How to Sanitize Beauty Tools and Makeup

As we approach summer, taking care of our skin becomes more important. Not only to suit your new wardrobe, but also the heat and other elements that may be aggravating your skin. If you would like more information about basic skin care, definitely take a look at Skincare: A Primer. In addition to your skin care routine, you should also take into consideration how you sanitize your makeup and tools. Inevitably, oils, dirt, and bacteria from your skin will be transferred to your brushes and products. But did you know that sanitizing your stuff may be easier that you think?

Makeup Brushes

Before we get started, I would like to point out that the process for cleaning brushes differs slightly whether you are a MUA(makeup artist)¬†working with clients or just an individual. I am not an MUA myself, but from my research it would seem that artists clean their brushes (or are supposed to!) both between clients and at the end of a work day. Between clients, they may dip their brushes in a sanitizing solution that evaporates quickly and destroys bacteria. To wipe away pigment and excess cleaner, they will run the brushes back and forth on a clean towel. At the end of the day, they will shampoo their brushes for a deep clean. Now that we’ve got that out-of-the-way, let’s talk about shampooing your brushes for the everyday wearer.

Before you get started, make sure you have a shampoo handy. I have been using a small bottle of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo, but any other shampoo should do the trick. I also like to use the tiniest amount of conditioner, so get your conditioner out too. Last, you can use your hand for this instead but I like to use a rounded soap dish for dipping my brushes and swirling them around.

First step, take each brush one by one and coat with shampoo (remember a little goes a long way). Next, swirl the brush on your hand or in a small dish to work the soap into the bristles. If your brush has a rounded end, you will use circular motions. An angled brush should be swirled side to side. Basically, swirl your brushes in the way that feels most natural. Also do be gentle in your motions so you don’t ruin the bristles.

When rinsing, swirl your brushes underneath the water until there is no more color coming out. If you would like to add conditioner, do so now and set the brush aside for about 30 seconds. Afterwards you will rinse the same way.

Once your brushes are clean, gently squeeze the bristles of each brush, starting at the side closest to the handle, and gently run your fingers down the bristles to squeeze out excess water. When setting the brushes to dry, stand them up or lay them on their side at a downward angle (either way the bristles should be faced down with the handle facing up). The reason is because the bristles are being held together with glue, so if you allow water to drip into the handle, the bristles will start falling out.

So the last bit of business to cover is “how often you should clean your brushes?”. The answer is obvious as an MUA, but what about for just yourself? People claim the answer should be anywhere between everyday to never, but the median answer is weekly. I say as often as is reasonable for you and your life…is a good answer.


To sanitize powders, you can put some Isopropyl Alcohol into a spritzer bottle and spritz on the powder. This will not damage the powder and will kill bacteria. And as a bonus, you can use alcohol to fix broken eyeshadows. When the alcohol dries, the pigment will be stuck together, good as new. This is a great way to sanitize powders if they are be used on multiple people.

Another cleaning tip involving eyeshadow is to use a Color Switch to remove pigment between colors. Don’t have one? What I use is a simple stipple sponge, which is included in most Halloween makeup kits. Simply brush your brushes on the sponge to knock off loose pigment. This of course is not a method of sanitization, but it can save you some frustration when working with a variety of colors.

Metal Tools

Metal tools of course are easy. Soak or wipe your tools with a disinfectant product to remove grime and bacteria.

Creams and Liquids

Creams and Liquids are not as simple as powders to disinfect, so the best policy when sharing these products is to portion a little out with a cosmetic spatula onto a hard surface. This way, bacteria is not being transferred to the actual container holding the product.


For an MUA, disposable brushes or another sanitary alternative is essential when working on multiple clients. Mascara wands are in close contact with the eyes and bodily fluids, which can be very dangerous if they are shared.

Lip Products

Sanitizing a lipstick is similar to a powder. If sharing your lipstick, take tissue afterwards and wipe the product. Then, dip in or spritz the product with the alcohol and let dry. For liquids and glosses, follow the same procedure as for creams and liquids.

Sampling Products in Store

So far we have talked about how sanitize your own products…but what do you do when sampling products in store? What some people don’t know is that these products can contain bacteria and even fecal matter! Yes, whatever was on the last person’s hands will now be on the tester product. So to avoid unwanted germies, utilize in store alcohol spritzers and/or bring a little bottle of your own.

Thank you for reading! If you have any of your own tips for sanitizing makeup products, let us know in the comments below.


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