Make-Up Hygiene

Make-Up HygieneI am prompted to write this because I keep noticing that proper hygiene is severely lacking among many who would call themselves make-up artists.

Hygiene is one of the most important things when it comes to make-up application. It is also one of the most basic lessons we learn in school as artists or therapists. So why does it go out of the window so freely?

It’s definitely one thing everyone should look for in a make-up artist. It could save your health; or for an artist possibly your career. I hope this post will be helpful to those who use make-up, book make-up artists, and of course artists themselves.

Hygienic Tools


Your brushes pick up more than just make-up when you use them.  They pick up oil/sebum, dead skin cells as well as airborne dust particles.
A make-up artist should never re-use a brush on a second face. I have a separate pot I use to hold the brushes I’ve worked with so I can immediately tell which ones I shouldn’t pick up again and must clean before it can go back into my kit. Brushes should be cleaned and sanitised between each client, they can be cleaned quickly and effectively with a variety of different products. Don’t blow on your brushes either, seriously, what is that? No one wants your saliva on their face!
For home use on just yourself, spot cleaning to change colours and a once per week deep clean should be plenty.


Disposables are single use items such as sponges, mascara wands, small lip brushes, eye-liner applicators etc. that can be thrown away after use. They help prevent cross contamination between people and products and are a must for all make-up artists.

Sponges are also single person use items. In the US this is regulated by law. Any artist, cosmetologist or esthetician using blenders or sponges more than once can and will lose their license. This is because it’s simply not possible to properly sanitise sponges due to their composition and nature. Despite what some “beauty hacks” claim, putting it in a microwave isn’t good enough to kill bacteria or viruses. It may in fact aid bacterial growth.

Hygienic Make-Up

Fingers should never be placed into any type of cosmetic or beauty product. Fingers contain natural oils and sweat as well as bacteria which feed on them and contaminate the product.

Creams, Liquids & Gels

No Double-Dipping!Cream, liquid or gel products should never be used directly from the container. If you see an artist who does this – RUN!
This really is beauty hygiene 101. Cream products can easily grow bacteria inside of them. Best practice is to use a sanitised or disposable spatula to remove the amount of product you need and place it onto a metal or paper palette. The original container should then be closed again to prevent contamination.
Watching YouTube gives me the heebie-jeebies when I see people working directly from palettes of creams, merrily double-dipping, using lipsticks straight from the bullet on models. The products these (often completely un-trained) people are using may well be personal to the model but we don’t know that. The videos are normalising the practice and allowing people to think it’s A-OK to share make-up.

If you’re an artist, avoid product in packaging that encourages you to work directly from it e.g. concealer sticks or tubes and choose a palette you can easily use with a spatula or squeeze tubes instead.

If the product is for you at home only and you make sure to follow the use-by date on the packaging as well as storing it correctly you should be fine. However, if you do pick up an infection from elsewhere you may have to replace the make-up as it will likely have become contaminated. Cutting out only the amount of product that you need with a clean spatula could save you money.

Eye Make-Up

Eye make-up, especially eye pencils, is probably the most frequent source of eye infections especially among wearers of contact lenses. When we apply eye make-up to a client we are responsible for their eye health.

  • Eye pencils – An artist should sharpen pencils before and after use and sanitise them with alcohol. The pencil sharpener should also be sanitised regularly. At home, you can choose to sharpen or sanitise as you see fit.
  • Mascara – An artist should never ever use this straight from a tube with the exception of when the tube is brand new and will be given to you. .  Mascara is a haven for bacteria, which is why you should never double dipNARS Audacious Mascara mascara disposables or share your personal mascara with anyone. I only use disposable mascara wands.
    At home you can check on the back of the mascara for the symbol which will tell you how long after opening you should throw away the product. I would veer on the conservative side of it with mascaras and liquid eye liners used straight from the package.

Pressed Powders

Pressed powders don’t have to be scraped onto a palette as if used and stored correctly they are generally not a place hospitable to bacteria due to lack of moisture although some artists do do this.

Have you ever noticed how some eye shadows or other pressed powders seem to build up a hardened layer on the very surface? This layer is created by moisture that you have introduced to the product, be it skin oils or water and is where bacteria can grow.
A professional should never put fingers into the products in their kit as this introduces oils, and sweat as well as the bacteria that feed on them. Make-up brushes going back and forth from skin to powder to skin can also introduce moisture – clean brushes are a must! Avoid using these products wet directly from the pan, moisture = bacterial growth. Powders can be sanitised with alcohol wipes in a pinch.

…And Why It Matters!

Staph bacteria from a phone & make-up brush, from Reddit

Infections! If you didn’t notice the links at the beginning of my page please do go and find them and read them both.

As a make-up artist you/we are offering a service which can have sometimes quite serious health implications if not done correctly, especially if you work with effects make-up. We are literally in charge of taking care of their eyes and their sight, not just their complexions. A bacteria one person may carry harmlessly on their skin could put another in intensive care. This is why we spend time in school on each qualification learning about contra-indications, contra-actions and sanitation and why it needs to be put into action every single time we work.

I hope this post has been helpful, if anyone has any topics they’d like me to go into more detail about please don’t be afraid to drop me an email or a comment down below.

Kath x

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