Trounce Germs When You Test Cosmetics

I was about to Tweet part of a slideshow about cleaning makeup brushes, but stopped to let the info sink in: we can get Staph infections from dirty brushes.  Nasty.  This needed investigating.

Leaving brushes in a frilly mini-planter sure looks cute, but they’ll pick up dirt and dust and texturizing spray and heaven knows what else that does an invisible pollution dance in the air until they rest on your bristles.  Even clean brushes stored well can snuggle unsuspectingly next to dirty ones, only to suffer the consequences of a game of “leap germ.”  Sweep some foundation and blush on your face with this grimy arsenal and don’t be surprised if acne, pimples and blackheads pop up for an unwelcome visit.

Not that big a deal?  O.K.  Are you using someone else’s dirty brushes or having someone else’s bacterial bouquet used on you?  Then how about getting the gift that keeps on giving – Herpes?  Or a serious bout of E-coli (from feces), skin lesions, random rashes?  Or getting a couple of humps of pinkeye – not a good match for your well-flicked cat eye.

Am I trying to scare you?  You bet I am.

What about having a person at a makeup counter whip out her brush roll and use the product-heavy (and surely bacteria-heavy) brushes on you, the consumer?  You might have seen this common sight – a haphazard woodpile of brushes strewn on a counter, touching its equally-product-drenched bristle buddies, magnetically grabbing every “achoo!” that shoppers expel.  Oh, the infected face flakes clinging to an oily brush and fill-in-the-blank “-coccus” that await the next innocent lady looking forward to getting a makeover.

Do all makeup associates clean their brushes every night for a fresh start in the morning?  Doubt it.  Even if they do, using a pleather brush roll – not to mention one that isn’t cleaned – doesn’t allow the brushes to breathe like cotton rolls do.  I have yet to see one being used at a department store.  Microbes multiply like crazy in plastic and no testing of a gorgeous, new eye shadow quad on your peepers is worth the contamination.

A smattering of department stores keep some (usually expensive) skin products to test behind the counter and use a mini-plastic spatula to dole out a daub from a jar for a potential customer to try.  This keeps infections to a minimum, but most front-of-the-counter creams are available for anyone to dip into.  Places like Sephora have little stations that include makeup remover and alcohol as a sanitizer for hands and lipstick, but who knows who has touched these sanitizer containers during store hours.

Most stores have a clean supply of cotton rounds, cotton swabs, tissues, latex sponges and individual mascara wands – all good.  But this doesn’t solve the problem of how to use eye shadows and blush in a germ-free way.  I’ve tried using a cotton round or a triangle of latex to apply blush and the application looks like a shocking thud of color on my cheeks. Occasionally, you can get a card/sample with a one-time use of eye shadow or blush on it that ensures cleanliness and can give you a pretty-good idea of how the product looks on you, but they are not commonplace.  Surely gloss incubates a galaxy of germs, as any cosmetic liquid or eye gel formula must.  I don’t use lipstick or gloss testers, so it’s try it at home and like it or return it, which is hardly convenient.

At my local, natural pharmacy, they have Dr. Hauschka makeup that had separate acrylic coverings for each makeup group (eyes, cheeks, etc.) – a good idea to prevent drive-by finger swipes of color that bring on the germs.  Jane Iredale’s and Zuzu’s offerings were left exposed to unhealthy elements or kept in thin drawers as a form of protection, but airborne viruses can wriggle their way into the little slots with ease.  So much for promoting health.

There is nothing like seeing a product on one’s face to make sure a color works with one’s complexion, but I’ll rarely chance it anymore unless all cleanliness requirements are met.  Sadly, I’ll lose out on seeing how makeup is applied on me and learning new tricks, but the risks outweigh the benefits.

Battling Cosmetic Germs

I thought of some solutions to chancy product testing, but they are hardly foolproof.  Neither are they the most convenient way to go shopping, but they’re better than nothing.  Some ideas might be known to you, but they’re worth repeating. There might be purchases involved, but they are cheap:

1)  Bring your own brushes.  If you don’t want to haul your own good set of brushes along with you, invest in a cheap set of four basic brushes just for testing purposes.  After product testing, use a brush sanitizer, such as one made by e.l.f. Cosmetics ( or Parian Spirit (  If you are trying more than one product per brush, clean your brushes as you go.  Each sanitizer has directions on how to speed up brush drying.  You can also use alcohol-saturated sanitary wipes on your brushes after you use them.

