If you are like one of the millions of women out there who regularly contour their faces or apply their favorite foundation or blush on pretty much a daily basis, then you really should consider how frequently you are cleaning your brushes. Now we are not here to judge you or to chastise you in any way. You will indeed not be alone if quite frankly, you’re not cleaning your beloved brushes anywhere near as often as you should. It’s like cleaning the bed linen.
Was there ever a more delightful, fresher feeling than popping into freshly cleaned and laundered linen? It’s sumptuous, right? So why then don’t you clean and change your sheets on a daily basis? If right now you’re saying, “actually I do,” then we applaud you. For the rest of us lesser mortals though, let’s get real for a minute about just how to clean makeup brushes.
So first up, really how often should you be cleaning your makeup brushes and why?
Think about it for a minute. Your makeup brushes are coming into regular contact with your face and your products. As such, they will be accumulating bacteria, debris, remnants of product, and dead skin cells. So if you aren’t cleaning your brushes on a regular basis, all of that built up grime is going to go into your products and back onto your face.
You know what happens next? Yes, you become more prone to pesky breakouts and then you have a whole new problem to be concerned about: how you can cover up your acne. We’ll leave that one for another post. For today, let’s get back to the question of brushes.
What the dermatologists tell you
Ideally, a professional makeup artist or dermatologist will tell you that you need to be cleaning your tools after every use. However, they do of course see multiple clients whereas we can safely assume that your makeup brushes are used solely by yourself. Unless, of course, you have a daughter or a sibling you live with, and you are certain that your essential items are lovingly shared!
For the most part, though, you probably do have your own set of makeup brushes that you have invested in. It’s quite likely, too, that although you might have a vast and varied selection, too many to ever even use, you typically only use the same few: your foundation, blusher, and contour brush for your face.
You also probably have a smudging and shading brush for your eyes. You can picture the sight now. You have one of those long roll out bags that is crammed with about 50 different brushes that you bought on special offer, but you only ever use about six of them. Again, you’re most certainly not alone in that!
Turns out you should be cleaning them reasonably regularly
By that, we really do mean about once a week, particularly for those most frequently used brushes that will be seriously accumulating redundant product. Now hands up! How many of you do actually clean your brushes that vigilantly?
We thought not. Don’t worry though; there’s never a better time than now to change bad habits and believe us, not cleaning your brushes often enough really is a bad habit you should and can easily break.
The other benefits of regularly cleaning your brushes
Well aside from the apparent cleanliness issue and the positive impact that it will have on your skin such as minimizing unwanted breakouts, cleaning your brushes more frequently helps to maintain your investment. By giving your brushes a regular soaking, you’ll not only clean away unwanted residues of product build-up but also extend the life and retain the soft texture of your bristles.
Again, this is necessary for healthy skin but something that will also ensure better application of your makeup. If you think about it, it really does make complete sense. How can you expect to create the perfect coverage if you aren’t starting out with a clean base?
Just think about the last time you did some decorating at home. Did you use an old paintbrush that was encrusted with paint which had dried in the last time you did some decorating, cracked paint stuck in the bristles?
Or did you pick up a fresh, clean paintbrush ready to dip into a new color to apply to your walls? It doesn’t have to be an entirely new paintbrush for the job, but it certainly needs to not have any traces of your previous paint job. Are you starting to see the importance now?
So how to clean makeup brushes?
Well, in short, that will depend on the type and texture of bristles that your set of brushes has been crafted from. Besides popular synthetic brushes, you can get all kinds of bristles from Squirrel to Horsehair. Let’s take a look at some of the most thorough and best methods for cleaning your brushes.
For the most part, you should be able to get away with warm water and a very gentle soap. You don’t want anything too harsh that will dry out your bristles. Imagine that your bristles are like your own hair, and treat them with similar consideration and respect.
A tried and tested full proof technique for cleaning your brushes
For now, we’ve be chatting all things “brush” but you might also be a fan of the “blender” which is very popular these days, so the steps outlined below should be good for cleaning both of these essential makeup products. This is by no means an exhaustive list of steps, and we will go on to discuss other products and routines, but let’s start with the basics.
- Ensure that your bristles are thoroughly wet with lukewarm, not hot, water.
- If you are using a specialized makeup brush cleanser or just a general mild soap, squirt a small amount into the palm of your hand.
