Everything Is Gross: A Case For Sanitizing Your Makeup

For starters, let’s all go by this rule: DO NOT SHARE YOUR MAKEUP.
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Publish date:
April 14, 2015
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healthy, makeup, Clean, Sanitary

Last week, a few of my guys and I went to Chicago for a few magical days of binge drinking and impulse buying. We had a blast, I think, but the part that sticks out to me the most is Thursday, early evening, when we were in our hotel suite ~getting ready~ to go out.

Alex was bench pressing the hotel safe and Brian was doing tricep dips on the coffee table, to “get some reps in” before we left. I was filling in my brows. After the guys had gotten their arms primed for Instagram, the questions started to fly.

“Do you have anything to hide the bags under my eyes?”

“What did you put in your hair just now? Can I get some of that?”

Three dudes, crammed into one hotel bathroom, smearing stuff all over our faces and into our hair. We all probably ended up looking exactly the same as usual, but we felt like a million bucks, because that ritual of preparing for an evening is so much better when you do it with your friends.

A few days later, this story starts circulating about woman, age 27, in Australia who is now confined to a wheelchair after being infected with the life-threatening bacterial infection, MRSA, after using her friend’s makeup brush to cover a blemish while getting ready to go out on Valentine’s Day. She said that it started as an ache in her back, but then turned into a pain that was worse than childbirth as the virus started attacking her spine, and will now be in wheelchair for the rest of her life.

FUCK, man. Now, infections with this type of severity are a one in a million thing, and I don’t mean to jump on the fear-mongering train, but I write about beauty every day and it’s easy to forget how close to germs and bacteria we are putting ourselves when we’re applying our favorite products every single day.

She’s not the only beauty horror story, though. There’s the woman who allegedly contracted HIV from getting a manicure from a nail tech who wasn’t properly sanitizing their tools. Or the other girl who got gangrene after a pedicure and had to had her leg amputated.

Again, extreme examples, but they’re recent, and should serve as a reminder that we really shouldn’t be forgetting to clean our makeup brushes regularly, and, when having services done, research the salons, finding reputable hair and nail techs. Above all, make sure everything that touches our skin is sanitary no matter who is holding the tweezers.

I think back to college, getting ready with a couple girlfriends every Friday and Saturday night (and Sunday and Monday and Tuesday etc.,) we were tossing around beauty products like it was no problem. Although, I was also living in a frat house at the time, where we brewed our own beer in the communal shower and stirred it with a broom, so it’s not like I was deputy of sanitation or anything.

Or, and this is even worse, back in high school, the dark days, when I would get pink eye twice a year, because I was involved in the theatre department (shocking) and we would all share eyeliner. SHARE EYELINER. I would have probably been safer if I took the eyeliner pencil and just used it to gouge my own eyes out.

My mom got wise to what was going on and was like “Tynan, you have got to cut that shit out. It’s really dangerous.” She went on to offer, “I will buy you your own eyeliner.”

“But I’ll just share it with all my friends!” I’d exclaim.

Today I’m a little smarter. Beauty has actually made me kind of a germaphobe. Basically, I just try to be aware of what I’m putting on my face, how long I’ve had it, how long it has been opened, how it’s packaged and being stored, and what I’m using to apply it. There’s a lot to think about.

For starters, let’s all go by this rule: DO NOT SHARE YOUR MAKEUP.

Even typing that, I know we’re all going to share out makeup, sometimes it’s inevitable. It’s definitely fun and a bonding experience, but your best bet is just to not do so at all. There’s no shame in looking at your friend and being like “No you can’t use my lipstick because you’re gross and so am I and we’re definitely going to give each other something.” Or just blame it on yourself, “I have a cold sore and also pink eye sorryyyyy.”

Even if you’re not sharing makeup, make sure that the products and tools you’re using to apply them are always clean.

If you’re using makeup brushes to apply foundation, the rule seems to be to wash them every two weeks. You don’t even have to use a specific brush cleanser, any gentle cleanser like hand soap or shampoo is fine. I usually wash mine about every three uses, to be honest. Brushes used for eye shadows and gel liners I wash completely after every use.

It’s not just the brushes you have to be careful about, though. Sanitizing your makeup is always a good idea, and is very easy to do. Just use my favorite thing in the world: Alcohol!

For powder eye shadows, just spray the pan with a little alcohol and wipe off the top layer of power with a tissue. This goes for lipsticks, too. A little spray, then wipe off the top layer, and you’ll be good to go. Keep in mind that gel products, especially those that come in pots like gel eyeliners and cheek stains, are perfect, wet environments for germs to grow. While those products are a little more fragile, it’s important to do what you an to keep them clean. Use a clean brush every time, don’t use the same pot for too long (I’d say two months is pushing it but I’m also hypersensitive to germs, so let’s say no more than three.)

Mascaras are notorious for collecting and incubating germs, and you’re obviously using them right up against your eyes, so that’s awesome. Same rule applies for mascaras, don’t keep them longer than three months. If nothing else, this is just a standing excuse to try new products.

When you’re having a mani or pedi done, research, research, research. Find a good place with people you trust who rigorously sanitize each and every tool they use. There’s nothing wrong with asking exactly how they clean their tools. They should be happy to tell you.

In conclusion, everything is gross. Beauty is great. Beauty is like, my favorite thing, but, I always have to check myself and make sure that the products I’m using are sanitary, because in the long run, it’s so much easier to make sure that everything squeaky clean than to deal with the consequences of not doing so.

If nothing else, clean products and tools just work better, and isn’t that reason enough?

How often do you clean your brushes? Do you make sure to clean your actual products? How often to you throw out old products? Am I just being a crazy old germaphobe? Tell me everything in the comments!

Tynan is dodging germs on Twitter @TynanBuck.