Makeup Sponges Contain the Most Bacteria in Your Beauty Bag

Makeup Sponge

Germaphobes, look away.

Sponges, makeup brushes and beauty products are a breeding ground for bacteria, which makes sense considering how often they are used.

But, what you might not realise, is just how much bacteria lurked on them, until now.

British scientists at Aston University tested 467 makeup products that they collected via donations from social media. They measured the bacteria levels on everything from mascara to lipstick, foundation and sponges, according to The Cut

The results were slightly stomach churning. 

Roughly 79 to 90 percent of all used products were contaminated with bacterial loads, which included staphylococcus, salmonella, E. coli and a handful of others. 

The biggest bacteria breeding ground was the makeup sponge. According to research, 93 percent of “beauty blenders” had not been cleaned, while 64 percent had been dropped on the floor but people continued to use them. Eek!


Can your makeup make you sick?

According to Forbes, the risk of contracting an infection from something like a beauty product can be high for those who already have compromised immune systems. This risk is especially high if you’re using contaminated brushes on broken skin.

But in general, the research on whether it can make a healthy person sick is pretty lacking. 

One thing that dirty brushes and sponges can do is transfer acne-causing bacteria to your face or transmit nasty bacteria into sensitive areas like your eyes.

How often should you clean your makeup brushes and sponges?

The consensus on how often to wash your brushes is pretty mixed. Some experts recommend once a week, while others say to clean after every use. As long as you’re giving them a good wash every two to four weeks, they should be perfectly fine.

When it comes to cleaning products, the Sephora Collection Daily Makeup Brush Cleaner is great to use for a quick clean when you’re low on time, while Beautyblender’s Liquid BlenderCleanser will give your brushes and sponges a deep clean so it’s perfect for your more thorough wash.

How long should you keep makeup products for?

Most beauty products have a Period After Opening number on the bottom or side of their packaging. The PAO symbol usually features a number within a triangle symbol and this tells you how many months the product should last after it has been opened. So, if a product says ’12M’, it can be used for 12 months after it was first opened.


Throw out after: three months to six months

It’s best to regularly change your makeup sponge to avoid transferring germs from the sponge to your face. When you do use your sponge, allow it to dry completely between uses so it doesn’t get moldy and encourage bacteria to grow.

Makeup brushes

Throw out after: one to five years

Brushes have the longest lifespan when it comes to makeup products and there’s no strict rule about when exactly you need to ditch the brush as it comes down to the quality. It’s time to buy a new brush when your current one starts to shed bristles and no longer deposits product evenly.


Throw out after: one year

You’ll know when your liquid foundation is off as the consistency, smell and texture will begin to change. Power foundations don’t contain oil so they generally last a little longer.


Throw out after: three months

Mascara is arguably the most important product to replace regularly as it can easily lead to eye infections if bacteria is present. You can generally tell when mascara needs to be chucked as it becomes clumpy. Try to avoid pumping the wand as it traps bacteria and air in the tube while also drying the product out.


Throw out after: one to two years

Powder shadows usually last around two years and they usually become crumbly when it’s time to ditch them. Cream eyeshadows last about a year and can start to smell funny when they’ve turned. It’s important to use clean eyeshadow brushes when applying to avoid bacteria being transferred onto your eyes or into your eyeshadow palette.


Throw out after: one to two years

Powder blushes don’t contain any oil or water so they’ll generally last about two years. If the power begins to crack and crumble it’s probably time to say goodbye. Cream blushes are good for about a year. When the oil in the blush begins to separate, it’s time for a new one!


Throw out after: one year (ish)

Concealers can last well over a year if you keep them well sealed. This will prevent them from drying out and lessen the chance of bacteria entering the tube. Always use clean fingers or brushes when applying concealer from a pot to avoid cross contamination.

Lipstick and lipgloss

Throw out after: six months to one year

Lipgloss products should be replaced roughly every six months as they are an easy breeding ground for germs due to the constant double dipping. Regular lippies can last around a year. You can tell they are deteriorating when the texture changes and it feels bitsy on your lips. If any lip products come into contact with cold sores, chuck them in the bin straight away.