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Makeup testers found to contain dangerous germs

Jan 10,2018
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An employee from the Korea Consumer Agency shows examples of cosmetic testers on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
The Korea Consumer Agency urged brick-and-mortar cosmetics stores to better maintain their tester products on Tuesday, based on findings that several contained an excessive number of germs that could be harmful to the human body.

The agency and the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety conducted a joint experiment on 42 tester products available for customers to try at 16 cosmetics stores. The tested products included eye shadow, mascara, lipstick and lip tint.

The test results showed that 14 of the 42 products contained an unsafe concentration of microorganisms. The results were judged using the criteria used to assess the safety of unopened products because there is currently no specific standard for opened testers.

The germs found included aerobic bacteria, staphylococcus aureus and coliform bacillus. All three germs can badly affect the skin and prompt symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. The concentration of microorganisms depended on the product, with some having as much as 2,000 times the recommended limit.

“Eye shadows, mascaras and colored lip products don’t come in tubes but packages with lids,” said the agency in a statement. “This increases the possibility of cross infection among consumers, which is why more thorough maintenance is required for products applied to sensitive skin like around the eyes and mouth.”

It added that 13 of the 16 stores inspected did not put lids on top of eye shadow or lipstick at all, exposing them to dust in the air. Only one store offered disposable items like cotton swabs that allow consumers to try products on more safely with less possibility of infection. Thirteen of the 42 testers did not clarify their expiration dates or date of manufacture while only six properly specified the date when the tester was opened.

The agency said that it advised the Korea Cosmetic Association to come up with a set of guidelines for brick-and-mortar retailers as well as sending requests to cosmetics companies to enforce hygienic control.

For consumers, it recommended using cotton swabs when testing products and trying them on the wrist and the back of the hand instead of directly on the skin around the eyes and mouth. Erasing cosmetics quickly after testing it can also reduce risk.


BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]