How Sanitary Are Beauty Products in Jars?

August 19, 2020
Sarah Ferguson
By: Sarah Ferguson | by L'Oréal
How Sanitary Are Beauty Products in Jars?

Many of the best beauty products come in jars or pots. Some are meant to be used with a brush, some come with a cute little spatula (which, let’s be honest, we often lose shortly after opening up the packaging) and others are just meant to be used with your fingers. We don’t blame you if the idea of dunking your fingers into a product and slathering it over your face day after day grosses you out. Products that come packaged in pump bottles or tubes just seem more sanitary. The question is, if jarred products are a playground for bacteria, why would they even be sold? We reached out to Roselin Rosario, L’Oréal associate principal chemist, to get the scoop. 

So, Are Products in Jars Unsanitary?

There are reasons beauty products contain preservatives, and one of them is to prevent formulas from becoming unsafe to use. “All cosmetic products must contain preservatives because these are the ingredients that make it harder for bacteria and microorganisms to grow,” says Rosario. “The preservative system would not prevent the product from being contaminated, but it would prevent any contaminants from growing and spoiling the product.” She also notes that products in jars go through strict microbiological testing.


How Can You Prevent Your Products From Getting Contaminated? 

A product in a jar can become contaminated if you don’t wash your hands before use and if the surface you’re applying the product on is not clean (yet another reason it’s important to cleanse your skin!). “Also, keep the jar tightly closed when not in use and avoid storing it in a high humidity or moisture area if it’s not well capped,” says Rosario. Finally, always check for a PAO (period after opening) symbol so you know when a formula will expire. “After the PAO date expires, there is a chance that the preservatives become less active,” she says. 

How Can You Tell if Your Product Is Contaminated or Unsanitary?

While Rosario notes that “a well-preserved product would not allow those contaminants to continue to grow and there should be no issues,” there are a few warning signs to look for in the rare case that there are issues. The first is if you start to experience any adverse reactions that you didn’t get after previous usage. Next, look at the product for physical changes. Rosario says that change in color, odor or separation are all red flags. If you think your product has become contaminated, discontinue use. 


Photos (from top): Chaunte Vaughn, Jonet Williamson


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