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8 Rules for Having Sanitary Makeup and Beauty Tools

If you aren't careful, your favorite beauty products could be making you sick—seriously!

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Clean your makeup brushes

Makeup brushes are a breeding ground for bacteria, so you should clean them at least once a week. The best way to fully disinfect makeup brushes is to pour alcohol into a small bowl or cup (don’t add water), then dip the bristles into the liquid and swirl the brush around. You should also use a paper towel dipped in alcohol to wipe down the handles. Just don’t let your brushes sit in the alcohol for too long, as you don’t want to damage the glue that holds the bristles together.

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Wash your hands before applying products from a pot

Think about it: All day long you come into contact with germ-ridden surfaces, so you don’t shouldn’t stick your fingers into a beauty pot and directly transfer those impurities. Before touching any products from a pot (like serums, primers, lotions, and concealers), it’s important that you thoroughly wash your hands with disinfecting soap. The last thing you want to do is deposit bacteria into a product, allow it to fester, then apply it to your face!

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Make sure your makeup isn’t expired

Most people don’t think of makeup “going bad” the way food does, but every beauty product has a definitive makeup expiration date. Look for the PAO (Period After Opening) symbol on your makeup containers to see when they’re no longer safe to use. They should be marked with a number and the letter “m,” which stands for month (“8m” means you have eight months until it spoils). Mascara, for example, is only good for four to six months. Always pay attention to changes in your makeup’s smell, texture, and appearance, as it can even go bad before it officially expires!

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Never share makeup

Borrowing Chapstick, lipstick, and gloss may seem harmless, but it’s actually one of the easiest ways to swap viruses. For example, oral herpes can be contracted by a shared lip balm, but it’s not just about avoiding people with visible cold sores. Any sickness that can be transferred via saliva secretions—flu, colds, hepatitis, and mononucleosis, just to name a few—are fair game for making your lip products their home. To keep your makeup free of dangerous bacteria, always keep that makeup to yourself.

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Disinfect your powders

In the same way you need to clean your brushes and applicators, it’s wise to also clean your physical makeup. Products made of pressed powder (blush, bronzer, powder foundation, eyeshadow, etc.) should be sprayed with alcohol to keep them free of bacteria and viruses. By cleaning your powder products this way, you’re also less likely to experience any makeup-induced breakouts.

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Wipe down your makeup bag

There’s no point in having clean makeup brushes and products if they will be going straight back into a dirty makeup bag. Because makeup bags outlast individual products (leather bags can last a lifetime), your makeup carrying case will likely spend years collecting and harboring bacteria. To prevent gunk buildup, thoroughly scrub down every surface of your makeup bag with disinfecting wipes. This will make the bag look much better too! (These are other everyday items you don’t wash nearly enough.)

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Clean your eyelash curler

Admit it, if you looked down at your eyelash curler right now, you’d see that it’s caked in mascara buildup. Anything that touches or comes near your eyes deserves to be regularly cleaned, ideally after each use. To sanitize your eyelash curler, wipe or spray the entire surface with alcohol. You’ll thank yourself later when you haven’t gotten a painful stye or eye infection.

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Regularly replace sponges

Unlike bristle makeup brushes, sponges are meant to be disposable. Liquid products seep deep into sponges, and that moist environment can fester bacteria and mold. In the same way you’d throw out an old kitchen sink sponge, it’s necessary to regularly replace old, dirty makeup sponges, and not continue to put them on your face.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest