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Sanitation & How to Avoid Getting Herpes from your Makeup Artist

Pretty disgusting title, right?

But, it’s true. Getting your makeup done by a makeup artist that does not follow standard sanitation procedures can expose you to herpes simplex virus 1 (oral herpes, also known as “cold sores”), conjunctivitis (also known as “pink eye”), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (also known as MRSA) which can cause a antibiotic-resistant staph infection (life threatening), and so much more.

So, what should you look out for when hiring a makeup artist so that your health is protected?

Photo by Janelle Sutton

Here are 5 things your makeup artist MUST be doing before, during, & after your service in order to keep you safe

Wash Used Brushes Before Every Client –

If your makeup artist pulls out a brush stash that looks like yours at home (you know what I’m talking about ladies! Yuck) RUN. Using contaminated brushes is the #1 way that infectious diseases can spread from person to person.

What you should see: Brushes that appear and smell clean, with no stains and no residue left over from previous clients; used brushes being discarded into a “used brush” container and not used again on any other clients.

Proper sanitation procedure: In preparation for your appointment, your makeup artist should have washed every brush with soap & water (while wearing gloves! I recommend these from amazon), wiped down brush handles with Barbicide wipes, sprayed the cleaned bristles with 70% isopropyl alcohol, and allowed the brushes to air dry overnight covered with a towel.

Photo by Amy Allmand

Use Disposables –

Some cosmetics are difficult to apply or blend with a brush, so some makeup artists opt to use different application methods for products such as mascara, lip gloss, and creamy products. However, those implements should be used and tossed immediately after application.

*Also, although there has been some debate about this in the community, the FDA says that the popular BeautyBlender sponge cannot be sanitized properly between clients and should either not be used, or gifted to the client/thrown away after use.

What you should see: Sponges, Mascara wands, and lipgloss applicators that are pulled out fresh for you and thrown away after touching your skin/hair. A fresh wand (mascara & lipgloss) should be used for every “dip” into the product tube.

Proper sanitation procedure: Your makeup artist should have multiple clean, new disposable mascara wands, lipgloss wands, and makeup sponges enclosed in a container (bag or box). These tools are “one time use only,” and once used on the client’s skin or hair, they must be thrown away immediately and not reused or dipped into the product container again.

Photo by Zach Harrison Photography

Dispense Creams & Liquids From the Original Container –

Once a brush or tool has touched your face, that same tool cannot touch the rest of the product in the container. Because of this, cream & liquid products should be dispensed out of the product container first before using during the makeup application. MUAs go about this in many different ways, but the main idea is that creams & liquids cannot be sanitized once contaminated. Bacteria thrives in a moist environment.

What you should see: Your MUA should dispense liquids, gels, and creams onto a metal or glass palette or the back of their (gloved or properly sanitized) hand before using a brush or other implement to apply to your face. For creams or gels (such as concealer, eye cream, eyeliner, etc), a metal spatula should be used to scrape out the product onto the palette for mixing and then application.

Proper sanitation procedure: Your makeup artist should have a glass or metal palette in their kit that has been sanitized with 70% isopropyl alcohol and allowed to dry before using. Alternatively, your makeup artist will use the back of their hand as a palette — if the back of the hand is used, the hand should either be gloved with a latex-free disposable glove that is discarded after each client OR sanitized with soap & water AND 70% isopropyl alcohol after every client. Liquid products should be pumped out onto the palette before using, and creams & gels should be scooped out of the original container onto the palette using a sanitized metal spatula.

Pencils Sharpened and Sprayed with Alcohol –

Wood is porous and can harbor bacteria just as easily as creamy products, so if a makeup artist is using a pencil directly on your lips or eyes, there is definitely a procedure to be followed to keep you safe.

What you should see: A freshly sharpened pencil that looks unused and does not have a “blunt” point (sign of use!)

Proper sanitation procedure: Your makeup artist should wipe down their pencil sharpener with a tissue and spray with 70% isopropyl alcohol and allow to air dry. Using a sanitized pencil sharpener, they will sharpen the used pencil, spray the tip with 70% isopropyl alcohol, wipe with a tissue, and then sharpen again.

Photo by Ava Vinneau

Clean Hands –

This should go without saying, but hands are NASTY and have the potential of harboring harmful bacteria due to all of the things we touch throughout the day. Clean hands limit the ability to spread bacteria during your makeup service:

What you should see: Your makeup artist either washing their hands prior to your service, or using new disposable latex-free gloves.

Proper sanitation procedure: If your makeup artist chooses to work with bare hands, immediately before starting your makeup service, he/she must wash them with soap and water, dry with a clean towel or paper towel, and spray them with 70% isopropyl alcohol and allow to dry. Alternatively, if disposable gloves are worn, they must be replaced and disposed of in between clients and/or after touching other items during the service such as a phone, unsanitary work space/table, etc.

Some other things to be aware of are: Avoiding using brushes that have dropped on the floor, avoiding blowing on brushes (or your face!), spraying down powder palettes with a powder sanitizer (such as BeautySoClean), have multiple sanitized sets of brushes if working with multiple people in a day, avoiding felt tip liner products or built-in sponge applicator products, using a clean station mat (my favorite is doggie training pads!)

Listen, I know it’s a crazy world out there, and there are a TON of makeup artists. Lots of them do amazing work!

But, please. Do your research before hiring an MUA for your important event because the last thing you want is a virus that will be with you the rest of your life. Yes, it’s that serious. Hire a professional that does all of the above, and you will be in good shape!

Madison Dennis is a full time working makeup artist based in Nashville, TN. If you are in need of a makeup artist in the Nashville area, visit and inquire with her about your event!



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