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How To Clean Lipstick and Is This Lipstick Moldy or Sweating?

By Kimberly

Is there mold on your lipstick or is it something else like sweat? What are those dots on your lipstick? If you’ve asked yourself this question, you’ve probably Googled it looking for more information. Unless your Google skills are superior to mine, your search results probably did not yield a lot of information. Being the deal shopper I am, I often buy lipsticks (and a ton of other items) when they go on sale or have a great GWP offer attached. In August 2014, I bought 12 Kat Von D lipsticks from Sephora when they went on sale marked from $19 to $7. After tax, the lipsticks cost me over $100. I also purchased the Bite Deconstructed Rose Trio for $35 from Sephora on 12/19/14.

I know most of you are thinking those are incredible deals, and they were. That is why I pounced on them. The problem is I do not wear makeup as often as I should with what I buy. In April 2015, I purged and cleaned my makeup. Remember that it is only a good deal when you buy quality items, so price is not king. Only one of the three Bite lipsticks and 2 of the 12 Kat Von D lipsticks are used. That means 12 of my 15 incredible deals are completely untouched. They have not even been swatched. There were a few other lipsticks that had dots but only Kat Von D and Bite Beauty had dots on almost every lipstick within their respective brands.


Bite lipsticks

At the time of the cleaning, I had 267 lip products. Most were lipsticks, which are my personal favorite. Well over half were never used or swatched, but I opened them anyway to take a look. Many were obviously sweating, but what should I do with the ones that looked like spots. This could be because they settled down that way after sweating, but could it also be mold? In the limited research I found, it seemed moldy lipstick would also look fuzzy. Mine did not look fuzzy, but I was unsure if they were safe to use. This is what they looked like. The picture is not the best, but I did not notice how blurry it was until it was too late.

Moldy Lipstick 2

I was able to get a better picture of a lipstick the day it arrived sweating. It’s still not the best, but this is what most of them looked like.

jouer lipstick 3

Most people will tell you if you even think there is a chance your lipstick is moldy, you should toss it. Is that always the best thing to do? Throwing away a large amount of my collection, especially the unused ones was not the first idea that came to mind. I spent hours researching mold. How can you be sure it is or isn’t mold? After my research, I still felt I was unsure. No way would I ever put moldy lipstick on my mouth, but could I throw them away not knowing?

Mold does not die easily meaning if I scraped the outer layer, it would grow right back. Once mold spores are in something, they are almost always there to stay. Scraping the outer layer of mold would not remove it, because the spores that are already present the moment it is contaminated will sprout the mold again. There is also no way to know what is deep inside the bullet, and it might be worse than what you see on the outside.

I devised a plan. Rather than tossing all of the lipsticks, I would clean them with the ones that looked fine. The difference would be I would clean them in a different container to prevent cross contamination from possible bad products to good ones. This was a science experiment. If at the end of the experiment the lipsticks looked the same or worse as they did when I started, I could toss them. No harm; no foul. However, if they did not have any dots, fuzz, or obvious signs of mold, it clearly was never mold in the first place. It would help me be sure either way.

While we’re on the subject of cleaning, I will explain my process. This process can remove some germs, but alcohol cannot remove mold. I prepared multiple cups of 91% alcohol. New lipsticks that looked fine were not cleaned. One was for lipsticks that looked fine but I was unsure if they were used, another for lipsticks with spots, another for lipstick with obvious sweat, and a last for lipsticks that were definitely used.

You can use 70%, but 91% evaporates faster. When you hate sweat and dots on lipstick as much as I do, you need a faster drying formula. One by one, I took each lipstick (even brand new ones if they had spots or sweat) sticking the bullet in the alcohol holding the handle upside down for ten seconds. After removing from the alcohol, I left them uncapped for roughly an hour each to allow them to air dry. Some people suggest wiping them on a tissue, and you can do this if you prefer. I do not, because I do not like the lint the tissue leaves in the lipstick.

A day after step one, I open each lipstick to observe. On any that are wet/sweating, I use a toothpick (yes, this damages the look of the bullet and removes the outer coating) to remove all fluid. Used ones also had their tips removed with a new toothpick. This removes the top layer of lipstick where most of the germs live. Some may prefer to do this step before using alcohol. I prefer to do it after, because a great deal of them have liquid remnants that are removed with toothpicks anyway. There are some that have so much liquid they need multiple toothpicks.

A day after step two, I open each lipstick again to observe. Any that look fine get put away. Some will still be wet/sweating and need more toothpick work. I repeat this step every single day until I approach the lipsticks and find them completely dry/not sweating. It can take up to 4 days with some lippies. There are some that never look completely dry even though they technically are. Those are the formulas I take note of and finally put away after Day 4. They are also the lipsticks I am less likely to repurchase. If wet/sweating lipstick does not bother you the way it bothers me, you do not have to worry about this.

