How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

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woman holding three makeup brushes

When is the last time that you cleaned your makeup brushes?

If your answer is longer than a week, then you need to read on…

Why Is It Important To Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

For many people, the idea of cleaning their makeup brushes has not even occurred to them, with a poll carried out by allure.com discovering that 45% of women have never cleaned their makeup brushes. However, this is something that is so important.

Why?

For a few different reasons…

Let’s begin with bacteria.

You may not realize it but your makeup brushes actually come into contact with a number of different surfaces, from your bathroom counters to your makeup products to your makeup bag to your face. Each surface is home to a wide range of different bacteria, a lot of which will transfer onto your makeup brushes each time they touch that said surface.

The brushes themselves provide a warm and moist environment, which is the perfect breeding ground for all of the acquired bacteria to multiply.

In fact, a study carried out at Loyola Marymound University found that after just one month, makeup brushes that had not been cleaned harbored so much bacteria that the researchers could not even measure the amount.

As you can imagine, applying this bacteria back onto your face each time you use your brushes is not going to do your skin any good.

In fact, this can even be an extremely common cause of acne

Even if you do not end up experiencing a breakout, your skin could still get irritated, leading to redness, or even pink eye. All of the extra bacteria will also accelerate your aging process, bringing you wrinkles much earlier on in life.

If all of that was not enough to convince you…

Using dirty brushes will make it much harder to smooth and blend your makeup, because dirty brush fibers will simply not be able to pick up the product as effectively, while the placement of whatever amount of product they have managed to pick up will be impaired.

You will end up having to spend so much extra time trying to blend everything together, when simply using a clean brush could have ‘e that for you instantly.

Of course, you also do not want to have to keep purchasing new makeup brushes, but this is what will end up happening if you do not clean yours.

When makeup and dirt accumulates on a brush, the long-term effect will be hairs that end up clumping together, with the brushes losing their shape, meaning that you will have to go and spend more money on new ones.

How Often Should Makeup Brushes Be Cleaned?

When it comes to how often makeup brushes need to be cleaned, this does depend on the individual brush…

For example, the brushes that you use for your foundation and concealer will experience quite a bit of build-up, and these are also the brushes that you need working to their full potential. Any brush that you use on your face should be cleaned at least once a week, while brushes that have been used with cream or liquid makeup may need cleaning more often.

When it comes to the brushes that you use for eye makeup, you have a bit more leeway here, as these can be cleaned twice a month.

Any other brush can be cleaned once a month.

In terms of makeup sponges, these should be rinsed after each use, and then replaced at least every month. 

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

There are actually quite a few different ways to go about cleaning your makeup brushes, and everyone will have their own preferred method, making it worth trying a few different ones to see what really works for you and your routine.

The simplest method requires some antibacterial soap, but it needs to be an extremely gentle kind, such as Dawn:

  • Wet the brush slightly with lukewarm water
  • Place some soap onto your hands and swirl the brush around in this
  • Gradually add small amounts of water to the brush, so that a lather is formed
  • Once the brush has been fully saturated, give it a rinse and squeeze out any excess water and soap
  • If your brushes are especially dirty, or quite dense, you may need to repeat the process a couple of times

washing makeup brush in sink

Another way to clean your brushes is with the use of a silicone brush cleaning glove or mat. This is quite an inexpensive product, and is not formulated with any chemicals. Instead, it is made from a coarse and porous material, that creates friction when the brush is rubbed against it, therefore cleaning it:

  • Begin by wetting your brushes with lukewarm water
  • Apply some baby shampoo to the silicone glove or mat, and then swirl your brushes over the grooves. There will usually be different sections for different types of brushes. Keep in mind, if you are cleaning a flat-shaped brush, you should only be moving it backwards and forwards, otherwise you risk causing damage to the bristles
  • To rinse the brush, run some warm water onto the glove, and then rub your brush onto this. This enables you to control exactly how much water is entering your brush
  • Use the glove to gently squeeze out any excess water, as the grooves in the glove will help to reshape the brush

purple glove

Don’t have a silicone brush cleaner at hand?

Try using a bowl and some baby shampoo instead:

  • Wet your brush in lukewarm water
  • Fill a bowl with lukewarm water and add in a squirt of baby shampoo
  • Gently swirl the tip of the brush in the water, and then give it a quick swirl on the palm of your hand, before returning it back to the water. This will help it to work up a good lather
  • Rinse the brush carefully under running water, and then return it to the bowl to repeat the process
  • Keep doing this until the water running from the brush is clear 

Wondering what the benefits are to using baby shampoo over an antibacterial soap?

