Makeup Sanitation 101

BLOG, For Professionals, My Life / Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

Do you practice proper makeup sanitaiton?

The more that I educate, the more I realize that makeup sanitation needs to be talked about more.  The makeup artists that I teach ask because it’s something that they want to learn.  And honestly, it is THE most important thing you should learn and practice. Sanitation is one of the top things that will set you apart from other artists.  It is not just for your client’s protection but your own protection.

Let’s break it down with important terms:

The term, “disinfect” is associated more with the healthcare industry. When we disinfect, we are destroying microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) on hard surfaces (non-living tissue). Disinfecting does not kill all of the microorganisms on the surface. Bacterial spores and some bacteria may be resistant to disinfectants. Disinfectants work by destroying the cell wall of the microbes and are typically chemicals.

The term, sanitize is associated more with public health industries such as the food and beauty industries. When we sanitize, we are reducing the number of microorganisms to a safe level. Sanitizing does not kill all of the microorganisms.

Sterilization kills every microbe on hard surfaces (good and bad) using a combination of heat, chemicals, pressure, or irradiation.

Bacteria are a family of microorganisms that are good and bad. Bacteria are found from the tops of our heads to the soles of our feet.  To keep it simple, bacteria can be divided into two groups: non-pathogenic and pathogenic. Pathogenic bacteria are bad bacteria – the kind that causes illness and diseases. Pathogens are often referred to as “germs.”

Now that you know the key terms let’s talk about a few common diseases that can be rapidly spread if you don’t practice good sanitation practices.

And these should not be taken lightly…I will save you from seeing the pictures!

Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye): is caused by some bacteria and viruses and can spread easily from person to person.  It can be spread by cross-contamination from double-dipping mascaras and contaminated brushes.

Herpes Simplex (Cold Sores):  Cold sores are caused by a contagious virus called herpes simplex. They usually occur outside the mouth — on the lips, chin, and cheeks, or in the nostrils.

Staphylococcus (Staph Infection): Staphylococcus lives all over our skin but is not typically harmful unless your immune system is compromised. Some species of staph can cause rashes, irritation, or legions. This can contaminate your makeup via your fingers.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus MRSAStaphylococcus  (Staph Infection): This is an antibiotic-resistant Staph Infection and one of the most serious forms of bacteria.  Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), can lurk on old makeup and cause an infection, such as dermatitis or pink eye, which can resist antibiotic treatment. This bacteria is considered very dangerous because the infection can be easily spread. When applying makeup, MRSA present in the makeup can enter a pimple, open cut, or the mucous membranes of the eye and nose. Initial signs of infection include redness, inflammation, and heat over the infected area.

Streptococcus: Streptococcus is found in saliva and mucous and some species can cause not only strep throat but meningitis and “flesh-eating” bacterial infections.  It can contaminate your makeup via your fingers.

Demodicids: These are also called “eyelash mites” or “face mites”. They live in several areas of your face but often are found in the base of your eyelashes. The mites live in hair follicles and feed on dead skin and skin secretions. As a result, those with oily skin are more prone to demodicid infestation. Also, people who wear a lot of makeup and don’t cleanse thoroughly are also prone to infestations. When too many of these mites take up root in a hair follicle, it can cause the hair to fall out.

Industry Standards of Good Sanitation Practices

  • Always start by washing your hands, and this needs to be done in between each client!!  If this isn’t possible, applying hand sanitizer in front of your client is a must.
  • Always have a clean, sanitized surface to work from.  I usually use paper towel.
  • Work from a clean kit.  You should have designated makeup that you use on clients.  Do NOT use your own daily makeup
  • Never, ever, ever double dip anything especially mascaras.
  • Use disposable applicators when possible: Lip wands, mascara spoolies, qtips, and wedge sponges. Just remember disposables are like a chip, never double dip. If a wand comes into contact with lips or lashes then back into the tube/ palette the entire tube is contaminated and must be discarded.
  • Never blow on brushes or your palettes-this is blowing germs right on to the product
  • Never use a lipstick straight out of the tube
  • For cream products (lipsticks, eye shadows, concealers, blushes, gel eyeliners, etc.) Always scrape a product out of the container with a clean spatula and place onto a palette.  Cream foundation, lipsticks, blushes, and flash colors are a breeding ground for bacteria due to their dark, warm moist atmospheres. One finger dipped in a concealer palette or one double dip renders the entire palette contaminated and must be thrown away.
  • You can’t just WIPE the surface of the lipstick!
  • Never dip a brush directly into cream makeup then redip. Proper sanitation requires scooping with a clean spatula or disposable then applying to a palette. Spatulas should be stainless steel, sprayed with alcohol then wiped down between each color. Palettes should also be stainless steel. Love the warmth of your hand but want to minimize skin contact? Try tegaderm film
  • For lip, eye, and brow pencils always wipe down with 70% alcohol, sharpen, and then wipe with alcohol again. This will prevent contamination in your sharpener, which should also be wiped clean with 70% alcohol regularly.
  • Liquid eyeliner: Use the applicator to dispense product from the container onto a palette. You can apply with an angled brush or use disposable applicators.
  • Precision felt tip eyeliners-Never use directly on the client.  Try above tip.
  • Powders do not harbor bacteria and have the longest shelf life of all cosmetics. All they require is either a mist of 70% isopropyl alcohol or removing a top layer by gently rubbing the top layer with tissue. Some artists like to scrape their eyeshadows onto a clean tissue or palette before applying so their brushes don’t directly contact the pan or when wetting a shadow.
    • Why 70% alcohol?  It has been proven by Bio-Chemists that anything over 70% can freeze the outside cell wall of the bacteria, allowing it to lay dormant and it can come back alive and active.  70% allows the alcohol to penetrate the wall and destroy the bacteria.  *note* constant use of just alcohol can change the nature of some eye shadows.

