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The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Beauty Tools – and Skin care Products

The Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Your Beauty Tools – and Skin care Products

Most people I know are well-versed in how to care for their skin, but when it comes to properly caring for skin care and beauty products and tools themselves, too many of us are in the dark. One study found that nearly two-thirds of women who use makeup brushes clean them less than once a month or not at all, and over 30% of millennials report that they don’t know how to clean their beauty tools properly. From keeping your tools germ-free to preventing breakouts, there are many reasons why it’s important to ensure that the skin care products and beauty tools you use contribute to your skin care regimen rather than sabotage it. Our seven-step process can keep your beauty routine – and you –  fresh, clean and healthy.

Why Keeping it Clean matters: Bacteria 

Did you know that superbugs such as E.coli and Staphylococci can be found in a majority of opened beauty products you use daily? This is hardly surprising, given how often we touch our beauty products and how rarely most of us clean them. 

While the worst culprits are mascara, beauty blenders and lip gloss, other items like brushes and jade rollers can also accumulate dead skin cells and excess oil. Add to this concoction the oils and moisture from the products themselves, and you have yourself a hotbed of bacterial activity that you then smear unknowingly across your skin. 

To stop the spread of bacteria, inflammation, breakouts and potential infections like folliculitis (bumps from inflamed hair follicles) or conjunctivitis in your eyes, regularly sterilizing your tools is critical. 


How to Keep Your Skin care products and Beauty Tools Clean 


Step 1: Sharing is not caring 

While many of us know not to share mascara or eyeliner with others, it’s prudent to stick to a policy of never sharing your makeup, brushes, sponges or applicators with anyone else.   

Step 2: Wash your hands before you apply

This is of paramount importance for those who apply liquids and creams with their fingers. Sanitary applicators are a better way to avoid spreading germs, oil and dirt. 

Step 3: Clean your makeup bag 

Sterilizing your tools won’t make a difference if you return everything to the same bacteria-laden makeup bag. Put it in the washing machine or hand-wash and air-dry it at least once a month to ensure cleanliness. 

Step 4: Designate brushes 

It can be tempting to invest in fewer makeup brushes and multitask them across different types of products, but that’s also a quick way to distribute bacteria from one palette or product to another. So you should designate brushes for specific tasks. If you must use the same brush, clean it before swapping products. 

Beauty tools, brushes and makeup

Step 5: Wash Skin Care Tools and Makeup Brushes Regularly  

Most makeup brushes are made of synthetic bristles or natural animal hair, so they should be cleaned at least once a week to keep them soft and to prevent them from stiffening with built-up product and residue. 

  1. Thoroughly wet the end of each brush with warm water and add a gentle cleanser. You can purchase a dedicated brush cleanser for this task or use baby shampoo or even dish detergent in a pinch. 
  2. Swirl the brush around in the palm of your hand until you see suds. You can also purchase special brush-cleaning mats to help with this step. 
  3. Massage the cleanser deep into the bristles and at the base, then rinse out the cleanser until the water runs clear. You might have to repeat these steps several times until you see clear water. Note: If you’re washing a makeup sponge, continue reapplying cleanser, rinsing and squeezing out the water until all product has been washed out and the water runs clear.
  4. Spin the brush in your hands to remove moisture and fluff it out. Press out any excess moisture and lay the tool on a flat surface to air-dry. It’s important to make sure that all items are dried thoroughly. 
  5. To sterilize handles, simply wipe them down with an antibacterial surface cleanser, hydrogen peroxide, hand sanitizer or isopropyl alcohol. You can even use Barbicide, the blue liquid used to disinfect combs and brushes in salons and barber shops. 

Step 6: Clean Your Makeup 

Yes, your makeup! It’s surprising how much we touch our products, so a few easy tips to refresh can make all the difference.

Refresh Your Powder

Sanitizing bronzers, blushes and face powders is simpler than you might think. Simply skim the entire top layer off with a butter knife or similar implement and spray the remaining surface lightly with 70% isopropyl alcohol from a spray bottle. Then allow to air-dry. 

Toss the old mascara

Attempting to scrape out every last glob of mascara actually pushes air into the tube, creating a dark breeding ground for germs. Mascara wands are also very difficult to clean and sterilize – and your eyes are especially delicate and sensitive. Once opened, it’s better to throw away and replace mascara after three months or so. 

Refresh lipstick carefully

It’s pretty normal to touch up your lipstick after eating and drinking, but keep in mind that you might inadvertently transfer food particles to the product and then seal them up in the bullet. To avoid contamination, make sure you wipe your lips thoroughly before re-applying rouge or gloss. To be extra-careful, wipe off the surface of the product or the applicator between uses.  

Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion

Step 7: Extend the Shelf Life of Skin Care Products and Tools  

Skin care treatments, especially acidic serums have short shelf lives, as L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C in its natural form) is particularly unstable and decreases in efficacy from exposure to air, light and temperature changes. While the product won’t become harmful to the skin until its expiration date, an oxidized vitamin C serum simply won’t produce the expected results. Here’s how you can extend a product’s shelf life.

Go airless

Products with airless pumps reduce oxidation (allowing manufacturers to use fewer preservatives in the product) and significantly lessen the chance of harmful microbes making their way into your skincare. If your favorite product doesn’t come in this sort of packaging, you can transfer it into an airless pump container with a clean spoon or spatula. 

Mind the expiration date

The Period After Opening (PAO) symbol on your makeup indicates shelf life, or how many months you have from the day you open the product to the day it expires. And it’s not just a suggestion; expired makeup can start to harbor bacteria, and all preservatives in cosmetics break down over time. (All the more reason to use that fancy serum and treat yourself to a DIY spa day at home.) Since most beauty products aren’t printed with an expiration date, you can write one on the bottom of the bottle with a Sharpie to remember when you opened it.

Generally, if stored in a cool, dry place and out of direct sunlight, most unopened and fully sealed makeup should last for two to three years. This does not apply to creamier products, however, that contain oils or butters, such as concealers or liquid blushes. These formulas usually turn bad earlier because oils can go rancid.  

Be sure to care for your beauty products and tools on a regular basis. Here’s to a germ-free skin care routine – your complexion will thank you! 

Zulily Beauty and Wellness Shop

About The Author

Julia Wohlers

Julia Wohlers is a writer and visual designer obsessed with culture, travel and fashion editorial. She created Brand of People Magazine as a space to inspire creatives, entrepreneurs and culture-makers. Originally from Washington, D.C., Julia grew up all over the world, but she particularly loves Milan, where her son was born, and the Balkans, where life is uniquely authentic. You can find her on Instagram at @juliawohlers_ or follow the magazine at @brandofpeoplemag.

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