Start Fresh, Start Clean: Know How To Clean Your Beauty Tools and When To Toss Old Product


New Year’s Resolutions are a mixed bag: last year I pledged to streamline my Starbucks habit (have you ever added up 350 days worth of giant lattes – that sum buys several pairs of shoes) and I did it…I just switched from latte to iced tea mixed with lemonade. For 2007 I am committing to Pilates five times each week. We all have these great intentions but some resolutions are easier to keep than others.

By putting your brushes and cosmetics on a timetable, you’ll extend the life of your tools and ensure the healthiest, best-looking skin. Read on for tips to help keep these resolutions for 2007.

What did we do before makeup brushes? I had some sponges that were the textbook definition of “recycled.” Yikes. Brushes make a world of difference and to maintain them and ensure optimal skin health, we need to clean them. 


If you use a foundation brush and/or a concealer brush, you should clean those after each use. Bacteria thrive in warm, wet environments and for those with active acne, a brush that moves liquids around the face can be a contamination culprit. Synthetic bristles need a thorough cleaning. For every day cleaning, try Sephora Make Up Brush Cleansing Wipes (ideal for travel) or Japonesque Professional Brush Cleaner (dries quickly).

A good habit to embrace is to “refresh” your powder brushes after each use. Take the brush and run it back and forth over a pile of dense, lotion-free tissues or, as I do, a few folded paper towels. This will free any built-up pigment so your shadow, blush and bronzer always appear true-to-color on your face.


Once a week, brushes need a deep cleaning. I like to use Paula Dorf Brush Out Bath, a gentle shampoo that contains aloe vera gel and chamomile extract. 

I’ve made this my Saturday afternoon homework, so I know they’ll be dry by Monday morning.  This is my ritual:
–         Wet the brush bristles with tepid water

–         Squeeze brush shampoo/facial cleanser/gentle shampoo into the palm of the hand and swirl the brush in the palm

–         Always work the brush with the bristles pointing downward – water needs to stay out of the brush handle

–         Rinse the bristles thoroughly under running water – avoid submerging them or soaking them

–         Rinse until no color comes out of the brush

–         Reshape the bristles so they dry in their original shape – if they dry splayed out they will be harder to use

–         Rest the brush on the edge of the sink or tub so the water can drip off  – lay the brushes flat as opposed to standing them up – water will dissolve the glue and erode the wood handle
If you aren’t able to do this once a week, two weeks is the longest you should go between brush cleanings.

Another resolution that challenges many of us to keep is to keep our cosmetics collections updated and fresh. By fresh I don’t mean the current colors of the moment but fresh as in unexpired. People ask me on a regular basis, “How do I know when I should throw away my perfume/mascara/lipstick?” The answer is, it depends.

For example, last week I found a long-forgotten perfume oil, unopened, in its original box. I thought I’d unearthed a treasure because the manufacturer stopped making it. And when I opened it to sniff, it smelled so bad and the color was so dark that I knew it was past its prime. I’d bought it less than a year ago.

Few things brighten one’s face like a radiant complexion or a wide eye. Nothing mars that fresh face like an allergic reaction or rheumy eye.  Liquid and cream foundations are usually good for a year or so; ones with sunscreen may have expiration dates on the package. I aim to finish a tube of mascara within two months and if it’s been three, I pitch it. While you may be attached to your favorite lash booster, each time you open it, apply it, and close it, you accelerate its expiration. There are many terrific mascaras for under $20 if you want to minimize your financial investment but not your beauty one. (Tarte and Stila are just two brands that make awesome under-$20 mascaras.)

Below you’ll find a handy chart you can print and clip for your bulletin board or makeup kit – this is not an exact science and you should always be mindful of changes in smell, taste, and texture. While these guidelines may seem strict, note that if you’re using a product every day, besides exposing it to air and your skin/hair, you’re using it up at a steady pace. Replacing it will not be that difficult.



Mascara 6 weeks to 3 months max.
Lipstick 2 years
Lip Gloss 3 months to 1 year
Pressed Powder 18 months to 2 years
Cream/Liquid Foundation 1 year
Eye Shadow Powder: 18 months to 2 years; Cream: 12 to 18 months
Fragrance About 1 year (when kept in a cool, dark place)

The products mentioned above are available in Sephora stores or on; you can purchase Japonesque Professional Brush Cleaner at and Paula Dorf Brush Out Bath from
Feel free to email me with any questions or product inquiries at [email protected].

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