Is it Safe To Reuse Makeup After You’ve Had a Cold Sore? What About a Pimple? A Harvard-Trained Dermatologist Weighs In
Knowing this, I got to wondering: Does the same rule apply after you have a pimple? What about a cold sore?
According to Kristina Collins, MD, FAAD, a Harvard-trained and board-certified dermatologist, the short answer (for pimples, at least) is you probably don’t have to throw them away. “Thankfully, skin conditions like acne do not necessarily warrant a makeup clean out,” she says. “For one thing, pimples and other breakouts are more inflammatory in nature and aren’t always truly infected with bacteria.” If there is bacteria, she adds, it’s usually the kind that’s commonly found on the skin and therefore not a big issue.
However, cold sores are a different idea. If you notice a cold sore—which is larger than a lip pimple, and has more bumps—the rules are a little bit different. "In general, until the area scabs over, it can be considered contagious so it is best to avoid using makeup brushes on top of it as it can theoretically cause spread if not properly disinfected," says board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD. With that in mind, you’ll want to respond as you would with pink eye. “After a cold sore, it is best to throw out lip products in tubes, like lip gloss,” Dr. Collins says. “These are a lot like mascara in terms of being especially likely to provide an opportunity for bacteria or viruses to build up.”
"In general, until the area scabs over, it can be considered contagious so it is best to avoid using makeup brushes on top of it as it can theoretically cause spread if not properly disinfected," says Dr. Garshick. "For this reason, it is best to use disposable brushes or cotton-tip applicators."
Other makeup hygiene practices to abide by
Regardless, keeping your face and makeup products clean in either of these situations is always a smart idea, especially if the pimple looks, uh, rough. “If you do have an especially gnarly infected acne bump, you can use alcohol [wipes] to clean the surface of your makeup and dispensers,” Dr. Collins says. “Foundation dispensed from an air-tight container would be safe as the bacteria are not being introduced into the product.”
More specifically, a routine makeup clean typically entails washing makeup brushes weekly with soap and water, Dr. Collins says, and tossing any products that are expired. She advises doing this—as well as avoiding sharing makeup—even if you’re feeling good and your skin is clear. “Makeup is exposed to skin microorganisms like bacteria during routine use, whether or not there is a pimple present,” she explains. So, not cleaning your makeup, or sharing it, can lead to worsened acne or skin infections.
Lastly, while you’ll want to toss contaminated makeup after being sick, some lip products can be reused under the right conditions. For example, if you have lipstick that’s solid, you can just clean it with an alcohol wipe, according to Dr. Collins. Or with a gloss, she continues, use disposable applicators instead. This advice goes for any cold or infectious disease, she says.
While pimples aren’t fun, they usually aren’t a cause for concern when it comes to makeup. However, if you have a cold sore—or have been sick in some other way and are well now—it’s time to hit up Ulta.
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