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De-Germ Your Makeup and Makeup Accessories


Make-up and cosmetics
Juliet White / Photographer's Choice RF / Getty Images

Technically you should clean your makeup, brushes, and makeup bag monthly but most of us are lucky to remember to clean our brushes twice a year. It is more important than ever to clean your makeup products and accessories during cold and flu season, because the germs can live on your items for days. If you’re a makeup sharer then this can become an even bigger problem, or if you place your makeup and accessories on public counters the danger of germ contamination can run rampant as well. So now is the time to de-germ your makeup and accessories, so you can breathe a little easier knowing your products are safe.


First and foremost, try to buy lipstick in metal containers because they don’t retain germs as much as plastic. As far as cleaning your lipstick, it’s a two-step method and should be followed every two weeks, or at least once a month. First grab a Q-tip, hold it at an angle, slightly twist up your lipstick, and then scrape the top of the lipstick off. You don’t have to remove a large chunk, but instead remove the top layer of the lipstick. Second, pour some rubbing alcohol or vodka into a small dish and submerge your exposed lipstick into the solution for at least 30-seconds. Afterwards you can allow it to air dry, or gently wipe dry with a clean tissue.


This includes any type of makeup pencil from lip liner to eyeliner, brow pencil, etc. The simplest way to keep pencils clean is to sharpen them before each use. You don’t have to remove that many layers, just a couple quick twists will do. If your pencils are retractable instead of sharpening, then pour some rubbing alcohol or vodka into a small container then dip the tip of the pencil into the solution for 30-seconds. Finally, air dry or gently wipe dry with a clean tissue.


If you use a liquid foundation in an open bottle that requires the use of your fingertip, then you have to pour out the very top portion of the foundation in order to clean it. This doesn’t always remove all germs, since you tend to shake your foundation. If you must use a foundation bottle like this, then try to use Q-tips to dip into the bottle instead of your fingers. Just remember to use a clean one with each dip.

The ideal foundation will come in a pump, enclosed squeeze container, or in a large jar if you use a mousse or thicker cream foundation. The pump foundation is the cleanest, and you only need to take an antibacterial wipe to the pump in order to remove germs. Squeeze containers are similar, requiring only the cleaning of the tip with an antibacterial wipe every two weeks. Just remember not to touch the tip of the squeeze container with your fingertip, since this can cause germs to go into the container. Finally, if you are using a jar foundation the use of a spatula or Q-tip is ideal for removing the foundation for each application. If you need to clean the foundation then you will need to take the end off of a Q-tip and scrape the top of the container slightly, removing the top layer. This can be wasteful over time, so being sanitary during the application process is the best way to keep your foundation clean.

Cake Eyeshadow, Blush, Bronzer, and Powder

Cake makeup products such as eyeshadow and blush are rather easy to clean. Simply grab a butter knife and scrape the top of the product into the trash can. Just be careful not to press down hard or you’ll break your product into pieces. This is also a good plan if you use a powder often and you form a compacted shiny area on the product, which is caused by oil from your skin. Using brushes instead of foam applicators are also better since you can clean your brush after each use.

Makeup Bags and Cases

Bags and cases that we store our makeup in can get very dirty quickly. At least twice a month, or at least monthly, you should remove all products from your bag or case and give it a good cleaning. The best and quickest way to do this is with antibacterial wipes. Simple wipe the inside of the bag or case until any makeup residue is gone. Do not wipe the outside of your bag or case with antibacterial wipes unless you know that it will not damage the finish. If you need to wipe down the outside use a baby wipe or damp cloth. If you feel that your makeup bag or case is still loaded with germs after wiping them down then simply place them in the freezer overnight. The extreme cold will destroy any germs left behind, even after using antibacterial wipes.


Brushes may seem difficult to clean, but it’s actually very easy. In between washing your makeup brushes you can spray them with a solution of one part water to nine parts vodka or rubbing alcohol. Spray the solution on a dry cloth and then wipe your brush across it, quickly and easily removing makeup from the surface of the bristles. It’s a good idea to do this after each use, and then follow up with a regimen for washing your makeup brushes every two weeks or every month.

Makeup Products You Can’t Clean

There are certain products you can’t clean, and should be thrown out after using it for so long or if you end up with an infection. The most important product not to clean is mascara. You may think you can clean the wand in order to keep the mascara longer, but germs still get into the product with each use. Besides, mascara isn’t manufactured to last for years so just let it go. Lip gloss in a tube is easier to clean because you can wipe down the tip, but sponge applicators and pan lip gloss can’t really be saved and should be tossed if you have an infection. Otherwise, if it smells normal you may be able to keep it for a year or two.

Disposable makeup sponges are just that; disposable. They are not meant to be washed and reused for months at a time. If you find that you’re getting more breakouts than normal and you use sponge applicators then toss them ASAP. Finally, nail polish really can’t be cleaned. So if you have a fungal infection on your nails, or you let a friend use your favorite nail polish and they have an infection simply bite the bullet and chuck it. It’s better to buy a new one than take the risk of getting a nail infection.

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