Gross or Dangerous? The Beauty Edition

Think about all the tools and gadgets that go into your morning routine and nightly ablutions, and now think about how often you actually clean those suckers. Between razors, toothbrushes, tweezers, cleansing brushes and myriad beautifying goodies, there are a million opportunities for germs and other icky stuff to take place. We asked dermatologists to tell which of our everyday habits might be just a little disgusting, and which can be downright dangerous.

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1Habit: Using fingers instead of applicators

Verdict: Gross!

Truth time. Do you honestly wash your hands faithfully before dipping into your stash of face/lip/eye creams? You’re totally lying if you say yes, but try your best to get on it. Dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D., says if you choose this route, make sure to scrub your hands, including your fingernails, before and after to avoid the spread of germs and prevent breakouts and illnesses.

2Habit: Using and/or sharing unclean mani-pedi tools

Verdict: Dangerous!

There’s a decent risk for infection when it comes to things like cuticle nippers, files and nail clippers, because they can easily break the skin; contaminated tools can then transmit bacterial, fungal and herpes infections. Dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, M.D., recommends a thorough cleaning with alcohol (hand-sanitizing wipes are a quickie solution) after each use, and definitely do not share them, even with family members. Yucky fact: If you do have a cuticle infection or toenail fungus, you can easily transmit it from one of your fingers or toes to the others with your own instruments! She also stresses the importance of bringing your own instruments to the salon, including nail files (or ask them to use a new one) to avoid contracting something nasty from someone else.

MORE: Is Your Nail Shape a Sign of Infection?

3Habit: Not washing scarves, hair accessories and earrings

Verdict: Gross!

Don’t stress about this one, says dermatologist Amy Wechsler, M.D., who says that continually wearing these types of things isn’t really a big deal since they won’t cause infections. If your stuff is starting to get really grody, though, a quick hand wash in Woolite or a trip to the dry cleaner will do the trick. Dunk earrings in jewelry cleaner, and swab plastic or metal hair doodads with rubbing alcohol.

4Habit: Not cleaning makeup brushes and sharpeners

Verdict: Dangerous!

Don’t go near your eyes or mouth with anything remotely unclean, since it’s easy to transmit bacteria and cause infections in these areas. Swipe sharpeners with alcohol, and take care to wash all makeup brushes at least once a month with warm, soapy water, and let them air dry. Keep in mind that the makeup itself—especially those with higher water content, like mascara and foundation as opposed to powder—can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. Kauvar suggests replacing mascara after three months or if it has a rancid smell, and foundation every six months, and to store your cosmetics in a cool, dry place because high temperatures can increase the growth of bacteria. Oh, and she says contaminated mascara can cause conjunctivitis (pink eye) and bacterial infections of the eyelids, and lipstick can transmit bacterial and herpes infections. How’s that for incentive?

MORE: 5 Must-Have Makeup Brushes

5Habit: Not washing pillowcases

Verdict: Gross!

Pillowcases accumulate a buildup of residue from conditioner, scalp oil, tears (and yes, even drool), that can transmit bacteria and also clog the pores on your face over time. Dr. Gross says to change your pillowcase at least once a week or more if you’re acne-prone, and wash them in hot water to kill off dust mites that can cause allergies. And because he cares about your gorgeous face, he suggests making a habit of sleeping on your back (pressing your face into your pillow can actually help cause wrinkles and inhibits your skin’s natural regenerative properties) and switching to a silk pillowcase, because the skin will slide more easily over the surface.

6Habit: Using a loofah or mesh pouf that’s been hanging out in the shower

Verdict: Dangerous!

YouBeauty Dermatology Expert Jeanine Downie, M.D., says that these guys absolutely trap bacteria and fungi, and can harm you if they’re dirty, leading to superficial skin infections; leaving them in a warm, humid environment (like the shower) encourages growth of yuckiness, and have even been linked to staph infections. Clean them with warm soapy water and let them air dry outside the shower stall. Dr. Gross adds that while it’s important to exfoliate, because an accumulation of dead cells makes skin thicker, rougher and dull, you can ditch those potential bacteria bombs altogether and use products made with salicylic or alpha hydroxy acids instead.

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7Habit: Not washing your face cleansing brush

Verdict: Gross!

No one’s suggesting that pimples are on par with a flesh-eating bacteria situation, but having them is really quite miserable. Since breakouts can occur as a result of a poorly maintained cleansing tool, just take care of your business already! Dr. Gross says to clean your brush often with soap and water or alcohol to avoid acne-causing bacteria buildup. If your significant other keeps “borrowing” yours, it’s worth it to splurge on another, since this is one thing you really shouldn’t share.