How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Time and time again I always have to throw in my two-cents on how integral makeup brushes are when it comes to having flawless makeup. However, I don’t think I’ve ever discussed how exactly I’ve been cleaning them. I know how it is for most people; brush cleaning just isn’t something that happens regularly enough. I will admit that I never used to clean my brushes, but when I started buying some more pricier tools, it became clear to me that I needed to start taking care of them better if I wanted them to last. Brush cleaning is also so important to get the best performances out of your brushes and makeup. Most importantly, they just get extremely gross and gunky if you don’t clean them. You don’t want to be smothering the same brush you’ve been using on your face for the last year without cleaning it every now and then, right? If you agree with me and would like to learn more about keeping your precious brushes fresh and functional, keep reading!

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Why the f&*% should I clean my brushes? They work just fine and I’ve never had any issues!

Before I get into my brush cleansing rituals, I just want to really stress why it’s so important to clean your brushes on a regular basis. I’ve already touched on some points, but I just want to reiterate them:

  1. Sanitary purposes. This should be one of the main reasons why you would want to clean your brushes. I have so many friends who never wash their brushes; even I never used to do it. I think most people don’t really realize that these are tools that need to be washed and maintained regularly. But why wouldn’t they? A lot of people use makeup brushes when they apply makeup, and most of these people probably use makeup daily. So think about these brushes you’ve been using, every single day, with liquid, cream, or powder products, that you apply to your face. Then you probably either keep it in a brush holder or in a makeup bag with all the residual product left on the bristles along with your face oils and bacteria. Keep in mind, this is done every day, 365 days – how much gunk and germs are accumulating on that brush that you keep using??? That sounds gross, right? Well unfortunately, that’s the reality of it, and I’m sure that this scenario is not much different than what’s actually going on with most individuals that use makeup. So if you don’t want an infection or if you’d rather not keep rubbing makeup mixed with oil and dirt from last year on your face, cleaning your brushes would be ideal.
  2. Keeping brushes like new. Brushes aren’t cheap. I would be devastated if I had to chuck out my tools that I bought only a few months ago because I couldn’t be bothered to just wash them every once in a while. Cleaning your brushes will ensure that you get to keep your brushes for years to come. It also means that they will also work just like they did when you first bought them. Keeping your brushes clean also means that you’ll have awesome makeup application every time. I always see people with brushes clumped up with foundation or concealer, then people wonder why their makeup is going on so streaky. Another example is when people say that their smokey eye always ends up looking muddy or like they got punched in the eye, all while using brushes that have never been cleaned and still have residual shadows on it from the last time they attempted the look. Just clean your damn brushes! I promise your makeup won’t look like crap if you try that.
  3. Extending the life of your makeupThis final point may sound a little strange, but completely valid. For products where you actually have to dip a brush into, having clean brushes could help keep those products usable. As I mentioned before, oil and dirt is being transferred onto your brushes every single time you use them on your face. So when you dip back this dirty brush into your eyeshadows or blushes, you’re transferring that same oil and dirt onto the product. A prime example is blush. Some of you may have noticed that over time some of your blushes developped a hardened layer on it that needs to be scraped off in order to get more useable product. That layer is caused by the oils from your face! Powders aren’t really a huge problem, but using clean brushes on cream products is especially important if you want to hang onto those products for a while.

Hopefully that was enough to convince you guys the importance of brush maintenance, so without further ado, onto the good stuff.

The Lazy Way

We’ll start with the easiest way for those who just don’t have the time or patience to clean brushes thoroughly, which is the majority of us. Most of the time, I’ll just use a quick drying cleanser like the one by Cinema Secrets to spot cleanse. All you need is the cleanser, a small bowl, and a paper towel. You can also get an empty spray bottle, but that is completely optional. I usually decant the Cinema Secrets cleanser into the empty spray bottle, then I’ll spray the paper towel a few times and will swipe my brushes back and forth where I sprayed the cleanser. I repeat this until my brush is clean. Then I lay my brushes down flat on my desk with the bristle side hanging off the ledge to air dry completely. The drying takes about a minute, so then they’re good to use. Voila! Clean brushes! If you don’t opt for a spray bottle, just grab a small bowl, decant some cleanser in it, dip your brushes a tiny bit into the cleanser, then swipe the brushes back and forth on a clean paper towel until they’re clean.Place them flat to dry.

