Written by Tunde Ajaja - Nigeria
From time immemorial, handbags have always been an essential part of women's dressing, and most of the time, many women feel incomplete without them, and sometimes reluctant to leave the house without having one.
These days, while men tend to move around with just their phones and maybe keys, women seem to be carrying the world around in their handbags; perhaps that is why their bags are getting bigger.
No doubt, the handbag provides a safe haven for the numerous items they move around with, ranging from phones, toiletries, cosmetics, mirror, powder, comb, handkerchiefs and other things, but one item that seems to have occupied a prominent place in women's handbags is the make-up bag or box.
These bags, available in varied sizes, contain items that women apply to enhance their looks to a desired taste, and it is not for nothing that a woman's appearance while wearing makeup would be quite different from when she's just natural.
In fact, recently, a Chinese man sued his new wife few days after their wedding, alleging that his wife deceived him with makeup while they were dating and that it was after they got home and she woke up the next morning that he realised how ugly the woman she married was. Thus, he sued for damages for being deceived into the relationship. Such is the power of 'change' that makeup offers.
To further demonstrate how important it is to them, women dare all odds to apply it anywhere, including office, in the car, in the traffic, while walking on the road and many other places, and its importance during wedding ceremonies cannot be overemphasised, as it has become an integral part of preparing the bride for the ceremony.
Makeup items include lip gloss, concealer, foundation, blush, translucent powder, mascara, neutral eye shadow, defining eye shadow, eye liner, lipstick, fluffy powder brush, blush brush, eye shadow brush, crease brush, eye liner brush and tweezers.
However, as helpful as these items are in enhancing women's outlook, studies have shown that some of them could be harmful, especially those who are out of date. This implies that there are dangers lurking inside some makeup bags.
In a report reviewed by Mail Online, scientists at the London Metropolitan University examined some makeup products and found that cosmetics that are expired have a high level of harmful bacteria. They even found that one of the bacteria present, enterococcus faecalis, could cause meningitis and septicaemia, which are deadly diseases.
In the research sponsored by an online beauty retailer, escentual.com, laboratory tests were conducted on five beauty products, including blusher, foundation and lip gloss, four of which had just expired while one was still within the usable period. At the end of the study, the researchers were able to establish that the four out-of-date products and the usable lip gloss tested positive for potentially dangerous bacteria.
The scientists simply advised that women should dispose makeup items that are expired, because, according to them, a few days and months could make a huge difference in how safe the makeup items are. They noted that women could be spared from the effects of these bacteria if they don't use expired makeup items.
The Chief Executive Officer of the company that sponsored the study, escentual.com, Rakesh Aggarwal, said, "Most women are totally unaware that their cosmetics are a potentially breeding ground for deadly bacteria. If you think about it, you wouldn't keep food for months after the use by date, so why should this be acceptable for cosmetics.
"This research has even surprised us and has shown that there is a serious health risk here if women keep using expired makeup items. Pregnant women or mothers with small babies need to take extra care after our findings showed that the deadly meningitis bacteria, Enterococcus Faecalis/Faecium, was found on several items of out of date make-up."
A microbiologist from LMU, Paul Matewele, who was part of the research team, explained that six different types of bacteria were found on a number of everyday makeup items, especially those that had expired.
He said, "Under strict laboratory tests, all the old make-up products of foundation, lip gloss and lipstick tested positive for Enterococcus faecalis. Other deadly bacteria found include eubacterium, which causes bacterial vaginosis; Aeromonas, one of the causes of gastroenteritis and wound infections; and Staphlyoccocus epidermidis, a nasty bug which is resistant to antibiotics and is deadly for people in hospital or who have catheters or surgical implants.
"Others are Propionibacterium, one of the main causes for acne and other skin conditions, and Enterobacter, which causes urinary and respiratory tract infections mainly in hospital patients with compromised immune systems."
The study further found that a blusher that had expired for nine months had the largest amount of bacteria and could lead to urinary tract infections, while a mascara that had expired for four months had the second largest amount of bacteria.
Interestingly, a lip gloss that had not expired but was a year old had the third highest level of bacteria, and the scientists pointed out that it tends to be prone to more bacteria because it is applied to the mouth, where a lot of bacteria reside.
Also, a lip stick has some bacteria even when it was just 10 months old while another makeup item, foundation, that had expired for four months was found to have the fourth highest amount of bacteria.
Notably, (most) men don't use makeup, but they are also not immune from the germs that women who use expired makeup are prone to. The researchers explained that transfer of germs is possible when there is direct contact with such makeup item and that "kissing would be the easiest way to pass on the germs."
Impliedly, men should be cautious while kissing women who have makeup on their lips because, according to the study, if such a woman had used an expired makeup item and they kissed such a woman, they would also receive their fair share of the germs available at that moment.
Beyond the health risks in using expired makeup items, it appears that people are getting infections through the cosmetics they use, perhaps because there is no serious attention on them unlike the one on consumables like food and drugs.
Some scientists have advised that people should be cautious when it comes to cosmetics and beauty products because some of the ingredients used in preparing them are harmful and would be better in the test tube in a laboratory than on people's faces because some of these beauty products could cause illnesses in the body.
In their book, 'Drop Dead Gorgeous: Protecting yourself from the hidden dangers of cosmetics,' Kim Erickson and Samuel Epstein found that a number of ingredients used for beauty products are not good for the body, noting that the negative effects of using such products build up over the years.
According to Mail Online, Erickson said, "Some modern cosmetics contain a host of dubious ingredients, which are cheap, stable and have a long shelf-life, but the long-term effect on the body could be deadly. Many of the same ingredients have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
These authors also revealed that chemicals present in beauty products usually find their ways into the bloodstream through body spray, body cream, perfumes, powders, lip gloss, which can be swallowed, among others.
Commenting on the findings of the study, a medical practitioner, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, explained that one cosmetic product people should be wary of is toning creams, saying it had been found to be associated with kidney problem.
"If the study is true, most of those makeup items are being used around the face, and anything that is contaminated and is used around the face can easily get to the brain, and that is how meningitis, which is the inflammation of the brain tissues, may come in. so, people should just be careful." he added.