The gross reason you should never leave your make up bag in the bathroom

What are the hazards of storing make up in moisture-prone rooms?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hands up if you store your make up bag in your bathroom, alongside things like your non-comedogenic foundation? Well, it might seem like the most likely place, especially if it's filled with natural light, but simply storing your make up bag in your bathroom can be doing more harm than good to your skin.

Working from home during lockdown and wearing fewer products doesn't mean our skin or our make up bags are cleaner than ever. 

PrettyLittleThing conducted a scientific experiment to reveal why you shouldn't keep your make up in the bathroom and the results are honestly quite gross.

Bacteria found on make up brushes washed every day

Bacteria found on make up brushes washed every day

(Image credit: PrettyLittleThing)

If you saw what dirt really lives on your makeup brush, sponge and eyeshadow you'd be more careful over where you store them.

A scientific petri dish experiment, carried out by Microbiologist Amy-May Pointer, reveals the horrifying truth of the bacteria comparison between products that are cleaned after every use versus ones that are rarely cleaned. 

In her findings, Amy-May noted: "The growth on the makeup brush that is regularly cleaned has only one organism growth. This is fungus and may be part of the skin's microbiota or due to the brush being stored in a dark, moist environment (makeup bag or damp cupboard) allowing fungus to accumulate in a short period of time in-between uses."

Bacteria found on make up brushes rarely cleaned

Bacteria found on make up brushes that are rarely cleaned

(Image credit: PrettyLittleThing)

But she explained that when the brush is rarely cleaned, there is an extremely higher density of both bacterial and fungal organisms - including presumptive Staphylococcus epidermis, Staphylococcus aureus spp., Escherichia coli and various yeast colonies.

And one of the best make up tips is to never store your make up brushes near the toilet.

Amy-May advised: "E. coli is a coliform organism, meaning it is derived from the gastrointestinal tract and would have got on to the cosmetic brush from fecal matter. Perhaps if the brush is stored near the toilet in a bathroom, the flush aerosol would lead to the growth of E. coli."

These bacterial and yeast populations have potential to cause skin infections, fungal and bacterial acne.

Meanwhile there are other hazards to be found - in addition to brushes - by storing your make up bag in the bathroom...

A make up sponge

Bacteria found on a make up sponge regularly cleaned

Bacteria found on a make up sponge that is regularly cleaned

(Image credit: PrettyLittleThing)

When you compare a regularly washed sponge with one that is rarely washed you can see the difference it has on the density of presumptive Staphylococcus epidermidis colonies found all over the plate (small white colonies). 

The washed sponge shows fewer S. epidermis, which is found as part of the normal skin microbiota, but also has been found to contribute to the inflammation of acne.

But Amy-May warned: "Presumptive Micrococcus luteus is also found on the plate. The density of the bacterial population on the plate indicates a lot more contamination of the sponge and illustrates why regular sanitation of cosmetic tools is essential for preventing the risk of acne and many skin infections.”

Bacteria found on make up sponges that are rarely washed

Bacteria found on make up sponges that are rarely cleaned.

(Image credit: PrettyLittleThing)


Bacteria found on eyeshadow regularly cleaned

Bacteria found on eyeshadow regularly cleaned

(Image credit: PrettyLittleThing)

Meanwhile eyeshadows present harm too. So even if you are regularly cleaning your brushes and sponges, bacteria is growing on your eye shadow pallet. 

Amy May explained: "The same organisms from the swab of the eyeshadow cleaned after every use are all present on the shadow that is rarely washed, however in a higher density along with a variety of different bacterial and fungal species. Presumptive Escherichia coli and possible Candida albicans spp. is present alongside potential presumptive Klebsiella pneumoniae."

As a result, the discovery of Candida albicans colony on the eye shadow pallet may indicate improper storage of the cosmetic brush and this can increase acne.

Bacteria found on eye shadow rarely cleaned

Bacteria found on eye shadow that is rarely cleaned

(Image credit: PrettyLittleThing)

She added: “It is not ideal to reintroduce opportunist pathogens back onto your skin and may lead to aggravation and skin conditions including acne, especially when regular washing of brushes can reduce bacterial and fungal populations tremendously.”

So next time you visit the bathroom it might be worth removing your make up bag and finding it a new home free from bacteria.

Selina Maycock

Selina is a Senior Entertainment Writer with more than 14 years of experience in newspapers and magazines. She currently looks after all things Entertainment for GoodtoKnow, Woman&Home and My Imperfect Life.

Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. Having spent the start of her career working on local newspapers and online, Selina spent six years as Acting News Editor and Entertainment Reporter at the Scunthorpe Telegraph where she dug into hard news stories, conducted interviews, covered court reporting, features, and entertainment, whilst going to gigs in her spare time.

Whilst at the paper she was awarded an O2 Media Judges' Special Award for helping a terminally ill cancer sufferer realise his dying wish and marry his childhood sweetheart through a successful newspaper campaign. Things like this are close to her heart when it comes to using journalism to make a positive difference in people's lives.

Selina later branched further into all things celebrity to became a Showbiz Writer at Heat magazine, covering red carpet events, showbiz parties, and various launches before going freelance for two years. One of her biggest celebrity achievements - aside from generating celebrity exclusives - was interviewing Take That (including Robbie Williams) and bumping into Simon Cowell so much at events she told him 'I'm calling you my showbiz dad!'

In 2017 she joined TI Media as a senior reporter on Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, Woman's Weekly celebrity desk before branching online in 2020 when Future gave her the opportunity to focus on digital-first.

When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories.