Applying skincare and makeup products requires a whole lot of touching your face—here's how to keep everything as safe as possible.
woman with lotion on face
Credit: Getty / Emma Kim

We're at the dawn of a new normal: We're paying extra attention to washing our hands, cleaning all of our technology devices, and avoiding contact with our faces. But applying your everyday skincare and makeup products typically requires touching your face. When it comes to these beauty staples, bacteria is a constant concern. Though keeping products as germ-free as possible is still paramount, it's just as important to consider how you're applying them—making simple changes could help you protect yourself against viruses. What swaps should you make? We asked eight experts to give us a refresher on keeping our beauty routines as clean as possible. Ahead, their tips on building and maintaining a sanitary skincare and makeup regimen.

Clean your brushes more.

This may seem like an obvious step, but you need to "clean your brushes once a week with either a daily spray cleanser or a brush shampoo to remove debris, buildup, oils, and microorganisms," shares Dr. Blair Murphy, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist. It has never recommended to share brushes, "but especially these days, with the risk of viral spread so high, do not share brushes at all and cover them when not in use to avoid contamination from the air," she says.

Pay attention to your hairbrushes, too.

Hairbrushes are just like those used for makeup, which means they should be cleaned at least twice a month. "Viral particles can be transferred from the air to your hair and subsequently to your eyes, mouth, or nose, so it's crucial to remove hair after and clean properly," explains Dr. Murphy. "Start by removing the hair with a comb or one side of a scissor, then swish the hairbrush around in a sudsy mix of gentle shampoo and warm water, and let it soak for up to 10 minutes. Finish with a rinse of water and lay it on a towel with bristles down to dry."

Switch to single-use products for now.

It might be worth making the switch from jarred face masks to "single-use options to prevent bacteria contamination," says Sarah Lucero, Global Executive Director of Creative Artistry for Stila Cosmetics. If you don't have any options (like individually-wrapped sheet masks) on hand, "use a clean mini tip Q-tip to scoop out the product and place it on the back of your clean hand and apply. Remember to never double dip and keep the lids tightly closed after each use," she adds.

Wash your hands between applying products.

You don't have to stop applying multiple products to your face, but to be safe, wash your hands after each one, especially if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth during the process. And always start with a good scrub "before touching your face and use tools that are washable, or strictly disposable," says Rhea Grous, Aesthetics Director of La Suite Skincare. This will "promote cleanliness," she notes.

Stop using your fingers as applicators.

In a perfect world, we could apply our potted moisturizer with our fingers and not spread bacteria, but sadly, that's not true. When you open a jarred product, "it's exposed to air and microorganisms every time you touch it. This amplifies the risk for bacteria, or other germs to grow in the product, and then be transferred to your skin when used. Instead, use a cotton swab to get the product out of a jar and look for ones dispensed by a pump or a dropper to decrease the risk of contamination," Dr. Murphy adds.

Sanitize your station.

Your vanity is the foundation of your morning routine and needs to be thoroughly cleaned, just like your tools. "Eliminate bacteria and keep your space clean by frequently disinfecting any commonly touched areas—drawer handles, faucet handles, and countertops, especially if shared," says Dr. Murphy.

Stop getting eyelash extensions immediately.

Eyelash extensions should be avoided "because they prevent adequate cleansing of the eye area and increases the chances of bacterial and fungal eye infections," says Dr. Murphy—not to mention that they require you to touch your eyes frequently, which you want to avoid in the midst of a pandemic.


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