Now that diligent handwashing, wiping down surfaces and wearing masks are no-brainers when it comes to protecting ourselves from unwanted bacteria, I’m personally very ready to take my germaphobia to the next level with my beauty routine. In all seriousness, sanitizing your beauty tools is something we should all be doing — COVID or no COVID. While there are some products like your makeup brushes, jade rollers and gua sha tools that might be easier to wash once a week when’s the last time you really thought about sanitizing your hairdryer and hairbrushes? In our book, anything you touch in your beauty routine is a fair game to breeding germs.
Furthermore, it turns what you do wash off with good ol’ soap and water might not be enough to kill off all the germs. “Using soap is very effective because the soap contains surfactants, which are substances that lift oil and microbes from the tools. It doesn’t directly kill germs — it removes and reduces the number of germs. For it to be the most effective, the water needs to be very hot because bacteria can thrive at up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Robyn Gmyrek, M.D. board-certified dermatologist at Park View Laser Dermatology. So unless you’re wearing gloves to withstand the heat, chances are most people aren’t using water that’s hot enough to make a difference.
Plus, it takes a long time for some of your tools like your makeup brushes to fully dry before you use them (and if you don’t try them properly, mold and bacteria could build up again). You also don’t want to take your chances trying to sanitize any of your electrical-based items (like your hair dryer or curling iron) with liquids.
A more reliable bet? Ultraviolet (UV) light. “UV light is a particularly good option for sanitation because it kills bacteria without toxic chemicals,” says Gmyrek. “The types of ultraviolet rays are UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC is the most efficient (it has the highest amount of energy) at destroying pathogens that cause diseases. It is commonly used in hospitals and medical offices because they aren’t too expensive and they won’t damage your tools that you’re trying to sterilize the way soap and other liquids might,” she says. So, if you want a safe, easy way to clean beauty tools, look to these handy UV light-based options that do the job right.
FYI: If you’re not familiar with nanometer (nm) readings, UV light covers a wavelength spectrum from 100 to 380 nm and is subdivided into three regions by wavelength: UVA (320 to 400 nm), UVB (280 to 320 nm), and UVC (200 to 280 nm) with UVC having the strongest germicidal effect, according to the American Society of Microbiology.
Taking your beauty tools on the go? Consider bringing along this cute, portable sanitizer bag that uses UVC light in the 260-280 nanometer range. This device promises to kill up to 99.9% of germs without leaving a funky, chemically smell behind. What’s more, it’s as fast as it is effective: It just takes a commercial break (three minutes) to disinfect your tools. We like how goof-proof it is, too — you just zip it up, press a button and voila. Plus, it’s rechargeable by a USB cable.
This chic box uses UV light so strong, your beauty tools might need sunscreen. The UV lamp it uses is equivalent to 20x the intensity of the sun to sanitize your items in just eight minutes. It’s also portable and once it’s fully charged, it can perform up to three cycles of sanitization. We also love that the sleek white and gold design of the box gives you a stylish place to store your products and tools when they’re not in use.
This large capacity sterilizer is sort of the Rolls-Royce of sterilizers — it’s basically the kind you’ll find at professional salons. It uses blue light in the 220-250 nanometer range to sanitize nearly all of your beauty tools at once. It also functions as a towel warmer — perfect for when you want to create a relaxing at-home facial. You can adjust the amount of time it’s in the sanitizing cabinet, as well as how hot it gets (it can be heated up to 80 degrees). And if you want to get really savvy with your sanitizing game, it’s even big enough to fit small items of clothing (like your sports bras) or some of your kitchenware (like cups or bowls), too.
If space is a concern and you simply need something discrete to keep on your vanity or in your bag, this portable option is just big enough to hold a couple of makeup brushes at a time (it’s about the size of a standard smartphone). It kills up to 99.9% of bacteria with two UVC lights that disinfect your items in just one minute. Once it’s fully charged, you can use it up to 70(!) times so you’re always prepared.
If there were such a thing as a magic beauty wand, this handy tool comes close. It’s great for your beauty devices that are oversized or an awkward shape (like a blowdryer). You apply it directly to any surface (it can even work on furniture, like your entire vanity) to kill up to 99.9% of germs, plus it automatically shuts off when it’s overturned so you’re not accidentally exposed to rays.
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