The Dirtiest Item in Your Makeup Bag

Dr. Janet Zand

January 29, 2021

Beauty blenders have taken the beauty world by storm.

But while these makeup sponges are touted for creating a flawless finish, there’s a hidden health hazard that’s not getting nearly enough attention.

What’s happening inside the sponge

It goes without saying that you need to clean your makeup sponges. But as it turns out, washing them with soap and water isn’t enough.

Some beauty bloggers cut their sponges open to see how clean they were inside. As you would imagine, they found lots of old foundation inside. But here’s the problem: this is the perfect breeding ground for mold, fungus, and bacteria ... including dangerous strains like E coli and Staphylococci.

One blogger even found bugs inside her sponge!

The good news is, this doesn’t mean you have to stop using makeup sponges. You just need to know how to clean and disinfect them.

How to clean them

Here’s how to effectively clean your beauty sponges.

First, soak the sponge in soapy water for 30 minutes. (For the soap, Dr. Bronner’s is a good choice.) Then apply more soap directly to the sponge, and massage it in thoroughly. Squeeze the sponge repeatedly under running water until water runs clear.

Then, set the sponge on a paper towel, and leave it out to dry completely. (Never put a damp sponge in a drawer or somewhere where there's no air and light. Dark, stuffy environments like that are where mold grows and thrives.)

Once completely dry, the beauty sponge should return to its original color and shape. If there are noticeable signs of wear — such as missing chunks or a dull tip — that’s a sign the sponge should be thrown out.

Once a month, you should also sterilize a beauty sponge with heat. To do that, you could either drop it into boiling water for a few minutes, or put it into a microwave on high for 1 minute.

Follow this routine, and be sure to replace your beauty sponge every three months.

Also, take special care if you travel with your beauty sponge. Don’t throw it into a bag with the rest of your makeup and brushes. Instead, purchase an “egg” container that holds it while you're on the go. Some of these containers even include antimicrobial technology.

Now, if you don’t want to do all of that, I don’t blame you! So let’s talk about some other options, both for using sponges and for going sponge-free.

Easier alternatives

One way to simplify the routine above is to purchase cheaper sponges that can be replaced every 1-2 weeks. You’ll still need to wash it after each use and let it dry, but you won’t need to worry about examining it for wear and tear or sterilizing it every month.

Another option is to just use makeup brushes instead of sponges. Brushes are easier to clean (no spongy insides), and you can just use your regular face wash to clean them.

Plus, as long as you let them dry with bristles down, there’s little chance that water can accumulate and lead to mold and bacteria growth.

Most experts recommend washing your brushes at least once per week. In between washes, you can quickly clean them with sprayable instant brush cleaner.

So try these tips out, and let me know how it goes!


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