Here's the Best Way to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

·4 min read
Photo credit: FluxFactory
Photo credit: FluxFactory


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Most of us absolutely could not do without our makeup brushes. After all, they help us apply (and blend) everything from powders to creams with precision and maximum control, helping to keep our look more natural than it would otherwise. But let's be honest: for such an important beauty tool, most of us treat our brushes pretty terribly. We stuff them down in cosmetics bags and, even worse, we hardly ever (or never) clean them. That's why we went straight to experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute for directions on how to clean your makeup brushes.

Why is cleaning them so important? Because when you don't your beloved brushes become little bacteria farms, which can lead to acne, dermatitis, and more skin problems no adult should have to handle (didn't we get enough of that stuff in high school??). Luckily, cleaning your makeup brushes is a fairly simple process, according to the experts at the GH Institute.

How can you tell if it's time to toss your brushes?

Before we get started on the hows of cleaning your brushes, we should look at brushes that (sniff sniff) can't be saved. Basically, if the bristles have begun to fall out, or are starting to stick out in different directions, it time to let go and get a replacement.

Want to extend the life of your brushes? Follow our rules for cleaning and drying them, and get them out of that jam-packed cosmetic bag—just keep them in a coffee cup, handle down. Or, check out our list of the best makeup storage ideas. Your brushes should last years with proper care!

What should I use to clean my makeup brushes?

Ah, the eternal question. Well to start with, you know all your well-meaning friends who suggests using either olive oil or vinegar? Our pros at the GH Institute say both ingredients are better left in the pantry than used on your brushes. Otherwise, good options include:

  • Baby shampoo, which is gentle enough you can use it even on natural brushes, which are more prone to shedding hairs than synthetic brushes.

  • Ivory Soap is perfect for use with brushes that you use to apply your liquid foundation.

  • You need to bring out the big guns when you're apply oil-based foundation, and the grease-fighting agent in Dawn Dish Soap is able to break down even the heaviest makeup concentrations without harming your brushes.

  • Cleansers specially made for brushes work, too! Try Real Techniques Brush Cleaner or EcoTools Makeup Brush Shampoo.

How do you clean your makeup brushes without damaging them?

Fret not, makeup lovers, the best rule, the most important rule, is pretty darn simple—don't get the base of the brush, where the bristles come together, wet. Eventually, if you keep doing it, you'll find bristles shedding as the glue at the base starts to break down. Then you'll have to pitch it, unless you enjoy picking bristles off of your face.

  1. After you've carefully wet your brush, place a bit of of your soap of choice in your palm and slowly, using light pressure, swish the bristles in it. Make sure every bit of the brush (except the base) has soap on it.

  2. Once the bristles are soapy you can rinse it out. Keep rinsing below the base until the water runs completely clear.

  3. To help your brush dry, carefully squeeze (but don't yank!) the bristles to remove as much water as possible. Place the brush on a towel and let it air dry overnight.

How often should I clean my makeup brushes?

Beauty takes time, and you'll need to spend a bit of it everyday (or everyday that you use makeup) to keep these crucial tools in tip-top shape. You can get away with cleaning your powder brushes just once, maybe twice a week. However, according to GH Institute experts, for brushes that are used to apply creams and liquids, as well as sponges, daily cleaning is necessary. In fact, sponges should be cleaned right after use because they are used damp, and so bacteria can start gaining a foothold on your sponge right away.

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