Unlike makeup products, makeup brushes do not have an expiration date. After interviewing numerous artists, the resounding sentiment is that if you take good care of your brushes it’s entirely possible to keep them for years—30 years in some cases. The key, of course, is that you have to clean them well.
To keep her brushes super clean, makeup artist Gucci Westman relies on Parian Spirit’s non-toxic, … [+]
Like washing your face at night, though, it’s a step that many would rather avoid or put off. But just as you’d expect this is not a great idea. Leaving makeup caked onto your brushes can lead to build-up and bacteria that weakens bristles over time and can irritate your skin (which might be the reason you’re breaking out or experiencing sensitivity). Keeping your brushes clean and tidy also ensures that anything you apply—foundation, blush, highlighter, eye-shadow—glides on better.
Cleaning your brushes well is not as simple as running them under water. Makeup particles are designed to cling and often feature ingredients not easily dissolved by water. For that reason, you need a more strategic approach. The best method is to do a quick clean daily and then a thorough deep-clean once a week or every few weeks, depending on how much and how often you wear makeup—applying a quick sweep of foundation doesn’t require nearly as much de-griming as a 10-step contouring routine involving multiple layers of product, for example.
Here, two top makeup artists—Gucci Westman, co-founder of Westman Atelier, and Soul Lee, founder of Beautiful Soul Makeup Studio—share their personal brush-cleaning routines, including the products that make the job easier and more efficient, so you keep your tools in pristine shape and get better results from every stroke.
How To Clean Makeup Brushes: Quick Daily Routine
Trust A Professional Spray For All Brushes
“My favorite formula is Parian Spirit, which is made from citrus oils and food-grade solvents that disinfect and condition,” says Westman. “If your brushes just need a quick touch-up, spray the solution directly onto the bristles until they’re damp.”
Next, “lay out a clean white cloth or paper towel and swirl the damp brush head back and forth against the towel to remove product residue. Do this for about a minute, or until you don’t notice any more makeup particles coming off on the towel,” says Westman. “Then, lay your brushes horizontally on a flat surface to dry—not standing up straight because that affects how the bristles dry.”
Try A No-Stain Option For Expensive Brushes
“I’ve been using Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner for many years,” says Lee. “It’s a disinfectant with anti-microbial properties and dries really quickly without any oily residue so my brushes stay fluffy. It also doesn’t need to be rinsed off so it’s great if you use your brushes a lot and want everything to be clean and germ-free,” she says.
“The directions on the bottle say to pour the product into a little cup and dip the brush head into it for a few seconds. But I found this method can stain white-toned synthetic brushes or goat hair brushes,” says Lee. “Instead, I pour the product directly onto a power towel and gently rub the brush tip and then dry flat.”
How To Clean Makeup Brushes: Deep-Clean Routine
Use Fragrance-Free Baby Shampoo
“For a super deep clean, it’s nice to use a clear shampoo once in a while to really keep brushes free of any bacteria and to keep bristles looking fresh,” says Westman. “I like a clean, fragrance-free option like this one.”
Try A Drugstore Clarifying Shampoo
“This shampoo thoroughly cleans but is gentle on brush hairs, which is especially important for brushes I wash often, such as those for foundation, concealer or any type type of creamy or liquid product,” says Lee. “My technique is to dip the bristles in lukewarm water, massage on a bit of the shampoo, rinse and dry the brushes flat. This ensures you won’t break the bonds holding the bristles in place and helps your brushes last longer.”
The Solid Cleansing Bar Of Choice
This fragrance-free cleanser contains a concentrated blend of sustainable palm oils, nourishing aloe and coconut oil to help lift residue (even long-wear makeup formulas) from your sponges and brushes, so they last longer. It comes in a lavender version as well but if you have sensitive skin, stick with this unscented pick.
The Cleaning Mitt For Extra Deep-Cleaning
This flexible, dual-textured silicone mitt is designed to wash tools thoroughly without tearing or causing damage. Swirl your sponge or brush head against Beautyblender’s solid cleanser and then gently scrub with this mitt—this technique aims to protect against 99% of germs for up to 24 hours.
More Pro Advice For Maintaining Clean Tools
How Often Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?
Both Westman and Lee agree that it’s best to give your brushes a quick cleaning daily to prevent makeup particles from settling into the bristles, which makes it harder to de-gunk them. Lee prefers a more intense deep-clean once a week for the tools she relies on at work. “At home, just for myself, I’ll wash every 3 weeks,” she says.
What’s The Easiest Way To Clean Makeup Brushes?
If you find yourself “forgetting” or just avoiding the task, try cleaning your brushes right after you use them or at night when you wash your face. Keep your cleaners on the counter next to your tools, so you have all the supplies at the ready. Both Westman and Lee prefer either spraying the bristles or applying the cleaner to a paper towel and rubbing the brush head against the towel to remove the particles as the easiest method.
How Do You Clean Makeup Sponges?
Makeup sponges are notoriously difficult to clean since the particles tend to absorb deeply into the surface. In other words: Just rinsing your sponge under water and squeezing it will not get the job done. Instead, try rubbing the sponge against a solid bar of soap, gently but firmly pushing it into the surface of the bar to expunge all the makeup trapped inside. Beautyblender’s Solid Unscented Sponge & Brush Cleaner is a top choice among makeup artists for this task, and the brand’s Keep It Clean textured silicone mitt is also great for extra-duty cleaning to remove every last speck of makeup.
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