There are a ton of quick drying cleansers out there, but in my opinion, the best one is the one by Cinema Secrets. It really gets every single speck of makeup off the brushes, however I don’t really like that it smells quite strong. The one that MAC sells is also a good option, but I think that the Cinema Secrets version is much more heavy duty.

Now, I wouldn’t recommend using this method as the only way to clean brushes. These cleansers typically use alcohol as a main ingredient, which means that it can be very drying. For synthetic bristles it isn’t a huge deal, but for natural fibres, it isn’t a good idea to spot clean often because they can become scratchy over time, and eventually the bristles might even break.

I spot clean my brushes once every week for max 2-3 weeks depending on how much makeup I’ve been using. Obviously if you’re not the only one using your makeup brushes (i.e. you’re a makeup artist or your sister just likes to steal your shit), you should be cleaning your brushes a lot more often.

The Long and Grueling (but BEST) Way

Every month, I will take all the brushes I’ve been using and will give them a good ol’ cleansing with some soap and water. The soap I use honestly depends on the brush I’m washing. Lately for all my brushes I’ve been using the Beauty Blender liquid soap which works really well. However, I don’t think I’ll repurchase it because it reminds me so much of the Dr. Bronner’s Castille Liquid Soap, which is significantly cheaper and is available in many sizes and scents. Sometimes for synthetic brushes that have a significant buildup of cream or liquid products, I’ll use dish soap because it really gets all the gunk off. For natural bristles, I started using a brush conditioner (like the one from Sephora) after cleansing to prevent them from getting too scratchy and dried out.

What I’ll do is I’ll take a little bowl and make a 1:4 ratio of soap and water, mix it up, then I’ll dip by brushes into the mixture. I make sure just to dip the bristles into the water, not the entire ferrule (metal part). Then, I’ll squeeze out any additional water/soap against the side of the bowl, and I’ll start lathering the bristles on a rubber brush egg. The brush egg isn’t completely necessary, however if you have a ton of brushes that need to be washed it seriously saves your hands from becoming disgusting, sore, and raw. After I lather the bristles, I rinse them under running lukewarm water, and I make sure not to get any water on the brush’s ferrule – I only keep the water on the bristles. If you get water in the ferrule, this can cause your brushes to shed and can even fall apart completely. After I rinse the brushes, I squeeze the water out and shape the bristles accordingly, then I lay them flat to dry with the bristles on a free edge so they can dry evenly. Do not leave your brushes right-side up to dry. Doing this will make the water drip down into the ferrule and will loosen the bristles. Depending on how dense and big the brush is, it takes between 2-24 hours for them to completely dry.

Sometimes even after giving my brushes a good scrub, there’s still some residual makeup left. This is usually the case with long-wearing products. When this happens, I let my brushes dry, then I give them a good spot cleansing using the Cinema Secrets cleaner in order to remove any remaining makeup. It works like a charm!

Cleaning Japanese-made Brushes

I recently acquired some Wayne Goss brushes which are made from very delicate blue squirrel hair. I do not use any of the above methods to clean these brushes. Instead, I’ll take a microfiber towel and I’ll swipe the bristles a few good times to get all the product off. I do this because it is not recommended to wash these brushes often. In fact, you’re only supposed to wash them 1 or 2 times a year. Because of this, I avoid using these brushes with creams or liquids to avoid having to deep clean them. I’ll be honest, I use this method for most of my brushes I use with powder. It’s so much faster and it actually does a great job of cleaning off extra product when you’re in a rush.

That’s basically the gist of it! I hope you guys found this post informative. I plan on making another post on how I clean my Beauty Blender, so stay tuned for that. Happy cleaning!

How often do you clean your brushes?

What’s your favourite method to clean brushes?

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