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Wash your makeup brushes every day! Throw that product out after a month! Don’t stick your finger in there! There’s bacteria!
We hear these things every day. Usually, though, these directions are as confusing as they are annoying. What do we really need to do to keep our skincare and makeup routines clean and safe? And how important is all this stuff?
Let’s dive in.
Here’s the science behind it.
When scientists want to grow bacteria, yeast, or mold in a petri dish, they make an environment that’s nutrient-rich, moist, warm, and left undisturbed for a relatively long period of time. Sound a lot like your jar of face moisturizer? Or the towel you wipe your face with? How about your makeup bag itself or your beauty blender? That’s because it is.
All of these things are the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and thrive.
This can cause:
The trick, then, is to not introduce bacteria into these products whenever possible. That means, for something like a moisturizer, using a clean q-tip or spatula rather than dipping your fingers straight into the tub. For products like a beauty blender or a towel, it means regular cleaning (more on all that later).
Will it affect all people the same way?
We all have that one person (or many people) in our lives whose bad habits never seem to cause any problems. Their makeup brushes are dirty, they don’t wash their faces, they have less-than-hygienic application habits… and they’re fine. No breakouts, no infections, no nothing.
It seems like a much more hassle-free way to live. And it also makes it seem like all of this bacteria and hygiene stuff is BS. Well, it’s not.
The reality is that, yes, these people are coping because their immune systems and their genetics allow them to. But they’re creating an uphill battle for themselves here, and their immune systems arehaving to work much harder than they otherwise would.
This makes their systems weaker to fight other, more important invaders and serious infections. In short, they’re hurting their own ability to thrive in the long-run - even if it doesn’t show now.
With all that in mind, what are the habits that are really problematic? And what good habits should you incorporate? Let’s dive in.
This is super vital to protecting your skin and maintain healthy bacteria and oils on its surface. Here’s what you need to know.
Your skin’s natural barrier is essentially a wall of dead skin cells held together by lipids and oil. It functions as a security guard, protecting what’s inside and preventing any “bad guys” - like UV radiation, pollution, bad bacteria, dirt, and toxins - from passing through.
The barrier also maintains proper hydration, balances lipid levels, and maintains your Natural Moisturizing Factor.
A compromised natural barrier can lead to a ton of issues, including sensitive skin, increased irritation, inflammation, and redness. Unfortunately, it's a chicken-and-egg cycle: once the barrier is gone, you tend to apply intense products like steroids or acids to clear the problem. These cause a thinning of the skin, which prevents the barrier from rejuvenating - and the cycle goes on.
To protect your skin against bacteria, you need to protect your barrier and replenish it if it has been compromised. First, that means using a gentle cleanser to get rid of impurities without overly stripping the skin. Then, be sure to apply serums, moisturizers, and oils that will maintain hydration, reinforce the barrier, and prevent free radical damage.
At the very least, we recommend a nourishing everyday cream with protective ingredients like antioxidants and vitamin C followed by a noncomedogenic botanical oil to moisturize and seal in all those good ingredients.
Frequency: Every day
You can’t dip your fingers into any products. You just can’t. Even if your hands are freshly washed, you will always have bacteria on the surface of your skin and under your nails. To a large extent, that bacteria is actually necessary to keep your skin healthy. If it weren’t there, you would actually be more susceptible to eczema, infections, and other potentially serious skin issues.
And when you dip that bacteria-laden finger into a jar, it’s the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and yeast. This can cause dermatitis, acne, and even yeast infections on the skin.
The solution? Use a Q-tip or a clean spatula instead of your fingers. Apply the product to the back of your hand and then to your face from there. The same goes for droppers. Never touch a dropper directly to your face: it will make the bacteria from your face directly go back into the bottle.
Instead, squeeze some product from the dropper onto your hand, and make sure that the dropper itself never comes in contact with your skin.
This will save your product and your face long-term.
Frequency: Once a week for wet products, every two weeks for dry
Ok, so there are lots of conflicting recommendations out there when it comes to washing brushes and tools. In general, brushes and blenders that are used for wet products,like foundations and serums are going to harbor more bacteria than brushes used for dry products like powder eyeshadow or blush.
Ideally, you should wash the wet tools once a week, and the tools for dry products once every other week.
And you don’t have to buy a special product to wash them with. Try unscented baby soap - organic if you can. It’ll deeply clean products without introducing potentially comedogenic or irritating skin ingredients to your face.
Frequency: Once a week
Cell phones are absolutely disgusting. Think about it - you take them into the bathroom, you set them down it public places, you pick it up constantly. That means it’s full of oil and gunk, and this can contribute to acne and oiliness on your cheeks, chin, and jawline.
Buy some Wet Ones and make sure that you wipe your phone down at least once a week to prevent that bacteria build-up.
Ok. We all know that products have expiration dates. These usually appear on the bottle itself, though sometimes it may not say. That said, many of us also think that these expiration dates are more guidelines than hard-and-fast rules.
We think eh - it’s expired, but it’s probably still fine.
Well, here are the facts. The reason that these products have expiration dates is that the chemicals inside them start to break down over time. This makes the products less effective - and in something like foundation, it can cause it to not lay evenly on the skin.
This can happen especially quickly with natural or organic products since these have fewer preservatives, so you want to remain vigilant. Here’s a helpful chart to follow just in case your products don’thave expiration dates written.