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Acne and fungal infections: When was the last time you cleaned your makeup kit?

Your BB cream sponge, makeup brushes and even lipsticks can accumulate dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria – which could lead to skin conditions and diseases.

We’ve been taught to always wash our hands before touching our faces – and when it comes to makeup, applying it only on a clean visage.

But realistically, we often find ourselves touching up on the go. Many of us tend to freshen up after work, before heading out to meet friends, or re-apply lipstick mid-meal for quick selfie updates.

Can we honestly remember when was the last time we deep-cleansed our makeup tools, if ever? And how many of us even realise that makeup itself should be cleaned in the first place?

Less-than-pristine beauty tools lead to less-than-stellar makeup application: Brush bristles feel stiffer and don’t pick up or spread colour as well, leading to blotchy and uneven results.

What’s more, our cosmetics and makeup tools do get contaminated with lots of nasty stuff – think dead skin cells, dirt, sweat, oil and bacteria. This could lead to skin irritation, redness, rashes, clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, milia and even acne breakouts.

You might even put yourself at risk for diseases such as conjunctivitis, staph, e-coli, fungal infections, and cold sores. Germs can also cause cosmetics to go bad. So what’s the safest rules of thumb for cleaning up your act?


Germs may get transferred through sharing makeup and makeup tools. If your BFF forgets her lipstick and absolutely needs to borrow yours, or she wants to try your favourite new find before deciding whether to buy her own, clean the item immediately or as soon as possible after it’s been used.

If you’re down with, say, the flu, conjunctivitis, a cold sore or a stomach bug, items that come into close contact with your eyes and your mouth should be cleaned immediately after each use.

Items that are used wet, such as blending sponges or facial cleansing brushes, should be washed and left out to dry after each use.

Brushes should be washed, and metal or plastic tools should be disinfected, once a week.

Makeup should be disinfected once a fortnight.

Now, on to the specifics:


This is usually stored in damp places like the shower, where bacteria and yeast proliferate quickly. Put a few drops of antibacterial dish soap on your fingers or on a clean toothbrush used for that specific purpose, and scrub the bristles and crevices. Rinse with warm water, then allow the brush head to air-dry overnight.


You can’t technically clean these, but the best way to maintain hygiene and freshness is never to dip your fingers in them. Access the product with sanitary applicators, such as a clean cotton bud, sponge or spatula.


Grab a cotton bud, hold it at an angle, slightly twist up your stick product, and then scrape off a thin layer from where the product comes into contact with your skin. Spray the exposed area with isopropyl alcohol and wipe clean.


Sharpen them before each use. If the pencils are retractable, spray some rubbing alcohol onto a cotton pad and wipe the tip of the pencil.


Pressed powder makeup products such as eyeshadow, blush, bronzer and two-way cake can get dirt and oils forming a compacted, shiny layer on the top, which makes it hard for brushes and sponges to pick up the product. Use a butter knife and very gently scrape off a thin layer of the product. Then spray lightly with alcohol and let it air-dry.


Run them under hot water and scrub with a clean toothbrush dipped in a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Or spray rubbing alcohol onto the implement and wipe dry with a cotton pad.


Wipe the tips with a cotton pad moistened with rubbing alcohol before and after each use.


Cleaning these involves a few more steps than usual. Here’s our step-by-step instructions:

1. Rinse the tips of the brushes under warm running water. Try to keep the handle and the base of the brush head dry – this helps prevent the bristles from loosening and falling off.

2. Fill a mug with warm water and add some mild shampoo or dishwashing liquid. Swirl the brushes around to remove the buildup, and massage them with your fingers.

3. Rinse the brush tip under running water.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the water runs clear and the brush appears to be free of build-up and debris.

5. Gently squeeze out any excess moisture with a clean, dry towel, or a paper towel. Reshape the brush bristles with your fingers.

6. Lay out your brushes flat to dry on a towel, with the tips of the brushes slightly over the edge of a counter. Give your brushes plenty of time to dry before you use them again.


Run these under warm water, then add a few drops of mild shampoo or facial foam. Let it sit, submerged, in a glass for a minute or so. Squeeze gently to dislodge any product. Rinse with warm water, squeeze-dry gently and let it air-dry for a few hours. Foundation-blending sponges should be washed after every use. Other sponges used for powder products, such as for two-way cakes, can be washed weekly.


Most cushion compact sponges have anti-bacterial properties and are supposed to able to last throughout the entire product’s usage without any washing required. But if you’ve been applying your CC product on a less-than-clean visage or, say, you dropped it on the bathroom floor, then it would be a good idea to clean it. Stick the cushion puff into a Ziploc bag, add a squirt of facial oil cleanser and massage gently. Pour in some warm water and massage some more. Remove from the ziplock bag and rinse the sponge under warm running water. Add a drop of your facial wash, and rinse again. Use a paper towel to blot off excess water, and leave to dry overnight.

Now that you know the steps, here are some cleaning products you should try:


This hands-free tool-cleaning device is basically a silicone mat with seven different texture choices that clean eye and makeup brushes when you rub or sweep your brush heads against the mat, after dipping them in warm soapy water. Designed with suction cups on the back side, this mat will securely place on flat surfaces. It also fits most sinks. Available at Sephora.


A no-rinse makeup brush cleaner spray designed for daily use, which removes all makeup residue. Brushes dry fast and can be re-used immediately. Available at Sephora.


This gentle yet highly effective cleanser removes makeup and grime from Beautyblender sponges for a clean makeup application. Equipped with a textured silicone pad, it helps break up even stubborn stains. It’s the artist’s go-to cleanser for all tools – including makeup brushes. The conditioning formula is gentle enough to be used even daily. Quick, easy, effective and perfect for anyone on the go, it uses coconut and sustainable palm oils to break down makeup and condition the foam. The light lavender scent is soothing and relaxing. Available at Sephora.


Cheap and effective. Just decant it into a spray bottle. You can also use it to sanitise your hands before applying makeup. Available at Guardian.


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