2)  Finger strip testing.  Instead of applying product to your face, do a test strip.  For example, put a strip of gloss on the length of your finger and hold it up to your lip (eye shadow up to your eye, etc.) as you look in a mirror (thank you, McCall from my local Santa Monica Sephora for the tip) to see if you like the color on you.  Then get the makeup off your finger with alcohol ASAP.

3)  Hand sanitize.  Use a product like Purell with aloe frequently when makeup testing.  There are other hand sanitizers out there that aren’t as harsh on your skin, like Hempz, but I’d rather go full-on surgeon with cleanliness.  Wash your hands when you return home.  Then use a good hand cream afterward.

4)  Hover.  Loiter around someone getting a makeover by watching them from a short distance.  This way, you can see how a makeup or brand artist applies products and check out how the colors look on a human being.  It won’t be a complexion match, but it’s better than seeing the products just sitting in a compact.

5)  Pencil sharpener.  Ask for a makeup pencil sharpener (or bring one) and do a few twists of a lip pencil, for instance, to get a clean, sharp tip.  Then spray it with alcohol before using.

6)  Clean testers.  When shopping, ask the person behind the counter for some makeup sanitizer (might only be alcohol) to spray on testers.  If none is available, tell the rep that you want to use a makeup sanitizer like Beauty So Clean (various products at on pressed powder products or lipsticks you want to try.  These sanitizers can also be used on your products at home.  Beware: using straight alcohol on your products at home can dry them out and change their color.

7)  Cotton fabric brush roll.  Buy (Etsy has many) or make (DIY-ers) a cotton fabric brush roll to hold all of your clean brushes.  Let those bristled investments breathe.  Keep dirty brushes separate until they’re cleaned.  When shopping for makeup, get a smaller makeup bag for your sanitary stash.

8)  Ghost.  Use what the cleanest makeup pro I’ve ever seen behind a counter just used on me (bless you, Beauty Specialist Cheryl Bowers from Clinique at Saks in Beverly Hills, who cleaned her hands and brushes before using products on me) – a “ghost.”  This means using a cotton ball to really clean, for example, a blush tester by scrubbing off a few layers of color.  Then, the cotton ball is shrouded in a piece of tissue which is then redipped in the now-clean layer of blush, ready for application (thus, the term “ghost”).  Then you dip a clean brush into the “ghost” tip for application.  Works great.

9) Post-shopping.  After shopping, clean your brushes.  Spray the sanitizers and sharpener with alcohol and wipe off.  Toss out all the unused cotton supplies.  Spray inside the makeup bag with disinfectant and wipe it clean.

Extreme steps?  Maybe for some people.  Not everyone has a strong constitution for germ/virus immunity, so this should help.  We can’t be completely germ-free, but we can lower our exposure out in the beauty swamp with simple measures.

Now there’s Order in the Beauty Court!

How about you?  Got any ideas to make makeup testing less germ-y?


IMATS-LA (International Makeup Artistry Trade Show) – Verdict

IMATS, Los Angeles just wrapped up its amazing three-day event last weekend at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Five Makeup Olympic Sports were key: weight-shifting, target-shooting, sprinting, rubbernecking and weight-lifting.

Let the games begin!


Lots of switching from one foot to the other while in long lines, such as the one getting in to the show.  Impatience to enter the makeup mecca turned to pleasure for me by talking with two very-nice pro artists who came from San Francisco for the show.  Time flew by.

Once inside, some vendors had lines of cosmetics enthusiasts serpentined around the vendors’ hall.  For Morphe Brushes, there was a three-to-four-hour wait Saturday morning, complete with security to prevent line-jumpers.  By mid-afternoon, queues had shortened significantly or were non-existent, although Morphe still required a half-hour before my stroking of brush bristles could begin.  Good quality, great bang for the buck and their nice, new vegan brushes made the step-and-wait worthwhile, as did the kind, helpful staff.

Nice chatting in line with sweet make-up artists from Oregon about their favorite buys of the day (36 sets of Miss Adoro false eyelashes, 100% human hair).  When conversation lagged briefly, I noticed adorably-ubiquitous hands with tested lip color, eye shadow and foundation stripes on them, like cosmetic ribbons of valor.

Thank you, padded Michael Kors loafers, for keeping my feet aches to a minimum.


With a one-day pass, time went by very fast, so I had to prioritize.  Classes were the most important to me.  Some overlapped or were held at the same time, so choosing which ones to attend wasn’t easy.  I did dash out of a couple of demo’s that weren’t useful to try others that were.

Second on my list was feeling makeup brushes to see which ones I’d add to my collection.  This would take time.  I bypassed all department store brands (ones I own now) and went for those I had read about, but never felt (or wanted to feel again to rate their current quality): Sigma, Bdellium, Morphe, Hakuhodo, Ve Neill, and Royal & Langnickel.  I’d brake for any brush I’d see along my travels as well.

By far, the stand-out brushes were from the Japanese line, Hakuhodo.  Most of my spending money went to buying four of these exquisite, super-soft, handmade brushes (I briefly considered pulling a bank heist to get a full set of them).  They are amazingly gentle to the touch – something essential for aging skin that shouldn’t be stabbed with sharp, sloppily-bundled hair, synthetic or otherwise.  One can easily develop a fetish just sweeping the product-less brushes across one’s cheek, back and forth, because of how luxurious they feel.  To maintain my investment, I bought their brush-cleaning soap as well.  Such a treat to make these purchases and well worth the money.


There were quite a few free lectures/demo’s in separate rooms throughout the day.  While I’d be quizzing vendor reps on product pigment or getting a quick concealer application done on my eyes, I’d have to leave mid-sentence (or with only one eye concealed) and run to hear a speaker.  I was shocked to see how few people went to listen to these experts and watch their incredible demo’s, but getting up to 40% off retail on many products can be hard to resist.

The three standout speakers worth the sprint were 1) business-savvy, five-time Emmy award winner, Eve Pearl, 2) clever, gifted and hilarious M.A.C. Director of Makeup Artistry, Gregory Arlt, and 3) informative creator of Senna Brows, Eugenia Weston (the only packed classroom I saw).  Separate blog posts will be coming shortly on all three of these pro’s, who had amazing tips and perspectives.

The end of the trade show came fast, so I raced to purchase two different, very-large, sturdy, clear makeup totes, which I had previously scoped out.  Gotta see what products I have at a glance.


Because I had to be strategic about going to practical classes and sampling/buying products, I regrettably skipped all of the body paint/prosthetics demo’s and lectures.  Fortunately, many of the head-to-toe, breathtaking fantasy transformations done on models by makeup schools and industry pro’s would walk through the vendors’ hall.  Dazzling artistry brought on a head-swivel and gape from me every time.

Also worth noting was the great makeup attendees wore.  People had on everything from hard-core glitter visages to gorgeous, airbrushed looks to creating Comic-Con-worthy characters in full costume.  All were strutting their stuff.  How some women (and men) wore sky-high heels all day took real dedication.


Unplanned stops that made my big tote bag heavier included French skin care brand, Embryolisse, a favorite of backstage makeup pro’s.  After testing some products, I purchased their “Lait-Creme Concentre” primer/moisturizer/makeup remover (how it does all three is a mystery) and the wonderfully-slippery “Secret du Maquilleurs Eclat Du Regard” radiant eye balm.  There was very little in the way of skin care products at the show, which was a bit surprising.I also made drive-by buys of a lovely day-to-evening eyeshadow palette from Stila called “In The Light,” some very-pretty Bodyography lipsticks (I wish I bought more of those), an adorable lash holder that looks like an old-fashioned powder compact, and a metal color-mixing palette and mixing tool.  Freebies and flyers also made my bag groan at the seams.

My shoulder bag was bogged down with supplies like a video camera, a couple of notebooks, an untouched banana, a barely-eaten Kind bar, a big bottle of Smart Water, hand cream, hand sanitizer, and makeup (to a makeup show…I know).  Along with my tote bag of purchases, these satchels made their weight quite apparent over both of my shoulders by the time cosmetics tables were covered with tarps at the end of the day.

SIDEBAR: IMATS is coming to NYC April 10-12, 2015 and to London July 10-12, 2015 .  Check their website for more cities and information:

LESSONS LEARNED: I was lucky enough to get a ticket for one of the two sold-out days open to the public.  Next year, I’ll go for two days to give myself plenty of time for classes, all vendors, demo’s, product dabbling, Tweeting and Instagram-ing.  I’ll also streamline my shoulder bag contents.  And I’ll eat more.

JUDGE BEAUTY VERDICT of IMATS-LA:  5 out of 5 gavels.

THERMAL WATER: Spritz Your Way to Better Skin

Thermal water for bathing.Saturnia, famous in Tuscany.

Recently. I saw a short video featuring Jackie O’s ageless aesthetician from the renowned Georgette Klinger Facial Salon, where I used to go in Manhattan long ago. The expert demonstrated the way she washes her face, which was great to see in action. Because the facialist’s skin was so lovely, I closely watched how she cleansed and moisturized, what products she used and in what sequence.

