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Why and how often do I need to wash my makeup brushes and sponges?  |  Sciences

Why and how often do I need to wash my makeup brushes and sponges? | Sciences

These dangerous contaminants can originate not only from the cosmetics themselves, but also from the surface of our skin itself.

So how can we keep things clean and prevent microbes from growing on makeup brushes and sponges? Here's what you need to know.

How do germs and fungi get into my brushes and sponges?

Germs and fungi can get into your makeup kit in several ways.

Have you ever flushed a toilet with the lid open and makeup brushes nearby? There is a high probability of fecal particles falling into them.

Maybe a family member or housemate used your eyeshadow brush when you weren't looking, transferring some microbes in the process.

The bacteria that cause acne outbreaks can easily be transferred from the surface of your skin to your makeup brush or sponge.

Small mites called Demodex mites, which are associated with some rashes and acne, also live on your skin, so they can end up on your sponge or brushes.

Bacterial contamination from lip cosmetics, in particular, can pose a risk of skin and eye infections (so keep this in mind if you use lip brushes). Lipstick is often contaminated with bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Clean makeup brushes with hot water and soap – Image: Kinkates / Pixabay

Low-quality cosmetics are likely to have higher and more diverse microbial growth compared to high-quality cosmetics.

Brushes that are exposed to sensitive areas such as the eyes, mouth, and nose are particularly susceptible to being potential sources of infection.

The range of conditions caused by these microorganisms includes:

  • Abscesses
  • Skin and soft tissue infections
  • Skin lesions
  • rash
  • And dermatitis.
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In severe cases, the infection can lead to invasion of the bloodstream or deeper tissues.

Commercially available cosmetics contain varying amounts and types of preservatives designed to prevent the growth of fungi and bacteria.

But when applying makeup, different cosmetics can be mixed with unique preservative formulations. When a preservative intended for one product is mixed with other products, it may not work as well because they have different amounts of water or pH levels.

Therefore, preservatives are not infallible. We also need to consider good hygiene practices when it comes to brushes and other beauty tools.

After washing your brushes, store them in a dry place and away from water sources – Photo: Laura Chouette/Unsplash

Keep brushes clean

Start with the basics: Never share makeup brushes or sponges. Everyone carries different microbes on their skin, so sharing brushes and sponges also means sharing germs and fungi.

If you need to share makeup, use something disposable to apply it, or make sure any shared brushes are washed and sterilized before the next person uses them.

Clean makeup brushes by washing them with hot water and soap and rinsing them well.

how often? Maintain a cleaning routine that you can repeat frequently (rather than an annual deep clean). Once a week may be a good goal for some, while others may need to wash more frequently if they wear a lot of makeup.

Wash immediately if anyone else uses your brushes or sponges. If you have an eye infection such as conjunctivitis, be sure to clean the application tools well after the infection has cleared.

You can use antibacterial soap, 70% alcohol solution, or chlorhexidine for washing. Just make sure to wash your skin well with hot water afterward, as some of these things can irritate your skin. (Although some people online say that alcohol can degrade brushes and sponges, opinions are mixed; in general, most disinfectants are unlikely to cause significant abrasion.)

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For some brushes, heating or steaming them and letting them dry can also be an effective way to sterilize them after washing them with detergent. Using microwave sponges is not a good idea because although the heat from a household microwave will kill microbes, they will need to reach temperatures near 100°C for a suitable period of time (at least several minutes). Heat may melt some parts of the sponge and hot materials may pose a burn risk.

Once clean, be sure to store brushes and sponges in a dry place away from water sources (not near an open toilet).

If you are applying makeup professionally, brushes and application tools should be sterilized or changed from person to person.

Not washing properly can cause many skin problems – Photo: Anderson Guerra/Pexels

Should I wash them with micellar water?


In addition to being expensive, it is unnecessary. The same benefits can be achieved using cheaper detergents or alcohol (just rinse your brushes carefully afterward).

Disinfection methods, such as using antibacterial soap, 70% alcohol, or chlorhexidine, are very effective in reducing the amount of microbes on brushes and sponges.

* Enzo Palumbo: Professor of Microbiology, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia and Rosalie Hocking, Swinburne University of Technology.

This article was originally published in English on the website Conversation.