I hereby confirm this article to be a safe space. Now that that's settled, we need to talk about something. When was the last time you cleaned your makeup brushes? Your Beautyblender? Your lipsticks, palettes, and mascara? Like, really cleaned them and didn't just wipe them down with a paper towel or something? OK, fine, you don't have to say it, but for me, it's been... too damn long. Unable to bear the thought potentially rubbing germs into face any longer, I went straight to the experts to learn exactly how to sanitize all your beauty products, so your skin doesn't suffer.
Before you panic, rest assured that a lot of the germs found on beauty products aren't really harmful to you, because they're already found on your face. (That's at least kind of comforting, right? Maybe?) That said, without regular cleaning, it's possible for dangerous viruses and bacteria to make their way onto your beauty products and then potentially into your body. Yes, that would royally effing suck, but it's not grounds for dumping all your products in bleach and hoping for the best. According to Emmy-winning celebrity makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor and board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Shari Sperling, there are specific ways you should approach cleaning some of your most-used beauty products. Here are the need-to-know methods:
First, how often do makeup and skincare products need to be cleaned?
"Most skincare and cosmetics products (ex: jade roller, makeup brushes) should be cleaned regularly, probably more than most people do," Dr. Sperling tells Elite Daily. "Tools that are used every day, touching skin, maybe even to open areas, need to be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent infection." For your go-to items that you use every day, this means cleaning them every couple of days and, for items you don't use often, every couple of weeks.
Sotomayor agrees priority cleaning should go to the products that touch your eyes and lips. So, yes, it's crucial to sanitize everything from makeup brushes, beauty sponges, and eyeshadows to eyeliner, lip liners, and lipsticks.
OK, let's start with the makeup brushes.
Odds are, your makeup brushes could use the most love when it comes to cleaning. According to Sotomayor, just like with washing your hands, cleaning your brushes with good ole soap and water is your best bet for ridding them of germs. "My favorite product for cleaning brushes is Dr. Bronner’s Castillo Soap ($4, Dr. Bronner's). Unlike most petroleum-based soaps, this natural liquid soap is made from a coconut oil base, which gently dissolves most makeup. I like to put a bit of the soap into a jar, then swirl my brushes in it," says Sotomayor. "Then, I use the Sigma Beauty Spa Brush Cleaning Glove ($39, Sigma Beauty) like an old-timey washboard. (Trust, your grandmother knew what this was.) The silicone ridges are great for separating bristles, so soap and water can get in between them, and for physically pulling debris out of the brush. It speeds up cleaning time and is much more effective."
If you don't have access to those products, Sperling suggests simply using baby shampoo. Swirl the brush around in some of the baby shampoo on the palm of your hand in small circles to get all the makeup out, rinse, and repeat until the water runs clear. Then, let those babies air dry before using them again.
For the brushes you use with long-wear or stubborn products, like gel eyeliners, Sotomayor suggests using a waterproof eye makeup remover. "Swirl a drop of the liquid in your hand, then wash the brush with liquid soap," he says. "If you use a high-quality makeup remover like [Chanel's Gentle Bi-Phase Makeup Remover ($35, Macy's)] to care for your brushes the same way you care for your lashes, they’ll last longer."
What about my beauty sponges?
"Beauty sponges are the hardest to sanitize because they are so porous," says Sotomayor. That said, you may have to give your Beautyblender a little extra love when it's cleaning time. Sotomayor suggests sudsing up your sponge and repeatedly squeezing and washing it under running water until the water starts running clear. Then, let it dry all the way before you use it again.
Do I really need to clean my eyeshadow and face palettes, too?
Yes, you really do. And there are two ways to accomplish this without ruining the formulas. "For these dry and powdery products, a lot of people online will tell you to spray alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol evaporates so quickly that it often doesn’t have enough time to kill all germs," says Sotomayor. "Go a step further and use a makeup sanitizing spray like Beauty So Clean Cosmetic Sanitizer Mist ($35, Amazon)... A light spritz or two is all you need to kill germs in 10 seconds without damaging your products."
Sperling also suggests "[scraping] off the top layer of these products" to ensure they're germ-free. If you have to, do so veryyyyyy gently (so you don't get rid of too much product) with a small spatula and dispose of the excess.
OK, now, how do I clean my eyeliner?
For pencil eyeliners, both Sperling and Sotomayor recommend sharpening the pencil before each use, so you have a clean layer every time. Sotomayor also says dipping the pencil in alcohol (isopropyl, to be specific) and wiping the tip with a paper towel will work.
Other eyeliners, like sponge- or felt-tip liquid liners, are trickier to clean without either drying them out or compromising the formula. However, one silver-lining, according to Sotomayor, is that "there are various preservatives in the products that are meant to kill germs." Still, it's best to be cautious with these types of products by not sharing them with anyone else (no, not even your best, best, best, best, best friend who you're sure is the cleanest person in the world), lest you risk sharing germs, too.
How TF do you even clean mascara??
I, too, had a big question mark over my head when it came to mascara. So many bristles? So goopy?? I'm putting this on my eye??? In the past, some experts have recommended biting the bullet and tossing any mascara you think has been severely compromised, and Sotomayor agrees. If you reeeaaaallllyyyyyy don't want to part with your fave tube, Sperling says "you can leave [your mascara] in the freezer overnight to kill bacteria," though you might have to wait a bit before using it the next morning. Still, better to be safe than sorry.
Similar to eyeliner, Sotomayor stresses the fact that you shouldn't share mascara with anyone. If you want to be safe, he suggests using disposable mascara wands to prevent any germ sharing or spreading. "This is a good practice even for yourself at home," he says.
Wait, but what do I do about my lipsticks?
Similar to Sperling's earlier suggestion for scraping the surface of palettes, both she and Sotomayor also recommend scraping or wiping off the top layer of lipstick with a soft paper towel to nix the germs. For a really thorough clean, Sotomayor says the Beauty So Clean Cosmetic Sanitizer Mist is a good option for cleansing your lipstick before wiping off the top layer, while Sperling says it's OK to dip the product "in alcohol for 15 to 30 seconds" before wiping.
Above all else, though, it's good practice to begin using disposable lipstick applicators or using a washable brush to apply your lipstick. Keep that brush clean, and you know you'll be keeping your lipstick clean, too.
Do I need to do anything about my beauty products that come in a jar?
For those products that come in small tubs or jars, like eyeliners or moisturizers, Sperling says wiping or scraping off the top layers of these products is the best move. She also says not to "double dip" into these types of products, if you can help it. Essentially, if you can use a Q-tip, a small spatula, or a clean brush to apply the product, that's almost always a safer bet.
Are there any sanitizing products I should avoid at all costs when it comes to my beauty products?
Yes, yes, yes. "Avoid harsh ingredients that can cause irritation to skin or increase acne breakouts in skin," says Sperling. For the love of God, don't pull out the bleach sitting under your kitchen sink — or anything sitting under your kitchen sink, for that matter. "Don't use bleach or ammonia on anything that will touch your skin or other body parts," says Sotomayor. Not only can these and more household cleaners cause serious irritation and damage to your skin, but you risk compromising your makeup's formula. At the end of the day, stick with soap and water, small amounts of isopropyl alcohol, or expert-recommended cosmetic sanitizers to keep you and your products safe.