You're dedicated to washing your makeup brushes and sponges regularly, but when it comes to your actual makeup products, should the same level of cleanliness be adopted? If you consider that not sanitizing your makeup is kind of like not washing a reusable water bottle, the answer is a resounding yes. Okay, okay — it’s not that gross. The truth is, many makeup products actually have preservatives that protect it against bacterial, yeast, and mold growth. That being said, even though some level of protection is built into many of your products, much of their safety comes down to proper storage and use.
Also, there are some products that are more susceptible to bacterial growth than others, requiring you, the makeup wearer, to do your due diligence when it comes to keeping them clean. Sure, it may seem like a lot of extra effort to sanitize the actual makeup itself, but when it comes to the health of your skin (and your body overall) this isn’t the time to cut corners. And remember — if you’re struggling to pinpoint exactly what’s causing a rogue breakout, a patch of dryness, or even increased skin sensitivity, it’s worth examining every aspect of your beauty routine.
Learn all there is to know about the benefits of sanitizing your makeup products (plus, how to do it) from a cosmetic chemist as well as a pro makeup artist.
Why It’s Important To Sanitize Your Makeup
Makeup sanitizing isn't just reserved for pro makeup artists who clean their products in between clients. According to NakedPoppy research scientist Marisa Plescia, it may be a good idea for the average makeup wearer to sanitize their makeup, too, especially if they have compromised skin. “If you have a skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, or have extremely sensitive skin, sanitizing your makeup regularly is a good idea, as it will help minimize any risk of growth [on your products],” Plescia tells TZR.
So, which products are the main culprits? According to Plescia, the lip product stash you have in your purse as well as your eye products are the two heavy hitters. “The eyes and lips are mucosal membranes with relatively prime environments for bacterial growth (specifically, they’re warm and wet),” she explains. “They’re also a direct opening of the body, and areas where the skin barrier is missing, which means bacteria can easily enter the body and travel systemically.”
And, because a standard lipstick is cream-based, it’s a prime environment for bacterial growth. Not to mention, our mouths encounter several environments daily that could lead to bacteria growth (think: dirty cups and cutlery, kissing, and even hands), says Savannah St. Jean, a makeup artist and the owner of Savannah Rae Beauty.
Eye products like liners and mascaras are also vulnerable. Being a delicate area of the face, the eyes are already host to a diverse and personal microbiome — meaning eye products are always at risk of interacting with those bacteria (and the transferring or transmitting of them). Also, Plescia says that since the eyes are such a sensitive area, some more traditional preservative ingredients may be irritating and cause redness and irritation. This means your eye products may not have preservatives in it that protect if from bacteria growth, so you’ll need to pay extra attention to expiration dates and signs of contamination to avoid things like pink eye, redness, and inflammation.
Finally, there are powder products. Both experts agree that powder products are the least vulnerable to bacteria growth (and they tend to have the longest shelf life, too). Because powder products don’t contain any water (and since water is necessary for bacteria to grow), powders don’t provide a suitable environment for bacterial growth. That being said, St. Jean notes that the natural oils from your skin can still transfer to your powder products, which would then leave moisture for the bacteria to thrive in. “Typically, you will know that there is natural oil present on your powder products by seeing and feeling a hard cast build up on the top of your powder products,” she explains.
How To Sanitize Your Makeup Effectively
If you follow best practices for makeup storage (namely keeping your products in a cool, dry, dark area) and use, Plescia says you shouldn’t need to disinfect it. However, if you don’t (for example, if you’re a makeup sharer or you use your fingers to apply everything), you’ll want to disinfect one to two times a month or, in some cases, just throw the makeup away. You especially want to be aware of whether there’s been potential contamination — for example, if you have an eye infection but continue to use your makeup, your eye makeup should be disinfected or even thrown away before use, warns Plescia.
The most effective way to disinfect your makeup products is to use 70% isopropyl alcohol (IPA), which “kills bacteria by damaging their cell walls,” says Plescia. “To disinfect your product, give it a light spray with 70% IPA. Then, wait at least 30 seconds — or ideally until it’s dry. And you’re done — there’s no need to even wipe it off.” St. Jean also recommends spraying the inside of your pencil sharpener with a 70% IPA spray, and to be sure not to recap the pencil until the alcohol has evaporated.
Powder products are where things can get a bit tricky, as they’re prone to being ruined by excessive disinfecting. In this case, it’s best to focus on only dipping clean brushes into your powder products, and avoiding touching the powder products with your hands. If, however, you find yourself in need of disinfecting your powder makeup products, St. Jean says to first scrape off any hard cast that’s due to oil buildup. Then, once the powder product underneath is exposed, lightly spray it with 70% IPA and allow it to dry before closing the lid.
Now for the bad news: there’s no way to properly disinfect your mascara once it’s been contaminated. (FYI: this is the reason why mascaras have such a short expiration date — they truly need to be replaced every three months.) “If you find yourself with an eye infection, it is imperative that you immediately replace your mascara to ensure that you do not reinfect yourself,” St. Jean tells TZR.
Also, your products are more likely to grow bacteria if they’re stored in humid or moist areas — aka your bathroom. “Bacteria love moist, warm places, making the bathroom the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold,” says Plescia, who recommends keeping the lids of your products dry and storing them in cool, dry areas to prevent growth.
Follow those tips to keep contamination at a minimum and enjoy the full amount of time that your makeup products are safe to use.