Wearing makeup is a completely personal choice. If you choose to do so, the number of products and styles available can be intimidating.
The good news is that there’s tons of great information and resources out there like YouTube videos, step-by-step articles, makeup forums, and Instagram tutorials.
The not-so-great news? There are tons of myths and misconceptions out there. What really happens if you sleep in a full face of makeup every night? Is it true that you can ignore expiration dates on your products, especially if you don’t use them that often? And how often do you really need to clean your makeup brushes? Here are seven common myths and misconceptions debunked.
Myth 1: If you’re going to wear makeup, you have to put on a full face of it.
“I’d say the number one misconception people have about makeup is that you need a full face of it,” explains makeup artist Suzy Gerstein. “Let’s say we’re talking about foundation. The most important thing to get right when choosing a foundation is the color match.”
“Once you match your skin tone exactly, you can apply the product sparingly and only where more coverage is needed. In fact, by letting the areas that don’t need coverage remain bare, you get a more modern, realistic look to your makeup application.”
Basically, you should wear whatever amount of makeup you are comfortable with. If you only want a couple of dots of concealer on some red spots, great. Excited to get a whole face of makeup on, complete with false lashes? Excellent. But don’t feel like you have to cover your whole face every single time, because you don’t.
Myth 2: Makeup is a “girly thing.”
In reality, people of all genders wear makeup, and there is nothing inherently feminine about it. Men in Hollywood often wear makeup on the red carpet, which Benedict Cumberbatch called “a wonderful thing.” And obviously, actors and actresses wear makeup while filming television shows and movies.
Brands are also becoming more inclusive to all people who might be interested in makeup. Makeup artist and beauty blogger Manny Gutierrez became the first male Maybelline ambassador in 2017, after Covergirl named makeup artist and model James Charles an ambassador in 2016. More recently, makeup artist Jessica Blackler made headlines after she launched a vegan, cruelty-free, unisex makeup brand called JECCA, with products designed to address the concerns of transgender individuals—for example, covering up facial hair stubble.
“JECCA overlooks gender and celebrates individuality,” Blackler told The Cut. “We’re not a brand that concentrates on just women.”
Myth 3: It’s NBD to fall asleep with your makeup on.
If, on rare occasion, you end up sleeping in makeup after a long night, chances are that nothing bad will happen. Just don’t make it a regular occurrence—at the very least, it could irritate your skin and stain your bedding.
It could also be worse. A case study published recently by the American Academy of Ophthalmology showed one potentially disastrous outcome. When Theresa Lynch, a 50-year-old housekeeper, complained of irritated, swollen eyes, her doctors discovered that small, calcified deposits of mascara were embedded in her eyelids. The cause? She had worn heavy eye makeup almost every day for 25 years but didn’t remove it properly each night.
“I had fallen into a bad habit of wearing a lot of makeup and not washing it off,” Lynch said in an interview with The Daily Mail. “I should never have let it get this far.”
Lynch was extremely uncomfortable, and the deposits were scratching her eyes, potentially causing a risk to her vision. Her doctors were concerned about potential infections, so Lynch had surgery to remove the deposits and now has permanent scarring inside her eyelids.
This is certainly an extreme case, but it shows that nasty things can happen if you consistently neglect to remove your makeup before bed. Keep makeup remover and cotton balls—or whatever your preferred makeup removal method is—in an easy-to-access place, like near your toothbrush or on your bedside table. Make taking off your products part of your bedtime routine.
Myth 4: There’s only one “right way” to apply makeup.
“Even the same person needs a different approach to her makeup depending on the season, situation, or day,” Gerstein says. “I like to tell clients to step back and look at the whole picture. …And then ask yourself: What do I need today that will make the most impact? Perhaps it’s a quick shot of blush, maybe it’s the curl of your lash, or maybe you want to skip lashes all together and give yourself a little extra help in the brow department. It could also be a statement lip, or perhaps it’s simply a good facial massage with a gorgeous vitamin C serum or facial oil.”
According to Gerstein, the best part about putting on makeup is playing and experimenting with new things.
“It’s key to throw out the ‘shoulds’ and the paint-by-numbers charts, and instead look at what is in this moment,” she recommends.
Myth 5: Natural makeup brushes are better.
In reality, so-called “natural” makeup brushes are made with animal hair. Some animal hairs could potentially cause an allergic reaction, and they may be made using cruel practices (though you can buy cruelty-free natural brushes from certain brands). Plus, animal hairs are more porous than synthetic fibers, meaning they absorb more of your product and could host harmful bacteria.
“A brush made of animal hairs is really bad,” says Jacqueline Schaffer, MD. “We want to use a makeup brush that is cruelty-free and synthetic. These are more gently packed with fine bristles, providing an even tone.”
Schaffer explains that the hairs in a natural brush can also be uneven, causing an uneven application of makeup.
Myth 6: You don’t need to clean your personal makeup brushes that often if you only use them on yourself.
Cleaning your makeup brushes can be a drag—you don’t want to damage the delicate bristles, and they can take a while to dry, which can be annoying if you want to use the brush later on that same day. According to Schaffer, we should all be cleaning our makeup brushes after every single use. But realistically, she says deep cleaning them once or twice a week is okay, too. Regular brush cleanings will make your brushes last longer. Plus, sticking to clean brushes is good for your skin in the long run.
“You will end up saving money on your skincare products because you won’t have all that bacteria building up on your skin,” she says. “You won’t need to cover up that much because you won’t be the cause of your skin reacting.”
Invest in some brush cleaning wipes, baby shampoo, or special brush shampoo and commit to a regular cleaning schedule. It’s particularly important to clean beauty blenders or similar items after every use because they absorb a lot of product.
In a similar vein, if you ever get your makeup done professionally, make sure the brushes are clean first. Professional makeup artists know exactly how important this is, so anyone who tries to use dirty brushes may be inexperienced.
Myth 7: You can ignore makeup expiration dates.
Yes, I hate to break it to you, but makeup expires—and it’s very important to pay attention to that. Firstly, the consistency of the products will change over time which can make them less effective. But more importantly, old makeup can harbor bacteria which could irritate your skin and eyes.
“Look at when you bought your mascara,” Schaffer advises. “Past the four-month marker, it can build up bacteria and cause serious damage. The mascara is more likely to be clumpy, so it will weigh down your lashes, and they will fall off faster. It can also make you look older.”
Generally speaking, Schaffer says, “If you use makeup that is too old, you’re going to ruin your skin.” So go through your makeup collection and toss anything that’s expired, pronto.
Ultimately, makeup means different things to different people.
For some, it’s an art form. Others use it to feel more confident or incorporate it into their daily routines. Some wear it as part of their professional uniform, and others love nothing more than playing with fun looks for a night out. And of course, some people opt not to wear makeup at all.
Many so-called makeup “rules” are stylistic, and you should feel free to ignore them—who cares if a green eyeshadow doesn’t “fit” with your skin tone?—but other guidelines are expert-backed, and they are definitely worth following.
So always be sure to clean your brushes, follow expiration dates, and wipe off your makeup before you go to bed. Everything else is up to you.