How to clean makeup brushes the right way might seem obvious, but it's a little more complicated than just wash, rinse, and repeat. Yes, it can be a bit of a pain, but washing your brushes regularly makes a world of difference. Considering they're an essential part of your makeup routine—what good is the perfect foundation if you have nothing to apply it with?—it's worth taking the time to learn to treat them right.
In addition to looking better on your vanity, clean brushes actually perform better. Dirt, oil, and makeup buildup can weigh down brush hairs, making them harder to work with—which can mean streaky foundation and patchy blush down the line. Dirty brushes can also harm your skin as well. "We know that makeup brushes grow bacteria and fungus," says Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care. That bacteria paired with the aforementioned dirt and oil can lead to breakouts and even dermatitis in some cases.
In order to avoid that, we asked Ciraldo and makeup artist Kasey Spickard to share their best tips for keeping brushes squeaky clean. Read on to have all your questions answered, including how often to wash your brushes, how to do it, and the best cleansers for the job.
How often to clean makeup brushes
No offense, but you're probably not washing your brushes often enough. "Clean brushes are essential," says Spickard, who says that ideally you should be disinfecting your brushes after every use with a liquid cleanser (this is non-negotiable if you're a makeup artist). But he gets that's not exactly realistic for must of us and says a deep clean once a week is fine. Ciraldo recommends giving them a good scrub at least once every two weeks, more if there's visible makeup buildup, and to be extra diligent about cleaning your makeup sponges, like Beautyblenders, since they're more prone to bacteria.
What to use to clean makeup brushes
You have a few options when it comes to what to use to wash your brushes. Spickard prefers to use a liquid brush cleanser like Cinema Secrets between uses since it's "able to penetrate the bristles and really get in and break up the makeup." However, he warns that the liquid cleanser can leave a bit of a residue, so he likes to use the Beautyblender Solid Blendercleanser for his weekly deep-clean. "I also always have 70% rubbing alcohol with me," he says. "It's great at removing things like waterproof mascara that even the best brush cleaners struggle with. It's also the best disinfectant and cleaner to truly sanitize your brushes."
But you don't have to buy a separate soap for your brushes if you prefer not to—the shampoo hanging out in your shower will likely do the trick. Just make sure it's sulfate-free, says Ciraldo. "While you want to rinse the brushes out thoroughly, it's good to avoid sulfates that may possibly leave a residue on the brush and lead to some irritation or pore clogging." Some pros also recommend gentle dishwashing liquid for a thorough clean.
Meanwhile, our editors also love a brush cleaner spray (which is basically like dry shampoo for your makeup brushes) for a quick, less intense clean. All you do is spray it on your brush (as shown in the image above), then wipe your brush on a paper towel. It's especially helpful if you're traveling and aren't bringing a whole pack of brushes with you.
Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner
Beautyblender Blendercleanser Solid
Sephora Collection Instant Brush Cleaner Spray
Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser
Cake The Posh Wash Sulfate-Free Swirl Shampoo
Mrs. Meyer´s Clean Day Basil Dish Soap
The best way to clean makeup brushes
Now that you're setting aside time every two weeks to give your brushes a bath, follow the steps below to get them looking brand new.
1. Fill a cup with warm water and a few drops of liquid soap or shampoo.
2. Swish your brush around in the cup, and gently work it against the bottom or the side of a cup to loosen the makeup. The key word here is gently, since you don't want to bend the brush out of shape. If you're using a bar soap, gently rub your brush on it under running water, and work out the makeup with your fingers.
3. Rinse gently with tepid water, making sure no makeup comes off the brush if you run it over your hand.
4. Push bristles back into their usual shape if they got banged up, and lay to dry. Ciraldo recommends letting them dry on a towel that's rolled on one end so that the brush is placed on a downward slant preventing water from dripping up into the area where its brush bristles are glued into the handle.
5. For cleaning in between use, fill a cup with liquid brush cleanser. Dip the brush into the liquid to lightly coat it, and then wipe the brush back and forth on a paper towel until the brush is clean.
How often should you replace makeup brushes
As long as you're taking care of your brushes, they should last you a long time. There's actually no need to replace your brushes from a hygienic point of view as long as you regularly clean them (sponges are another story and should be tossed every three months). According to Spickard, you really only need to replace your brushes when the actual hairs start to break or fall out. And if that's the case, we've got plenty of recommendations for the best makeup brushes, here.
Bella Cacciatore is the beauty associate at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @bellacacciatore_.
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