FOX59 tests dirty makeup bags to find out what’s growing inside

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - These days, a lot of women are always on the go. They barely have time to put on makeup, let alone give their makeup bags a deep cleaning. But did you know, those bags are a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria and could harm your health?

Just this year, a terrifying story came out of Australia. The Daily Mail reported a 27-year-old woman wound up paralyzed after using her friend's makeup brush. Turns out, a staph infection got to her spine and left her in a wheelchair.

While experts admit, this is a rare case, dirty makeup bags can lead to all kinds of health problems.

FOX59's Aishah Hasnie tested four different makeup bags to find out what we're exposing ourselves to.


The Test Subjects:

FOX59's Larra Overton

IU student Caitlin Fien

Indianapolis resident Angela Smith

Colts cheerleader Sammy Toney

Larra Overton said she last washed her makeup bag about six months ago.

"We're always on the go and I lug this thing around everywhere," she said. "I guarantee it picks up a lot of filthy stuff along the way."

Caitlin Fien said she's a typical college student and doesn't know what we might find in her makeup bag.

"I don’t know. This bag has been a lot of places."

Some women take their makeup bags everywhere; even the bathroom.

"Yeah. (I) put it on the sink so I can see," admits Angela Smith who has never thought about what might be floating around in the bathroom.

Like Overton, Sammy Toney is also always on the go, so cleaning anything in her bag gets lost in the shuffle.

“With games almost every weekend, we’re putting on a full face of makeup all the time,” she said.  "I don’t clean. I don’t clean my things."


The Results:

After swabbing each bag, we took our samples to HML Lab in Muncie where scientists put them under the microscope.

Lab manager Jaima Ballentine explains how high counts of bacteria can cause everything from pimples to boils and even serious skin and eye infections.

"Cornea infections, sty's, pink eye."

Although the lab did not find any staph or E Coli in any of the ladies' bags, one test did come back with a shocking amount of bacteria.

"What you picked up on that little small area that I’m sure you swabbed, there was 31,000 bacteria,” said Ballentine. “That’s a lot!”

The dirty bag belonged to college student Fein.

Overton had the second dirtiest makeup bag with 4,500 colonies of bacteria. She immediately washed her bag and cosmetics when we broke the news to her.

Toney's bag had bacteria too, although a much smaller count: about 50 colonies in the area we swabbed.

The cleanest bag belonged to Smith.


Breeding Ground:

Ballentine said bacteria love to grow in our makeup bags, because they are dark and your makeup has a ton of nutrients germs love to feed on.

On top of that, our hands get all over our makeup bags which is the leading cause of introducing germs.

"Think about everything that you’ve touched all day long. The door handles. You were in the bathroom, and hopefully you washed your hand when you were in the bathroom. But maybe the last person didn’t and you touched the handle and that’s going to go in your makeup bag," said Ballentine. "They need to clean their makeup bag."

She recommended cleaning your makeup bag with a baby or Lysol wipe once a month, especially focusing on getting rid of residue buildup.

The FDA recommends you throw your cosmetics out about every three months or when the color or smell changes.

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