A Woman Is Left Paralysed After Using Dirty Make-up Brushes; We Tackle Proper Brush Care

Australian woman Jo Gilchrist has been left paralysed following a staph infection she got from a dirty make-up brush. How can you keep yours super-clean? We're finding out.

3 dirty make-up brushes

Did you read about Australian woman Jo Gilchrist, 27? Little did she know that borrowing make-up brushes from her best mate, who’d had a staph outbreak on her facial skin, would result in a horrible infection that attacked her spine, leaving her wracked with pain and paralysed from the waist down.

Entering her body through a pimple on her face, the bacteria did its awful work. Jo told The Daily Mail that “’My best friend feels horrible, but it’s not her fault at all. I just had a low immune system and it was the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria.”

While that experience is shocking and extreme, it definitely brings the whole issue of beauty hygiene back into focus. So, how should you be caring for your brushes, do different types need different care, and is it ever okay to do a loaner? We decided to find out, asking pros Sarah Lanagan, a freelance editorial hair and make-up artist, and Emma Hogan Eyre, Owner at Eyrebrushed Makeup Studios, their expert opinions on the matter.

Is Jo Gilchrist’s experience really rare?

“I’ve never heard of such a reaction to using dirty make-up brushes,” says Emma. Though those pesky microscopic mites can cause viral infections, eye infections, and rashes,” she adds.

So under more usual circs, what sort of things happen when dirty brushes and skin meet?

“On a day to day basis dirty or unwashed brushes are more likely to cause breakouts and/or spread bacteria that could lead to break outs,” Sarah explains. “Basically, they pick up and retain anything that’s on your skin and then it multiplies, so if you’re prone to skin irritations, cold sores, acne flare-ups, styes in the eye etc, it’s always a good idea to keep your brushes as clean as possible.”

Emma adds a practical reason to be vigilant about cleaning your beauty bits. “It makes sense to remove build-up in order to get a flawless blend to your make-up look. Cleaning your brushes also extends the life span of the brush.”

How often should we clean our brushes?

“I strongly recommend you clean your brushes weekly in either baby shampoo or a brush cleaner,” Emma says. “It removes everything and also conditions brushes.” You do need to know that brushes you use for powder (like eyeshadow or blush) and the ones you use for foundation or concealer should be dealt with differently. “Brushes that are used for wet product such as foundation need more cleaning. However, I feel all brushes need attention as the risks for infection are all too great,” Emma stresses.

Brushes that are used for wet product such as foundation need more cleaning.

And what’s the best way to clean ’em?

“I’ve found the gentlest way is to use an antibacterial soap, lathered with warm water in the palm of your hand. To avoid bristles becoming loose, be sure to dry brushes flat, so any excess water can’t go into the ferrule where the glue is,” Sarah advises. “Washing them may take a little more time but it’s the best way to keep brushes really clean and leaves no residue on them which some cleansers can do.”

Emma recommends a dedicated product like Cinema Secrets, but adds, “baby shampoo is just as good. It’s best to allow lukewarm water flow down over the bristles and then create a lather with the shampoo removing all excess product. Rinse until it runs clear and leave to dry overnight. You don’t need to worry about special care for different types of brushes.”

Do you really want your best mate’s mites hanging out on you too?

And the million-dollar question: to loan or not to loan?

“Using someone else’s brushes is a major no-no in my opinion,” Emma states. “It’s really NOT okay. If you saw microscopic mites you’d think again. I can handle the thoughts of them living on my own skin but do you really want your best mate’s mites hanging out on you too?”

For Sarah, lending clean ones can be okay. “I tend to think that loaning a brush to a friend or sibling is okay as long as you can trust that it’s completely sanitised and only one person uses it so there’s no chance of cross-contamination. If in doubt, don’t use someone else’s brush though – the amount of horror stories I’ve heard would make your head spin,” she reveals.

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