Can you recycle used makeup safely? - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Can you recycle used makeup safely?

Posted: Updated:

BILLINGS, MT - When it comes to makeup, top brands can cost as much as $70 for something as simple as lipstick. That's a lot of money wasted if it turns out not to be your color.

Rather than eating that cost, many people turn to the secondary market; websites that sell you used makeup.

Raquel Oppenborn is a cosmetology esthetics educator; one of her top priorities in training makeup artists in explaining the danger of cross contamination.

We asked her for her thoughts on people buying used makeup over the internet.

"I would not feel comfortable with that," Oppenborn said. "I would not risk it. I wouldn't try it. I wouldn't do it for myself so I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else."

While makeup artists work hard to sanitize their makeup, that's not necessarily something people think about when purchasing used products online.

But one website not only claims to sanitize their makeup before sending it to you...they have a video showing how they do it. Glambot claims to use high heat and an alcohol application.

We purchased several products from Glambot and decided to put the sanitation to the test. Our test products included a Sugarbomb Blush Kit, Colourpop eyeliner, and Ardency lip gloss. Once in hand, we headed over to the Center for Biofilm Engineering at Montana State University.

"I took the products and I mixed them in with solutions that are designed to break the products apart and also to release any organisms that may be in there," said Elinor Pulcini, Professor of Biofilm Engineering. "So it's both media - which is a nutrient for bacteria - and also tween 80 which is a surfactant like soap. So this helps break up the oils in the makeup products."

Over the course of a week, Professor Pulcini tested the products and grew some microorganisms on plates. The results?

"This is the eyeliner, and each of these colonies are fungus," she explained. "Certainly fungus isn't something you want in your eye."

"Those are organisms you don't want to play around with. So you don't want them in your makeup, that's for sure. The other thing is, if they are in your makeup, they may be more concentrated. We have a few of them on our skin and we deal with that, but when they're growing in makeup they are increasing in numbers so potentially you could put a blob of bacteria in your eye or something like that."

Those lab results support concerns raised by dermatologist Dr. Jared Heaton. He says sharing used makeup can result in spreading many different viruses.

"If you're talking about things on face or close to the eyes, then you're talking about cold viruses like pink eye and staph bacteria, strep bacteria," said Dr. Heaton. "If you're talking about nail polish, then you're talking about fungal, possible fungal elements. There's a lot of things you can potentially spread."

We spoke with the founder of Glambot; she reiterated to us that she believes the makeup her company sells is safe. She did have questions about the methodology of our tests, claiming that their own independent lab tests have come back clean. Finally, she was in agreement with all of our experts that there is no way to completely sanitize all makeup products.