Thursday, September 23, 2010

HYGIENE on set.. is it REALLY necessary?

In a word YES it is.
I know it's a pain, but there is just no way around it, it has to be done.

With this post I aim to explain what proper hygiene is and I'll try and help you on your way to a work routine that is both safe and easy to adopt. All it takes is a little discipline, but trust me, once you are aware of the health risks that your model (and you) are exposed to, you will be happy to put in the effort. I felt the need to post this because I see a lot of mua's kits that are just beyond nasty. Not cleaned, disinfected, with dirty brushes that are used on everyone, sponges that are never even washed. If anyone were to do makeup on ME with that nasty mess, I would not
walk out, I would RUN. Like I did in beauty school when a fellow classmate put his eyeliner brush in his mouth to make a nice pointed tip and proceeded to do my eyeliner. WTF. 20 years later, I'm still flabbergasted he didn't even blink when I called him on that. Am I a germaphobe? Maybe so. I really don't care if I am, I just know what works for me and the people I work with. Better safe than sorry.

Now I'm not talking about your own every day makeup routine, you already know to wash your brushes regularly and replace sponges and puffs on a regular basis also. Of course you know better than to use your own brushes and makeup on anyone else but you ;)

If you are a makeup artist you will work on different people every day, and all of those people carry germs and viruses that can potentially harm you and the next person in your chair.
You may not be able to tell from the outside, they may not know it themselves, and even if they do, they may choose not to tell you for any number of reasons, so you need to protect yourself and your clients by keeping your kit and your tools sanitary at all times. I cannot count the number of times a client has commented on how clean my kit is, and how much they appreciate the safe feeling they get from the way I work. Which is one of the reasons they ask for me again the next time they need a makeup artist.

So here are The basics for working hygenically (quoted from David Klasfeld, owner of O.C.C. Makeup, who broke it down way better than I ever could have done myself).

NOTE: "Alcohol" refers to 70% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol, unless otherwise noted.
Sanitizing Lipstick, Concealer & Other Creme Products

Dip in, or spray with, Alcohol (91% is preferable), and then wipe completely with a clean tissue, presenting a "virgin" surface to work from. You can then remove a small piece of the product and work from a sanitary surface, or work directly from the tube or palette. In the case of cream concealers and foundations where blending is expected, use of a mixing palette is preferred by most professionals.
IMPORTANT: This is a two part process, and wiping is equally important. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn't completely kill all germs and viruses that may be present on the product. What it does help to do is remove the outer layer of the lipsproduct where most of them are. Because the base of most creme products is usually Carnauba or similar waxes, most of the things you're looking to kill are only on the surface.Sanitizing Pencils:
Prior to using, remove any residue from the sharpener, and then clean the blade and inner chamber with Alcohol (99% is preferable). Dip pencil in, or spray with, Alcohol, and then sharpen. Before applying pencil, dip in or spray with Alcohol to prevent cross contamination from residue in the sharpener. Allow to dry before using on skin.
Sanitizing Pressed Powders (Includes Eyeshadow, Blush, etc.):
Wipe surface thoroughly with a clean tissue prior to touching with brush or any other applicator. Repeat prior to touching the product as necessary. Spraying with alcohol doesn't hurt in terms of sanitary precautions, but can ruin the product over time.
Working Hygienically With Loose Powders (Include Pigments, etc.):
Dispense onto mixing palette or other clean surface (like a tissue) using spatula or other sanitary tool.
Working Hygienically With Mascaras & Liquid Liners:
Use a clean disposable applicator (aka "Spoolies" for mascara, etc.) and do not double dip. Dip once and use a new applicator each time if more product is required. Double dipping cross-contaminates and defeats the purpose.
Variation: Use a regular, reusable brush and follow the same protocol - no double dipping.
Working Hygienically With Lipgloss:
Use a disposable applicator following the same protocol as above. If one is not available, dispense onto mixing palette or other hygienic surface. Never apply directly with included applicator.
Working Hygienically With Liquid Cosmetics:
Dispense on to mixing palette and then apply with brush or sponge. Make sure the mouth of the bottle doesn't touch the surface of your tools - no pressing the sponge or brush up against it, especially after it has already been used. This applies to foundations, moisturizers, or anything else that comes out of a bottle.

