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Applying Makeup at Your Desk? The 8 Gross Things You Didn’t Realize You’re Doing

You might think that keeping a makeup bag in your desk drawer is convenient for that last-minute swipe of lipstick or quick touch-ups throughout the day, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are the desk beauty routine mistakes, easy ways to neatly and quickly apply makeup at the office when needed.

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Mistakes-You're-Making-While-Putting-Makeup-on-at-Your-DeskAlena Ozerova/Shutterstock

Not prepping your skin

There are many reasons why you might decide to wait until you get to work to apply your makeup. You might be a commuter who doesn’t want to apply your makeup in the company of strangers on the subway or you would rather get those extra precious minutes of sleep. Even if you washed your face that morning, applying makeup to skin that has been exposed to pollution and dirt on your walk or drive to work could cause irritation. Before proceeding to apply your makeup, give yourself a few minutes to cool down and then wipe away any sweat on your skin with a moist towelette before adding on a soothing primer to gently prep your skin for the day—your future complexion will thank you! Speaking of getting those extra few minutes of beauty sleep, here are easy beauty tips for the lazy girl.

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Not washing your hands

Think you have the cleanest cubicle in the building? The bacteria that could possibly be lingering on your own desk is the least of your worries. “There are upwards of 1,000 different types of microbes on your keyboard, mouse, desk, and in the air around us,” says Kiran Krishnan, Ph.D, microbiologist and scientific advisor for Probiogen. “The surfaces that many people touch on a daily basis, including door handles, the fridge handle in the break room, the buttons on the coffee pot, the microwave door buttons, and the break room water faucet are ones you have to pay more attention to. If you just came from the break room or shook someone’s hands, you should clean your hands before touching your face.”

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Not properly storing your makeup

We all have that drawer at work, the one you stuff with everything from emergency granola bars to the beauty products you use for your mid-day touch ups. (Speaking of, here are 22 tricks for keeping your office desk neat). But it’s important to make sure that moisture isn’t getting to your makeup, which can happen from humidity or even a water bottle leak you might not have noticed, since it could lead to the breeding of bacteria in your products. “If you are going to be keeping makeup in your drawer, you should keep it in a sealed container like a sandwich bag or food storage container. The key is to avoid moisture,” says Dr. Krishnan. “Any microbe, bacteria, or mold needs moisture in order to grow and proliferate—if the moisture is that of a normal room, then there is very little risk that they are breeding any harmful microbes. But if the humidity or moisture is high, mold can grow on makeup.” Not only is that seriously gross, mold is a common allergen.

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Not replacing your products

Think about that tube of lipstick you keep behind the box of staples and tape in your bottom drawer…and how long it has been there. Although you might be using the beauty supplies you keep at work a lot less often than the ones you’re proudly displaying on your bedroom vanity, you should still be replacing them just as often. What if you can’t remember how long it has been since you started using that lipstick? “If a product changes color, separates in liquid, or doesn’t look how you bought it, toss it!” warns Kerri Daniels, who is a consultant for Rodan & Fields and freelance makeup stylist for Laura Mercier and Mineral Fusion. To be safe, rotate your office beauty supplies often and label them so you can remember the exact date you started using them. Find out the best strategies for organizing your makeup bag.

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Mistakes-You're-Making-While-Putting-Makeup-on-at-Your-Desk leungchopan/Shutterstock

Not wiping your desk

When you really think about all the things that lay on your desk every day, you’ll notice that you’re not the only one who comes into contact with your belongings. Folders, notes, and proposals get passed around from person to person before they make their way to your cubicle or office. Just like you wouldn’t apply makeup with dirty brushes, patting on eye shadow onto your lids after having fiddled around with your phone and keyboard isn’t ideal. Wipe down your desk before breaking out the makeup bag, and you’ll have a cleaner and more organized setting for getting your beauty fix.

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Not cleaning your brushes

Perhaps you brought in a few brushes and tools to keep in your desk drawer out of convenience and now leave them there day after day. If you’re not popping your makeup bag into your purse when leaving for the night to properly wash them later, you’re bound to get breakouts from the bacteria lingering on the bristles. However, you don’t have to lay out your brushes at the break room kitchen sink to give your brushes a deep clean after each use. “Just give them a heavy spray of alcohol and a good swipe back and forth on a paper towel,” shares Daniels. “In between uses during the week, use a spray with anti-bacterial properties and handy cleansing brush wipes. You’d be surprised how much product can lay on a brush with just one use.” You can then pack them away and wash them at home at your own pace, but in the meantime, you can reduce residue and bacteria on your trusty brushes. (Here are eight rules to follow when washing your makeup brushes.)

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Placing brushes on your desk

The emails are coming in and your boss is already giving you a ring…we get it, mornings are super hectic. But if you’re trying to multitask through your beauty routine in the morning, you’re bound to be making on big mistake: placing your eye and lip brushes on your desk. Avianca Goldston, New York-based makeup artist and founder of Artistry by Avianca suggests placing a towel or mat on your bare desk to prevent germs from spreading onto your brushes and inevitably end up on your face. “Keep all product and tools limited to one area. Where you pick it up is where you put it back,” she explains.”This will help you develop the habit of being careful of what you are doing. Also: Set a reminder in your calendar to clean your makeup bag.” You don’t want it to get too grimy in there and your bag can get dirty from being parked at the office week after week.

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Mistakes-You're-Making-While-Putting-Makeup-on-at-Your-DeskTatiana Chekryzhova/Shutterstock

What to focus on

Applying makeup at your desk isn’t always appropriate, but when you do bend the rules, try to keep things simple. You don’t want your boss or the unexpected co-worker popping up from behind you in the middle of a full-on color correcting session. So what should you focus on to get a clean and long-lasting? “Be mindful of the products that you want to use and try to use ones that are double duty,” Goldston says. “For example a full coverage foundation can also serve as a concealer, a brow gel can be used as an eyeliner and a champagne colored eye shadow can be used as a highlighter.”

Maria Azua
Entertainment, beauty and tech writer.