One item that really stood out in her routine was a spray can of thermal water. I was skeptical about what it could actually do for the skin and wondered if she was adding two unnecessary steps to her regimen. She used the spray before and after cleansing, but said the pre-cleanse was optional. The facialist explained that a good dousing of the fine mist after cleansing not only helps negate the nasty chemicals in city tap water, but is excellent for hydration when used periodically throughout the day. She also said it helps to restore the skin’s pH balance. After she finished her demonstration, her face looked radiant.

With her skin looking so good, I was eager to try thermal water.

What is thermal water? The spray is mineral water that comes from thermal springs, and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which clinical studies have shown to be true. Although thermal water is touted as being safe for people with skin issues like dermatitis and rosacea, caution should still be used when first spraying it on one’s face since the minerals could exacerbate skin problems. Checking with one’s dermatologist before using thermal water would be a smart move for these people.

My local drug store (CVS) has a few European skin care lines that I always glance at when shopping, but I never test the products. I imagine contagious prescription-fillers coughing and sneezing into their hands, then killing time by dipping their germ-laden fingers in a tester jar of moisturizer. For me, sampling a product is not worth the chance of spending several miserable days in bed with aches and pains. But this was a sealed can of water, so I sprayed it on my face without trepidation.

Right away, I had a very good first impression of the product because of how quickly it brought hydration back to my dry, somewhat-sensitive skin. I purchased both Vichy and La Roche-Posay thermal water from the drugstore to test them after washing my face at home, in the morning and evening, and spray them on occasion during the day as a hydrator.

First up was La Roche-Posay Eau Thermale (Thermal Spring Water), which has mineral salts and trace elements in it. This brand has been used in Europe for centuries to treat various skin conditions. Also, the thermal water claims to be suitable for sensitive skin, is gentle enough to use after procedures like laser resurfacing and microdermabrasion, and can be used by those who have rosacea and eczema. What’s more, the spray has a high level of Selenium, an antioxidant, and tones skin.

Wearing a headband to keep my hair out of the way, I cleansed my skin gently. Then I imitated the facialist by spraying the thermal water in circles, then up and down my face and neck. The feel of it was cooling and refreshing. As directed, I let it sink into my skin for the maximum three minutes. Then I took a cotton facial pad to absorb what little water was left on my skin.

Day Two, I used Vichy Eau Thermale (Thermal Spa Water), which is described as being soothing, hypoallergenic, a barrier to protect skin from environmental aggressors and loaded with 15 rare minerals. This spray was also cooling and refreshing. Instructions on the mist’s box say, “Let it set for a few seconds before gently patting dry with a facial tissue or towel.” For those in a rush, there’s no waiting with Vichy.

After both sprays were applied and dried on different days, I touched my skin and each mist left my face feeling very smooth, not stripped of moisture like tap water causes. This is part of what thermal water promises to do — remove impurities, soften and hydrate skin — and it delivers. During my morning skin care routine, I didn’t feel the need to use toner, but found that using it at night after a thermal spritz was still helpful with removing residual city dirt that can even resist a thorough evening cleanse.

Throughout the day, it is recommended that you spray thermal water as a hydrating refresher for your skin, even over makeup (both brands offer a small purse-friendly can). Getting into the habit of this works well for me, reviving my skin as the day progresses.  If I’m wearing makeup, a lighter arms-length spray on my face does the trick.  La Roche-Posay worked best for this kind of application.

I enjoy using both brands, but use them differently. If I’m in a rush (which is most of the time), I use Vichy.  If I’m in a self-pampering mood, I use La Roche-Posay.  Both sprays leave my face feeling clean, hydrated, refreshed and ready to help serum penetrate my skin, post-cleanse.  I found it important to not let Vichy sit on my skin for more than a few seconds, as directed.  Serious devotees to Vichy find the spray very healing.  Each person reacts differently to skin care products.  Both are worthy sprays to try.

Thermal water has now become a permanent part of my skin care routine as a neutralizing, post-cleanse dirt mopping, softening and hydrating spray. The next time you see a tester spray on the shelf, give your face a quick spritz, and feel it soothe and moisten your skin.

La Roche-Posay is $12.99 for 5.2 oz. and Vichy is $14 for 5.07 oz. Both are well worth the investment. Each company’s website has store locators (Target and Ulta carry both mists) and the sprays are also available online.

We pollution-drenched city dwellers, those looking to better some skin issues, and anyone looking for no-makeup-disruption hydration will feel good using multi-tasking thermal water boosts.

Sidebar: Vichy has a very good Thermale Starter Kit, which includes a smaller-size spray, and is available in stores for only $12. Get it while you can.

JUDGE BEAUTY VERDICT on thermal water sprays: 4 out of 5 gavels.