Cosmetic set on light dressing table
Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

You may have thought to clean your makeup brushes, but did you ever think to clean your actual makeup and other beauty products? It’s actually kind of disgusting when you think about the bacteria that builds up in all of your makeup products the second you open them. Using dirty, germ-filled makeup products, brushes and other beauty items can cause more problems than you think! The bacteria can transfer into your skin, causing acne and other skin problems. But hey, all of this can be avoided with some simple cleaning periodically. We have put together a complete guide showing you how to clean each of your products – even those you wouldn’t even think about cleaning! Never worry about unsanitary beauty products again. Follow along as you clean out your makeup bag and beauty products to make everything look like new again.

When to toss each beauty product

News flash: your products have expiration dates! Don’t lose track of how long you’ve had certain products. If you keep them for too long (like, months or years) they won’t work as well, and they might even become harmful to your skin. Stay conscious of what you’re putting on your face and body!

Natural and organic products might not last as long as this list suggests because of the lack of preservatives put into the ingredients of the product. However, no preservatives means no harmful chemicals which is always good. Do some research on the products you intend to buy, and try to make changes wherever you can. Even if they have shorter shelf lives, in the long run they are probably better for your skin. Pick your battles.

2 to 3 months

  • Mascara
  • Face peels and masks
  • Acne pads
  • Nail file
  • Loofah

6 months to 1 year

  • Liquid eyeliner
  • Liquid foundation
  • Concealer
  • Acne creams & washes
  • Eye cream
  • Face wash
  • Serum

1-1.5 years

  • Lip gloss
  • Cream eyeshadow
  • Face cream (in a jar)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bar soap
  • Shower gel
  • Eyebrow gel

2 years

  • Lip and eye pencils
  • Lipstick
  • Nail polish
  • Powder eyeshadow & blush
  • Powder foundation
  • Body lotion (in a jar)
  • Scrubs (in a jar)

3 years

  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Body lotion (in a pump)
  • Perfume
  • Hair spray

Cleaning your products

Now that you know the shelf life of all your favorite products, learn how to extend that shelf life by keeping them clean! If you clean your brushes, makeup products and other beauty items somewhat regularly, they will last a lot longer and even perform better on a daily basis. Products like powders, lipsticks and tools will look and apply especially better once they’ve been cleaned of all the bacteria that has built up. Also, the brushes you apply your makeup with will do a much better job if you keep them clean. The difference in application before and after you clean your brushes is like day and night, trust me. Follow along with this guide while you go through your makeup bag to clean everything – you won’t regret it.

Makeup bag

Your makeup bag has a tough job. It has to hold all your favorite products at all times, and this can be a messy task. To clean it, turn it inside out and use a makeup remover wipe to scrub all the powders and lipsticks off of the inside lining. Do this whenever you notice it getting a little dirty. A clean makeup bag will prevent further dirtying of all the products inside it.

Powder products

Powder products gather lots of bacteria from the brushes you use on them. Get some plastic spray bottles and fill them with undiluted alcohol. Spray a few light spritzes directly onto the powder, trying to avoid the mirror. Leave the compact open for an hour or so to ensure the makeup is totally dry. Bonus: add a bit of vanilla extract to the alcohol solution so it won’t have a strong smell! You could also spend some extra money on an actual cosmetic cleansing spray, which will do essentially the same thing. This would be ideal for professional makeup artists who need to ensure their makeup collection is clean to use on clients. Another option to clean is to carefully scrape the top layer of the powder off into the trash. This isn’t the best option, but if you’re a germ freak, it will get the germs off the top layer of the makeup.


There are actually quite a few way to disinfect your lipsticks! Quick tip: try to buy lipsticks in metal tubes because dirt and bacteria builds up less inside metal than it does inside plastic. The easiest way to sanitize them is to put your lipstick tube in the freezer over night to kill the bacteria. Just make sure to let it return to room temperature before you apply it. A faster way to clean lipstick is to submerge it into a jar of alcohol for about 30 seconds. Put some alcohol into a bowl or mason jar (even a shot glass would work), roll the lipsticks up, and make sure the product is totally submerged. Let it dry after removing it, or gently wipe it off with a paper towel or tissue. One other way to clean lipsticks is simply scraping off the outside layer. For this, you can use a small knife, or you can gently rub a makeup remover wipe around every surface to remove any bacteria. It’s smart to do this after every few uses, especially if you let a friend borrow your lipstick!

