Can coronavirus live on makeup? Here's what experts say


The coronavirus pandemic is raising questions about whether it's safe to continue using the same everyday items, such as makeup, if worried they've been exposed to COVID-19.

"This is a great question. People are trying to figure out how these guidelines apply to themselves and what they're doing in their everyday lives," said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.

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"My first response is a three-word response: Not to worry," he said. "I think the risk, if there is any at all, must be vastly low."

Schaffner said it's safe for people to continue using their own makeup products, however, he added there is "a little footnote" that needs to be followed.

"This isn't the time to share the lipstick, mascara, powder. Keep it to yourself," he said.

Beauty retailers, including Sephora and Ulta, are heeding that advice from medical professionals by no longer offering in-store testers during the pandemic to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr. Alok Patel, a Columbia University pediatrician and journalist, said several of his teenage patients have asked him whether it's safe for them to use their makeup products or share with friends.

"I always think about the basics of coronavirus transmission. It can live on surfaces, survive in air and is transmissible if it comes in contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth," Patel said. "The added risk factor with cosmetics is people often use their hands for application and apply product near their eyes, nose and mouth."

Washing your hands before applying makeup is one best practice for staying safe, he said.

But what about the plastic and glass bottles holding powder, foundation, lipstick and other cosmetic essentials?

An April 2020 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine reported the coronavirus can live on plastic surfaces for up to 72 hours.

"If you're the only person using your products, regular disinfection is probably not necessary as long as your consistently washing your hands," Patel said. "For those who have symptoms for coronavirus or have tested positive, then you should absolutely not be sharing makeup with anyone around you, but if you must, then you should absolutely clean and disinfect any bottles, plastic containers and any applicators."

There's also some good news: It probably isn't necessary to throw away your beauty if you get sick and have been the only one using them.

"Over time, the virus will die and, besides, it is you that is using it," Schaffner said. "You are not going to give [the coronavirus] to someone else by using your own makeup."