Keep Clean & Gorgeous With These Expert-Approved, Beauty-Disinfecting Tips

how to clean makeup brushes

Due to the advent of the pandemic, you’ve probably become very vigilant about washing your hands, wiping down surfaces, and disinfecting door knobs and light switches. And, with many spending more time at home, there’s a good chance that stir-craziness has inspired you to spring clean your closet, organize your spices, and rearrange your books by color. But have you thoroughly cleaned and disinfected your makeup? Though you may not have considered it, your compacts and brushes are also frequently-touched surfaces. If you’re not aware of the hidden dangers that may be lurking on things like your eyelash curler or eyeshadow palette, picking them up and then touching your face could have grimy consequences.

While we are sheltering in place, we (theoretically) have more time to really make sure we are prioritizing our health and wellness — and that starts by cleaning our products, with which beauty lovers spend quite a bit of time. Here, we tapped a celebrity makeup artist, a professional organizer, a beauty brand founder, and more for their best tips for creating and keeping a hygienic beauty environment. Keep reading to learn how to be a clean beauty queen.

Pro-Approved Tips For Cleaning: Makeup Brushes 

Of course, you’re aware you should be cleaning your brushes and throwing away expired products, but during this unprecedented time, it’s important to go above and beyond to ensure your health and safety in regards to your makeup and beauty routine.

Celebrity makeup artist Scott Barnes, who famously created the “J. Lo. glow” and works with Jennifer Lopez, shares that he double cleanses his brushes after every use for extra insurance against germs. “I use Cinema Secrets® Brush Cleaner first, to disinfect and get rid of excess cream product in the brush,” he explains. “Cinema Secrets is especially great for body makeup, cream or liquid foundation, and concealer, which are hard to get out of brushes.” 

To do this disinfecting, pre-cleanse step, Barnes uses a short glass cup or shallow glass bowl, and pours about a half-inch of the cleanser in. Then, he dips just the very tips of his brushes’ bristles directly into the solution (no water necessary). “Do not submerge the brush,” he warns, as this could damage the ferrule of your brush and hasten its lifespan. “Take the brush and swirl the product out onto a dry paper towel or regular towel until makeup is removed and the brush returns to its original color.”

Next up: his second, deep-cleaning step. Start by taking your brushes one by one, wetting the bristles under lukewarm water, being sure to keep the brush head pointed down. Add a small (lentil-sized!) dab of dish soap (Barnes likes Dawn®, $3) onto a brush cleaning glove, mat, or pad. “Any rubber/silicone surface with different, raised textures for washing and rinsing brushes will work,” says Barnes, whose favorites are the NYX® Professional Makeup On The SpotTM Cleansing Pad ($11) and ANISA® Brush Cleansing Pad ($15). 

Afterwards, add a little water to the cleansing pad, then swirl the brush around in the soap until lather is created and the brush is visibly clean. Finish by rinsing the bristles under water, and swirling against the cleansing pad until the detergent is gone. “Use your fingers to feel if all of the soap is out of the brush bristles,” Barnes suggests. “Then, use a towel to squeeze out any excess water, and lay flat on a towel to dry overnight.”

Pro-Approved Tips For Cleaning: Beauty Tools

Even if you aren’t super strict about washing your brushes, chances are you know you should be washing them. (Just like you know you should wear SPF every single day, even indoors.) But what about your other tools? We’re willing to bet that you’ve never cleaned some of them — and we say that because we’re guilty of the same crime.

One tool to consider (which, OK, you might be washing) is your beautyblender® ($20). “Believe it or not, you should be washing your blender after every use!” notes beautyblender brand founder Rea Ann Silva. “Since you have to wet it before use anyway, why not quickly give it a wash when you’re done?” For a deep clean, squirt a few drops of liquid blendercleanser® ($18) into a bowl of water, then soak your beautyblender in it for a few hours. “Our cleansers actually work by getting rid of 99.7% of harmful germs for 24 hours after washing!” Silva adds. Rinse, squeeze out your sponge, and let it dry in an open space. Make sure plenty of air is circulating around the blender — that will help prevent it from getting mildewy. 

Other tools that you use regularly that you might not be cleaning: eyelash curlers and tweezers. The product development team at Tweezerman® told us that you should be sanitizing your eyelash curler daily (whoops). “Wipe it thoroughly with isopropyl alcohol after each use,” the team shares. “Bacteria can be transferred through not only handling the curler, but by vitreous fluids from the eye that may accumulate on the curler after use.” While you’re at it, know that you should replace the curler pad after three months and the curler itself after one year. As for your tweezers: clean the tips after every use with an alcohol wipe or hydrogen peroxide-soaked cotton pad. 