Eyelash curler

You probably know, the eyelash curler gets pretty gross after a while. Eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara all build up and get caked onto the curler, making it almost impossible to use normally without making a mess. Eyelash curlers can actually spread infections also if they are not clean. After wiping it off with a tissue, run a lighter along the eyelash curler, and don’t forget to remove the rubber cushion! You do NOT want to burn that part. You can clean it by using a makeup wipe to rub the makeup off and letting it dry. But as for the metal, the flame will disinfect it and make it easier to rub off any build up. Curling your lashes is now easier, and it won’t mess up your makeup!

False eyelashes

Using eyelash glue on false eyelashes can build up and make them useless after only a few applications. However, if between applications you remove the glue, you can get a few more uses out of them. Use some isopropyl alcohol and a q-tip to gently rub the glue off. By doing this you can get about 5-6 uses out of the lashes rather than 2-3.

Pencil sharpener

Shavings from your eyeliner and lip liner pencils can build up inside the sharpener. If you use one often, about once a week empty out all the shavings. Then, use a clean q-tip and use it to rub some alcohol along the blades and edges of the sharpener. If it’s extra dirty, use a makeup wipe to clean the outside and blades carefully. A clean pencil sharpener means a clean pencil!


Cleaning your brushes is one of the most important things you can do to keep your makeup clean and looking fresh! It is recommended that you clean them about once a week, with spot cleaning in between as needed. To spot clean eyeshadow brushes for example, use a spray brush cleaner on the bristles and swirl them into a clean paper towel or washcloth until they’re clean. You could even buy a sponge that is made for spot cleaning! However, deep cleaning is what will really get rid of the bacteria in those bristles. You have a few options. To clean them manually, use baby shampoo mixed with olive oil and coconut oil or a brush cleaner. Squirt a little into your palm, and swirl the brush around in it until it is sudsy and rinses clean. Another option instead of using your hand is purchasing a brush cleaning mat to swirl your brushes on to clean them. This might be easier on the skin on your hands! When cleansing your brushes, use cool water instead of warm because the warmth could break down the glue used to hold the bristles in place inside the brush. Also, try not to get the handle of the brush too wet, as water itself will break down the glue faster as well. There are even machines that wash your brushes for you. There really is no excuse not to wash them. Lay them out to dry overnight on a paper towel or bath towel. But be gentle with them! Your brushes are precious tools and should be taken care of regularly.

Beauty sponges

Whether it’s a cheap cosmetic wedge or a Beauty Blender, cleaning it is really important. Sponges soak up everything and harbor bacteria deep inside them. You should clean them after every few uses (if not after every use) to prevent spreading germs all over your face every day. To do this, you can buy solid sponge cleaners or liquid ones that make it really easy. Or… you could try a cheaper option. Use baby shampoo, or even some dish soap to lather up the sponge and squeeze all the dirt and makeup out of it. Repeat the squeezing of your sponge until everything that comes out it clean. The way your beauty sponge performs will improve significantly if it’s clean. Make sure it is totally dry before you use it again.

Blow dryer

Do you ever notice that gross dust on the back of your hair dryer? It builds up there from the repeated suction of air through the small opening. To clean it, take an old tooth brush and wipe away the dust on the back until it’s clean. This will make the air coming out of your dryer a lot cleaner, and stronger too.

Hair brush

Dirty hairbrushes can be cleaned really easily! First, get all of the hair out of the bristles with a pair of scissors and use your fingers to pull it out. Next, fill up your sink with warm water and dish soap or a mild shampoo. Let the brush soak in the mixture for a few minutes, then scrub in between the bristles with an old toothbrush to get all the gunk out. Your hair brush will look like new again!

Curling irons and flat irons

Heat styling tools can get product and oil built up on their surface really quickly. For curling irons, take a bit of steel wool and rub it all over the rough and dirty surface. It will be clean in no time. As for flat irons, make a quick mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda until it’s a paste. Spread the mixture over the metal part of your flat iron that is dirty, and leave it for about 10 minutes. Come back and wipe it off with anything, from a rag to a toothbrush, as long as it doesn’t scratch the metal. Clean heat tools, yay!

Your shopping list

Now that you know how to clean everything you use in your beauty routine, you need the right things to do it with! If you put together a little kit with all the cleaning supplies you need, it will last you forever. You could even DIY a little basket to keep all of your supplies in. Keep in mind that all of these products are not necessary. Figure out what you prefer to clean your products with with a little trial and error. You might even figure out a new way to clean things! Let us know, how do you clean your beauty products?