10 Gross Things That Can Happen When You Don’t Wash Your Makeup Tools

Updated: Mar. 05, 2021

Letting makeup build up on your beauty tools has some seriously nasty consequences.


Bacteria growth

Your makeup tools get moved from your makeup bag, into your beauty products, onto your face, and then sometimes sit on your vanity or bathroom counter. They come into contact with so many different surfaces that they’re bound to encounter some bacteria too. A study at Loyola Marymount University found that after one month, uncleaned makeup brushes held more bacteria than researchers were even able to measure. You should make sure that you wash your brushes at least once a week or maybe even spot clean them each day between uses. These are other everyday items you don’t wash nearly enough.

iStock/Stephan Zabel

Spotty application

When you upgrade from drugstore makeup sponges to a nice set of beauty brushes and other tools, you get a much more flawless finish. However, if they’re covered in weeks’ worth of pigments and powders, your makeup is just going to look muddy and unfinished. If you’re having a hard time blending, it could be because your brushes aren’t clean. These makeup mistakes can age your face.


Damaged brushes

Build-up on your makeup brushes can cause the fibers to break and the bristles to weaken, making it even harder to apply your makeup properly. These makeup mistakes make your face look all sloppy.



The eventual damage caused to your brushes can start to harden the bristles and change their form. Without the original soft texture of your brushes and sponges, continued use of these tools could cause some redness and irritation to your skin—which you’ll only want to cover up with even more makeup. Learn how to clean your makeup brushes with this handy guide.


Breakouts and clogged pores

Consistently using dirty makeup tools and putting them back into your products can cause a seriously vicious cycle. Your dirty makeup tools introduce bacteria into your products and even after you’ve cleaned the brushes, you’re putting that bacteria right back onto your face when you dip into your favorite cream or gel product. If you’ve noticed an increase in blemishes, it could be because your brushes aren’t being cleaned often enough. This can also cause clogged pores and uneven texture on the skin. Try these home remedies for acne to clear things up quickly.


Pulled-out lashes

Cleaning your eyelash curler is essential to making sure that you get nicely curled, fluttery lashes. If it’s caked in old mascara and you continue to use it, you’ll have clumpy lashes and even risk losing a few because they’ll stick to the old product. Let it soak in warm water to make wiping away the gunk a breeze.



One of the many causes of conjunctivitis is sharing beauty products. You can never be certain how clean someone else’s liner brush is, so err on the side of using your own freshly sanitized tools.


Staph infection

In addition to breakout-causing germs, your brushes can pick up some dangerous bacteria like E.coli and Staphylococcus as well as various fungi, according to Debbie Palmer, MD, dermatologist and co-founder of Dermatology Associates of New York. These bacteria could make you seriously sick and could even be life threatening. Before you assume it could never happen to you, consider the woman who ended up in a wheelchair after contracting a staph infection from using a friend’s makeup brush.



Stressed-out skin that’s constantly coming into contact with bacteria is going to start to show signs of wear. When your skin is stressed collagen and elastin start to breakdown at a much faster rate, causing your skin to lose its plump, youthful appearance. You could end up with premature wrinkles as a result of constantly using dirty brushes. These are other secrets to looking younger that dermatologists won’t tell you for free.


Wasted money

You probably put a decent amount of money into getting your first brush set, but it’s all a total waste, if you choose not to take care of them. If the threat of pimples or a deadly infection isn’t enough to convince you to spot clean your kabuki brush or give your eyelash curler a good scrub, just think about your wallet.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest