Sharing is caring—in most situations. Letting your little brother play with your favorite teddy bear is the mark of a good sibling. Splitting a creme brulee on a first date can be incredibly romantic. Even trying something new with a friend can be the bonding experience that takes you from acquaintances to best buds.
Sometimes, though, sharing can spell disaster. There are just some things you aren’t meant to share—ever. Take personal care products, for example. Allowing someone else to use your razor or bar of soap can spread germs and bacteria, which could lead to allergic reactions or even outbreaks of certain diseases. Gross. If there was one hard and fast rule, it would be “don’t share anything that touches your mouth, eyes, ears, or other sensitive parts of your body.” Without further ado, here’s a list of the 13 products you should avoid sharing at all costs.
It may seem obvious, but bears repeating: If it touches your mouth, don’t share it. More than 700 species of bacteria live in the human mouth—that we know of. Everything from the common cold to herpes to strep throat can spread through saliva. If that’s not enough reason to keep your toothbrush to yourself, we don’t know what is. Remember, too, that you’ll want to replace your toothbrush every few months—research shows that just leaving it exposed in the bathroom can contaminate it with fecal matter. (If you want to be extra safe, store yours in the medicine cabinet.)
Beyond that fact that letting someone else use your razor is seriously nasty, it can be downright dangerous. When the blades cut off hairs, they also catch tons of skin cells and anything else that might be lurking there, like fungal or bacterial infections. Not to mention, if you or the other person using the razor nick yourself shaving, you could be exposed to any diseases carried in their bloodstream, including HIV or hepatitis. Toss your razor for a new one every week or so.
3. Bar soap
Even soap can get dirty. A 2008 study of college football players traced an antibiotic-resistant staph infection running rampant on the team back to a shared bar of soap. That’s just one example of the multitude of illnesses that can be transmitted through sharing soap that comes in direct contact with your skin.
4. Nail clipper
Anything that reaches underneath your toenails probably shouldn’t be considered communal. Up to 24 percent of us have some harmful bacteria lurking under our nails, and fungi and warts can also be transmitted through sharing clippers.
5. Hair trimmer
Electric trimmers—whether for nose, ear, facial hair, or body hair—can pick up all kinds of bacteria from the skin. If nothing else, sharing these tools can cause acne and ingrown hairs, and the risk for viral and bacterial infections also increases.
Okay, sharing tweezers isn’t always the worst—unless plucking that rogue hair punctures your skin. Then, you open yourself up to the risk of all kinds of blood-borne infections. If it’s absolutely imperative that you borrow your best friend’s tweezers immediately to get rid of that errant hair, at least sanitize them with rubbing alcohol first (and after, before you give ’em back).
The scrubbers pose a twofold threat: They not only collect dead skin cells and any other bacteria hiding out on the surface of the body, but also are often stored in the moist shower. Bacteria love warm, damp environments, and can live on in a loofah long after you hop out of the shower. If possible, let your loofah dry out completely between uses and store it somewhere cool and dry (i.e. not in the shower).
Here’s yet another way you can contract everything from pinkeye to canker sores: through sharing makeup. Though eyeliner, eyeshadow, and mascara are the most risky products to share, it’s best to keep everything from foundation to blush to yourself, considering the nasty little mites that hang out on skin and eyelashes.
Staph infections, scabies, head lice, pinkeye, fungal infections … the list of illnesses that can be spread through towels seems to go on forever. After you get out of the shower and dry off, that damp towel is full of microbes and bacteria that you definitely don’t want to pass on to someone else.
10. Brush or comb
Remember getting checked for lice in the nurse’s office in elementary school? Imagine the horror of finding a nit in your hair as an adult. That’s reason enough to avoid other people’s brushes and combs.
11. Stick deodorant
As gross as it is, most of us are probably guilty of borrowing a friend’s deodorant in a pinch. Hey, it’s better than being stinky, right? Maybe not. Most deodorants don’t actually eliminate odor-causing bacteria—they just mask them with fragrances. That means that every time you use someone else’s, you’re not only swiping on their sweat but also traces of their bacteria as well.
Even if you don’t share your toothbrush, you could be still getting all of the germ’s from your sister’s mouth if you share a tube of toothpaste. If you touch the bristles to the tube each time you squeeze some toothpaste out onto your brush, you’re spreading your germs—and picking up whatever germs might already be on the tube. Yikes.
13. Anything in a jar
If you have to stick your fingers into a jar to get a product—think night cream, lip scrub, and moisturizer—keep it to yourself. Every time you reach in, you contaminate the product with whatever germs and bacteria are living on your hands.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho