Now is the perfect time to clean your makeup brushes and throw out expired beauty products

Makeup brushes can harbor bacteria, even when there isn't a pandemic spreading.

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Makeup brushes can harbor bacteria, even when there isn’t a pandemic spreading.
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Dexailo/Shutterstock
  • At the time of writing, more than 11,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the coronavirus, and another 168 have died after becoming ill.
  • People across affected countries are now social distancing, or staying home as much as possible to avoid spreading the virus further.
  • If you’re staying indoors, now is the perfect time to clean your makeup brushes, as the virus can live on surfaces for hours and sometimes days.
  • It’s also worth throwing out expired products while you have free time, since they can harbor bacteria that causes other infections.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting people across the globe. In the US alone, more than 14,000 people have been infected, and 212 have died after becoming ill, at the time of writing.

To help prevent spreading the virus further, many affected areas are asking people to socially distance themselves by staying home and away from large crowds. Washing your hands and cleaning your belongings has also become a major priority.

But while many people wipe down their phones and furniture, you might want to consider devoting the same attention to cleaning your beauty products. Here’s why.

Coronavirus can live on surfaces, including your beauty products, for days

As Business Insider previously reported, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) analyzed how long coronavirus can last on various surfaces. According to its report, the virus can live for up to four hours on copper, up to a day on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. These lengths are also affected by temperature and humidity.

Because some makeup tools, palettes, compacts, and even brush handles can be made from those materials, it’s safe to assume they could become infected if used by an ill individual.

Makeup brushes can be made from various materials, so keeping them clean is crucial.

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Makeup brushes can be made from various materials, so keeping them clean is crucial.
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monticha a/Shutterstock

However, it’s less clear if the virus can live on actual makeup itself. Speaking to InStyle’s Sarah Conley, Dr. Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University, said scientists are not yet sure how coronavirus “persists in beauty products.” Still, she recommended that people throw away makeup they’ve used if they contract the virus, just to be safe.

Dr. Rasmussen also told the publication that the virus won’t live on all ingredients the same. For example, makeup with higher alcohol contents could “render the virus inactive,” whereas products with less alcohol pose a higher risk of becoming contaminated.

That being said, now is a great time to clean your makeup brushes

Speaking to Insider, makeup artist Ivy Boyd said she typically recommends washing your brushes once every week. During a pandemic, however, she’d “up that to every few days.”

“I’ve been washing my own personal brushes every other day or so,” Boyd said. “Remember, your brushes will only remain clean if you have clean hands too, so keep up on the handwashing, especially before sitting down to do your makeup.”

Boyd recommends using “gentle but effective soaps” to clean brush bristles, specifically those from Dr. Bronner’s and Beautyblender. That being said, brush handles should also be cleaned as a precaution.

“For liquid and cream products, bar soaps often work best,” Boyd said. “In a pinch, try dipping a brush into some olive oil first to help break down the product, but still follow with soap and water.”

You should also be wary of using beauty products if you feel any coronavirus symptoms or have other signs of illness

While it’s important to clean brushes frequently, it’s also worth sanitizing your actual makeup. Speaking to Insider, makeup artist Jordan Liberty said powder products are especially easy to clean, as they “don’t breed bacteria” in the same way creams and liquids do.

You can spritz a 70% alcohol spray on them, according to Liberty, to kill surface bacteria. However, using products with applicators that actually touch your skin, like lip glosses and gel eyeliners, are “where you start getting into trouble.”

“Any product that you touch to your face when you have something like coronavirus, that product is probably contaminated,” Liberty said.

To be safe, Liberty recommends using makeup sparingly if you’re feeling any symptoms of an illness like coronavirus.

“If you have any doubts, just make sure that you’re more cognizant of your products,” Liberty said. “Maybe choose one lipstick that you’re gonna use right now, and then in a couple of weeks, throw that out and pick a new one out. Not contaminating your entire kit is very important.”

It’s a good idea to check the expiration dates of products you own

Just because a beauty product is clean doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe to use. According to Boyd, expired makeup can be just as harmful as infected products.

“I’d be very mindful of product expiration dates right now,” Boyd told Insider. “Look for a little open jar symbol on the label. The number indicates how many months you have from the time the product is opened. When in doubt? Throw it out.”

If you're not sure if a product is expired, it's best to just throw it away.

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If you’re not sure if a product is expired, it’s best to just throw it away.
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Amanda Krause/Insider

Makeup artists can also use this time to pick up some new hygiene skills

Because some states don’t require makeup artists to obtain a license before practicing, Liberty says many makeup artists use improper hygiene practices on clients. For example, some say they use products like lip gloss straight from the tube on multiple clients because it’s quicker and cheaper than using a disposable wand.

That makes now the perfect time for makeup artists to try out new skills they might not have learned, or have been opposed to using, previously, according to Liberty.

“This is a really great time while we’re all in self-imposed quarantine to practice those habits at home,” Liberty said. “If you’re a makeup artist and you’re bored and you don’t have any clients right now, do your own face with hygiene standards to the point where you get good at it and fast at it.”

“We can really use this time to change our rhythms and our habits so that when we come out of this, we’re in a position to serve our clients better,” he said.