Cold and flu season sucks, and 2018 is especially bad. Not to be the bearer of even worse news, but your makeup may be another casualty of it. It’s hard enough to part with your favorite lipstick when there’s literally nothing left in the tube. Who among us hasn’t gone in with a lip brush, a Q-tip, even an orange stick to salvage the last of our favorite shade, even if it’s an inexpensive drugstore lipstick? So imagine looking at a practically new tube of, say, the $90 Christian Louboutin Velvet Matte Lip Color as your hand reluctantly tosses what’s left of it into the undeserving trash. Why would anyone do such a thing? Temporary insanity? Losing a bet?

Apparently, having had a common cold is enough of a reason to get rid of any lipstick you wore right before or while you were feeling sick.

“You should absolutely dispose of any lip products after you’ve been sick,” Morgan Statt, a health and safety investigator for ConsumerSafety.org, told The Independent. “Your lip linings are a natural gateway to your respiratory tract, which puts you at an additional risk of infection and illness.” According to Statt, a lipstick tube is all but designed to be breeding ground for bacteria, letting viruses live on and potentially get back into your system. Statt has “a background in strategic communication and digital media” — in other words, she’s not a doctor — so I reached out to New York City-based Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner before I let her ruin our lipstick-loving lives. I like his answer a little more.

“Theoretically, once you have been infected by a virus, you should be protected by your immune system from being reinfected by that same virus again, so you should not be able to reinfect yourself by using your contaminated lipstick,” explains Zeichner. However, although the risk of getting sick again is low, it can happen. “For every rule, there is an exception, so the safe thing to do would be to toss infected lipsticks and especially lip glosses.”

Surely there’s some way to avoid turning one’s garbage can into a lip-product mass grave? “To save your favorite products, don’t use them when you actively have a cold,” advises Zeichner. “If you want to, instead, use a disposable applicator so the product does not ever directly touch your lips. But remember not to double dip your applicator, which will contaminate the lipstick.”

Just in case you didn’t realize you were sick when you were using one of your favorite lipsticks, he says all hope isn’t lost. “You can also use an alcohol swab to clean off the top layer of the lipstick that came in contact with your skin, or you can use a knife to cut off the top of the lipstick that may be contaminated.” Slicing off part of a beloved lipstick isn’t ideal, but I’ll take that over losing the whole tube any day.


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