Warning: Graphic Studies of Makeup Brush Bacteria


bigstock-hand-in-blue-glove-holds-petri-26166503Most women simply do not clean their makeup brushes. On a routine basis. Or at all.

Even the experts over at Vogue know it. In an article titled “The Dirty Truth,” brush experts said they know women aren’t cleaning their brushes. Although Manhattan dermatologist Julie Karen, M.D., told the magazine there are plenty of reasons women should be doing it: “Makeup brushes can accumulate bacteria, dust, and dirt, all of which permit the growth of further bacteria, which can aggravate underlying skin conditions like acne.”

Beauty bloggers and scientists at several blogs have demonstrated just how gross makeup brushes can be in controlled petri-dish experiments after swabbing their brushes. The findings are eye-opening, especially for women who spend gobs of money on skin care, only to rub a filthy, bacteria-filled brush on their face.

Over at the Brightest Bulb in the Box blog, Robyn demonstrated how much bacteria can be found on a brush that she already cleans once a week, as well as a recently washed brush. Earlier this year, she swabbed her brush before and after cleaning and watched the bacteria colonies grow in what she labeled “a horror story.”

This is hardly the first time this study has been done. Last year, Lizzie over at Makeup Utopia did a similar experiment, with similarly disgusting results. That article comes with this warning: “This article is ‘graphic’ if you don’t want to be shocked into changing your actions, I recommend you stop reading now.”

One of the more fascinating parts of these studies is how much bacteria Robyn found on her brushes after she washed them.


This “Redness Remedy” kit includes an “antibacterial-treated soothing compress brush.” $27. Nordstrom.

To try and help us filthy non-brush-cleaners out there, several makeup brush manufacturers are peddling brushes they say are “antibacterial.” While that doesn’t mean the brushes won’t ever have bacteria on them, it does mean that the brush hair is probably synthetic and, unlike natural hair brushes, won’t provide any organic matter on which bacteria can breed.

But it also could mean more than that. There are new treatments being applied to brush hairs, as well as materials being infused into synthetic brush hair fibers, that could actively fight bacteria. Ionic silver, already used in the medical industry for this purpose, is one example. Manufacturers say it can actually combat bacteria on the brush.

According to Wikipedia, the silver ion (Ag+) is bioactive and in sufficient concentration readily kills bacteria in vitro. Consequently, silver and silver nanoparticles are used as an antimicrobial in a variety of industrial, healthcare and domestic applications.[33]

Among the growing list of brands who boast antibacterial makeup brushes:

Other related posts on the acne-inducing consequences of bacteria on your brushes: