Go clean your makeup brushes NOW!

Dear readers: this is a PSA reminding you to clean your makeup brushes, your vanity table and your war paints.

And when I say go clean your makeup stuff, I mean do it TODAY. This is an order.

While you’re at it, clean up and disinfect everything else too, not just brushes and makeup: your sponges, your makeup bag, tweezers, scissors and pencil sharpener, and your jars.

Eye cosmetics expiration date

A few general guidelines… how long have your eye products been in use, and exposed to contamination?

Check your makeup’s due date, and throw out that mascara from the summer of 2016. At least I hope it is from ‘16. Yuck. Get rid of all the old, dingy and useless stuff bogging you down, and get ready to receive shiny new things and good juju in spring 2017.

Yes, I know this isn’t nearly as fun and stimulating as trying out new techniques, hunting for the best products, or sleuthing super secrets to improve your skin and correct any disasters that may already have occurred, but it’s cheaper for sure, and you will see the results.

In my case, if I’m not diligent about cleansing my brushes every week at the most (and this is too long), my skin pays for my laziness, no matter how much money or time I spend in beauty routines. Besides, once they’re purified from old product buildup, dead skin cells, sebum and other repulsiveness, brushes will “grab” makeup better, thus reducing product waste and improving application and wear.

There is no excuse for lazyasses and cheapskates either (I am both) because it only takes a few minutes next time you go wash your hands, and some shower gel or a cake of soap, whichever you prefer.

Pick your trick

Some opt for wetting a bar of soap (coconut and Castile seem to be the two great faves among pros and amateurs), running the brush hair along the surface, and rinsing.

I can’t even remember the last time I bought bar soap, so I hand-wash my brushes with a little shower gel or shampoo (I put a little more in a half-mugful of water, the same mug where I keep the brushes on my counter). Wash well, and if deeper cleaning is necessary (a must for mineral foundation or concealer brushes), I put another drop of shower gel on the brush hairs, and massage carefully – no hair-pulling (how would you like it if someone did it to you?)

Another pro tip from facepaint veterans is to apply a drop of oil on the hairs to soften stubborn buildup, before going on to lather. This is especially appropriate for liquid or gel liner brushes, and those used with any type of pressed, waterproof or SPF products.

I personally use sunflower oil, which is what I keep in my bathroom cabinet, and don’t do it very often. More oiling than needed seems to make the hairs overly greasy, matted and difficult to clean really well, and anyway I often use loose mineral makeup, so I don’t find it necessary.

The added advantage of this method is that it conditions the brush hair, advisable with all this washing, and especially if you have my same bad habit of giving brushes a spritz of alcohol when the week is about over and I haven’t gotten around to washing them (it’s okay once in a while, but don’t overdo it: alcohol is as bad for brush hair as it is for your own).

limpiar las brochas de maquillaje

Sometimes I want to go buy more makeup brushes for my collection. Then I remember that I have to wash them, and the craving goes.

After rinsing and leaving out to dry, remember to: 1) shape the hairs so that they don’t splay, which will eventually ruin the brush, and 2) roll up or fold the edge of the towel so as to place the brushes a little inclined, with the hairs pointing down as in the image, to prevent excess water from weakening the glue and thus causing premature hair loss of the brush.

There are some who go as far as cleaning their makeup brushes according to type and use, using this or that product to wash natural or synthetic hair brushes, blush brush, liquid liner brush… I myself cannot devote this much dedication to my tools, and I don’t feel the need either: several of the brushes shown in the image have 10 or 12 years with me… I even have brushes bought over 15 years ago which are still going strong with no signs of flagging, and I haven’t yet had to replace one that is no longer usable. It’s also true I’m no makeup pro, and I only use my brushes on myself.

Who wants to rub germs all over their face?
cute giant microbe

This guy is cute. What’s lurking in your vanity is most definitely not. Also, for the love of Dior, DO NOT google “staph infection” images. You’re welcome. Photo credit: Stéphane Magnenat via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.


Clean your makeup sponges even more often than your brushes, and replace them frequently: sponges are made to absorb and suck up everything, including bacteria and other nasties… especially bacteria and other nasties, which is why I’m no fan of this tool.

I don’t even own a Beauty Blender, because I find even the cheap knock-offs too expensive to replace as often as necessary (the maker of BB recommends replacing yours every three months), and gross as it sounds to some, I prefer applying things like bb cream with my fingers… good enough for the maestro François Nars, good enough for me, I say. For more precise application, I’d rather splurge on good makeup brushes, which are easier to keep hygienic and last for years.

Speaking of this, I’m curious about those washable silicone chicken-cutlet thingies for blending makeup that were all over my SM feeds some months ago… if anyone has incorporated one of these to their routine, do let me know how it goes for you!

Also, if anyone reading this has tried making do with an actual bra insert, I’m also interested in hearing about your thoughts, as are other fellow addicts I’m sure. It’s for science. Some have gone so far as to dress their Bblenders with a (washed and de-lubed) condom… just leaving it out there.

All germs must die

A few other things I like to keep on my makeup table, so as to keep some semblance of godliness, is 96º proof alcohol and cotton, a pack of wet wipes, and antibacterial hand gel.

Alcohol kills everything except fungi, which is why you shouldn’t keep your makeup anywhere damp like the bathroom. I never apply makeup without having washed my hands before, so don’t really use the gel and wipes much, but I like to have the gel at hand for a quick cleanup if I blend makeup with my fingers; the wipes come in handy for a quick brush cleanup when using creamy or liquid products.

Touched by His Noodly Appendage - FSM

Touched by His Noodly Appendage, by Arne Niklas Jansson (CC0). I’d paint myself in the place of Adam, and my beloved Wayne Goss in the place of the FSM.

