8 Gross Things That Happen If You Don't Clean Your Makeup Brushes & Sponges

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Make-up brushes backstage prior to the Matthew Miller show on day 2 of London Collections: Men Autumn Winter 2015 at Victoria House on January 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)
Source: Nicky J Sims/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

All of your holy grail skin care products mean nothing if you're just going to slap makeup on your face with brushes hoarding weeks worth of foundation and eyeshadow. I hate to be a downer, but dirty makeup brushes and sponges can make gross things happen to good people. Just as you're keen on washing your face regularly (hopefully), your makeup tools should receive the same attention. 

You may be thinking, "It's not like I pile on products every day. Surely I don't have to be anal about washing my brushes all of the time". Errnnntt, wrong answer! I hate to break it to you, but your latest, recurring breakout may have those dirty brushes and sponges to blame. Considering most women clean their brushes less than once a month, you're not alone if this hypothetical hits a little too close to home. Not cleaning your tools is the ultimate sin you don't want to add to the list of mistakes you're making with your makeup brushes.

Still feeling unmotivated to give your grimy tools the five-star treatment?  These eight gross things that happen when you neglect your makeup brushes and beauty blenders will light a fire under your tush. 

1. Bacteria Buildup

It's simple. When you don't wash your brushes, they can accumulate bacteria, dust, and dirt. Artis Brush Founder and Former MAC Senior Executive Matthew Waitesmith tells me over email that you reapply the microbes that live on your skin each time you use your unwashed makeup brushes. "The problems can come when the brush you are using provides a moist, warm environment and becomes a petri dish that help the microbes breed faster in the hairs of the brush," says Waitesmith. These microbe colonies can then get out of hand. Allowing dirty brushes to become breeding grounds for yucky bacteria sounds pretty blech to me. If that's not enough to make you wash your tools, there are grosser things to come. 

2. Breakouts

IMO, the most important thing to take away from this lesson is that dirty brushes and sponges can lead to breakouts. Remember that whole brushes becoming a petri dish scenario we just discussed? Swiping a dirt and bacteria-infested brush all over your face can cause an overload of microbes that your skin isn't used to handling. According to Waitesmith, "That can trigger your skin to try and control the overloaded layer by reacting to it with a rash, or blistering, or skin eruptions." Yes, my friends, that means breakouts galore! If you're noticing bumps popping up in the same spots that you use your brushes and sponges, it's time to reevaluate your cleanliness. 

3. Skin Irritation

Our skin reacts to oil and dirt build-up in many ways. Just as an overload of bacteria can trigger breakouts, it can cause your skin to become irritated. Cleaning your brushes regularly will also keep your brush fibers soft, so you won't have to go to town on your face when applying your makeup. The gunkier your brush, the stiffer the bristles become. It shouldn't feel like you're scraping your face with a brillo pad when applying your makeup. 

4. Clogged Pores

You probably saw this one coming. Weeks old makeup that's been settling in your dirty brushes and sponges can clog your pores and oil glands. And, as you probably know, clogged pores may lead to breakouts. As long as your brushes go uncleaned, you'll just be spreading dirt from your face, into your makeup, and back to your face again. 

5. Viral Infections

It gets worse! Dirty makeup brushes can lead to viral infections. Reapplying your own dirt and oils with your filthy brushes already upsets your skin. Sharing cosmetics and brushes with others opens up a bigger, grosser can of worms. "Sharing your brush with anyone else complicates the issue by introducing their normal microbes onto your skin, which may not tolerate the "foreign" microbes well, causing a reaction," says Waitesmith. This reaction can be as small as a breakout or as intense as catching an infection like pink eye or herpes. Yikes to the tenth power!

6. Creepy Infestations

Ewww alert! If you thought breakouts were bad, you're not prepared to handle attracting bugs to your dirty brushes and sponges. Before dismissing the possibility of this happening, cue up Stevie Miller's 2015 viral video showing her bug infested makeup sponge. Enough said. 

7. Muddy Makeup Application

Maybe you're not scared of a little viral infection. In that case, know that dirty brushes will affect the performance of your tools. It's already a struggle enough trying to blend out shadows or perfect a Kim K contour. Grimy brushes complicate matters even more by making the application of certain makeup streaky or uneven. "The user will have to work harder, and take more strokes of the brush against the skin in an attempt to try and get the application to be even and uniform," says Waitesmith. If you didn't sign up to spend an extra 20 minutes in the bathroom smoothing out your makeup, I suggest you give those brushes a bath. 

8. Damaged Brushes

At the end of the day, makeup brushes and sponges are an investment. Nothing is more disgusting than throwing your money down the drain when you don't take care of your tools. According to Waitesmith, "The hairs are more prone to clumping together or losing their shape because of the accumulation of excess makeup, dirt, or other debris." Protect your investment by cleaning them at least once a week. Waitesmith suggests using brush cleansers that don't substitute sanitizer for alcohol, an ingredient that can break down animal hairs and won't disinfect synthetic fibers enough. 

Don't have a meltdown yet if you're a little tardy to the brush washing party. Now that you've been warned, get to cleaning your brushes and beauty blenders

Images: Pexels (4); Manu Camargo/Unsplash

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