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Courtesy 1enthirtv /South China Morning Post

Critics are calling China’s new shareable make-up booths unhygienic


TextSapphi Littleton

Would you use it?

China’s trend of sharing just about everything - bikes, phone chargers, umbrellas, cars and even clothes - has gone one step further, with shareable make-up booths spreading around the nation. Founded by beauty brand, 17 Beauty, the booths, named the “17 Beauty Box”, have been popping up in shopping centres across Shanghai, Beijing and the rest of China.

Marketed as an affordable way for consumers to use expensive make-up, one use of the booth costs just 8 yuan (around 90p) for a 15-minute make-up session. Once inside the pink cubicle, you can expect full-on privacy as the glass doors turn opaque and a cabinet opens to reveal over £400 worth of high-end make-up.

However, with the latest booth opening in Eastern Wuhan, the discussion around the controversy of the service has been reignited following the first installations earlier in the year, with many taking to China’s Twitter equivalent, Sina Weibo, and their personal blogs to question whether sharing make-up with a stranger is hygienic. Although there are cleaning products available for customers to sanitise the products before and after each use, is it enough to rely on everyone to do this?

Commenting on the situation, one booth user told the Pear Video website "lipstick, for example, lots of people will use - that's not very hygienic," with another adding, "cosmetics are personal items, I can't really accept this."

Talking to South China Morning Post, dermatologist Dr Steven Loo King-fan believes that the booths offer a more sanitary environment for on the go make-up, compared to public toilets, but highlights the health risks of sharing products with others: “staphylococcus aureus is the most common skin infection. When someone carrying these bacteria uses a brush to apply make-up, the bacteria will get transferred to the make-up container where it will grow.”

With concern around bacteria and skin conditions growing, 17 Beauty responded explaining how make-up is fixed to the booths’ counters so that customers can’t directly apply products to their faces. They also added that disposable applicators are available and ask that customers use a new brush with each application so that international hygiene standards are met. This means every dab into bronzer and every dip into lip gloss should be done with a new disposable applicator. Cleanly, yes, but is this wasteful?

There’s no doubt that the idea of a sharing economy is a good, one that many Western countries have borrowed from - think Santander Cycles and ZipCars - with the trend giving people access to shared luxuries and also reducing negative environmental impacts. Sharing make-up, however, is still up for debate.

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