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If you find yourself with a break out, you should think twice about using your makeup to cover up the blemishes. It could be the culprit!

When your makeup is exposed to air, light, unclean hands or a dirty work space, bacteria grows which is then transferred to your skin during application. Consequently, these same cosmetics that you are using to cover your breakouts can actually make things worse. It’s a vicious circle! The good news? You can easily sanitize your makeup in no time at all using one simple household ingredient…

Isopropyl Alcohol

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Isopropyl alcohol is the same ingredient that you would use as a first aid antiseptic or to treat swimmer’s ear. It’s also the same ingredient that makeup artists use to sanitize their products between clients, so you can trust it to successfully kill any bacteria that might be lurking in your cosmetics. And, it evaporates, so it’s safe for your makeup and more importantly, your skin. 

However, you may be asking, “won’t it dry out my makeup?” Since it only kills bacteria and it isn’t actually reacting with your makeup (unless it’s a water-based product, which we don’t recommend mixing it with anyway), it won’t break it down. It’s affordable, you can find it at any drugstore, and it does the job without ruining or altering your makeup. Here’s what you’ll need and how to do it:

  • 91% Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Spray Bottle 
  • Dish
  • Cotton Pads


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This includes eye shadow, powder foundations, bronzers, blushes, highlighters, etc. Spray your pressed powders with alcohol until the top is fully saturated. Let them dry and they’ll be ready to go!

If you ever use your fingers in your pressed powders (try to avoid this!), you can remove the oil and residue left behind by dipping a cotton pad in the alcohol and gently sweeping it over the very top layer. Be sure to use a clean cotton pad each time so you aren’t mixing colors in the alcohol and transferring them into your powders.

Keep in mind that pressed powders have a 2-3 year shelf life, so any longer than that and you should just toss them! You can preserve your powders by wiping them with a tissue after every use or spritzing them with the alcohol on a weekly or monthly basis depending on how often you are using them.


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Liquid foundations in pump dispensers or squeeze tubes are the most hygienic since they are not exposed to air and you aren’t dipping a brush, sponge or finger directly into the product. To keep your liquid foundation extra clean, you can wipe down the cap or pump to get rid of any product residue.

Ideally, you should wipe it down every time you use it so the bacteria doesn’t build up, but if you’re running short on time try to do it weekly. Liquid foundations have a shelf life of about a year when stored in a cool, dry place. If you start to see changes in color, scent, consistency or if it makes you break out it’s time to give it the boot!


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Use a tissue to gently remove the very top layer of the lipstick or cream liner. Fully extend the product and dip it in the alcohol for 30 seconds. Don’t forget to wipe the cap with alcohol before replacing it on your product. If you share your lipstick or borrow someone else’s — we never recommend sharing cosmetics, but it does happen — give it a quick wipe before and after application.

The shelf life of lipstick and cream liners is 2-4 years and you can maximize this time by disinfecting them monthly or when you get a cold.


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This includes lip liners and eye liners; spray or wipe down the entire pencil with alcohol. You can sharpen the pencil to get rid of the top layer of pencil, but be sure to spritz or wipe down the sharpener with alcohol between each use so you don’t cross contaminate. You should really sharpen your pencil before each use to extend the life of your product.

If you properly store them in a cool, dry place with the cap on tightly, lip liners should last about 2-3 years, while eyeliner should be tossed after 4-6 months. If it starts to dry out and sharpening doesn’t help, it’s time to toss it!


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While you can’t really sanitize your mascara, you can clean your wand!

Start by wiping off your wand with a tissue to get as much product off as possible. Once most of the product is gone, you can go in with an alcohol-soaked cotton pad until the remainder is removed. This will not only clean your wand, but fluff it up, too! Proceed to wipe the opening of your mascara so the product doesn’t build up along the rim. While this will help keep your wand looking nice and your mascara cleaner, mascara has one of the shortest shelf lives and should still be replaced every 3-4 months.

One tip for maximizing this time is to not pump your wand, which will push air in, increasing bacteria and make it dry out faster. If it does dry out before 3 or 4 months, it’s time to toss it — do NOT add water to it, as this creates a breeding ground for bacteria!

Products such as loose powders and pots of gel/cream products can’t really be disinfected, but here are some tips for keeping them extra clean… this goes for the rest of your makeup, too!

  1. Use clean hands when you are handling your products.
  2. Store your products in a cool, dry place with the tops and caps tightly sealed.
  3. Instead of dipping your fingers, sponges or brushes into your product, take them out with a clean spatula and avoid “double dipping”.
  4. Be sure to clean your makeup brushes and tools using a “spot treatment” once a week and deep clean them monthly.
  5. Keep your work space clean.

Disinfecting your makeup regularly will extend the life of your beauty products and hopefully keep your skin breakout free!

You can read more about the shelf life of cosmetics here: The Shelf Life of Your Cosmetics.

Photo Credits: Kristen Love

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