The Cardinal Sins of Makeup Hygiene - QC Makeup Academy

Keeping your makeup tools hygienic is crucial for working with clients and for applying makeup on yourself. Are you taking all of the right precautions? What are some of the most commonly forgotten cleaning habits?

Take a look at these 10 ‘cardinal sins’ of makeup hygiene and consider where your habits might be improved!

1. Using old products

Makeup has an expiry date for a reason! Old products that are past their due date can be extremely unhygienic, particularly if it’s a product that you use on clients. The older makeup gets, the more susceptible it is to germs and bacteria. These will collect on the surface of the product over time. The greater the build-up is, the more difficult it becomes to clean that product, increasing the risk of transferring bacteria between clients. The composition of the product also changes over time, which means that using expired makeup can cause irritation. Even if a product is full, throwing it out is safer than keeping expired makeup because you don’t want to waste it

2. Forgetting to clean your brushes (or not doing so often enough)

Professional makeup artists must clean and sanitize their brushes thoroughly between every single client. If a brush has touched a person’s face or body, it should always be cleaned before it touches someone else. Forgetting to clean your brushes is one of the worst culprits when it comes to transferring bacteria between people. Poor brush hygiene is risky even if the brushes are only being used on yourself. The longer you let bacteria and old makeup build up on your brushes, the more risk you’re exposing your skin too. Even your personal brushes should be cleaned after every use.

A basic method of brush cleaning is to use 99% isopropyl alcohol to sanitize them. Avoid soaking your brushes in alcohol, as this can dry out the bristles, particularly if they are made of natural fibers rather than synthetic. It is safe, however, to spray each brush lightly with alcohol and brush them gently against a paper towel until excess makeup is removed. If you are very concerned, dilute the alcohol with distilled water before you spray.

If your brushes are made of expensive natural fibers or hair, consider using a professional brush cleanser that contains gentle hydrating ingredients (rather than alcohol) so the bristles don’t dry out. These cleansers can be more expensive, so consider the type of your brushes and use your judgment. The more regularly you disinfect your brushes, the quicker and easier they’ll be to clean and the safer they’ll be to use.

3. Sharing Makeup

Letting friends use your makeup without cleaning the products in between is a serious hygiene mistake. No matter how close you are to a person, you should still avoid sharing the bacteria on your face. Even something as simple as borrowing your sister’s lip gloss contributes to the bacterial build-up on that product. Think about how much bacteria that lip gloss might have on it if your sister lets all of her friends use it too. Sharing makeup can transfer that mix of bacteria to your face and cause infection.

4. Using testers in makeup stores

You already know that sharing makeup with people you know can spread harmful germs, so it makes sense to avoid tester products in stores at all costs! These have been touched by thousands of strangers and you have no idea what those people have touched or whether they washed their hands.

Many studies conducted on makeup testers have proven just how bacteria-ridden these products really are. Some of the particles that testers expose you to come from places you won’t even want to think about!

5. Forgetting about the Bag

Even makeup artists with good hygiene habits are prone to forgetting about their makeup bags. If you take dirty makeup brushes out of their case, clean them, and put them right back, you’re re-contaminating the brushes before you’ve even closed the case. The bacteria that the brushes picked up in their last use are still present in the case unless you clean and sanitize that too. If you clean your brushes before you put them back in their case after each use, then this can be done less frequently. If, however, you used the case to bring dirty brushes home for cleaning, sanitize the case as well before you put the clean brushes back.

6. Thou Shalt Not ‘Double Dip’

Particularly for cream and loose powder products, which can’t be cleaned on the surface like compact powders, you should always avoid ‘double dipping’. If you take the product with your brush, touch the brush to a client’s face, and then put that brush back into the product, you contaminate the rest of that makeup. You therefore can’t use that product on another client without exposing them to the first client’s bacteria. Instead, use a clean palette knife to scoop what you need onto a clean palette. You can work freely from the palette if you use it exclusively for that client until you clean and sanitize it.

7. Forgetting to Clean the Products

Some products don’t need to be transferred to a clean palette because they can be cleaned. Remembering to actually sanitize your product is key. Sharpen each pencil after you’ve used it to shed the outer layer where the bacteria collect. Spray the top surface of compact powders and gently wipe to remove the contaminated layer, particularly if you ‘double dipped’.

8. Forgetting to use Disposable Applicators

Some products, like lip gloss and mascara, need a wand to retrieve them from the container but will be contaminated if you ‘double dip’. This is what disposable applicators are for. Dip your disposable mascara spooley into the tube once, apply the mascara to your client, and throw that spooley away. Your client gets mascara, but your mascara stays bacteria-free.

Disposable tools are also good when it comes to sponges, which harvest bacteria badly and should never be used on more than one client. Sponges are useful for blending, but cleaning them completely between clients is difficult and disposing of them is safest.

9. Forgetting to use your Mixing Palette

When it comes to keeping compacts, powders, and products sanitary, your clean mixing palette is your best friend. Anything that you’re concerned about contaminating can be removed from the container in small quantities and placed on the palette instead. For the duration of that application, that palette belongs only to that client until you’ve cleaned and sanitized it.

Forgetting to use your palette and taking products directly from the compact risks contamination.

10. Forgetting to Wash your Hands

Washing your hands before makeup applications and between clients seems like common sense, but sometimes it’s the simplest steps that we forget. You should even wash or sanitize your hands before you start a makeup application on yourself. This prevents you from transferring whatever bacteria you’ve picked up throughout your day onto your skin or your client’s face.

Whether you prefer hand sanitizer or just soap and water, clean hands are the foundation of good makeup hygiene.

Want to Learn More?

Developing hygienic makeup habits takes time and practice. If you’d like to learn about sanitary makeup applications in more detail, check out the online makeup courses here at QC Makeup Academy!

Are you really cleaning your brushes properly? Find out if you need to revamp your cleaning techniques!

Author Ana Scholtes

More posts by Ana Scholtes

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Jemimah says:

    Thank you very much I had no idea there were so many mistake you could make

  • Davia Gorman says:

    Another makeup cardinal sin is applying makeup on your face, a client’s face..any face that has open wounds, sores, cuts etc, those are serious microcosms of bacteria and other fun stuff. (Yuck I know) The key to beautiful makeup is a beautiful canvas and skincare is the primary and most important step that alot of people tend to forget! Your makeup can only look as good as the skin that is applied on so… if you haven’t at least got the basics in your beauty routine..START NOW…it doesn’t have to be complex but a good cleanser, moisturizer, eye cream and SPF are so very important!

    I also am a reformed “Set it and forget it” Fall asleep in your makeup sinner! The worst thing you can do for your to wear to it only takes a few minutes to get your makeup off and let your skin breathe! I personally hate washing my face with my hands or a washcloth so I invested $30.00 and bought a Olay Pro Effects Facial Cleansing Brush – which to this day (2 years later) is still my favorite investment- think what a toothbrush does for your teeth- this does gently for your skin and it does a dual-duty making sure that I get all of the makeup totally off and gives me the gentile exfoliation that is needed to bring the new skin cells to the forefront so my skin is always smooth and soft – it actually in my personal opinion helped to significantly reduce the amount and frequency of my adult acne breakouts too!

    If you have complex, congested skin or suffer from breakouts, seeing your Dermatologist is an important appointment to make. They can give you the best suggestions and offer you advice on how to help your canvas be as fresh-faced and flawless then it can be!

    I hope confession my cardinal sins to everyone might give you some ideas or things you weren’t thinking of into perspective!


  • Amelia says:

    That’s a skillful answer to a diulfcfit question

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