Makeup Brush & Tool Maintenance

The ultimate set of tools requires upkeep and attention to keep colors crisp and complexions clear.

Written By Alexis Brunswick

To invest in a hand-hewn shadow brush or an exquisite Japanese lash curler and then neglect it — letting who-knows-what hide between the bristles or stick on the steel — is like driving a mud-splattered Maybach. It simply should not be done.

And yet.

Even the most fastidious among us is guilty of using less-than-pristine implements. “The way makeup artists care for their brushes is the reason the makeup looks the way it does,” says Chanel makeup artist Rachel Goodwin, the woman behind Emma Stone’s most flawless looks. “The buildup of product and pigment impedes their function,” says Goodwin, who swears that the extra effort to wash them delivers immediate rewards in the form of crisper color and easier application.

Goodwin’s maintenance schedule for high-performance tools follows.


Frequency: Once a month

Cleaning Solution: For natural-bristle brushes like Utowa, particularly those that handle creamy lipstick and foundation, use a gentle soap or shampoo (Goodwin prefers Goat Milk Brush Shampoo or Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap). Synthetic bristles are more resilient, so you can opt for a stronger soap or even a grease-cutting detergent like Dawn, if necessary.

To Wash: Place your brushes in a bowl filled with warm water. Squeeze a dime-size dollop of soap on the back of your hand and work the brushes into the soap in circular motions to lather. Rinse until the water runs clear. For animal-bristle brushes, Goodwin occasionally (every two to three washes) repeats the process with a silicone-free conditioner (that won’t add buildup) to ensure hair stays supple. Rinse thoroughly (pointing the brush down, so water doesn’t weaken the glue in the base) until no soap residue remains.

To Dry: Goodwin recommends Benjabelle’s brush tree, which holds them upside down to dry. But a towel works just as well. Gently wring them out and lay them flat on it to dry. Synthetic-hair brushes will reshape while drying quite easily, while with animal hair, Goodwin prefers to wrap them in a clean towel and tap them against the edge of her countertop to get most of the water out for a fluffier brush once it dries.



Frequency: Once every two to three uses

Cleaning Solution: Beautyblender soap. “It comes with the case and is incredibly effective,” says Goodwin.

To Wash: Fill a large bowl with warm water, submerge sponges and let soak for close to a minute. Wring them out thoroughly. Take a soap bar and rub it gently in circular motions around the sponge’s surface until it is evenly lathered. Rinse under your faucet until no soapy residue surfaces when it’s squeezed.

To Dry: Air-dry on a towel overnight.



Frequency: Once a month

Cleaning Solution: Makeup towelettes and rubbing alcohol. 

To Wash: For eyelash curlers, use a moist makeup towelette to do an initial wipe-down. Then go back with a Q-tip dipped in alcohol to tackle the grime that tends to accumulate in the small, hard-to-reach crevices.

Dip tweezers completely into alcohol. “That’s a good way to get them really clean and start over each time you use it,” explains Goodwin.“It’s almost like it’s a brand-new product every time.” If you use the tweezers to apply false eyelashes, swipe them with makeup remover after each application to get rid of any glue residue.

To Dry: Wipe dry with a hand towel.



Frequency: Once a month

Cleaning Solution: Parian Spirit. “It’s like nothing else out there,” says Goodwin of the natural, dry-oil formula, which is particularly effective for removing powders. “It gets any kind of makeup off of your brush in seconds,” she adds.

To Wash: Soak a toothbrush in the solution and gently clean the comb or brush until no residue remains.

To Dry: Parian Spirit dries quickly, so you can use the tool immediately after cleaning.