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Complete Guide to Cleaning Makeup Brushes

Complete Guide to Cleaning Makeup Brushes

by Elyse V

Since it’s spring, our thoughts naturally turn to revitalizing the things around us. This may mean cleaning out your closet, updating your makeup for spring, and cleaning your neglected makeup brushes. Cleaning your makeup brushes is something every makeup user has to do regularly and every makeup user regularly dreads doing. It’s just not a fun or pretty task but we do what we must. To make this dull and dirty task easier, we’re sharing our complete guide to cleaning makeup brushes.

So, how often should we be cleaning makeup brushes?

In an ideal world, you would clean your brushes once or twice a week. If you’re prone to breakouts or have a skin issue (or an eye/skin infection) clean your brushes after each use, as not to spread bacteria. Also, if you are changing up your blush or the colour on your lip, you need to clean those brushes in between uses, so you don’t transfer or mix colours for a result that you didn’t intend.

What cleanser can we use when cleaning makeup brushes?

I like to use any basic shampoo, that I may have. Shampoo is meant for your head and is formulated to be “safe” if it gets in your eyes. Yes, you are rinsing off any and all soap, but I think it’s best to use something that is meant for use on your head/skin. If you have any little shampoo bottles stashed away from your last hotel stay- use them on your brushes.

Some people like using a gentle, but good quality dish soap. Makeup artist Dominique Lerma recommends using Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Dish Soap.

Mario Dedivanovic, who became well known as a celebrity makeup artist because of clients like Kim Kardashian, has recommended two different cleaning solutions:

  1. The more affordable option is baby shampoo mixed with tea tree oil to help give the cleanser antibacterial properties; and,
  2. The more luxurious version is to use Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser. We love Purity Cleanser, it was one of our favorite beauty products in our September 2020 edition, and made our beauty lovers gift guide at Christmas. Seeing as Philosophy Purity Cleanser not only cleanses your skin, but removes makeup- it would stand to reason that it would make for a great way to get makeup buildup off a brush. While using such an expensive cleanser on all your brushes weekly or even monthly isn’t something many of us can do, it is a great idea to help restore a favourite brush that just won’t come clean. Yes, I’m looking at you my favourite foundation brush. By using Purity Cleanser on the brush, you should be able to remove a lot of build up, and then maintain the brush with another milder and less expensive cleanser.

Some brands like MAC, sell a cleanser specifically for brush cleaning. These products are formulated to breakdown makeup and leave your brushes clean and fresh. Many people swear by such products, but you have to ask yourself do you really need to buy yet another product? I prefer using something I already have and/or a product that can do double duty for me.

Now that we know what to use and when, let’s dive into common methods of cleaning makeup brushes.

TIP: 
Do not soak brushes in water as it will erode the glue holding your brush together and can damage wooden handles over time

Automated Brush Cleaner:

The automated brush cleaner is my absolute favourite way to clean brushes. Why? Simple – it doesn’t harm the bristles. Automated brush cleaners don’t take a lot of soaking or time spent under running water so you shouldn’t have the glue wearing away. Super gluing your brushes back together isn’t a fun task. The other plus is that the machine spins the brushes dry. This way they are ready to use almost immediately after cleaning. The major downside of this product is that it can’t clean all your brushes. Yes, the silicone attachments or collars can hold a variety of brush handle sizes, but it is trial and error to see what will fit. The other issue is that you can’t clean double ended brushes. Overall, even if you have to hand wash a few brushes, it is still better than having to hand wash all your brushes. Your hands will thank you. I still like to lay my brushes out on a towel afterwards, just to ensure that they are absolutely completely dry.


Brush Cleaning Mats :

These silicone mats have various patterns of grooves and ridges. You are supposed to rub the brush heads, after you apply your cleaning solution of choice, over the appropriate section on these grooves and ridges. The ideas is that the various textures of the silicone mat will help to dislodge makeup and debris from your brushes. Some of the mats have the various patterns labelled, so you know which works best for face brushes verses eye brushes. These mats do make cleaning your brushes, easier. Know that you can buy these mats at various price points, there is even a silicon glove version. The downside, I feel, is that it is harder on the bristles. You have to be careful with the amount of pressure you apply when rubbing bristles into the different textures of the mat.


Sephora Collection Instant Brush Cleaner Spray:

This Instant Brush Cleaner Spray is the equivalent of dry shampoo for your makeup brushes. Many people recommend using this in-between deep brush cleanings. They say “ instant dry brush cleaner spray cleans quickly without rinsing and dries on the spot for immediate re-use of your brushes.” This might be a great product to use when travelling. The main complaint seems to be that some people don’t like the scent. However, if you are in a pinch and don’t have time to wet and dry a brush, this might work well for you.


Cleaning Makeup brushes

Hand Wash:

This is the traditional method, by which you wet the bristles, apply soap, lather using your hand, rinse brushes with water until it runs clear; then wipe with a cloth or tissue to check if there is makeup residue. On the plus side, you control how the bristles are massaged with the soap- this way you won’t apply too much pressure and bend the bristles out of shape. The downside is, your hands can get very chapped if you don’t wear gloves- especially when cleaning numerous brushes. An additional issue is drying time. Unlike the dry spray and the automatic brush cleaner, all other methods leave you waiting roughly 12 hours to overnight to get them dry enough to use. Sometimes they even have to be turned over after the first several hours. Always touch the brushes to make sure it is completely dry, before putting it in product – you don’t want to ruin any makeup.


That’s a wrap on our complete guide to cleaning makeup brushes. Do you have another tip or trick for cleaning makeup brushes that wasn’t included in our list? Which method works best for you? Leave us a comment below and let us know. We tend to learn the best tips from sharing with each other.

Be kind to yourself and to your brushes!

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