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Hygienic Working Practices in Makeup

Makeup hygiene

Here’s our guide to how good hygiene and working practices can help keep you and your clients safe from infection. Preventing cross-infection in makeup is not difficult. Just follow some simple makeup hygiene rules, and have an understanding of the skin, scalp and eye conditions you may come across when working in the beauty industries. 

Good working practices and working hygienically can substantially reduce the risk of cross-infection and help prevent the contamination of your makeup.

Sadly, not everybody working in the makeup industry works to a high standard. Things like dirty brushes, unwashed hands, double-dipping, and general lack of good working practices are rife.

Subsequently, poor makeup hygiene and contaminated cosmetic products can cause infectious conditions like conjunctivitis and sties. 

In conclusion, providing an unsafe service puts your clients and your career at risk.

Identifying Common Infectious Conditions

Bacterial Infectious Conditions

  • Conjunctivitis – also known as pink eye. This is inflammation of the conjunctiva – the outermost layer of the eye and inner surface of the eyelids. The infection can cause a red and watery eye with sticky secretions. It is most commonly caused by a viral or bacterial infection, but can also be triggered by an allergic reaction, for example, hay fever or cosmetic ingredients.
  • Impetigo – a highly-contagious bacterial infection of the skin, more commonly seen in school children and those who play contact sports. It causes dry, honey-coloured crusty spots with reddened patches. It is often found on the face, arms, or legs. Caused by Staphylococcus aureus and sometimes by Streptococcus pyogenes.
  • Stye – also known as a hordeolum. A stye is caused by the infection of a sebaceous gland at the base of the eyelash follicle. This results in a painful red swelling that develops on the inside or outside of the eyelid. It is usually caused by staphylococci bacteria, though a blocked oil gland can also trigger it. Chronic blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) may increase the risk of a stye.
Bacterial infections and makeup hygiene
(L to R) Infectious conditions caused by bacteria - conjunctivitis, impetigo and a stye on the eyelid.

Fungal Infectious Conditions

  • Ringworm – a fungal infection that can affect the skin, scalp, or nails. Athlete’s Foot, for instance, is ringworm that affects the feet. Ringworm creates circular areas of dull rough skin surrounded by raised red rings.

Parasitic Infectious Conditions

  • Head Lice – infestation can be in egg form (known as nits) or as adult lice. Nits attach to the hair shaft and appear as creamy-white dots in the hair. Usually spread by head-to-head contact, which is why infestation at school happens easily, as children play in close contact. However, it is easily treated and the lice can be killed quickly with products from the chemist.
  • Scabies – a rash caused by an allergic reaction to the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei. Often appears in skin folds, like the midriff, and on the inside of the thighs. Looks like a series of dry spotty bites. Can be spread via close contact.
Makeup hygiene
(L to R) Fungal infection of ringworm; parasitic head lice infestation; and scabies caused by a parasitic mite.

Viral Infectious Conditions

  • Herpes Simplex – cold sores are small blister-like lesions that usually appear around the mouth. The herpes simplex viruses causes cold sores and they are highly contagious. Infection is passed from person to person by close direct contact.

Common Non-infectious Conditions

Non-infectious conditions include dermatitispsoriasisvitiligoacne, and alopecia

However, to ensure the client’s comfort and dignity, special care and discretion should be used when carrying out hair and makeup application.

Good Working Practices

Simple steps can be taken to avoid the spread of infection. Good hygiene also reduces the chance of micro-organisms being passed between skin, makeup and tools.

Before a Makeup Begins

  • Check makeup is still OK to use. Don’t use makeup beyond its shelf life. Basically, if it smells or looks funny throw it away. Understand how long a product can be used for, once it’s been opened. At the same time, know how to store products correctly.
  • Clean and prepare thoroughly. Before any makeup begins, clean and disinfect your work area and tools. Put down clean towels or couch roll on the work surface. Dispose of rubbish and put out a clean bin receptacle.
  • Wash and dry your hands properly. Both before and after working on a client. Let the client see you washing your hands, as they like to know you work hygienically. It is equally important to dry your hands properly, as damp hands spread germs. Wet wipes and hand sanitiser are handy to have on set, especially if hand washing facilities are scarce.
  • Ask clients if they have any allergies or sensitivities. Of course, there is no guarantee they won’t react to something, but you can eliminate any triggers they know about. For substances that are known to cause issues, always do a skin compatibility test patch.

During a Makeup

  • Be extra careful when a client has a skin, eye, or mouth infection. Only use disposable (single-use) makeup applicators and disposed of them immediately after use. Don’t double-dip. After this client is finished, wash your hands and use a hand sanitiser before seeing another client or touching your face.
  • Avoid sharing makeup. For one-off clients, use a clean implement (for example, a spatula or brush) to remove a tiny amount of product. For a long-term client (like on a TV series), use individual containers or makeup items bought just for them.
  • Don’t double-dip. Double-dipping means going from a product to the skin and back into the product. However, it is easy to avoid. For instance, use disposable applicators or a spatula to remove a small amount of product for use. It amazes us how many makeup artists we see double-dipping, like using a mascara wand on lots of people.
Disposable tools with eco-friendly handles. Useful for crowd work, using on someone with an infectious skin condition and for products like mascara and lipgloss.
  • Do not blow on your brushes or makeup. This blows spit and germs all over them. How’d you like the waiter to blow on your food as he plonks it down in front of you?!
  • Use disposable sponges and clean powder puffs for each client. For crowd work, inexpensive bath sponges are great – tear it into small pieces and use a fresh bit on each person. It is noticed and appreciated – we’ve had many comments from background artists on our good standard of hygiene. No one wants a used sponge on their face!
  • Do not share towels. Use clean individual towels. Would you want to use a towel that someone has wiped their face or hands on? Nope – and neither do your clients!

After You Have Finished

  • Sharpen pencils after use. Dip the pencil tip in IPA and sharpen it before putting the lid back on. This keeps the lid clean and preps it ready for use. Likewise, it means you don’t have to fiddle with sharpeners in the middle of a makeup.
  • Clean and disinfect makeup products. Wipe clean and disinfect all makeup items used. Luckily, there are specialist products available designed to kill most of the bacteria that can be found on makeup. The spray products can be used on all tools and makeup (including creams, powders and pencils). Sprays are also great for pressed powder products like eyeshadows and blushers.
  • Clean and sterilise all brushes and tools after use. Clean all tools before putting them away or using them again. Use the appropriate product. For example, use Barbicide on hairdressing tools. Use isopropyl alcohol (IPA) to disinfect makeup brushes and metal tools (like scissors and tweezers). It is prudent to give everything a quick clean before putting it away, even if it hasn’t been used directly.
  • Sweep up hair cuttings and remove the rubbish. Cut hair is very slippery underfoot. It is also simply good practice to clean up after a haircut. Dispose of all rubbish appropriately.

Find Out More


Society for Applied Microbiology. Article: Is hand washing enough to stop the spread of disease? (07 September 2010)

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Makeup hygiene