Pro-Approved Tips For Cleaning: Your Makeup

At this point, we’re hoping that the reality of how dirty your products could be is dawning on you. Have you ever thought about the outside of your makeup palettes? How many times do you pick up that eyeshadow quad — then touch your face — and then throw everything back into your makeup bag? (Sheesh, have any of us ever washed the makeup bag itself?) 

First off, you should be wiping down the outside of all your products with an antibacterial wipe right this second, and ideally after each use. (If you don’t have any antibacterial wipes at the moment, you can use a product like the SPARITUALTM Hand Sanitizer Spray, $20 for four bottles, which is 75% alcohol, to clean the outside of palettes, tweezer tips, and more.) Barnes also points out that you should be washing your hands before and after application. This may sound obvious, but how many times have we heard we shouldn’t touch our face in the last few months?

To keep things like eyeliners and lip liners germ-free, Barnes says, “Spray them with 70% isopropyl alcohol, sharpen them so the top layer is completely removed, and spray with alcohol again.” You can ascribe to a similar technique with lipstick and other solid cream formulas: simply spray, wipe off the top with a tissue, and spray once more. Pressed powders, like eyeshadows and bronzers, can also be spritzed with alcohol and left to air dry. For liquids like foundation and mascara, don’t focus on what’s inside the bottle — instead, clean the cap and threading of the bottle (where the cap screws on) with alcohol. 

If you’re exhibiting symptoms of an illness, like a cold or pink eye, the team at Tweezerman suggests not using an eyelash curler. And, Barnes adds, “If you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms or have a cold sore, I would not suggest wearing lipstick.” (We know it’s hard to just keep cleaning the bullet before every application — so just skip swiping it on altogether.) “If you must wear lipstick or lip gloss, then use a disposable wand or lip brush and do not double-dip,” he advises. A cotton swab will also work in a pinch!

Regarding your actual makeup bag, you have two options. You could use one that’s machine washable, like this sizable fabric pouch from Kusshi® ($89). Alternatively, you can opt for a makeup bag that’s made of plastic, PVC, or vinyl, like this large one from MAC® Cosmetics ($30). This category is our pick for a few reasons. Not only can it easily be wiped down with alcohol or other disinfectants, but if a product accidentally explodes inside, the bag can quickly be rinsed out. Plus, plastic makeup bags are often clear, making it a snap to see what is (or isn’t) inside.

Pro-Approved Tips For Cleaning: Your Beauty Space

Whenever you put your makeup on, you should start with a germ-free surface area. “Use a disinfectant, like Lysol® or bleach, to clean surfaces in the bathroom before putting your makeup down,” says Barnes. Since your products have already been cleaned and disinfected, your next step is to make sure your makeup is properly organized and displayed

“The first step in spring-cleaning your makeup bag is to ‘edit’ your products,” says Jamie Hord, co-founder of professional organizing company Horderly®. In this context, editing is determining what to keep, toss, or donate. “When editing your beauty products, make sure you’re checking for and tossing expired items regularly.” Achieve this by doing what Hord calls a “full pull-out,” meaning that you gather every single product you have, and then sort them into categories. This will help you keep an inventory of what you have — limiting the chance of accidentally purchasing unwanted doubles. “We suggest cleaning and organizing your makeup bag once a month,” Hord adds.

Once you’re organized, don’t think you can let disinfecting take a backseat. “During this unprecedented time, make sure you’re cleaning your products and storage solutions regularly!” warns Hord. Continue to wipe down the outside packaging of smaller items, like palettes or mascara, with an alcohol or Wet Ones® wipe. “For larger plastic or acrylic storage, spray with a multi-purpose solution or spray of your choice, and wipe clean with a paper towel or clean rag.”  

Finally, be conscious of the air you are breathing, particularly if you’re cleaning with chemicals, or using aerosol products like hairspray, dry shampoo, and dry spray deodorants. Why take chances? Run your bathroom fan and open the window to bring in fresh air. If you don’t have a bathroom window, invest in an air purifier like the Molekule® Mini ($400), which destroys toxins in the air produced by beauty aerosol products, as well as mold, allergens, viruses, and bacteria.

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