I have a confession to make. I’ve never cleaned my makeup pencil sharpener. I clean my brushes regularly, toss out old and expired makeup, and even wipe down my eyelash curler—but I’ve completely overlooked my sharpener for as long as I can remember. But thinking about safety and sanitation, it occurred to me that, in order to keep my eye and lip pencils fresh and clean, this oft-used beauty tool probably needs some regular TLC, too.
Since it’s spring cleaning season, we asked Rebecca Restrepo, the global makeup artist for Elizabeth Arden, to give us the low-down on sharpener upkeep. Turns out, it’s a cinch! When Restrepo is working on clients, she thoroughly sanitizes her sharpener after every use. But for your own personal-use sharpener, she recommends the following routine.
Empty the shavings and lead from the sharpener’s inner compartment. Dip a cotton swab in isopropyl alcohol (aka rubbing alcohol) and work your way around the inside of the compartment as well as the blade. The alcohol acts as a disinfectant.
Sanitize the sharpener by wiping it down thoroughly with a Beauty So Clean cosmetic sanitizer wipe. These wipes are designed and formulated to eradicate potentially harmful bacteria, including e.coli and staphylococcus.
Restrepo says the shelf life of a makeup sharpener is relatively long; she’s had her own personal one for about a year (she swears by the Muji’s). “If it’s kept clean, it should be fine, even if it’s accumulated a lot of shavings,” she says. But if you contract an eye infection or break out near your lips, she recommends immediately tossing the sharpener—along with any makeup that may be contaminated.
Lastly, we wondered...could a clean graphite sharpener get the job done? In a pinch, yes, says Restrepo, “but they’re simply not designed for cosmetics.” And never sharpen your cosmetic pencils with a used graphite sharpener.”
Also! Kevyn Aucoin’s The Precision Pencil Sharpener, pictured here, has a little secret that renders the cotton swab part of this article irrelevant. The little red stick attached is actually removable, and designed for the very purpose of de-gunking shavings. Pretty convenient!