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Shocking images reveal the most dangerous brushes in your make

Feb 24, 2024

MANY of us will have a mottled, brown beauty sponge sitting at the bottom of our makeup case, or a blush brush that's gone a while without a wash.

Despite health experts warning that unwashed beauty tools can become breeding grounds for bacteria, we still apply them to our skin.

In many cases, these grimy tools can lead to skin irritation, breakouts and other skin conditions.

You probably know this on an unconscious level, but new pictures capturing the grime and grease on your makeup tools will never allow you to push that thought to the back of your mind again.

Working with professional macro photographer, Matthew Doogue, BEAUTY PIE has released a series of shocking images that show the hidden grime and residue that lurks on the surface of skincare and makeup tools if you don’t wash them regularly.

The images cast into sharp focus how old makeup, hairs, grease and dirt gets lodged in the fibres and on the surface of tools like facecloths, makeup brushes and facial rollers.

And according to microbiologist Dr Joe Latimer, a build-up of dirt and bacteria on beauty tools can worsen skin conditions.

Matt partnered with BEAUTY PIE after new research it conducted showed that one in six UK skincare users (17 per cent) had NEVER cleaned their skincare and makeup tools.

To create the horrifying images, the photographer used a mirrorless camera - a macro lens - and magnified them up to ten times.

The resulting pictures might make your stomach turn.

A close-up image of a foundation brush showed the bristles encrusted with years-old makeup residue and oil, a result of continually applying new products without cleaning the bristles regularly.

And each strand of the eye-shadow brush glistened with tiny specks of glitter, as well as particles of dust from not being stored appropriately.

Meanwhile, the image of a beauty sponge showed how its porous texture allowed stains to become deeply embeded.

Matt also produced zoomed out images of the tools for contrast. While a facial roller looked pristine from a regular distance, a close up revealed orangey stains.

A Gua Sha tool got the same treatment, with zoomed in images showing a slimy surface with built-up residue and dirty fibres - likely a result of being used with different products from serums to facial oils and again, not cleaned afterwards.

Matt’s picture of a face cloth and skincare headband will make you want to throw yours in the wash immediately.

Even skincare bottles weren’t exempt from dirt and grime - though they may look clean to the human eye, the photographer’s images showed they can be saturated with grease, dirt and various fibres.

Think about how often you pick those up to pump product out, before putting your fingers to your face.

The research conducted by BEAUTY PIE - which asked 1,000 UK active skincare users about how often they wash everyday beauty items - backed Matt’s images up.

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of respondents admitted to never cleaning their face ice globes and facial toning and sculpting devices, with these tools taking the prize of least cleaned.

And two in three (68 per cent) people who use fake tan mitts admitted they have never ever washed them after using them, instead choosing to apply new fake tan on top of the old dry layer on the mitt each time.

More than half (53 per cent) beauty blender users said they hadn’t cleaned their makeup tool and 45 per cent say they haven’t cleaned their foundation brush either.

Thankfully, some people do clean their tweezers, with only 33 per cent saying they never give them a scrub.

Dr Joe Latimer, a professional microbiologist and lecturer in antimicrobial resistance from the University of Salford, explained why you need to be giving your tools a wash regularly.

He said: “Our skin is an ecosystem with a myriad of bacteria, fungi and viruses living together, and most of the time, our skin keeps the balance of these bacterial species in check.

“Our bacteria help to keep our skin healthy and protect us from infection, but if numbers become too high, we can end up with problems like acne, atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, or wound infections.”

And unfortunatley, tools we touch on a regular basis can become hubs for bacteria.

Dr Latimer explained: “Every time we touch our skin with beauty tools like makeup brushes, face cloths or facial rollers, we transfer some of our bacteria onto the tools. Over time, bacteria, dead skin tissue and old skincare and makeup product will build up on tools and this will allow bacteria to multiply.

“So, when we use the tools again, we transfer many thousands of these microbes back onto our skin. To make it worse, bacteria love warmth and moisture. This means that if we store our cloths and brushes in a damp environment, more bacteria will grow.”

By cleaning your stuff, you’re removing “their food, water, and heat so they can't grow”, stopping the germs from reaching unhealthy levels.

You should also make sure to store them somewhere nice and dry, the microbiologist added, to “restore the happy balance between you and your bacteria without risking any annoying spots or rashes”. To learn more about how to properly clean and store your skincare and makeup tools to prevent a build-up of bacteria, dirt, dust and grime, read the BEAUTY PIE Skincare Cleaning Guide.

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