Sunday, September 14, 2014

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

When it comes to makeup, no matter how expensive or affordable it is, you have to have the right tools. A good brush is all the difference between seamless coverage or uneven color. Keeping that in mind, it would be plain good advice to take care of those tools. You can go out and buy a fabulous $40 foundation brush, but if you don't properly take care of it, what's the point?

Brush maintenance is not at all hard to incorporate into your daily life. While you're doing your makeup, give each brush a spritz of alcohol (or a spray brush cleaner) and wipe on a clean paper towel after each use. This prevents any extra bacteria from chilling in your brush, waiting to jump onto your face. It also helps get rid of color residue so that you can use the same brush for a different shade of blush or shadow, or whatever. If you apply makeup daily, I suggest you fully wash your brushes at least once a week. Of course, that changes depending on if you're doing different colors, different faces, or you go wild and apply makeup twice a day. For me, I wear makeup maybe two or three times a week. So I'm fine with washing at least once every two weeks. As always, your mileage may vary. If you look at your brush and see more color from product than bristles, you definitely should get to washing. There is also such a thing as being overzealous when it comes to washing your brushes. Fully washing your brush every day can lead to bristles shedding and becoming coarse. Getting into a good habit of washing your brushes regularly not only keeps things clean, but it also prolongs the life of your brushes. I still have some eye shadow brushes from when I was a junior in high school.

So now that I've given you a primer on brush care, let's get right on to how I clean my brushes.

As you can see in the picture below, my brushes are pretty well worn. For the sake of this post, I've let my brushes reach the two week mark. Can you see how the white hairs aren't that much visible anymore and the bristles seem to be separating? That means there is so much product and oil (from your face) loaded onto the brushes that it's actually weighing on the bristles. Gross, right? Now imagine all the bacteria the gross bristles are harboring from layer after layer of product residue sitting on it. Do you really want to be wiping that across your face?

Fortunately for you, thorough brush cleansing is easy to achieve. All you need are things you already have around the house*. 
What you need are:
  • Dish soap (I like to use Dawn). If you want something gentler, baby shampoo works just as well.
  • A small plastic container or glass
  • Bath towel
  • and good ol' water.
*You can also buy makeup brush shampoo at any beauty supply shop or online.

In the plastic container, squirt a generous amount of the dish soap. 
Look, there are even measuring lines for your convenience.

Then, fill the container with about an inch high of water. This part is up to you how strong you want this brush cleanser. 

Swish it around a few times to incorporate the soap.

Now, you want to get out your brushes. I like to set out the bath towel somewhere close by on a flat surface. 

Take your brush and dunk it straight into the mixture. The reason why I wanted to only fill the container about an inch up is because I didn't want to drown the brush head in the soap. Getting any water up into the ferrule (the metal part enclosing the bristles) is a big no-no and can lead to weakening of the glue at the base holding the bristles to the brush. Also, water trapped up there can harbor bacteria since it can't properly dry out. So once you've had the brush in the mixture for a few seconds (this helps loosen up the bristles and the product trapped onto it), gently swirl it around, catching a few of the bristles at the bottom of the container to really help agitate the bristles. 

Take the brush out of the soapy mixture and start sudsing up the bristles. I do this by massaging the bristles between my thumb and fore- and middle-finger. This is further loosening up the product on the bristles and causing the soap to foam, which helps lift the product residue. Do this over the sink so you don't get gunky soap everywhere. 
Can't really tell here, but there was beige-y foam all over my hand.

Now that the brush is sufficiently sudsy, hold it under running water, with the bristles angled down (remember, we can't let too much water travel up the ferrule). Take this opportunity to swirl the brush around in the palm of your hand to really rinse away any soapy residue. 
You can already tell the hairs are a lot whiter in this gratuitous action shot.

After you've rinsed as much soap off as you can, start gently squeezing the bristles. This will help get rid of excess water and is the perfect time to start shaping the bristles into its original form. This is very important as it helps the brush maintain its shape as it dries. 

Place on the towel to dry. You can also tuck in one end of the folded towel to create an slight ledge so the bristles can dry at a downward angle (which helps any water that might have traveled into the ferrule to drain).
A little damp but my brushes are usually completely dry in about 5 hours.

And there you have it- clean brushes you don't mind rubbing against your face. Now you don't have to worry about your skin breaking out from dirty bristles or your cream/liquid/powder products applying unevenly. 

I almost forgot to say that warm water and vinegar (distilled white or apple cider) works really well to remove any residue build-up or staining. I like to use this especially with my white-haired brushes. I like to do about one part vinegar to three parts warm water. And maybe add in a little Dawn soap to really get in there. The vinegar also helps keep the bristles soft and fluffy. Make sure you're extra vigilant about not getting the mixture onto or into the metal ferrule. It can cause a reaction of sorts. Thanks to the commenter for reminding me!

xx May


  1. You can also add in a bit of white distilled vinegar every couple of wash cycles to get them *really* clean! It also makes rinsing easier.

    1. I'm not gonna lie, I totally forgot about that! Haha. Yeah I like to do vinegar and warm water every now and then to "freshen" up my white haired brushes


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