Makeup Sanitation


 Germs and Bugs and Bacteria OH MY!! 

Sanitation is one of the top things that will set you apart from other artists. When word of mouth is the biggest form of landing a deal memo, your portfolio and practices will stand out.  Sanitation is not just for your client’s protection but your own protection. You should always carry multiple sets of brushes if you’re going to be working on more than one person. Professional makeup artists should do a full cleaning of their brushes at the end of each day. If you’re a makeup artist, it is imperative that you clean your brushes between applications.

 Some top rules to follow 

  • Never ever ever double dip anything especially mascaras.
  • Never blow on brushes way to many germs flying around
  • Never reuse a brush on another client without disinfectant
  • Never use a lipstick straight out of the tube
  • Never ever use the back of your hand as a palette
  • Always use pallets and spatulas
  • Always keep duplicate brushes when working on multiple clients


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 the bad bacteria – the kind that causes illness and diseases. Pathogens are often referred to as “germs.”

In makeup, we should always strive to sanitize by way of disinfecting our tools and products.

Here are a few common diseases that can be rapidly spread

Conjunctivitis (Pinkeye):

Pink Eye from double dipping mascara

Infection from double dipping mascara

caused by some bacteria and viruses can spread easily from person to person.  Often spread by cross contamination from double dipping mascaras and contaminated brushes.

Herpes Simplex:  Cold sores are caused by a contagious virus called herpes simplex. Cold sores 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. If this is in your makeup, it likely got there via your fingers.

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus MRSA

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.  If this is in your makeup, it likely got there via your fingers.  Gram-negative bacteria, Escherichia coli (E.Coli), Salmonella, Shigella (Dysentery),

Demodicids These are also called “eyelash mites” or “face mites” and they are largely harmless. 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

  • 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.
  • Lip, eye, and brow pencils always wipe down with 70% alcohol, sharpen, and then wipe with alcohol again. This prevents 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 also use disposable applicators but they typically aren’t the best quality.
  • Precision felt tip eyeliners. They are alcohol based so wipe off outside with a tissue and 70% alcohol to make sure applicator is clean.
  • Pressed powder products:  such as blush, eye or brow powders, etc.
  • There are several methods you can use to avoid cross-contamination:

a)     Load up the brush and tap the excess onto a palette and work out of the excess

b)      Wipe the surface of the powder in between clients and spray with makeup brush cleaner70% alcohol,  Beauty So Clean, or DIY cleaner afterward. BeautySoClean is a product marketed to makeup artists for sanitation of their products, specifically powders. It is comprised of five ingredients: 70% alcohol and 4 emollients. The alcohol disinfects the surface and the emollients prevent drying and glazing (which can happen when you repeatedly spray a powdered product with alcohol). 

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.

For one of the best DIY Brush Cleaner Recipes go to Kevin J Bennetts Blog In My Kit


17 thoughts on “Makeup Sanitation

  1. It’s a wonderful post, Michele! I think you summed it all up really nicely.

    Now if we only could make people follow it. *dreamy sigh*

    • I give my students the threat of showing up and breaking their brushes. Its all in education and sharing education. xoxoxo

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more! Having been in the industry for over 25 years, I still see some mua practice unsanitary makeup applications and so on. Thank you for posting, I will relay your link!

    • Thank you so much Sylvie, please let me know if you think of anything to add to the list xoxo

  3. Loved the article. I never used to wash my brushes, as I didn’t know you should or how. Thanks for the great info!

  4. Great article…though I wish that it was mentioned that 99% alcohol is really the most fail-safe method for sanitizing most items. It’s just a bit harder to obtain in some locations.

    • Kailey 99% has been proven that it is not the most effective for sanitizing. I provide all the links to medical data to back that point up. As my article states what 99% does is freeze the outside wall of the bacteria allowing it to lay dormant and it can come back. 75% alcohol effectively penetrates the cell wall which dries out the bacteria and kills it.

  5. Hey there would you mind letting me know which webhost you’re using?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot faster then most.

    Can you suggest a good hosting provider at a fair price?
    Kudos, I appreciate it!

  6. Michele,
    Not sure how I stumbled across this, but I guess it’s the universe leading my way. I just took Tiffiny Luong’s makeup seminar but she really didn’t explain cleaning up brushes, or the hows of being sanitary in that session, and I knew it was very important. I just partnered with two new makeup aficionado’s and sent them this post. Want to get started off as professionals, right from the get go!! THANK YOU!

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