Beauty Hygiene, Decoded: How to clean your makeup bag

March 30, 2020

Beauty Hygiene, Decoded:
How to clean your makeup bag

With the prospects of a few more weeks being confined at home and with some of us having perhaps experienced some form of flu, or COVID-19 symptoms, the time for a clean of your makeup drawers has never been so relevant.

Even in the best of times when we are all feeling strong and healthy, some invisible bacteria and viruses can be growing and spreading across our makeup brushes, sponges and wait for it… your own lipsticks and compacts. The argument that you do not share your makeup with anyone and hence your items are safe, completely goes out the window once you are about to read what sort of micro-organisms can live in your makeup bag. This article is not about scare-mongering or turning you into a germophobe, but an eye-opener to help you combat the spread of deadly viruses or other germs and making your own makeup bag as safe as possible.

According to a report by researchers at Aston University in the United Kingdom, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Applied Microbiology, found that an overwhelming majority of our used cosmetic products are contaminated with E. coli, staphylococcus, fungi and other risky germs.

The deadly bugs hiding in your makeup bag

Staphyloccus bacteria

79% of eye liners

72% of beauty blenders

69% of mascaras

56% of lipsticks

55% of lip glosses

E.coli and related germs

27% of beauty blenders

10% of eyeliners

9% of lip glosses

8% of mascaras

5% of lipsticks


57% of beauty blenders

36% of lipsticks

28% of eyeliners

17% of mascaras

10% of lip glosses

Source: Aston University, Journal of Applied Microbiology
Published in the UK on November 30th 2019 in The Telegraph

There are a few main reasons for such invisible contaminators to appear:

The first reason is related to frequent usage and application of the same tool over and over to your face.

Think of how many times you’ve dipped your mascara back after having had a cold or some form of conjunctivitis without actually cleaning your brush first, before dipping it back. The same principle of formula and tool contamination applies to your applicators such as beauty blenders, brushes or even lipsticks themselves.

The other self-explanatory reason is due to shelf life: still holding on to that lipstick from 2002? Do hold on to it as a colour reference and send it to our Colour ID Lab but do refrain from ever using it again (more on that topic at the end of this post). Having a hoarding moment thinking you might use this smokey eyeshadow palette again just because you’ve invested in a 12 shade palette? Formulas in makeup and cosmetics, in general, do have a POA “period after opening” which appears on the bottom of your makeup products. Most products have a maximum shelf life after you’ve first opened them of 30 months, POAs may vary from brand to brand and depending on whether the product contains water. Anything after the designated POA period may start to disintegrate and chemical reactions may occur due to exposure to the ambient air and traces of your own tissue being in contact with the formulas, making your products the perfect breeding ground for superbugs and viruses. 

Warm and moist environments such as your seemingly perfect bathroom vanity are the main culprits in the development of harmful bacteria: they thrive on moist environments and the risk of contamination from other things that may be lurking on your surfaces or the proximity of a toilet may render your makeup application quite unsafe. 

Viruses and illnesses: think of the times you’ve had a cold and kept on applying the same mascara or lip balm without any thought or consequences? Viruses can lurk inside your products and get in contact with your face over and over. What’s the worst that can happen? You might end up with herpes, various skin infections, a red-eye or blood poisoning if you have cuts, acne or excessively dry skin.

The good news is that there are some very simple and easy steps you can start making a habit of following, regardless of pandemic circumstances. We’ve compiled below best practises from our Code8 Burlington Arcade boutique and   Colour Maestro Ana Lazovski, who is available to answer any further questions at [email protected].

Storage and Hygiene

Discard any old makeup you’ve had for more than 30 months

Be ruthless and learn that there is power in getting rid of clutter and downsizing your makeup bag. This is how Code8 started with the idea of a smartly edited range, with multitasking products you will use over and over again and deplete within months: 5Secs express colour sticks which go on lips, cheeks and eyes, Blush Mood Reflecting Palette which you can use on your eyes as well. 

Say goodbye to your bathroom sink and invest in a nice storage tray, acrylic drawers or a fancy cosmetics pouch to store your makeup in a cool dry place, most likely your bedroom vanity table.

