The Cardinal Rules Of Makeup Hygiene

Photo Source: Paper

Alright, babes. It’s time to talk about that one dirty little secret we’ve all been guilty of partaking in (at least once… okay, maybe, like, just a casual 83024 times): poor makeup hygiene! Yep, you read that correctly. I mean, c’mon, we wash our hair, faces, bodies and hands… but what about the makeup and tools that we use on ourselves on a daily basis? Yep, we’re lookin’ at you, blending sponges and mascaras. 👀 I’m willing to bet that that mascara in your makeup bag is, like, eight months old, right? And I bet you’ve been holding onto the remnants of that Urban Decay Naked palette for the last five years (#same). But get ready for me to rock your world upside down: using expired makeup can lead to rashes, irritation and even infections. And those makeup brushes that you never wash? More like a cesspool for bacteria that could be wreaking havoc on your skin.


I get it. Having to throw out your holy grail items is, like, a literal tragedy. But it’s so important to adhere to expiration dates on your products in order to protect you and your skin. Somewhere on your beauty products, you’ll likely see an open cream jar icon, otherwise known as the PAO symbol (or “Period After Opening”). This lets you know how many months a product is good for after opening. If your products don’t have a shelf life warning, it’s best to adhere to the below timelines. And if you have any doubt in your mind about the integrity of a product, it may be worth checking in with the brand directly.

Liquid/Cream makeup: between 1 year and 1 year and-a-half

These products aren’t even worth the payoff and performance past their prime. Kristi Martinson, professional makeup artist and co-founder of WINK Hair + Makeup, says, “After a certain period of time, ingredients begin to break down and your product no longer works as well as it’s meant to. Some products, such as foundations and concealers, will even start to oxidize and deepen in color over time.”

Eyeliner: 6 months to 1 year

Gel/cream eyeliners that come in a jar tend to dry up quicker than we’d like them to. Because they are constantly being exposed to air, it’s best to toss them after six to eight months, or a year TOPS. If you’re looking for an eyeliner that will last a bit longer, go for an eyeliner pencil, as you can easily sharpen them between uses to get rid of the bacteria.

Mascara: 3 months

Don’t get me started on that old (probs crusty, tbh) mascara. Krystal Lehman, the other professional makeup artist and co-founder behind Wink Hair + Makeup says, “Mascara has such a short lifespan of only three months. Since it’s a product that is used so closely to your eye, make sure you keep to the expiration date so as not to irritate your eye or cause an infection.”

Powder cosmetics: 1-2 years

Typically, powder lasts longer than other formulas, but you should always be cautious and toss it if you have any suspicions (bad smell and color changes, etc.).

Lipstick: 2 years

If you’re a lipstick-a-holic, you’ll be glad to find out that lipstick has a much longer shelf life. However, if you’ve shared your lip product with anyone else (or have been sick), it’s always best to sanitize it properly with Isopropyl alcohol. I always shave off a bit of it, too, for good measure.


Imagine wearing unwashed clothes for a couple of days. The end of the world? No. Now, imagine wearing that same outfit for, like, 3 weeks in a row without washing it. If that’s alarming to you, think about all the bacteria swarming your makeup brushes after weeks (let’s be real –– probs months, tbh) of not washing them.
Incase I haven’t convinced you to wash your brushes, keeping them clean can also save you money! Kristi says, “By cleaning them weekly or biweekly, you can keep your brushes soft and even extend their life, so you’ll end up saving money in the long run.”

Do daily cleanse your brushes.

A temporary solution is to grab a cleansing spray made specifically for makeup brushes, like It Cosmetics’ Brush Bath. This will allow you to cleanse your tools fairly quickly on the spot.

Do deep cleanse your brushes as often as possible.

The more thorough solution is to actually shampoo your brushes and let them dry overnight. You can shampoo them with a gentle baby shampoo, but I recommend using a non-toxic face wash or liquid soap. If you let friends use your brushes (because sharing is caring), more power to you. Just be sure to wash them afterwards so you don’t spread any bacteria that may have been on someone else’s skin.

Don’t blow on your makeup brushes.

Please, just don’t do this. I can’t tell you how much I cringe when I see someone blow on their compact or powder brush. Doing so can transfer airborne bacteria and saliva onto the brush/makeup and then, ultimately, onto your skin. So, if you have a cold and you blow on your brushes… well, I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. Instead, remove any excess by gently tapping the brush onto your wrist or the back of your hand. Take it from me, a semi-retired makeup artist. Some rules are meant to be broken, but when it comes to makeup hygiene, it’s best to trust that these guidelines are recommended for a (big) reason: the safety of your skin. Kimberly Arnold is a professional makeup artist turned beauty editor with almost a decade of experience in the beauty industry.

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