I also have a bit of an added problem from going into a huge eye shadow-buying kick many years ago: as a result, I now have enough old shadows to do my own take of the Sistine Chapel on my ceiling (hmm…), even after giving my favorite Coastal Scents palette to my mother.

Having said that, note that I don’t advise giving used makeup to your nearest and dearest beauty addicts (or to anyone, really), particularly if you have miserable skin like I do… however, Mother Nessie fell in love with the thing (it was the CS 88 Mirage palette, and it does have lovely shades), and I didn’t have the heart to deny her. So I made sure to christen it with alcohol before she used it, and no ill effects have ensued.

loose eyeshadows

The crown jewels in my collection. I have more, but loose powder shadows are my favorite.

Anyhow, even after getting rid of a few, I still have a glut of eyeshadows that I ought to have used up already, so I’ve forbidden myself to buy new ones again until… honestly, it ought to be till the end of time, but I know myself; to my credit, the last time I bought a pot of eye shadow was over a year ago (gifts received from friends and family do not count in my hoarding quotas).

Where the shadows lie…

Therefore, I have to have extra care to keep my old shadows clean and hygienic, and for this, I always keep a small spritz bottle of alcohol to spray on the pots after each use.

Alternatively, wetting a tissue or cotton disk with alcohol to wipe the surface layer of the pot ought to do the trick. I’ve heard some go so far as to scrape off the surface of potted shadows and then spray alcohol on it, but this is just too fiddly for me. Makes sense for a makeup artist who works with many people, but what is mine is mine.

However, I also must warn you that the method of spritzing alcohol on makeup also has its detractors because it may harm pressed powders, and so they opt for products specifically designed for disinfecting makeup. Since I’m unwilling to spend any of my precious beauty budget on makeup sanitizer (which would be costly and boring), I’ve never used anything other than 96º alcohol, and my makeup is none the worse for it, but be ye warned. In this regard, my beloved loose mineral makeup makes things easier: just wipe the sifter and lid with alcohol before shaking out more.

Lip products expirationAs for lipstick, lipbalms and eye or lip liners, there’s this trick of scraping off a little off the top or shaving it, then filling a small cup or shot glass with alcohol, submerge it for around 30 seconds, then take it out and let the alcohol evaporate. Wipe the cap and the container too.

Naturally, this is only useful for pencils and traditional lip bars, not glosses, and I guess it is useful if you’ve used your lipstick or pencils while sick. Me, I haven’t had a cold in years and I’d never loan my lipstick to anyone (ew). So to be honest, I usually make do with my germy, unsanitized lip products, because it’s what I most often forget to clean, and I’m still hale and hearty, much to the disappointment of some.

Zombies on your counter
Face cosmetics expiration

In the case of anti-age or anti-acne products formulated with actives (such as AHAs/BHAs, vitamin C, etc.), the shelf life can be as brief as 3 months (that prissy precious snowflake vit. C that needs to be stored in the fridge to prevent oxydation) to a little under a year (like SPF).

We all have them… those products that by now ought to have been used up, and gone to cosmetic heaven, where I too hope to go someday, but since one day we ate with our eyes instead of with our stomachs, there they sit, still half-full, long after their recommended expiration date.

For the sake of transparency, even though I advise keeping an eye on expiration dates as noted by manufacturers, personally I’m also against planned obsolescence… so if I don’t see anything off, such as a strange appearance, mildew (I’ve had it happen with bottles that have been forever in the shower) or funky smells, I keep using them post-expiration date, and so far I haven’t had any serious issues, as long as I remember to clean containers and dispensers from time to time, as mentioned.

In the case of toiletries and body cosmetics, what usually happens after the due date is that they lose some of their effectiveness, like sunscreen, which is no longer usable for UV protection a year after opening the bottle… so that leftover sunscreen that lies hibernating in the beach bag since last summer is now only useful for moisturizing. However, if you’re prone to skin or eye issues, or prefer to use natural cosmetics that are lower in preservatives, best to err in the side of neat-freakness.

Toiletries and cosmetics expirationMascara and liquid liners are considered the shortest-lived product and the most prone to contamination… ideally they shouldn’t be used for over 3-4 months, but in truth, I don’t dispose of my mascara until it runs out or becomes drier and gunkier, which typically happens about six months after opening, usually considered the absolute limit. While we’re at it, when I say dispose of, I mean washing the containers (it’s the easiest thing in the world if you just throw the things in a small bucket, take it with you to the shower to collect soapy, hot water, and let everything soak for a few hours), separating plastics and taking them to the proper recycling bin, things like dried nail polish to your nearest city green point, etc.

The same cautions for mascara apply to pencil liners and shadows, but these at least are easier to sanitize with the same method for lipsticks and lipliners, and as a contact-lens wearer I am much more of a neat freak with these.

And I don’t wanna end things with a rant, but…

I’m stunned when I go makeup-shopping and I see someone trying on makeup testers right on their faces… AWQOXMDYZH!!! ¿Do you know how many unwashed hands have pawed that thing you’re putting on your face? How many slobbery mouths have smeared on that lipstick, how many times has that mascara or shadow been applied on styed lids??? Eough!

Repulsiveness level: handling a library copy of Fifty Shades… it’s so horrifying, I often feel the impulse of going up to the unwary shopper and tearing the product from their hand, just like I’d do with my little niece if she got hold of a pair of scissors or rat poison.

Well, are you still here? What are you waiting for? Hasn’t all this talk of germs, disease and potential breakouts disgusted you enough? Go clean your paints and things already! Pretty please with sugar on it and glitter.

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