We use our favorite products to on our faces every day—but the same can't be for how frequently we them. In fact, according to one study conducted by Aston University, superbugs including E.coli and Staphylococci have been found in more than nine out of ten of our daily beauty products, with mascara, beauty blenders, and lip gloss as the worst culprits. The findings are hardly surprising considering only 61 percent of women clean their makeup kit once a month, if at all, and 31 percent of millennials don't know how to clean their beauty tools properly. So, if your makeup bag is caked in concealer and you can't quite remember how long that foundation’s been rolling around in your purse, it may be time to introduce a cleanser to your routine. “Sterilizing your products is paramount in order to stop the spread of bacteria,” says skin expert Lisa Harris. “Whether it’s your makeup, brushes, jade roller, or other beauty tools, it’s highly important to stop the build-up of dead skin cells and excess oil, as well as the spread of bacteria, as these are the main causes of blocked pores, acne, breakouts and dull-looking skin.”
Lackluster complexion aside, celebrity facialist Debbie Thomas warns there could be more serious consequences to neglecting your beauty kit. “On their own, no bacteria will grow on your tools. But add a layer of oils and moisture from product, as well as oil and cells from your own skin, and suddenly you have a hotbed of bacterial activity that you then push over your skin. This can lead to inflammation and potentially an infection like folliculitis on your skin or conjunctivitis in your eyes,” she says.
Meet the Expert
- Lisa Harris is a celebrity skin specialist and founder of Lisa Harris Skin Science in London. Her science-backed treatments and renowned anti-aging treatments have made her a household name.
- Debbie Thomas is an advanced skincare and laser specialist, and one of the most sought after skin experts in both London and Hollywood. In 2007, she founded the D.Thomas Clinic.
Although our beloved blending sponges may harbor the highest levels of bacteria, scientists have also found that air exposure, dirty fingers and double-dipping make-up brushes all contribute to dangerous microbes finding their way on and in our products, not to mention formulas that are way past their sell-by date. Sound familiar?
Luckily, it’s not too late to turn things around, starting with a serious cosmetic clear-out. “You should wash or clean your products after every use, in an ideal world, because bacteria can multiply quickly,” Thomas says. With a jam-packed schedule and a growing to-do list, washing our makeup every day may not seem feasible, which is why a quick and fool-proof routine is key. “Things like jade rollers should be cleaned after every use—this can be done super quickly by using a quality antibacterial spray, wipes, or even just hot soapy water,” Harris advises. Beyond lathering up, find five expert-approved ways to keep bacteria at bay.
Call it Quits on Dry Mascara
Pumping that last little bit of product pushes more air into the tube, creating a dry and dark breeding ground for germs (that you’re, then, repeatedly putting on your eye. Throw it away after three months and swipe the brush around the edges instead.
Wipe and Re-Apply
Touching up your lipstick after a meal is commonplace—and that's totally understandable. But pushing food particles into your rouge, and then returning it to the bullet is dangerous. Make sure you wipe your lips thoroughly before re-applying.
Decant Your Formulas
There’s a reason dermatologists are big fans of products of airless pumps—they lessen the chance of harmful microbes taking up space in your skincare. Air exposure (and sticking your finger in a jar) is a surefire way to contaminate your products. Opt for formulas in tubes, or transfer jar products into an airless pump container.
Separate Your Brushes
Multitasking brushes are a cost-effective way to streamline your make-up kit, but it’s also a quick way to distribute bacteria from one product or palette to the next. Try to clean them before switching products or use your (clean) fingers instead.
Clean Your Brushes
According to Thomas, there are specific steps you should be taking each time you clean your brushes. Below, find how she broke it down.
- Clean one brush at a time. Wet the end of the brush with warm water and add your cleanser–I like to use a dedicated brush cleanser for this—and swirl it around until you get suds.
- Massage the cleanser deep into the bristles and at the base.
- Rinse the cleanser from the brush until the water runs clear. If it's a sponge, keep squeezing out the water and reapplying the cleanser until all of the product has been washed out.
- Squeeze out any excess moisture and lay on a flat surface and leave to air dry. The main one is moisture so always make sure that all your tools are cleaned then dried thoroughly afterwards.
- Don’t forget to clean the handle. Wipe it down with an antibacterial surface cleanser.
Clean Your Makeup Bag
Cleaning every product in your beauty arsenal is pointless if you’re putting them into a bacteria-laden tote. Put your makeup bag in the washing machine at least once a month to keep it clean.