Motives eye pencils

Let’s talk about brushes:

  • Never reuse a brush on another client without disinfecting
  • Always keep duplicate brushes when working on multiple clients
  • For jobs where you’re working on a large number of people, I recommend carrying 3-4 full sets of brushes (each full set is 8 brushes).
  • After a makeup application is complete, do a quick cleaning/disinfection of the used set and then begin the next makeup with a clean duplicate set. This allows set 1 to dry completely so they’ll be ready for the next face. Professional makeup artists should do a full cleaning of their brushes at the end of each day.


You’re probably familiar with ‘spray and wipe’ or ‘quick dip’ makeup brush cleansers. Most of the commercially available brush cleaners have disinfecting properties (due to the alcohol content) along with surface cleansing.
Simply spray the cleanser on brush bristles or quickly dip them into a small amount of cleanser (in a shallow bowl or cup) and then gently wipe with a paper towel or shop towel.

The typically high alcohol content in these instant cleansers enables brushes to dry quickly. Unfortunately, this time-saving benefit can leave a film of cleansing agents and some of the debris behind. This quick clean process is great for removing surface makeup and disinfecting but will not get the embedded makeup and debris out of your makeup brush.

  • Some of the most popular professional makeup brush cleansers are:
    • Cinema Secrets – Possibly the most popular brush cleaner among pros because of its intense cleaning abilities and signature vanilla scent. Be aware that this is a chemical cleanser, so it’s not the gentlest to natural hair brushes and the blue tint will stain light-colored or white brushes.
    • Beauty So Clean – WipeOut Brush Cleaner – The addition of natural sea salt to this formula gives it professional strength cleaning, stain removal and antibacterial properties without all the chemicals. It even passes the “red lipstick test” – and we all know how hard it is to get that out of our brushes.
    • Parian Spirit – Parian uses citrus solvents to cleanse and condition brushes while leaving a pleasant citrus scent behind. One drawback; it leaves a slightly oily residue on synthetic brushes (nylon, taklon, polyester).
    • Ben Nye & Kryolan Brush Cleaners – Both of these brands work very effectively to remove oily residue (foundation, concealer, etc.) from makeup brushes. Possible deal breaker – No pretty scent, you can smell the high alcohol content of both products (but it disappears when the brushes are dry).



Regular full washing will preserve your quality makeup brushes and keep them in optimum shape. Natural hair makeup brushes deserve the same treatment as the hair on your head.

Would you shampoo your hair with dishwashing liquid? Of course not, it would make it dry, brittle, and cause breakage – the same thing will happen to your natural hair makeup brushes. Use products that are gentle enough to keep your bristles in good shape but strong enough to deep clean.

I like to use SNAP products.  They were developed with the environment in mind, and use plant-based ingredients that are biodegradable, phosphate-free, non-toxic, and bottled in recyclable containers, and are super concentrated.  And you can also use them to clean a lot of other things too!

Snap Makeup Brush Cleaner

Whew!  I hope I covered everything!  Please help by sharing this blog so we can make more people aware of how to practice good sanitation.

Download my FREE Sanitation Guide!

And make sure to check out my blog posts:
Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes: Dos & Don’ts, Spring Clean Your Makeup and Skincare




Makeup Sanitation 101

3 Replies to “Makeup Sanitation 101”

  1. Wow this was so informative you did such a good job thanks for sharing that with us. I know sometimes personally my brush cleansing could be better but so necessary. I will be having my makeup done professionally in the future and you bet I’m going to be on the lookout for these things contamination and disease is serious business!

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