Being sick is bad enough. But having to throw away your barely-used lipstick or mascara after your cold finally disappears? Heartbreaking. There are times when it's essential to toss your beauty products to prevent yourself from becoming sick again, experts say. But which ones to toss—and whether it's possible to salvage them—can vary depending on the product in question. Here, we asked dermatologists to set the record straight on which cosmetics you can hang onto after a virus, and which you should dispose of, stat.
You should "absolutely" replace lip products after a cold, Harold Lancer, MD, a dermatologist based in Beverly Hills, tells Health. "The lining of the lip is connected to the sinuses and respiratory tract where viruses and bacteria can spread to." To make sure you don't re-infect yourself, it's a good idea to replace lip cosmetics (think lipstick, balm, and lip scrubs) after a cold, he explains.
This is especially important when you're talking about lip gloss that has a wand applicator, says Melanie Palm, MD, a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon based in San Diego. "Any other product in which a wand applicator is deposited back into the product are not able to be sterilized again and should be disposed."
Have an expensive, brand-new lippie you just can't bear to part with? "Wiping a lipstick tube off with alcohol might be enough in the instance of a cold," says Dr. Palm. Also important: Never, ever share lip products, since it's an easy way to catch someone else's germs—or pass your cold to a friend.
If you had conjunctivitis (pink eye), you don't want to mess around with germ-y eyeliner or eyeshadow, says Bob Basu, MD, a plastic surgeon based in Houston. "It's best to throw away eye makeup you were using when you got the infection," he says. "Bacteria can hide in these products and cause inflammation or infections." Again, wand applicators are notorious breeding grounds for bacteria, so make sure to replace your tube of mascara as soon as symptoms start to improve.
For a regular cold, you might be able to save an eyeshadow palette by spraying it down with alcohol, says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City. And for that beloved eyeliner pencil, you can sharpen it down to a new layer and then use alcohol to clean off the surface.
Another item you should toss, especially if you had pink eye? Disposable contacts or lens solution, says Dr. Friedler.
Good news: These are a lot easier to disinfect. Cleansing your makeup brushes with antibacterial soap at least once a week can ward off germs, says Dr. Palm. (Not sure how to go about doing this? Here's some more information about how to clean your makeup brushes.)
Another idea: "While sick, consider using disposable makeup applicators and disinfect your environment more frequently," says Dr. Friedler. Amazon sells an 150-piece set of disposable brushes in different sizes and shapes for just $10; keep a box on hand and use them whenever symptoms start acting up.
Because they don't usually come into contact with your eyes, lips, or nose, foundation and concealer likely don't need to be replaced after a cold (especially if it's a liquid formula that dispenses out of a bottle). Be aware, though, of any cuts on your face that might allow germs to re-enter the skin barrier. "The only time you have to worry about causing an infection is if there are any open cuts or sores on your skin," says Dr. Basu.
As a general rule, make sure to keep your entire environment clean when you have a cold. "Wash your hands frequently and sanitize your makeup on a regular basis," says Dr. Frielder. "Don't forget about other common areas that germs can lurk on, such as phones, your desk, and car steering wheel." Hopefully, these steps will prevent you from catching a new strain of the virus—and allow you to use the items in your makeup bag worry-free.