlikely to do so. The only possible powder product in the list is the blush, but it could have been a cream blush. I couldn’t tell from the information at link, unless I missed something. It also doesn’t say whether or not sanitizing them with alcohol is effective to kill the bacteria (obviously that wouldn’t work on the foundation, lip gloss, and mascara). Finally, I’m suspicious that this study was funded by a cosmetics company who is now running a promotion that gives consumers a coupon in return for throwing out their old makeup. I’m afraid I’m going to need more information before I toss out everything I own and buy all new products.

    • Randy Schueller October 6, 2015, 7:52 am

      Hi Lyn. Sorry but I don’t have any more info about Glambot’s products. It’s true that powder products are less likely to grow bacteria than water based products but even powdered products can become become a growth medium if they become contaminated with moisture from your fingers or the environment.

  • Traci October 6, 2015, 8:28 pm

    I was reading with interest and a little apprehension about the the used make-up biz you mentioned, then laughed out loud when I got to the 4 disadvantages. Not that staph is funny, but good point.

  • LittleTabby October 7, 2015, 6:08 am

    This is important to know – I’ve have seen shocking testers in stores – all dirty and grossed out ! I wouldn’t touch them and wonder what nasties are in those ! Also, Paula’s Choice has a great post on Cosmetic Expiration Dates and this has been the one I have gone by. Only today I threw out a lipstick (virtually unused) as it was dragging, feeling a bit strange on my lips and having a faint ‘off’ smell. Better to be safe than sorry.
    Here is the link:

  • Sara Murad October 7, 2015, 12:57 pm

    Intresting! I have been told by a dentist to never rinse the toothpaste after brushing and just leave it there ” you want to keep the floride there as long as u can to get the benefit!” , I am not sure I agree with her. Not cuz of floride poisoning but I think a rinse off product is made to be rinsed and was worried that leaving the SLS containing toothpaste would irritate my gums.. What do u think?

    • Randy Schueller October 7, 2015, 1:06 pm

      I’ve never heard that fluoride toothpaste don’t work properly because the contact time is too short. And it is true that SLS can be irritating. I agree with you – spit sooner!

  • LittleTabby October 7, 2015, 9:47 pm

    Dear BeautyBrains, This web cast is an absolute eye opener. One thing I have noticed is that there are different guidelines on product expiration dates, e.g. Avon Australia recommends to only keep eye makeup (all types) for 3 months but other sites say that powder eye shadow is good for 2 years. This confuses me. Also, please advise your opinion on the Paula’s Choice link for Makeup Expiration.
    Link is:

    I have learnt the hard way with eye shadow – Last year I got a nasty eye allergy from a 29 year old (yes this was bought in 1985) powder eye shadow which still looked fine – no smell but the texture was off. Optometrist gave me a lecture but said the allergy was not dangerous (it was extremely painful). Never do I want to experience this and I hope no-one else does. Your web cast proved that there is no compromise on health for which I am very grateful for. Regards….LittleTabby.

    • Randy Schueller October 8, 2015, 8:43 am

      Paula’s advice is quite good although my opinion differs slightly on a few points. She says lip gloss is good for 2-3 years which seems a bit long to me. For some reason she says that facial or body moisturizers are only good for 6 months to 1 year which seems too short (unless perhaps they’re packaged in jars.) Oddly she claims that sample packets should only be kept for 1 day. I’m not sure which kind of packet she’s talking about but I’ve personally stability tested sample packets for some hair and skin care products and have shown they’re stable for up to a year.

  • LittleTabby October 8, 2015, 4:32 am

    I noticed that a person who had 23 year old nail polish was mentioned on this post (Red Faced LittleTabby) – it and others older than 3-5 years were turfed out. Any in the 3-5 year age bracket were checked for separation/ and gloopiness and the OK ones are kept to be used now ! (not in 20 years !)

