Cleaning my makeup brushes always seemed like such a chore, until I got myself into a little routine. With a few tools and a set process, my makeup brushes have never looked better — and on top of not spreading grime across my face, I’ve noticed that clean makeup brushes make my application smoother and more even. Here’s how I deep clean and get by in those in-between moments.
The Deep Clean
We really should be giving our brushes a deep clean every few weeks — this is especially true for face brushes or tools that spread liquid products. These brushes get grimy a little quicker and can spread bacteria, which in turn can cause breakouts.
Once you get the process down, it only takes a few minutes to give your brushes a thorough clean. Regular cleaning also helps them stay in good condition, and ensures that if you’ve invested in quality brushes that you’re helping them last as long as possible. Work a brush cleaning schedule into your normal weekend self-care routine and consider it part of your skincare practice. For example, pop on a face mask and your favorite podcast and you’ll get through this process quickly.
Here are the key steps to get your brushes clean:
Wet the Bristles
Use warm water and be sure to not soak the entire brush head. This technique preserves the brush and ensures the glue that holds the bristles to the handles doesn’t break down too quickly over the life of your tool.
Pick the Right Soap
Gentle is best! You really don’t need harsh detergents to get a good clean. It really is worth picking up a cleanser designed for your makeup brushes. Not only does it properly preserve them, but you also know you’re not ending up with the residue of any harsh chemicals getting swooshed around your face at the next application. Other alternatives include a natural dish soap, or even your go-to face wash — it’s enough to get makeup off our faces every day, so it’s a fine option as well.
If you’re feeling like a real pro, separate out the synthetic brushes from the natural fiber brushes and use a different soap for each. A solid “bar” cleanser gets synthetic brushes super clean and can be helpful for stubborn foundation and cream products. Liquid cleaners are a little more gentle, and are great for natural hair brushes or those that are a little less dense.
Dollop and Swirl
A little dab is often all that you need in the palm of your hand. Give the brush a swirl, working the bristles through the soap until you get a good lather. While definitely not required, these brush cleaning mats do make a pretty great difference in getting the grit out, and are a worthy addition to your makeup stash once you get a routine down. If you’re using one, you similarly just work the soapy brush through the different textures of the mat to start cleaning out product.
Rinse very well, being careful to position the brush bristles toward the drain. Again, the goal is to not let soap, product, or too much water seep into the handle and weaken the bristles’ bond. It’s important not to soak your brushes in the soaping or rinsing stage.
Gently press the brush into a towel. (I like the super absorbent ones normally used for drying hair — they pick up so much water!) Then, work on carefully reshaping the bristles.
Your brushes will need a few hours to dry completely. The best way to keep their shape is to actually set them on the edge of a counter with the brush heads hanging off. Setting them out to dry on a completely flat surface squishes them on one side and can lead to them not drying in the right shape. Again, you can add in the tool of a brush drying rack to avoid compressing the bristles in a strange way.
Cleaning Up In Between
Some weeks, a brush cleaning just isn’t going to happen. (Honestly, many of our weeks.) In those off times, we’ve got some options! At the very least, I like to give my eye makeup brushes a swirl in a color switch cleaner. While it’s not an exact replacement for a full clean, it does get you a little more mileage until your next deep clean. It also helps your makeup looks stay crisp, because you can use this any time and swap out color as you move between shadows or other powders.
New products are also popping up that can help get us by between cleans — some sprays act a little bit like a dry shampoo for your makeup brushes. Just a quick spray and swirl on a towel pulls up light dirt and color for a quick refresh.
If you take amazing care of your makeup brushes through this process, you’ll rarely have to replace them. Keeping them hygienic and clean means that they’ll last you for years and will allow you to build a perfect set of tools to execute your favorite makeup looks.