Be honest here. When was the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes? Because if it was more than a month ago, you’re at risk of transferring dirt, bacteria, dead skin, and oil onto your skin — things can cause infections, breakouts, pink eye, redness, and rashes (probably not the look you’re going for when you reach for your makeup bag). And what about your makeup? How long have you been using that mascara or eye shadow?
It makes you stop and think, doesn’t it? Most of us use makeup daily, and application is pretty much as intimate as it gets in that it comes into direct contact with our skin. Yet, while we wouldn’t dream of wearing our underwear two days in a row, it can be easy to forget to give our makeup brushes a thorough scrub down.
According to makeup artist Kenetia Lee, author of the recently published book “Fearless Beauty 360: A Complete Guide to Self-Acceptance and Empowerment,” we should all be washing our makeup tools at least once a month, every two weeks if possible, and we should give all of our makeup products an expiration date.
“The most important tools and brushes to clean are those that come in contact with the eyes,” she says. “And don’t ever share eye or lip makeup.”
Brushes & Sponges
Lee suggests washing brushes with a tiny drop of gentle soap that has an antibacterial component (kids’ lines often offer more gentle options). “Rinse brushes under lukewarm water and tilt bristles toward the drain, not facing the running water, to prevent glue from loosening and ruining the entire brush,” she says. “Apply drop of soap, no bigger than a pea, to the bristles, massage through bristles, smooth them back into their original shape and dry on a flat surface on a clean dry towel.”
Between washes, she says you can use a spray brush cleaner on the bristles and wipe on a clean tissue. For makeup sponges, throw out the disposable ones as soon as all clean surfaces are gone, and for the reusable ones, they should be washed with a mild soap and water, just as you would wash any sponge or small fabric cloth, once a week. You can also put them in the washing machine with a load of laundry for a deep clean.
But once the tools of the trade are up to par, how does your makeup hold up in a cleanliness test?
“With powder products, it’s a good idea to use a clean disposable mascara wand (like the ones you would get to test at a makeup counter) to lightly scrape off the top layer of the powder product. Do this as often as you clean your brushes,” says Lee. She also recommends sanitizing lip products that have been used during an infectious outbreak (such as cold sores, blisters, and so forth) by cutting off the top layer, and then applying rubbing alcohol and drying it off with a clean tissue.
As a general rule, foundations and concealers should be replaced after a year. Eye shadows, blushes, powders, and lipsticks can last two years, as can eye pencils and lip pencils, but Lee suggests frequent sharpening of pencils to remove the outer, germ-attracting layer of product. Mascara has the shortest lifespan of all and should be replaced every 90 days.
And finally, this one seems like a no-brainer but you just never know: Throw out and replace all eye makeup that has been used during pink eye.