Paralysed by a dirty makeup brush: How dirty brushes can have a severe impact on your health

As a professional Makeup Artist, many of my clients look to me for advice on brush cleaning. Particularly advice on how often and exactly how to wash their brushes to keep them clean and bacteria free. It’s music to my ears when people care so much about their brushes and preventing bacteria and infection. But one thing that horrifies me even to this day is how many people laugh off brush cleaning and exclaim to me “I’ve never washed my brushes!” From fungal infections, skin breakouts and clogged pores to the absolutely horrifying case of the Australian mother Jo Gilchrist who reportedly contracted an aggressive staphylococcus infection from a dirty makeup brush that left her paralysed, dirty makeup brushes can pose a real threat to our health.

Flicking through my copy of Vitality magazine (a beauty therapist and cosmetologist industry magazine I get along with my membership to my insurance company, BABTAC), I was shocked to find an article all about ‘Banishing Brush Bacteria.’ It turns out that inventor and The Apprentice star Tom Pellerau conducted tests on makeup brushes straight off the makeup counters, and the results were pretty disgusting.

From fungal infections, skin breakouts and clogged pores to being paralysed by a dirty makeup brush: How dirty brushes can have a severe impact on your health

From fungal infections, skin breakouts and clogged pores to being paralysed by a dirty makeup brush: How dirty brushes can have a severe impact on your health | Rachael Divers

A survey carried out on 1000 test subjects including consumers, makeup professionals and beauty counters revealed some very worrying statistics;

  • 44% of consumers have never washed their makeup brushes
  • 58% of the 35 brushes tested had high levels of bacteria
  • 34% had dangerously high levels of bacteria

It’s horrifying to think that some professional makeup artists and beauty counters are not santising their brushes correctly. Whether it be through negligence or simply ignorance on correct techniques and processes, the numbers are certainly unsettling to say the least.

How often should I clean my professional brushes?
Professional makeup artists should clean their brushes after each client with a deep clean (a proper clean with antibacterial cleansers). However, sometimes this is not possible due to time limitations so brushes must be cleaned with an antibacterial spot cleanser (a quick drying cleansing solution that cleans and sanitises the brush) after each client.

How often should I clean my personal brushes?
For personal makeup brushes, the recommendation is to deep clean the brushes once every few weeks. However, I prefer to deep clean my brushes every week, sometimes more often depending on the products I’ve been using.

Beauty blenders, sponges and powder puffs should be deep cleaned after each use.

What should I use to clean my brushes?
It’s a common misconception amongst clients and beauty professionals alike that baby shampoo is a great cleanser for makeup brushes. While it does indeed clean the brush to a good standard, the brush also needs to be sanitised to kill any bacteria. Personally, I use a conditioning shampoo on each of my brushes, followed by a light cleanse with a solution that contains Isopropyl Alcohol. The MAC Brush Cleanser is a great product to use to both clean and disinfect both personal and professional brushes.

How should I clean my brushes?
Using a cleansing mat can really help to clean your brushes easily and effectively and can also cut down on time. I love the Sigma Express Brush Cleaning Glove which I place into the bottom of the empty sink. I allow lukewarm water to coat the bristles of my brush (being very careful not to let the water get into the Ferrule of the brush as this can cause rotting inside the brush and leads to the hairs falling out) before adding a little cleanser onto the mat and swirling my brush into it allowing the raised sections on the mat to do the cleaning for me. I then rinse the brush under the water against my palm (again, don’t soak the brush, just allow it to be gently rinsed) before gently squeezing out the excess water and allowing it to dry. Once the brush is fully dried, I take my sanitising spray and spray it onto a paper towel before swirling my brush into the solution then allowing it to dry.

I have an older video over on my YouTube channel below that you can watch for a quick demonstration on brush cleaning and a few hints and tips. In the video, I’m using the Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Palette which is a good alternative to the Sigma cleaning glove if you’re on a tighter budget.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to ensure that your makeup brushes, and your makeup artists’ brushes are clean and sanitised. The statistics speak for themselves. It’s so important to choose a professional that will put your health and safety first if you decide to have your makeup applied.

Please be careful who you choose to go to, and please clean your brushes regularly. Not only will your skin thank you, but your makeup will apply much more evenly too.

© This post is copyright of Rachael Divers 2017.

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