And some practical tips and pointers from yours truly :D

  • Blow on your brushes. Salive contains germs and it's just downright nasty. Tap the brush handle on the table to get rid of excess product if you must.
  • Start out with an already contaminated kit if you want to make a change and start working hygenically. Scrape off the surface of all products until you have a fresh layer, spray everything with alcohol and let dry. If in doubt about a product, replace it and start over fresh.
  • Use a bottle of eyedrops once it has accidentally touched the eye. From that point on it's contaminated and should be chucked. Better still, use single use eyedrops.
  • Use the same mascara wand on everyone. I work with the same talent a lot, and it's a small investment to get each their own (labeled) mascara. A clean tube of a drug store brand is always better than a contaminated Dior or Chanel. Added bonus: you can get each person their customized mascara, and they will so appreciate the thought.
  • Same goes for models and brides, get them their own mascara to keep afterwards, and calculate it into your day rate.
  • Just to protect yourself as a consumer: I know it's fun to play with makeup in a store, but who knows who put their grubby fingers in all that stuff?? If there aren't any disposables, alcohol and tissues available to clean before you try, keep walking.
  • Wash your hands before and after each client with antibacterial soap or, if you don't have water at hand, use antibacterial gel. Use it in front of them so they will know you are clean.
  • Keep multiples of the brushes you use the most, and don't mix them up when you work on different people on one day. Each person gets their own powder brush, puff and sponge for that day.
  • Disinfect brushes during the day with either alcohol or brush cleaner if you don't have multiples. If you don't have time, use disposables.
  • You can use the back of your hand as a palette, as long as it's washed and disinfected.
  • Use disposable sponges or good quality sponges that can be washed with anti-bacterial soap. Wash brushes with the same soap and warm water, rinse very well, press out the water in a towel and let them air dry with the hair facing downward. If the water is allowed to stand in the ferrule, it will start to cause rust and a nasty smell of old socks. The quicker things dry, the better.
  • I personally don't use pencils directly on the face, mouth or in the eye. If I need to use one, I scribble some on my clean hand to warm it up, and pick up the product with a clean brush.
Ok I know I sound like a total germaphobe to you right now, but please think about all this. All it takes is one person with gingivitis, and you (unknowingling) passing it on to your next client, and this next client could go blind. All it takes is one person with the herpes virus (doesn't have to be active AT ALL) for the next person to be infected and become seriously ill.

Let's discuss this issue, I'm open to suggestions as always :)


  1. Het is ook heel belangrijk. Overal zitten bacteriƫen in. Bijvoorbeeld in make-up palettes. Kwasten moet je dus ook goed schoonhouden. Liefs, xxxx

  2. Really interesting post - one of the things that really attracted me to the makeup artist I used for my wedding was that during my trial she took the time to explain how she sanitised everything she used - I'm a bit OCD so this really appealed to me! I would never let someone with a dirty kit do my makeup.

  3. Thanks for this post! I am starting out and just bought surgical spirit from Boots to spray into my brushes! You give some really good tips here! I think getting the client their own mascara is a great idea. I would HATE to have someone else's mascara applied yuk! xxx

  4. I heart you! Echt ik roep dit altijd, wordt er zo moe van....sleep gewoon een flesje alcohol mee en never ever double dip!

  5. I'm so glad you all feel this! Sometimes I get really weary from people looking at me funny when I suggest sanitation. But from the looks of it, there is still hope :)
    Spread the word girls!!

  6. thanks this was very helpfull i love it how many information you put into it!! great for mua in the making ;) hihi

  7. The Sanitation procedures can not be discussed enough! I get complimented a lot for my clean and organised way of working, but see and hear a lot of unsanitary stuff. Good for you for writing this blog and thank you Monique as well as Anthony (who's wordings you used).

    Linda Rutgers-Schoers (BeautyFX)