- Next up take your brush bristles and gently massage and work them into the product on the palm of your hand. There’s no need to be too vigorous either.
- Thoroughly rinse out the bristles several times to ensure that the product has been cleaned out of the bristles, along with any product that was left behind.
- Just as you would with your hair, next, you are going to want to squeeze out all the excess moisture with a soft, dry towel.
- Your brush might be a bit out of sorts now, so reshape the brush head so that when it dries, it’s going to be in a good shape.
- The next stage is critical so don’t be tempted to leave your brushes to dry flat on a towel. You don’t want any moisture that is still locked inside the bristles to dry stale. Make sure that you hang the bristle ends over the edge of a desk or countertop, for example. That way, any excess moisture will drop off or evaporate, and your brushes should dry back into their original, natural shape.
Be careful not to get any joins between your brush head and handle wet
That’s just an extra note of caution as quite often, especially in more budget brand brushes, you might find that the two parts have been glued together. Over time if you aren’t being careful about how you wash, clean, and maintain your brushes, you could find that the glue denigrates and you start to lose your bristles. So be careful not to over soak them when you are washing.
It’s a mundane but necessary task
Actually, that is a matter of opinion. If you really think about it, it could be quite a therapeutic and rewarding exercise. These things are what you make of them, and if you consider the alternative, swirling nasty bacteria all across your precious and delicate face, then we’re sure that cleaning your makeup brushes will quickly turn into one of your favorite beauty tasks! Not yet convinced? J
ust think about it again. How many times in a week do you apply your makeup? Probably a minimum of three times, possibly even daily, and maybe twice a day on the weekends! That is a lot of product that is going onto your brush and being swept across your face. Do you really think that product is used up? Admittedly, some of it gets left behind on the brush.
Guess what happens to the product left behind?
It festers. We know, not a nice choice of words. It conjures up very unpleasant images, that’s for sure, but that is the harsh reality. You end up in a vicious circle. Product upon product builds up, creating an unhealthy breeding ground for bacteria.
If you don’t happen to be an Instagram famous makeup artist for whom makeup brushes are just a disposable and easily replaceable commodity, then you really should be taking better care of your brush bristle health.
You will definitely notice the difference if you commit to cleaning your brushes more regularly. It really is true. Once you get into the good habit of regularly cleaning your brushes, you will wonder why you never adopted such a cleanly policy previously.
Your make up will glide on more effortlessly, your brushes will last for much longer, plus your skin will undoubtedly benefit from these good practices, too. It really isn’t rocket science, and you know that most old wives’ tales are born out of a modicum of truth. Well, in this case, brush cleanliness really is next to godliness!
Don’t just take our word for it. The world’s most famous makeup artists will impress upon you the importance of having not only the right tools for the job, but making sure you also look after them correctly.
Charlotte Tilbury, the British Vogue contributing Beauty Editor as well as the owner and creator of the much-loved brand by the same name really puts it into perspective. She says, “No painter can create a masterpiece without the right brushes.” She is, of course, right; applying makeup is very much like art, and the brushstrokes against your skin are akin to the ones a painter makes on a fresh, clean canvas. An artist would never start working on a new creative piece with a beautiful pristine canvas to then use a dirty instrument.
Think of your cleansing ritual as an insurance policy
Depending on the brushes that you have purchased, they can work out to be quite a significant investment. Adopting a regular cleaning routine for your brushes, then, is like having an insurance policy in place to better protect them and ensure their longevity.
If your bristles start looking a little bit sparse or are dropping out, then you know that you need to purchase new ones. Perhaps if you’d looked after them better in the first place, they might have lasted you much longer.
Let’s look at some of the essential rules for cleaning your makeup brushes
Foundation brushes should be cleaned once a week or, at the very least, once every other week. That is especially true if you are using a liquid or cream based product. So we are talking about your foundation as well as your highlighter and concealer. This should really be your minimum benchmark.
If you want to avoid excessive build-up of product and the inevitable presence of bacteria, then you should be cleaning even more regularly than that. In the winter months if you have switched back to a heavier textured foundation, that is especially true, so keep that in mind. The thicker the product going onto your face and your brush, the more regularly you need to be cleaning it.
When it comes to powder-based brushes, you can probably afford to be a little more lax in your routine.
