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Clean or Throw Away Your Makeup: You’re Probably Not Doing it Enough

In Spring of 2024, we surveyed 1,000 people who regularly use cosmetics to better understand their daily habits, makeup preferences, and cleanliness. Included in these results was whether or not users know when to throw away makeup to ensure the health of their skin — let’s just say not everyone is honoring those expiration dates.

It seems folks also hold on to their cosmetics — even after contracting an eye infection like conjunctivitis or a lip cold sore. Thankfully, at least most people regularly clean their makeup bags and brushes. Considering that a little over half of the individuals buy new makeup at least once a month, keeping it clean and knowing when to toss it is vital. Do your habits fall in line with the results of our survey? Read on to find out!

So, How Often Should You Be Cleaning Your Makeup Collection? 

You may not think about cleaning your makeup and brushes as often as your house, but it’s vital to do so regularly. Along with being a magnet for excess product and oil, brushes are also a hotbed for bacteria, which can cause breakouts, blackheads, and rashes. You can also get an eye infection from makeup if improperly cleaned. Word to the wise: Don’t sabotage your skincare routine or health with dirty products and tools.

How Often Do People Actually Do It? 

Before we discuss how often to clean makeup brushes, let’s examine how frequently people actually suds up. 

How Often People Clean Their Brushes

  • The majority of makeup users (36.3%) clean their brushes every week 
  • Over 27% of makeup users do not clean their brushes once a month. 
  • Nearly 30% of makeup users admitted that their makeup tools were more dirty than clean. 
  • 49% of regular makeup users use soap to clean brushes, compared to 43% who use a brush cleaner.
  • 6% of users admit to never cleaning their makeup brushes. 

How Frequently People Toss Out Old Products

  • Only 41% of makeup users honor the expiration dates of their makeup. 
  • Most makeup wearers (58.2%) use their products past expiration dates.
  • Nearly 20% of makeup users are unaware that their makeup has expiration dates. 
  • Over 20% of makeup wearers do not buy new products until they run out of what they need. 
  • 31% of makeup wearers do not throw away their lip or eye products after infection. 

Snapshots into a Makeup Users’ Skincare Routine 

  • Most makeup users (34%) rarely sleep in their makeup.
  • The most commonly used product in a makeup user’s routine is moisturizer (78% of participants.)
  • 34% of makeup users use a lip treatment in their daily skincare routine. 
  • 38% of makeup wearers say they incorporate overnight skin treatment in their daily skincare routine.


Here’s How Often and How to Clean

Along with heightening the risk of a bacterial breakout, infection, or rash, it’s essential to regularly clean your makeup brushes to maintain their performance. Buildup prevents them from evenly spreading liquid and powder products. How often should you replace makeup brushes? If you take care of them, every three to five years — and any time before that if the bristles are falling out. 

Whether you choose synthetic or natural brushes, wash them once a week if you wear cosmetics daily and two weeks max if you’re an occasional makeup wearer. Along with being cruelty-free, another benefit of vegan brushes is that they’re easier to clean and dry faster than their natural counterparts — win-win!

No matter which one you choose, here’s how to clean them correctly. 

Makeup Brushes
Frequency: 1-2 weeks

How to Clean: In our blog post, Makeup Brush Cleaning 101, we created a DIY brush cleaner recipe to maintain the integrity of our vegan brushes. However, it works on natural brush bristles, too! If you’re not feeling crafty, use a brush soap or cleaner formulated for your bristle type. 

  1. Run your brushes under warm water to remove the initial makeup residue. If they’re extra dirty (maybe you skipped a week!), let your brushes soak in a mug of warm water for a few minutes. 
  1. Pour a small amount of brush cleaner and warm water into a mug or glass. Swirl the brush in the solution at a downward angle, being careful not to get water into the handle. Use a sweeping back-and-forth motion for natural brushes and a circular motion for synthetic brushes. Alternatively, use the Thrive Causemetic Brush Hero™ Brush Cleansing Pad for a more thorough cleanse. 
  1. Rinse each brush for the second time with water. Repeat steps two and three until the water runs completely clear from your brush. 
  1. Twirl the brush at a downward angle to remove any additional water, then reshape and lay flat to dry.

Beauty Blenders
Frequency: Ideally, once a week (it’s effortless!), but more realistically, a few times a week, depending on your schedule. 

How to Clean: 

It doesn’t get any easier than beauty blender washing, so no excuses!

Hand wash in gentle soap and water, then rinse and let air dry.

Makeup Bag

Frequency: Once a month for a thorough clean.

How to Clean: 

Outside of the deep clean, spritz with an antibacterial spray weekly to prevent growth on your brushes and cosmetics. 

Place in a laundry bag and wash on the delicate cycle; let air dry. 

So, You’ve Been Cleaning, but When Should You Throw Away Makeup? 

As mentioned, a little over half of the individuals surveyed (50.4%) buy new makeup at least once a month. Perhaps this is because they’re product junkies (no shame in that game) or they’re replacing expired makeup. Since you should be cleaning your makeup bag once a month anyway (though 27% of wearers haven’t done so in the past year), it’s an excellent time to assess what’s in your bag and determine what stays and what goes. 

But How Often Should You Do It? 

When to throw away makeup? The most obvious answer is when it’s expired, and that can vary slightly from brand to brand based on the ingredients the products were formulated with. Other considerations are illness and product packaging. Let’s say you contracted pink eye or another type of eye infection, yet you still kept using your makeup — it’s time to toss that eyeshadow regardless of the date. Or, maybe you had a cold sore — same advice. 

According to our survey, almost a third (31.4%) of makeup wearers do not throw away their lip or eye products after illness or an infection. Perhaps that's because products like mascara were highlighted as the most popular — 65% noted that if they could only keep one item, it would be mascara, so they’re holding on tight. Regarding the 55-plus age group, an impressive 61.9% are willing to prioritize lipstick in their bag more than other products. 

Also, sometimes makeup packaging doesn’t withstand travel or gets bounced around in your makeup bag. If the product becomes exposed, it’s susceptible to bacterial growth and should probably be replaced. 

Here’s a general overview of when to throw away makeup. 

  • Mascara: 6 months 
  • Eyeshadow: 6 months for cream; 24 months for powder
  • Eyeliner: 6 to 9 months 
  • False lashes: Up to 30 wears, depending on the quality
  • Lipsticks and glosses: 18 months
  • Foundation: 12 months for water-based; 18 months for oil-based
  • Concealer: 12 to 18 months 
  • Brushes: 3 to five years 
  • Beauty blenders: 3 to 6 months  

Is Sharing Really Caring? 

Here’s the thing: If you can spread bacteria and infection with your own tools and products on your skin, why would you risk sharing with others? 

Interestingly enough, 70% of those who share makeup with others feel comfortable swapping face products like concealer and foundation. Also, 27% of makeup users who share eye products admit to not throwing out products despite infection. That said, does Mama (or Grandma) know best? 96% of makeup users 55 and over do not share makeup or application tools with other people at all. 

Look, the common denominator here is that there are a lot of us who love cosmetics! Even so, while some makeup users under the age of 25 honor the expiration dates of makeup products, there are also those in older age groups who admit to having never cleaned their makeup bag. The bottom line is to keep your tools clean and replace products when necessary to ensure the health of your skin.  

When you’re ready to restock that makeup bag, Build Your Own Set of products with Thrive! Mix and match your three favorite Thrive Causemetics® makeup and Bigger Than Beauty® Skincare products for 10% off — who couldn’t get on board with that?

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