Mold On Makeup: Why It Happens And How To Prevent

When you’re getting ready to go out for the evening, opening your makeup bag only to find items like your eyeshadow, lipstick, or any other type of cosmetic covered in what looks like a layer of mold is undoubtedly a terrible start to the evening.

Whilst mold growing on makeup is fairly rare, it certainly can happen. So what caused it to start growing in the first place, is it dangerous and how can you stop it from happening again in the future?

In this article we answer all these questions and more, so, to learn everything you need about mold growing on makeup, keep reading.

Common mold strains found growing in makeup are Penicillium, Aspergillus, and Cladosporium. Mold growth can be prevented by keeping makeup dry, and clean and by storing it in a cool, dry area. Regularly cleaning applicators and brushes will lessen the chances of spreading mold spores to the skin.

mold on makeup

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Can mold grow on makeup?

Absolutely, mold can grow anywhere that it has a source of nutrients, moisture, a lack of natural sunlight, and an ambient temperature between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite mold being able to grow in makeup, it doesn’t happen often as it may in other areas of the house. This is usually because makeup and beauty products have stabilizers and preservatives in them that will in most cases prevent molds and bacteria from spreading.

With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the reasons that could explain why mold has grown on your cosmetics products.


Moisture is probably the easiest resource for mold to obtain, as makeup and the bags that contain makeup and cosmetics are often kept in the bathroom where they may be a large mirror.

The issue with this is that bathrooms are one of the highest humidity rooms in a property, due to the steam and condensation caused by showers, baths, and washing in general.

Mold only needs a humidity level of 55% to thrive in a location, and bathrooms regularly exceed this level.


Nutrients may be a little trickier to explain, but molds will find food wherever they can. Some poorer quality cosmetics products will use certain fats that may be consumed by molds or may have less potent preservatives that still allow bacteria and molds to form and spread.

Dust can also be used as a source of food for molds, and what may simply look like a dry powder to us, is actually made up predominantly of dead skin cells and other organic matter, full of the essential components mold needs to live off.

This dust can settle on cosmetics products whilst you are using them, or the skin cells can be transferred directly from makeup brushes by using them on your skin and then putting them back into or onto the product.


Temperature is simple, mold can grow in temperatures above and below 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, albeit a little slower, but that sweet spot of 60-80 degrees where mold really starts to thrive also happens to be the most common temperature range that most American households set their thermostats within.

This gives mold the ambient temperature it needs for long periods of the year, and this is without taking into consideration the added warmth that comes from bathing. The mixture of heat and humidity that a bathroom provides makes it the perfect place for mold to set up home, and if your makeup bag happens to contain dust and other organic matter, you can be sure it will grow there too.

What types of mold grow on makeup?

As there are over a hundred thousand strains of mold, the exact strain would be hard to pinpoint, however, the three most commonly found molds growing within homes and properties are the Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Penicillium strains.

These molds do come with some characteristic traits but bear in mind it may be difficult to see these if the patch that is growing is very small or maybe blending in with the color of the makeup or its container.

With that in mind, here is how you may be able to tell what strain of mold you are dealing with in your makeup.


Cladosporium strains tend to grow in small patches of black, dark green, or brown “spots”. Although these “spots” can clump together to create larger clusters. In terms of texture, it is often described as being slightly powdery.


Aspergillus strains begin white a white coloration, but this can change to brown, yellow, green, or black. The texture is most often described as being velvety or cotton-like.


Penicillium strains appear in shades of blue-green, and can even be turquoise in color. It is described as being powdery in texture, and typically forms in circular patches or clusters.

As you can see, mold strains are usually easier to determine when there are larger patches of mold. When growing in makeup, you will be unlikely to notice many of these traits.

Instead of using your sight, you may be better off using your sense of smell to detect mold growing in makeup. Upon opening either the container the product comes in, or the bag that contains them, you may well notice a musty “earthy” smell. The presence of this odor is a telltale sign of mold infestation.

Are the molds dangerous?

Unfortunately, the three most likely molds to grow on makeup and cosmetics products mentioned above can indeed be hazardous to both humans and animals.

Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Cladosporium strains have the ability to produce mycotoxins, which after long periods of exposure (or short-term exposure in large enough doses), can cause numerous health concerns, including:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue (in rare cases)
  • Skin irritation
  • Depression

The amount of mold that can grow on makeup successfully is usually fairly small, so people who are particularly sensitive to it and its spores will be more likely to suffer from any of the symptoms above than others.

However, the most likely symptom that anyone could suffer from mold on makeup would be skin irritation, as any mold that had grown on the makeup itself would make direct contact with the skin.

Symptoms of mold exposure to the skin include:

  • Acne
  • Rash
  • Flaky dry skin
  • Sensitivity
  • Bumpy (raised) texture of the skin

Can you still use makeup with mold?

If mold is found growing on any cosmetic or makeup product, it should not be used. Whilst you may not suffer from some of the more serious symptoms of mold or mycotoxin exposure, the potential for skin irritation is high.

Should you see any of your makeup has grown patches of mold, or, you can smell the distinct musty odor that mold often creates, it is best to throw away the affected items.

If you store makeup products together in one bag, the sad reality is that you may have to throw the entire contents away, as you will not be able to tell which items the mold spores have landed on and begun to create a new colony.

Can you remove mold from makeup?

It is exceedingly difficult to remove mold from makeup, this is because any attempt to wipe or remove surface-level mold will usually drive the mold deeper into the product where it can continue to live.

One option is to spray rubbing alcohol onto the affected item or items and leave it to dry. This will sometimes be enough to kill the mold, but this is not a foolproof method.

As mentioned, it is nearly always necessary to throw away mold-infested makeup products rather than try and save them.

How to prevent mold growing on makeup

Prevention is always the best route to take when dealing with mold in makeup products. And with that, here are some of the most effective ways you can prevent mold from growing on makeup items.


Where you store your makeup makes a huge difference to whether or not it will be able to grow mold.

If at all possible, store your makeup as far away from your bathroom and any other high-humidity rooms. Certainly never keep your makeup bag in the bathroom itself, as the humidity and high temperatures are perfect for mold formation.

The ideal place to store makeup products would be in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated area, such as a ventilated closet or dresser.

To keep a check on the humidity levels in your bathroom, you can place a hygrometer on the counter. The unit is no larger than a digital alarm clock and will clearly display the humidity levels within the room. As soon as the level reaches greater than 55%, you should turn on extract fans, open windows, and doors, and ensure there is plenty of airflow.

Expiration dates

All cosmetic products have an expiration date, and once this date expires, the preservatives within your makeup will become less effective, allowing molds and bacteria to grow and multiply.

Regularly check your makeup to ensure it is not coming close to its expiration date, and if this has already passed, it may well be a good precautionary measure to throw the item away before it begins to deteriorate.

Buy high quality

Higher-quality cosmetic items tend to use more effective and longer-lasting preservatives. This will increase the product’s shelf-life making it less likely that mold will begin to grow shortly after you have purchased it.


As well as keeping your makeup and the containers you keep it in dry, you should also endeavor to keep the items in as cool an environment as possible.

This may mean moving the items away from direct sources of heat such as radiators and putting them in cooler areas of the room, such as near windows and sources of fresh, cool air.


Regularly cleaning the containers you keep your makeup and cosmetics products in will certainly help to reduce the chances of mold growth.

Check the containers once every few weeks for any signs of mold growth, either visually or through smell. Should you notice any signs of mold growth, it is best to throw the items out.

The cleanliness of makeup applicators and brushes should also be monitored, as passing dust and organic matter from the brush back into the makeup can provide mold with the nutrients it needs.

Clean your applicators and brushes at least once a month to reduce the amount of organic matter that can be passed from your skin to the products.


Mold growing in makeup is a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Keeping your makeup or cosmetic products in a dry, cool environment whilst keeping them as clean as possible is your best chance of reducing the possibility even further. Moldy makeup can often not be saved, and if it is found, should often be thrown away.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker has struggled for several years with mold after buying his own property. After finding the solutions to several issues around his home, he decided to create this site in order to answer as many questions about mold and mildew as possible to help others dealing with the same problems.

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