If you have a designated set of brushes that you only use for applying powder formulations, such as bronzers, highlighter, and eyeshadows, for example, you can probably relax the rules a little. However, be warned that if you are using radically different colors, you are going to create quite a lot of cross color contamination and you might end up with an entirely different tone than the one you intended!
So even though strictly speaking you don’t need to be cleaning these kinds of brushes quite so frequently, if you do want to achieve a clean color effect without too much convergence, clean your brushes regularly.
What about if you have natural hair brush bristles?
As we briefly touched upon earlier, think of this hair like you would that on your head and treat it with due care and attention just the way you would your own crowning glory. Do you go weeks on end without ever shampooing your hair? No. So get into a good discipline with your natural hair makeup brushes and routinely shampoo them. Mixing a very gentle baby shampoo with water to cleanse your brushes is a great idea.
It will lift the oil and debris effectively from the bristles without drying them out and stripping them of their own essential oils. What you are trying to do after all is banish the bacteria being harbored on your bristles, not eradicate your bristles themselves. So gentleness does it. There is no need to be aggressive or to apply too much pressure.
If your brushes are synthetic, you have our permission to be more heavy-handed
A synthetically manufactured set of makeup brushes can withstand more brutal handling. You might even consider popping them alongside your cutlery on an eco-wash in your dishwasher.
That’s not as silly as it sounds and will really help to dislodge any clogged or heavily built up residues of thick product. Just make sure that you thoroughly rinse and dry out your brushes afterward if you’ve take this harsher approach to cleaning.
Be prepared to adapt the technique you use to clean in line with the size of your brushes
This makes a lot of sense, too. We’ve already established that the best way to clean your brushes really is in the palm of your hand. If you are cleaning a large sized brush head, then try pointing the head of the brush downwards so that you can work the product into the bristles more easily.
If you’re lathering up one of your smaller sized brushes, then it’s probably okay to just cup that inside your hand and clean it that way. In both instances, make sure you continue to rinse thoroughly until there is no residue remaining, and the water is running clear off your brush head.
The best way of drying your brushes
Point them downwards so that all the excess water can roll off. First, flick off all the water. You know, like a dog shaking its fur when it comes in from the rain! Then either pat dry with a soft towel or with some kitchen towel giving your brushes a further gentle squeeze to get out any extra moisture.
Then place them all lined up, upside down so that they can dry out completely before reusing. A good idea might be to pop them into the cutlery tray on your kitchen draining board. Don’t worry if the other half thinks you are mad! You’ve spent good money on your makeup brushes, so it’s vital that you look after them correctly.
Let’s take a look next at the kind of products you should be using to clean your brushes
So you have already made a commitment to cleaning your brushes more regularly. Good for you! We told you that nasty bacteria can be killers. If you are serious about your skincare and your beauty, then we know that you are going to want to invest in the best products to clean your brushes. So let’s take a look at a few recommendations, because it’s not all about soapy water.
Yes, you can invest in a balm to clean your brushes. They work like a treat, too. They are a hybrid, somewhere between a bar of soap and a baby shampoo but already prepared so that you don’t have to recreate a chemistry experiment in your kitchen!
They will typically be formulated using something like a coconut oil or shea base, so they’re skin loving and gentle on your bristles. Opt for a Cleanse and Condition formula that has been solidified into a little jar, and that will lather up for a light and gentle cleanse. The result will be clean, conditioned, and super soft bristles.
This is an ingenious little invention, as you would imagine, from the brand that really does take its Brushes seriously. If you are investing in quality brushes, surely you need to be thinking about more than just dousing them in some soapy water every now and then. The gurus at Real Techniques have come up with something that they call their Palette.
It basically promises to clean your brushes better than your hands alone could ever do. It’s made up of four different dedicated areas each comprised of a series of raised bumps. All you need to do is gently rub your brushes (their size will determine which area of the Palette you concentrate on across the grooves). The idea (well the reality) is that all the unwanted debris remaining on your brushes will effortlessly lift away.
The Cleansing Spray
You might want to invest in a specific spray to tease out all that lovely bacteria from your brushes! A makeup brush cleansing spray is a beneficial method of lifting excess product, and there are plenty of beauty brands bringing out their own version. It’s a super quick and easy way to keep your brushes squeaky clean.
Just liberally spray your brushes’ bristles with the solution, and then gently blot clean with a tissue or some kitchen towel. For an even deeper once a month clean, you might even want to rinse your brushes in water afterward and leave them to thoroughly dry overnight.
