Should You Be Disinfecting Your Beauty Products Against Coronavirus?

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Here's what you should know about what's possibly lurking on your beauty products.

One recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine examined the ability of the novel coronavirus to survive in the air as well as on various surfaces including plastic, stainless steel, copper and cardboard. The findings showed that it was able to survive in the air for at least three hours, on stainless steel and plastic for up to 72 hours, and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

Many may wonder if their beauty products are safe. Can the virus linger on items you use in your get-ready routine, like your makeup?

Can COVID-19 live on your beauty products?

COVID-19 has not been tested in beauty products thus far, but, according to Alex Berezow, PhD, microbiologist and vice president of scientific communications at the American Council on Science and Health, unless you’re sharing your makeup with other people, you have little to worry about. “Any bacteria or viruses detected in your makeup likely came from your own body or house,” he says. “That means that these are ‘germs’ you’re constantly exposed to because they live in or around you all the time—they’re not coming from new sources like the novel coronavirus.”

If you do contract the coronavirus, however, you definitely want to be sure to disinfect your beauty products and potentially even toss out some to rule out the possibility that you could reinfect yourself. How long the virus can linger on a myriad of materials used in your beauty products is still yet to be determined. Here’s how to understand the difference between disinfecting and sanitizing.

How often should you disinfect your beauty products?

Makeup tools and products often collect dead skin cells and bacteria. If not disinfected regularly, they may contribute to irritation, breakouts, and infections like pink eyes and styes, notes David Lortscher, MD, dermatologist and CEO and founder of Curology. “It is especially important to wash the tools you use to apply liquid makeup, such as sponges and brushes that you use on sensitive areas such as your eyes or mouth,” he says. “They are often left damp, which serves as an ideal environment for bacteria to grow.”

Where you store and apply your makeup may also have an impact on bacterial growth. “For example, storing your brushes in the humid bathroom or applying on public transportation could provide more opportunities for various bacteria to gather and grow,” says Dr. Lortscher.

How to properly disinfect your beauty products

Similar to other items in your household, all beauty products are not created equally. Beauty brushes and tools, for example, differ greatly from lipsticks and skin creams. “Lipsticks, creams, and lotions and potions have preservatives to counteract most contaminants,” explains David Pollock, an independent beauty chemist and author of Just Stop the Lifes! Secrets the Beauty Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know. “Additionally, they are stored in jars, bottles, or other casings that further protect the product when not in use—brushes and tools do not always have this protection.”

How to disinfect your makeup tools

Makeup sponges are used for applying foundations and concealers. It should be switched out frequently. You can also wash your sponges with hot water and soap, especially one that’s specifically designed for cleaning makeup sponges, like the Beautyblender Blendercleanser. Another way to disinfect a makeup sponge is by soaking it in water and zapping it in the microwave, according to Berezow. “This has been shown to drastically reduce bacteria from kitchen sponges,” he says.

Both synthetic brushes and natural animal hair brushes can be washed the same way—with soap and the hottest water you can stand, according to professional makeup artist, Mary Irwin. “Rinse thoroughly, squeeze the water out of the bristles and lay flat to dry,” she says. “Once they are completely dry, take a liquid brush cleaner like Cinema Secrets, which kills 99 percent of bacteria and germs, and dip your brushes into the liquid, all the way up to the ferrule.” Wipe them down on a paper towel and lay them flat to dry again. Learn all the rules for having clean and sanitary makeup.

How to disinfect your makeup itself

The best way to keep your lipstick protected is to not share it with anyone. Most products are made with preservatives that can help fight any contamination, but if you think your lipstick was used by someone who was sick, toss it. If for your own use, Irwin recommends cleaning your makeup by scraping off the top layer and spraying some makeup cleanser on it, like Beautysoclean Cosmetic Sanitizer Mist. If you use a gloss or a liquid lipstick, there is no way to disinfect it, so she recommends throwing it out.

Powders and pressed makeup, as well as the liquid tubs and creams, should be sprayed with a sanitizer mist, suggests Irwin. “If you’re noticing a sheen or build-up, you can take a clean, dry mascara spoolie, and scrape off the top,” she says.

When it comes to mascara, the experts say the best thing to do is toss it, as there’s no true way to disinfect it. You should also throw out your mascara if it’s passed the expiration date and replace it regularly to prevent contamination. In addition to expired makeup, these are things you need to throw out ASAP.

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Jenn Sinrich
Jenn Sinrich is an experienced digital and social editor in New York City. She's written for several publications including SELF, Women's Health, Fitness, Parents, American Baby, Ladies' Home Journal and more.She covers various topics from health, fitness and food to pregnancy and parenting. In addition to writing, Jenn also volunteers with Ed2010, serving as the deputy director to Ed's Buddy System, a program that pairs recent graduates with young editors to give them a guide to the publishing industry and to navigating New York.When she's not busy writing, editing or reading, she's enjoying and discovering the city she's always dreamed of living in with her loving fiancé, Dan, and two feline friends, Janis and Jimi.