Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes Will Save Your Face (And Maybe Your Life)

Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes

Cleaning makeup brushes is not something we should do just in the spring. When it comes to makeup, this is a year-round necessity. Okay-I admit to having one or two obsessions. (Well, maybe a few more.) But, obsessing over cleaning your makeup brushes and any other application tools should be one of yours as well.

Including my own makeup, I estimate that I apply some form of makeup to literally thousands of faces each year. Each face gets a new disposable sponge, mascara wand or lip applicator. In some States, it is illegal to apply makeup with a previously used applicator that is not fresh and new for each face. For my face, I use non-disposable, high-end application tools, and I NEVER apply any makeup to my own face with a tool that was not thoroughly cleaned immediately after its last use.

About ten years ago, one of my client’s dermatologists was constantly treating her for skin breakouts, but instead of improving, it just continued to look worse every time I saw her. Yet, I knew she spent a lot of money on good skin care and dermatologists. I like to get to the root of a problem and not just treat symptoms. So I asked her to explain her entire routine of how she applied her makeup.

Starting with foundation she described how she used a favorite brush for the application. I asked how often she was cleaning her makeup brushes, and she said “never, no one ever told me to wash it.”

My immediate face reaction gave it away.

She looked embarrassed and explained that no one ever told her to wash her brushes. So every morning she would start her day by transferring bacteria from her contaminated brush to her sensitive skin. By the end of the day, her skin looked worse than the day before. Since I wasn’t sure she would follow my directions to wash the brush, I recommended that she forget the brush and use CLEAN fingers to apply foundation.

I would rather see someone use their CLEAN middle and ring fingers than use a contaminated tool. If you are not diligent in keeping excellent hygiene with your brushes and sponges, it’s best to use CLEAN fingers. This is a lot better than not washing your dirty applicators.

The Industry Doesn’t Do Enough

I wish the skin care and makeup industry could do a better job in explaining the need for cleaning brushes and sponges, so I will do a tiny bit of that here. I apologize for the unpleasant content which will follow, but it may convince you to do a better job with your year-round cleaning. Unpleasant or not, here goes.

Bacteria is everywhere. It occurs naturally in nature, but tends to show up where it is least appreciated, like on our skin. Generally, bacteria on our skin, is not a serious problem unless and until we invite that bacteria in for a visit. Or, we simply spread a layer of this invisible stuff on our lips, near our eyes or over a blemish. Or we grab an application brush with our otherwise clean fingers and eventually touch some part of our body where bacteria wants to nest. Guess where bacteria loves to hang out? On your makeup applicators! It is the moisture, texture and pliability that gives bacteria a home in which to thrive.

I know what you’re thinking. What are a little bacteria going to do? Isn’t that what we have antibiotics and immune systems for? Besides, not all bacteria are bad. There are even good bacteria in our bodies. And all this is true, to an extent. It’s just that it’s the exception to the good that is the bad. And in the case of bad bacteria on the skin, it is very bad.

Dirty Brushes Host Dangerous Disease-causing Bacteria

Take some of the diseases caused by bad bacteria: MRSA, impetigo, strep throat, acne, boils, abscesses, Leprosy, Cholera, Legionnaires disease, meningitis, sinus infections, eye infections and ear infections.

Oh, did I mention Bubonic Plague? Of course, many of these bacteria caused diseases have been kept under control through modern medicine. So far. Scientists say that bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

Let’s just focus on two skin diseases caused by surface bacteria passed on through skin contact, starting with Impetigo, with symptoms that show up in one to three days of contact. You will first notice sores or lesions around the nose and mouth. These will grow and turn into boils and open blisters that will ooze a thick, semi-liquid that contains and spreads more bacteria. You will recognize it by the brown and yellow scab that forms over the boils before drying up and leaving a scar. Not deadly but not pretty, Impetigo can affect all age groups and can be spread through dirty makeup tools.

Another antibiotic resistant bacteria causes a nasty little infection called MRSA. This is an insidious disease because some people are carriers but do not show any symptoms. You never know who that someone is that you don’t want to share with. It could be anyone. The bacteria are spread skin to skin (or makeup sponge to skin). MRSA often appears around open wounds and is particularly difficult to get rid of because it has evolved in a way that makes it resistant to antibiotics. And did I mention it can kill you?

If you are still reading this, the bad part is over. Let me tell you how simple it is to avoid makeup applicator contamination with bacteria.

Best Ways to Avoid Skin Infections

Cleaning Makeup BrushesFirst and foremost, while shopping, never allow anyone to apply a makeup product to your skin with anything but fresh, new sponges, wands, etc. Sales staff can occasionally forget to replace used tools; don’t be afraid to remind them.

Make sure you thoroughly wash your makeup applicators, using antibacterial soap and warm water, daily- right after you apply your makeup, so they are dry for the next use. Rinse thoroughly and wipe excess water with a couple of paper towels, then lay flat so the water does not drain back onto the wood handle and cause it to decay. It’s that simple.

Spring Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes and Tools

Now, start your spring cleaning and continue year-round. Here’s some products we love to get you started:


So many options and applications, you have no excuse to keep a dirty brush!

Online Only Two.Bb.Clean By Beautyblender

Two.Bb.Clean By Beautyblender, $45

Selene Brush Cleaner Dryer

Selene Brush Cleaner & Dryer Kit, $25

Artis Brush Cleansing Foam

Artis Brush Cleansing Foam, $25

Beauty Smarts Brush Cleaning Mitt

Beauty Smarts, Brush Cleaning Mitt, $5

ELF Brush Cleaner Wipes

E.L.F., Brush Cleaner Wipes, $3

Single-Use Applicators

If you’re not up to taking the time to clean your brushes every day, switching to a single-use applicator will help you a lot. They’re cheap, disposable (but a drain on the environment) and easy to take with you on travels.

Chanel Le Cotton Extra Cotton 100-Piece Box Set

Chanel, Le Cotton Extra Cotton 100-Piece Box Set, $20

BMC 100pc Disposable Cosmetic Makeup Lipstick Brush Wand Applicators

BMC 100pc Disposable Cosmetic Makeup Lipstick Brush Wand Applicators, $11

BMC 100pc Disposable Mascara Wand Applicators

BMC, 100pc Disposable Mascara Wand Applicators, $8

Antibacterial Brushes

These are new to the makeup industry, so there aren’t a lot of options, and they shouldn’t replace cleansing, either. That being said, starting with a product that keeps itself bacteria-resistant can’t hurt!

Sephora Collection Charcoal Infused Brushes

Sephora Collection, Deluxe Charcoal Antibacterial Brush Set, $62

Bare Minerals Charcoal Infused Brush

Bare Minerals, Seamless Buffing Brush With Antibacterial Charcoal, $28


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