Flaunt your most loved lipstick cases or compacts in a clear see-through container or display inside a nice mirrored or marble tray for that extra design touch. We found a few ideas for you to glam up your dressing table with these shoppable links:

A phrase you’ve heard a lot lately: wash your hands before touching any of your makeup or your face to prevent transferring bacteria and germs from the palm of your hands and from underneath your nails.

Have the following bare essentials for perfect hygiene: disinfectant wipes such as Dettol surface cleaning wipes, facial tissue, cotton bud, dish-washing liquid or a brush cleaning liquid such as Emel brush soap, a regular soap bar and most important of all rubbing alcohol/ surgical spirit (minimum 60% alcohol volume) which you would pour into a spray bottle. A fact worth mentioning: 99% alcohol solutions may ruin some PVC and lacquered surfaces, therefore a 70% alcoholic solution is sufficient for the purpose of sanitising makeup.

Wipe down your compacts and cases with disinfectant wipes, or a spritz of rubbing alcohol and some tissue. Use new wipes or tissue between each compact to avoid any transfer of germs between individual items. Then bin it.

Makeup brushes and blending sponges

Wash your makeup brushes at least once a week in warm soapy water (use dishwashing liquid or a specialist brush cleaning solution).

Do not soak them so they keep their shape and bristles. Spray your brush tips with rubbing alcohol/surgical spirit and wipe down with kitchen towels to remove all excess moisture. Leave to dry overnight for a totally dry set of tools, by laying them down horizontally. This will prevent getting water into the glue that holds the bristles together and which may cause them to eventually fall out.

Rinse your blending sponges under warm running tap water and rub with a bar of facial soap such as a Dove bar, squeezing everything until the colour of the sponge is back to its original shade. Make sure your sponges dry completely before reusing them. The ideal frequency of washing your sponges should be every day ideally or at least every few days at a minimum. You will also know when it is time to get a new one when the sponge is becoming loose or there are tears forming at the surface.

Makeup products lipstick

Disinfect your lipsticks and gloss/lacquer applicators before and after each use by spritzing them directly with rubbing alcohol and wiping them down with tissue which is then binned.

If you have been particularly ill with a flu or a cold sore, use a kitchen knife as well to shave off a thin layer of your lipstick and discard even after having sanitised with alcohol. Do not forget to clean the sides of the lipstick as well: clean the entire surface of the lipstick bullet even if it’s a few cm under the visible twisted top part. Twist your lipstick out completely and check all of the edges have been sanitised with alcohol.

Dry makeup products

Face powders and eyeshadow compacts are just as important to clean even if we do not apply such products directly to our face.

The repeated dipping of brushes back and forth from your face is enough to contaminate your compacts. Although it is quite difficult to sanitise a powder formula in the same manner as a lipstick, you would still need to spray rubbing alcohol all over the powder and inside the compact. 

In the case of a loose powder compact: take out the sieve from your powder container, rinse it with hot water and wash it with soapy water as well as cleaning the holes thoroughly. Once dry, spray it with rubbing alcohol all over, pat dry with tissue and place back inside the compact.

Your complexion products need some proper loving care as well: Code8 Radiate Beauty Balm has been designed with smart packaging, allowing the contents of your tube to stay unaffected by usage. Because the nozzle dispenses product by applying pressure on the pump, there is no risk of germs getting inside the formula, nevertheless, you must take care to wipe down the nozzle, the neck as well as the inside and outside of the cap with disinfectant wipes

In order to maintain your Code8 Day to Night Foundation in mint condition, wipe down the stick and applicator tip after each use, especially if you choose to paint your foundation directly onto the skin using the applicator wand (same principle as a lip gloss).

For other types of foundation bottles, you would want to concentrate your efforts on the neck and opening of the bottle where the biggest amount of product will always go into the lines of the neck and into the cap; for that we recommend using Q-tips or an old sanitised mascara brush and soaking them in alcohol to get into the tight spaces on the neck (part where you twist down the cap) . After that thorough clean, end the process with spraying all the parts and leaving them to fully dry before twisting back the cap on.

Remember no careful measures are excessive, especially in this difficult pandemic.

If you must hold on to some of your favourite lipstick colours because they’ve been discontinued, contact our experienced Colour Maestros at our Colour ID Lab and they will recreate your favourite old shade in a new improved and ultra long-lasting formula. We offer a velvety finish matte formula and a moisturising cream formula for a classic satin finish.