During my college days, I definitely shared a Naked eyeshadow palette (or two) with my roommates. I also could not swear in a court of law that I’ve never used my boyfriend’s toothbrush. However, all of this is deeply ill-advised. It comes down to this simple rule: “Basically, anything that contacts the skin should not be shared,” says West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD, because it can transfer bacteria and potentially viruses.
Houston dermatologist Jennifer Segal, MD notes that products with airtight pumps are an exception, as are products with droppers and other non-contact dispensers. “Cross-contamination with bacteria such as staphylococcus, fungus and even viruses is a real concern. The skin infections that result can be difficult to treat,” says Dr. Segal. Furthermore, New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD says patients with a compromised skin barrier need to be extra careful. “It can sensitize their skin and create allergies,” she explains. These are the biggest bacteria-breeding beauty products that you should absolutely never share, according to doctors.
It’s not surprising that lip products are one of the biggest no-nos when it comes to sharing. Chapel Hill, NC dermatologist Beth G. Goldstein, MD says to skip sharing any lip products to avoid spreading germs or increasing the risk of bacteria. Dr. Goldstein notes that there’s also a risk of infection, specifically cold sores.
“Skin-care tools such as razors, ice rollers and home dermarollers can transfer both viral and bacterial infections,” says Dr. Goldstein. “Many people are not aware that as human beings, we harbor many microbes that are not visible with the naked eye but can be transferred by sharing these devices.”
“Even with disposable spoolies, double dipping can share infections,” warns Dr. Goldstein. She notes that the transmission of conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, is highly contagious.
For different reasons, Dr. Russak advises against sharing prescription strength products such as retinol. “A lot of acne medications prescribed for teenagers are not the same retinols that should be used for anti-aging moms,” she explains, noting that it would be too strong and irritating for mature skin.
Ever hear of a little thing called lice? Probably not since elementary school, but that doesn’t mean they’re not still out there. “Lice or rarely ringworm, which is actually a fungal infection, can be transferred via brushes from people who may not even show signs of infection but harbor the fungus,” says Dr. Goldstein.
Anything in a jar
While a glass jar may be more friendly to the earth, bacteria can also get real friendly in there. Dr. Goldstein says jar-based products, like moisturizers or pots of makeup, harbor bacteria-making products. Dr. Russak explains that you are constantly contaminating the product with your own fingers, so anyone else’s fingers are even riskier.
Definitely don’t share eye creams. Dr. Goldstein notes that even when using it on your own, you should use a spatula or wash your hands thoroughly to avoid bacteria transfer.
“Brushes that touch the lashes, lips or brows would not be things to share,” says Dr. Beer. When it comes to your own oil and bacteria, Dr. Goldstein says it’s important to cleanse brushes on a regular basis. She advises against exposing yourself to others’ bacteria “as some people harbor harmful bacteria such as forms of staph, that while they may not show signs, can still be transferred and cause infections via sharing brushes.”