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Acne Safeguards: Preventing Cross-Contamination

Written by Maurice Stein

The exact cause of acne is not known. It is one of the most common skin disorders and can affect teenagers and adults. Acne occurs when the skin's pores are blocked. Certain factors can worsen the condition, such as cosmetic and skin care products that contain oils and petroleum jelly or using make-up tools (brushes, sponges, spatulas and palettes) that have not been properly cleaned and sterilized, subsequently transferring bacteria onto the skin and into the pores.

Having worked in the film and TV industry for 40 years and on some of Hollywood's most expensive faces, keeping the skin bacteria-free starts with eliminating any cross-contamination of product to skin via the tools being used. When working with someone with acne, whether moderate or severe, keeping the skin free of bacteria is extremely important, especially if the skin is inflamed or has any lesions. One vital rule is not to use the hands when applying make-up, as contamination begins when bacteria from the fingers is transferred to facial areas. It's a similar contamination when a brush is placed into a container, then used on the skin and placed back into the container. Even if only one person is using the container, there is still bacteria contamination and growth. The problem is magnified when the same container of blush, eye shadow, foundation, lipstick and mascara is used by several people.

Some of the tools I recommend to cosmetology students taking my courses and those with skin conditions, such as acne, is how to effectively remove make-up from its container. A stainless steel spatula is highly recommended, as make-up can be easily washed off the spatula and the spatula sterilized for reuse. A metal palette is the best, as it has the least chance of bacteria build-up. Glass and plastic tend to be porous and a breeding ground for bacteria. When applying foundation, a professional pre-cut non-latex cosmetic sponge is recommended. You can cover a wider area faster and the make-up will look smoother and more natural. Sponges are easy to wash, but because they are inexpensive I suggest throwing them away after each use. This is very important when applying make-up to someone with acne, whether there's skin lesions or not, as you want to be absolutely certain that there is no risk of bacteria transfer. Brushes are another matter. They are often expensive, so I recommend dipping them in a professional brush cleaner that will sterilize and condition and remove all make-up residues from the hairs. Allow to air dry 3-5 minutes before reusing. This should be done after each use, whether applying blush, eye shadow, or lipstick. When applying eye shadow, I prefer brushes over sponge applicators, as the bacteria count on a sponge wand that's been used over and over again is tremendous and has a greater potential of infecting or irritating the eyes. The eyes are one of the most vulnerable areas for infections and a brush applicator will safeguard and reduce the transfer of bacteria and old make-up to the eye region. When applying mascara, I use a mascara fan brush rather than a disposable. This particular brush does not allow for any clumping and will do a much better job of coating and separating the lashes. This brush can also be dipped into a professional brush cleaner after each use. People with acne are more prone to bacteria, even from lashes. If the mascara wand has not been properly sterilized, bacteria can migrate from the wand, to the lashes, to other areas of the face. Bacteria do not stay in one localized area. Bacteria moves around and to a person with acne, this can be an open invitation for bacteria build-up in the pores, causing eruptions.
To properly clean and sterilize your brushes after each use, first remove all excess make-up with a clean cloth or disposable tissue. It's important not to dip the brush into the main supply of your cleaner, as this will contaminate your cleaner and cross-contaminate your brush. This will also loosen and release remaining residue of make-up into the container. I recommend pouring some cleaner into a separate (and clean) container. Dip the tip of the brush into the solution, remove it quickly and wipe on a clean towel or tissue. This forces the liquid up the center of the brush to the outside and will properly remove any excess make-up. Let air dry for 3-5 minutes.
When purchasing cosmetics in a salon, spa or department store, or before having any make-up applied by a make-up artist, ask if the product has been properly protected against cross-contamination. You can usually tell by looking. Finger marks in a container is not a good sign. Make-up on display for the consumer should be kept covered with a clean non-porous top and any tools used in transferring make-up from a container to skin should either be discarded after use or thoroughly cleaned before reusing. Eye products should be in clean pots with protective see-through covers so that color can be seen and not exposed to the environment. This will add additional safeguard measures against contamination. These are extremely important steps and especially for those with acne and other skin-related problems where the skin needs protection against harmful bacteria.

Old make-up is another threat. People should be aware that make-up does not last forever. Twelve months is long enough to keep any cosmetic. Oxidation causes changes, body oils cause changes. Even if paying a high dollar amount for a blush, 12 months is long enough to use it. One trip to the dermatologist is going to cost you a far greater amount.

Maurice Stein is a leading educator in all areas of cross-contamination. He's a 40 year veteran of the film and television industry and considered one of Hollywood's premier elite make-up artists. In 1985 he launched Cinema Secrets in Burbank, CA for industry make-up artists, cosmetologists and the general public. As an entrepreneur, Maurice launched the Cinema Secrets Product Line and continues to travel the world with his educational seminars and workshops for Cosmetology Associations and within the medical community. Please feel free to contact Maurice Stein at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.cinemasecrets.com or call (818) 846-0579

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