  • Eileen October 8, 2015, 11:56 am

    Anyone who has ever had a cosmetic related infection can tell you they can be real nasty little buggers! 😛 Although the eyelid infection I experienced was over twenty years ago, I still have a small scare on my lower waterline and at the base of my eyelashes. Fortunately, my eyelashes are fairly thick and black, so the scar is really only noticeable to me, but it is a constant reminder to toss rather than hoard. As a consequence, I tend to be conservative and never hesitate to toss something even if it hasn’t reached it’s suggested experiation date. I discard mascara every two months and toss lipstick, lipgloss, and any liquid or cream product after a year. Powdered products get tossed after two years. It doesn’t matter how much or how little of the product is left. Out it goes! I also never use a brush twice without cleaning it in between. I use a daily brush cleaner/sanitizer during the week and give the used brushes a good washing every weekend. I do occasionally hang on to some products longer but only for color reference; not to use.

    Personally, I think of cosmetics as accessories and because I like to stay modern and up-to-date, it is not an issue for me to toss cosmetics and replace them with newer iterations. As for the so-called cosmetic industry plot to get us to buy more products, well, just ask anyone who has had a cosmetic related infection and they’ll tell you the notion that cosmetics reach a point of no return is fact; not fiction.

    • LittleTabby October 8, 2015, 1:59 pm

      Hi Eileen,

      Mine was an allergy and not dangerous but downright unpleasant so I can totally relate to this. Hope hou never experience these things again. I’m currently experiencing the same thing due to a different brand of eyeshadow which is new / difference this time is that it is nowhere near as severe.

      I have learned the hard way so now throw out old makeup without any guilt.

  • Pedro October 11, 2015, 9:23 am

    I add the study about preservatives was made by FANCL Corporation. FANCL Corp. is one of the biggest cosmetic companies of the world and two of their main brands, FANCL and Boscia (sold in the US) do not use traditional preservatives in their products (maybe due marketing reasons). So, of course I would not expect a study that was published by FANCL Corp. to show good things about preservatives. It is like to expect Coca Cola would publish something bad about the colorants they use.

  • Astha October 13, 2015, 4:38 am

    Personally, never been in favour of buying used makeup. Every makeup brand uses different preservatives. I guess, its good to shell off some money and buy new makeup.

  • amy October 14, 2015, 4:59 pm

    I wanted to add that when some cosmetic companies don’t put the expiration date on the label, there is probably some other code that they can help you figure out. I purchased a burt’s bees face wash that I didn’t know expired while still in the store (I figured it out because it smelled off). I called them and they offered to replace the tube, and told me how to decipher the code stamped on it for next time. yay for good customer service!

  • Katia September 5, 2016, 5:53 pm

    I love you guys so much! I’ve started reading up on cosmetic chemistry recent because I am so sick of not being to work out whether all these chemophobic theories have any real basis to them, or just another version of the whole autism injection scam. I’d found the two Japanese Toxicology studies about Methylparaben, and unfortunately wasn’t able to access more than the abstract due to not being a fully fledged scientist with an academic subscription to such sites 🙁 I instantly came here to search on your site and see if you’d covered it, and sure enough, you have! (The fact that it was last year makes me realise I’m quite late to the game). Thank you so much for all you do, I love your podcast and your debunking of all the pseudoscience bullshit out there! Keep up the good work!

    • Randy Schueller September 5, 2016, 5:56 pm

      Hey Katia, thanks for your words of support! I’m glad you find our information helpful. (If you haven’t done so yet can you please write a review of our podcast on iTunes? It would really help us out!)

    • Katia September 5, 2016, 5:57 pm

      Also when they say ‘long term exposure’ do they mean constantly having it on for months? Or just repeatedly exposing it to your skin every day? And did they account for whether this is still the case if you’re wearing a primer? (Basically, is there any place I can get my hands on these studies and stop pestering you!!)

      • Randy Schueller September 6, 2016, 7:43 am

        In this case long term probably refers to repeated exposure over time. Unfortunately, many of these studies are behind pay walls so they may not be available for free.

  • Aisha | Jhalli Diva August 10, 2017, 7:21 am

    I would not wan t to buy used one. It’s better to spend a bit more and get a good deal for yourself!