I decided to place my experiment on a three-month time-table meaning I would check on them around mid July, because the cleaning took place in mid April. Instead of mid July, I pushed it to late July. My results were none were moldy. The Kat Von D ones look exactly the same way they did when I cleaned them. While the Bite ones do look more wet than when I left them, that just speaks to the moisture in them. As you can see, this cleaning process prevents them from looking pretty. Although I love pretty lipstick, I would rather they be clean than pretty if I must choose.

lipstick 6

lipstick 5

lipstick 4

lipstick 3

lipstick 2

lipstick 8

lipstick 16

To be sure these are safe to use on my lips, I swatched all of them on my hands. The swatches looked great. All of the colors looked like they should and none of the lipsticks smelled badly or changed color. If for any reason your lipsticks look spotty again, smell bad, or changed color, toss them. Once you’ve removed all the spots/sweat, it should not reappear if you’ve stored them properly. That damage usually comes from shipping, improper storage, or is a sign your lipstick is bad.

This Urban Decay Gloss in Wallflower is without a doubt moldy, so I tossed it. The pinkish color on the front hides the black color in the back. One of the downsides of having a lot of makeup but not wearing makeup often is I have things I sometimes cannot get to in time. This lip gloss came inside the Urban Decay Feminine palette, which was already old when I purchased it on clearance.

Urban Decay Moldy GlossUrban Decay Moldy Gloss 2

My issue with it clearly molding out is it was never even opened. I am actually glad it turned black, because I did not have to make the mistake of thinking it was fine and putting mold on my lips. This is also a reminder that there is liquid in glosses, so they can mold out at any time. Most people suggest tossing lip glosses within 18-24 months of opening them. Considering the gloss above got moldy before it was ever opened, I think there are better ways to gauge when something has gone bad. That gloss had been with me less than 12 months when I noticed the mold. You never know how long something sat in a warehouse before you purchased it. Some things expire long before the expected date and other things last years longer.

Before using an older gloss (opened before or not) look at it. Has the color changed or the formula broken down? If it passes those tests, smell it. Does it smell bad? Mold and bad bacteria typically have an unpleasant odor. Assuming everything seems fine and it passes the sniff and see tests, swatch it on the back of your arm. Let it sit for a while. Is your skin getting irritated, does the consistency look like it did in the past, and do you feel confident putting it on your lips? If any part of that process feels off to you, toss it. There is no way to decontaminate a gloss, so you should not take any chances.

If you know anyone who could benefit from this information, please use the sharing tools below to help them see this on various forms of social media or private email. Thanks for reading and sharing. View my main page for the guide map to the site and deeper deal exploration.

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I'm Kimberly. Shopping is always more fun when I've found the best deal available, so I am always on the hunt. My father instilled that in me, and I love that I carry a piece of him. Sometimes, my husband and sons (12 and 7) let me shop for them, too. They do not use as many beauty products as I do. We can all benefit from nice products, even though their routine ends with moisturizer. That is when I can convince my 12-year-old to apply it.

6 thoughts on “How To Clean Lipstick and Is This Lipstick Moldy or Sweating? Leave a comment

  1. Mine were not. After I removed the dots, they did not grow back. If it is mold or fungus, you cannot clean the spores off the lipstick. They will eventually return. That specific lipstick you’ve pictured arrived like that, so it was brand new. Before using a lipstick you think has mold or fungus on it, wait a long time after cleaning them. I personally wait a few months before I even consider it. Good luck. I hope your lipstick is just sweating, but do not take any chances if the spots return after cleaning. Keep it in a cool area (room temperature; away from kitchens, bathrooms, or windows) for the entire waiting period.

  2. I appreciate you sharing your methods and the results of your seriously massive experiment. I have several of the same habits you do: Buying on sale, buying a heck of a lot, and then rarely or never using things. So this is helpful. I combat some of that now by forcing myself to sell things (obviously not items that came with any visible issues) I probably won’t use. It leaves more money and room for more makeup! It’s sort of a viscious cycle, but also a fun one.

    I also wanted to add that I’ve had multiple Urban Decay Lip Junkie Lip Glosses go moldy on me, just like yours did. Some were opened and used, some weren’t. Honestly, more of the used ones still appear fine. In the name of science, I squeezed out all of the product, including the mold, to get a better look. Due to weight, formula, something, the mold came out last, so anyone who finds this page after using a moldy Urban Decay Lip Junkie: You’re probably fine. I mean, don’t use it again, toss it immediately, but you probably didn’t apply a thick layer of mold to your lips.

  3. kudos to your science experiment!
    but just so you know, you can contact the brands about the defects and have them check if they’re indeed molds or just sweating (they may require you to send them the actual products in question). Sweating on lipsticks are quite common and not many people bother to check, but brands are actually required to check the items in question for you. When stored in proper conditions (dark, cool places), lipsticks should not be sweating, but it will sweat in hot humid climates or if it’s stored in warm rooms. I actually had a brand replace me with a new one when I found a lip item with dots. Just FYI!

  4. Great tip. A lot of my lipsticks arrive sweating, almost year-round. The dots they left behind stayed on some of the lipsticks long after I stored them in a cool, dark place. Some lipsticks do return completely to normal once they’ve cooled down. Others will never be the same once they’ve sweated even a little. To combat this, I try not to have too many lipsticks shipped in the summer. That is where most of the sweating on my lipsticks occurred, shipping.

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