The dirtiest beauty tool was found to be the hairbrush, an everyday item for many. The hairbrush was found to have ‘fur-like’ colonies representing the presence of fungus on the plate (as seen in image number 1). It is possible this fungus is trichophyton mentagrophytes. This kind of fungus thrives on an unwashed hairbrush, infecting keratinized tissues of humans including the scalp – which could cause ringworm and lead to hair loss.
Microbiologist, Amy-May Pointer says that “The hairbrush contains a lot of dead skin from your scalp. This mixed in with hair creates the perfect environment for bacteria to feed on the organic matter. This in turn can lead to scalp irritation and unpleasant odours.”
How to keep your hairbrush spa standard
Champneys Spa Manager, Alice Lightfoot, says “We aim to keep the brushes as hair free as possible to keep the hair clean. To regularly remove hair from your hair brush you can use a comb to tease it out. Then to clean your hairbrush, we suggest soaking the brush in hot soapy water every 2-4 weeks for 5-10 mins.”
Alice continues, “It's time to buy a new brush when the prongs begin to fall out/bend or move (this should not be too often if you keep up with regular cleaning). For professional use, our brushes are soaked in Barbicide between guests.”
The second worst offender was the tanning mitt. The microbiologist found that the tanning mitt contained a potentially harmful fungus - Aspergillus. The fungus Aspergillus causes the invasive fungal infection aspergillosi – a summer glow definitely isn't worth a nasty skin infection.
Also found on the tanning mitt was Presumptive Micrococcus luteus. This is usually found as part of the skin’s normal bacteria. However, it can be an opportunistic pathogen causing disease, and although very rare, there has been a case of this causing septic shock.
Amy-May tells us, “Fungal species will proliferate on a tanning mitt due to the sponge-like material which is the perfect environment for moisture and therefore fungal growth. The mitt will also contain a lot of dead skin cells, allowing for bacteria to feed off the organic material.”
How to keep your tanning mitt spa standard
Champneys Spa Manager, Alice Lightfoot, informs that “With fake tan mitts it really depends on the material and quality of your tan mitt as to how well it will last you. With all fake tan mitts the best way to keep them clean and therefore fresh for your next application is to run them through the washing machine after use and then air dry. Do ensure you don’t have anything else in the wash at the same time.”
Alice continues, “With the standard fake tan mitts which are normally foam with a thin plastic backing, these will tend to last around 5 applications before the foam starts to peel off the plastic or break up slightly, meaning you can get an uneven or streaky tan. At this point it is time to throw it away! There are however some mitts that are of a slightly higher quality, dual sided and made of velvet or a microfibre material. These are again washed through the washing machine and air dried but will last much longer, like an item of clothing.”
The third dirtiest tool was found to be the eyelash curler. This tool was found to contain mites called Demodex folliculorum that are found on our eyelashes and can also lead to hair loss.
Taking 4th place are the tweezers, which were found to be relatively clean in comparison to other tools. The tweezers appeared to only have growth of commensal microorganisms that are usually found on skin – so nothing to be too concerned about.
How to keep your tweezers spa standard
Champneys Spa Manager, Alice Lightfoot, informs “Tweezers must be kept clean, otherwise you risk a build-up of bacteria where bodily fluid is released when the hair is removed. At home, the best way to clean them after use would be through a dishwasher or to soak in hot soapy water for 5-10 mins. This should be done after every use. If you are tweezing different areas on your face/body, you can use an antibacterial tea tree spray to wipe over the end to remove any hairs etc. Professionally, our tweezers are soaked in Barbicide and put through an autoclave (sterilising unit) at the end of the day.”
Alice continues, “If you start off with a good quality pair of tweezers they should last you a long time! The key with tweezers is to keep them clean and only use them for hair removal, and not any other domestic task, so you keep them sharp. When the tweezers don’t hold onto the hair well any more or can’t pick up the hair easily, this is when to consider buying a new pair.”
The jade roller does not contain a wide variety of microorganisms, earning it the title of the second cleanest tool. However, this does not mean that the roller was completely bacteria free, with our microbiologist finding Staphylococcus aureus. Whilst Staphylococcus aureus is a common organism which can be found on skin, strains of S. aureus such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant S. aureus) can pose a health risk. There is also evidence of S. aureus’s pathogenicity causing acne, so not the best thing to be rubbing into your face.
“The hydrophobic surface of a jade roller is not absorbent,” says Amy-May, “and I would say this makes it one of the least dirty of the cosmetic tools, as the environment would not harbour as much bacterial and fungal organisms as a sponge or brush for example.”
The cleanest tool was found to be the nail clippers. This tool had a relatively low density of microorganisms suggesting the tool is relatively clean. As S. aureus is present, this may be an issue if the nail clippers cut through the skin, as this opportunistic pathogen could pose issues to compromised skin and cause infection. However, this is rare.
Amy-May shares why nail clippers are the cleanest, “The nail clippers are metal and therefore do not create an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to proliferate.”
A survey of 1,500 people from the UK was conducted with CensusWide to investigate the UK’s approach to beauty tool hygiene habits. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
Beauty tools tested were the most commonly found tools within the participants' beauty bags, that are used on a regular basis. The Beauty tools undertook swab tests, the swab results were then left in petri dishes to grow any possible bacteria from tools. The results of this were then shared with the microbiologist for analysis.
Tool usage has been based on how often the tool swabbed was used in a months’ period and how much the user cleaned this tool over that time period.
Hairbrush - Tool is used on average 30 times per month and cleaned 1 time per month.
Tanning Mitt - Tool is used on average 4 times per month and cleaned 1 time per month.
EyeLash Curler - Tool is used on average 20 times per month and cleaned 0 times per month.
Tweezers - Tool is used on average 7 times per month and cleaned 0 times per month.
Jade roller - Tool is used on average 30 times per month and cleaned 2 times per month.
Nail Clippers - Tool is used on average 7 times per month and cleaned 1 times per month.
All data correct as of April 2022.