Sanitation and Disinfection: Can you clean & sanitize your beauty sponges for reuse on multiple clients?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Disclaimer: This blog post discusses laws in the US. I am not an attorney for proper legal advice please consult an attorney in your area.

Used under US Fair Use Laws.
Recently a Sephora employee posted on her personal timeline, which went viral with over 34,000 shares, how she cleans her Real Technique sponges for use in her kit. She alleged that this is the way she was taught by Sephora. The problem is multifold in that legally, in the US and in most states, you're not supposed to be using sponges on client's unless it's disposable OR you gift them the item after use. The bottom line is this when it comes to state laws: Each state is different and YOU are ultimately responsible for knowing what you're allowed to do and not do or if you're allowed to work with or without a professional license.

Can you clean your beauty sponges for reuse on multiple clients?
The answer is it depends on the laws in your area. In the US, most states actually prohibit the use of sponges on multiple clients. In states where sponges are allowed one or two conditions apply, an example in Virgina a person MUST dispose of sponges after use on a client.

Single-use items designed by the manufacturer for use on no more than one client should be discarded immediately after use on each individual client, including powder puffs, lip color, cheek color, sponges, styptic pencils, or nail care implements. The disinfection and reuse of these items is not permitted and the use of single-use items on more than one client is prohibited.

Of course, people argue that Beautyblenders and similar sponges are designed to be used multiple times and this isn't entirely accurate. It was designed to sell to people and make it easier to use than the standard cosmetic wedges. Furthermore, while Beautyblender was designed by a professional makeup artist for use on set (at least one BB per actor) other sponges were designed for the consumer market meaning the sponge was designed to be used by one person not multiple and that it could be used over and over with proper care for a period up to three months. Over time people became convinced that these sponges could be washed and reused between multiple clients and that's absolutely wrong. Yes, I'm well aware of the arguments but no one - not those who advocate multiple use on multiple people nor myself - can back up either argument because we're not scientists who have studied these sponges. I will always advocate for taking extra precautions when it comes to clients because their health is more important than saving $7 or $16. Stop being so cheap and either raise your rates OR use something less expensive and toss.

In some states, it might be permitted to reuse sponges if soaked in an EPA-registered hospital-grade disinfecting solution for a minimum of 10 minutes. The problem is it's typically not clear if the law is talking about a cosmetic sponge or a cleaning sponge. The other thing is those types of solutions will destroy a cosmetic sponge as it was never designed for cosmetic sponges. Things like Barbicide clearly state that their products should be used on porous materials. Sponges, regardless of brand or type (latex vs non-latex), are porous and just don't do well with those solutions. Even the CDC in one of their email responses said that (cosmetic brushes as the topic of cosmetic sponges was never brought up at the time) that you have to SOAK the brush in 70% IPA for a few minutes. Soaking obviously is not good for brushes but I think if completely saturated (wet) with 70% IPA and allowed to air dry rather than soak it would be fine but there's no way to know and there is an inherent risk going about it that way.

The truth of the matter, when it comes to sanitation and disinfection, is that the CDC, WHO, and other scientific bodies have never done the research on how to properly sanitize or disinfect our tools and products. The studies that were done were on items - both porous and non-porous but the results would still be the same (e.g. 95% and 99% IPA won't kill a germ regardless of the item while 70% is found to be most effective). What has been found - like how disgusting Sephora and ULTA testers are - were done by independent researchers or news media who would send products to be tested and those tests would come back being positive for staph, MRSA, pink eye, herpes simplex, the common cold and flu, and other nasties including e.coli and fecal matter. This is why all precautions should be taken to protect your kit, your products, your reputation, and more importantly your client's/actor's health.

The only people who are going to police our industry is ourselves. Too long have people looked the other way when questionable sanitation practices take place from big name makeup artists who blow on their brushes to smaller ones who reuse beauty sponges on different clients using laundry bar soap. And the argument that "I've never had complaints" is moot because you don't KNOW if a model or client did contract pink eye from your kit or elsewhere. Look at Athena Page who refused to name the makeup artist who gave her Golden Staph which could have entered her bloodstream or caused permanent damage to her eyes.

So why does it have to be an argument when given correct information? If you don't want to take the info and use it then don't but there's no reason to argue over it especially if you can't back what you say. If you don't want to take more precautions that's your choice but just remember this: is saving $16 really worth someone potentially getting sick from your tools? Build that cost into your pricing or use less expensive sponges. Qosmedix sponges are around $1.95 each.

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