The shampoo will not only clean your brushes, but also condition the bristles. However, you will not be gaining the antibacterial benefits of the antibacterial soap, so it all depends on the level of cleanliness that you are looking for. If you like the idea of both, you could always alternate which one you use each time you clean your brushes.

Makeup brush cleansing balms can also be handy:

  • Begin by dampening the bristles of your brush with lukewarm water
  • Then, rub it into the cleansing balm
  • Carefully rinse your brush under running lukewarm water, and then lay it out to dry 

Sound simple?

That’s the beauty of using dedicated brush cleaning products.

Brush cleaning machines are also extremely easy to use, but they do come with quite a high price tag.

How do they work?

You simply insert multiple brushes at a time into slots on the machine, before closing the lid and turning it on. The machine runs the brush bristles back and forth in soap, before draining them, and does this a couple of times.

pink makeup cleaner with makeup brushes

While a brush cleaning machine may not be worth the investment, a daily brush cleaner is. These usually come in the form of a spray, and can simply be spritzed on to your brushes after each use, to help keep them clean in between proper cleaning sessions.

Another similar product is brush cleaning wipes. These are individually wrapped wipes, making them extremely convenient. All you need to do is lay them onto a flat surface and then rub your brush onto the wipe. If your brush has synthetic fibers, swirl it around, but if the fibers are natural, move them backwards and forwards. Once clean, the brush will then dry in just a couple of minutes on a towel.

One more thing to keep in mind…

Whenever you are holding your brush underneath running water, make sure that you are holding it vertically, while keeping the base of the brush as far away from the water as possible.

Why?

Because the water will end up wearing away the glue that holds the bristles to the brush.

How to Dry Your Makeup Brushes

The way in which you dry your makeup brushes after washing them is more important than many people know, and will have a huge impact on the lifespan of your brushes.

Begin by squeezing your brushes gently with a clean towel, removing any excess water. You could also place your brushes on a dry towel and then fold this over, gently pressing on the top towel layer to soak up any water.

Next, pick a surface with an edge, such as a table or a dresser. Lay a clean towel along the surface, and then lie your brushes flat on the towel.

hanging brushes on the edge to dry

You need to do this in a way that allows the bristles to hang over the edge of the surface, while the handles are lying on the towel.

Why?

Because this allows the air to properly circulate around the brushes, drying them evenly.

Makeup brushes do tend to take a few hours to dry, so you may find it easier to wash them in the evening, and then leave them out to dry overnight.

Don’t Forget About Your Eyelash Curler

While not technically a brush, your eyelash curler also provides a fantastic home for a wide range of bacteria. Mascara remnants can also often be found on eyelash curlers, meaning that not only will your lashes end up clumped the next time you curl them, but you may even end up losing a few, as they will stick to the old mascara and get pulled out.

Fortunately, this is an easy one to clean…

Simply soak your eyelash curler in warm water for a few minutes, as this will soften any dirt and old makeup, and then give it a good wipe clean.

Establishing a Routine

No matter which method you choose when it comes to cleaning your makeup brushes, you need to make sure that you establish a regular brush cleaning routine.

If you like the idea of shampooing your brushes but know that you will never get around to doing this once a week, it may be worth purchasing some cleansing wipes or a cleansing balm and using this after each use of a brush, and then giving your brushes a deeper clean every fortnight.

Find a method that feels easy and convenient for you, as this makes it so much easier to commit to.  

When to Replace Your Makeup Brushes

Even if you take the very best possible care of your makeup brushes, there will come a time when you do need to replace them with new ones.

How do you know when this time is?

Here are a few signs to keep an eye out for:

  • If your brushes seem misshapen, and if the bristles do not return to their original shape, even after washing. This can happen with daily use over time, and will prevent you from applying your makeup evenly
  • If your brushes are shedding bristles, as this means that the glue holding the bristles to the brush has been weakened. In the future, make sure that you do not allow water to come into contact with the handle of the brush
  • If your brush has a broken handle, because even a tiny crack can end up harboring so much bacteria, which will then end up being transferred onto your face and hands

While it can seem like a bit of a hassle having to clean your makeup brushes on a regular basis, not only will your skin benefit from this, but so will your actual makeup application. Even if you don’t have much extra time to spare, there are still ways in which you can keep your brushes clean, and this is something well worth putting the effort into.

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