Ugly Risks of Beauty Routines

, University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey


Medscape General Medicine. 1996;1(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Beauty products and practices may put women at risk for infection. Adverse events range in seriousness from the superficial to the systemic--from conjunctivitis caused by contaminated eye makeup, to fungal infections picked up from the locker room or manicurist, to more troubling soft-tissue infections caused by unsanitary body piercing or tattooing, practices that can also transmit hepatitis B and C.


Many women are familiar with the popular advice that after several months of use, cosmetics should be discarded, because by this time they may have become contaminated with bacteria. But cottage-industry cosmetics can be dangerous even fresh from the container. Most commercially available cosmetics are prepared according to very specific formulae and under carefully monitored standards for hygiene and quality control. However, there is a booming cottage industry of home-prepared, natural-ingredient products that may not adhere to such standards and that contain no preservatives to prevent the growth of microorganisms. And, while women typically are not allergic to the ingredients in most cosmetics, infections can result when products become contaminated or are misused. Fortunately, these infections are not usually life-threatening, but they can cause considerable discomfort. Also, certain practices that women use as part of their grooming or beauty enhancement can put them at risk for infection. Many are quite common, such as using contact lenses, which can irritate the eyes, or removing body hair with chemical depilatories, which can cause skin rashes; other risks, while less widespread, are potentially more dangerous, such as the risk of soft-tissue infection or blood-borne diseases like hepatitis from tattooing or body piercing.