Are there any other methods you can adopt to cleanse your brushes effectively?
How about makeup brush wipes? For on the go cleansing you could try a makeup wipe. It sounds so simple now that we’ve brought it up, but this really is a straightforward solution to keeping your brushes clean.
You can pop a packet of makeup wipes in your handbag to take on holiday with you so you can also pull one out whenever you need to give your brushes an excellent cleansing swipe and a wipe.
Invest in a solid cleanser
A bit different from the balm we discussed above, a solid cleanser is also an excellent option for keeping your makeup brushes clean. Just wet your brush head and sweep the surface of your chosen solid cleanser in swooping circular motions.
Get it worked up into a nice lathered consistency, and it will very nicely remove all residues of makeup from your bristles. All you then need to do is reshape the bristles and leave your brush standing upright so that it is thoroughly dried out. Hey presto, squeaky clean brushes every time.
Use a general anti-bacterial spray
For a handy quick fix in between a regular and thorough cleanse, consider giving your brushes a quick spritz with a regular anti-bacterial spray. This is a particularly useful in-between method for your smaller brushes like the ones you use on your eyes and lips.
So let’s do a quick recap of the best ways to clean makeup brushes
By now we’ve firmly established the necessity of cleaning your makeup brushes more regularly than you probably first envisaged. This is particularly pertinent the more significant the investment you have made in getting yourself a set of quality tools. There really is no point spending good money on excellent makeup brushes if you then fail to look after them. It’s best not to turn it into a chore either.
Just schedule cleaning your brushes on a weekly basis the same way you would anything that needs to become routine.
For the correct and most straightforward way to clean your brushes, here is what we recommend you gather together, equipment wise, just in case your makeup brush purchase really did blow the budget, so you aren’t ready yet to invest in a specific balm. It really is simple, and there’s not a household across the land that won’t have these four basic staples. Well, we don’t think so anyway!
Gather around you
- A shallow bowl
- A gentle shampoo
- Your sink
- A lint-free cloth
OK – so if you are in transit you might not have immediate access to a sink but chances are your brushes can afford to wait just a few more hours until you do.
Follow these simple instructions, and you really can’t go wrong
- Run your brushes under lukewarm water to rinse away the obvious buildup of residual makeup. Don’t judge yourself too harshly! It won’t be a pretty sight. Focus on the bristles themselves, dislodging all that lovely caked in foundation that has been building up.
- Get that bowl full of lukewarm water and squirt some of your clarifying or baby shampoo in there. Note that you could always do this stage in the palm of your hand too.
- Next up, lather up and get to grips with gently cleaning your bristles.
- Now it’s time to rinse the brush bristles back under running lukewarm water.
- Rinse, lather, and repeat. You may need to do this a few times before your bristles are clean, depending on the last time you actually cleaned them. Again, we are not here to judge at all. We absolutely know how busy you are, and we are convinced that if you had time to clean your brushes and change your linen every day then you would!
- Taking your dry lint-free cloth, wipe your brushes clean and be careful to reshape your bristles as you go along.
- Finally, let those babies dry out thoroughly. Stand them up so that they retain their shape but none of their moisture.
How’s that? See, if only you had realized before now both the importance and the utter simplicity of cleaning your makeup brushes regularly, you might just have missed out on a few nasty breakouts that left you lacking in confidence and feeling a bit meh!
How to clean your brushes
It really is child’s-play, and you will get so much benefit by keeping on top of a religious and rigorous cleansing routine. Your makeup will go on smoother and more evenly. Your bristles will last for longer, meaning your investment pays off time and time again and for many years to come. Let’s not also forget that your skin will thank you too.
Better brush maintenance results in less build-up of bacteria, which means that all around your complexion is going to look more radiant, natural, and beautiful. So much so that you might end up ditching some of that heavy makeup! Now wouldn’t that be a revolution!
Get yourself into a regular weekly routine and take the chore and the bore out of cleaning your brushes. The one thing you can be sure of is that you really should be washing your brushes more regularly than you realized, but you are most certainly not alone in that revelation.
So if you really can’t be bothered to clean your brushes every time you use them, or you don’t have a whole arsenal of back up brushes that you can be rotating in between a deep cleanse, then try to at least give your beloved brushes a cleaning once a week or, as a minimum, twice a month. You’ll so thank us for our recommendation.