Exactly How — and How Often — to Clean Your Makeup Brushes


Most of us are guilty of neglecting our makeup brushes, letting powder and cream formulas build up on the bristles for weeks, or using more than one color without cleaning in-between. But according to the pros, it's essential to spend at least a few minutes each week getting the gunk out to prevent bacteria growth, acne, and more gross skin issues.

Many makeup artists believe brushes are the most important step for achieving great makeup, so if it's been quite a while since you lathered up your own, it's time to get deep-cleaning. Here's what you need to know:

How often should I clean my makeup brushes?

"Ideally, the brushes should be cleaned every time you use them but that may be a real challenge to most of us," says Sabina Wizemann, senior chemist at the Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab. Here's what you can get away with:

  • For brushes used with powders: 1-2 times a week. "Once or twice a week is probably adequate for brushes used for powder makeup such blushes and bronzers," Wizemann says.
  • For brushes used with liquids or creams: Daily. For liquid foundations, concealers, and eyeshadows, these "should be cleaned daily as they are more prone to harbor bacteria that can potentially cause infections," says Wizemann.
  • For sponges: Daily. As far as cleaning your makeup sponge and beautyblender, it "should be washed after every use; they can harbor bacteria much easier than brushes as they are used wet and stay wet for a while after use," says Wizemann.

What should I use to wash my makeup brushes?

You have some options, according to our pros:

  • "Baby shampoos are widely used to clean brushes and they work really well," says Wizemann, who recommends these gentle formulas especially for cleaning natural fiber brushes.
  • "Ivory soap takes liquid makeup off brushes quite well," says Wizemann. Use it to break down these heavier formulas.
  • Dawn dish soap is great for deep cleaning makeup sponges and beautyblenders to quickly emulsify oil-based foundations and concealers.
  • Makeup brush cleansers specifically made for cleaning makeup brushes. Our pro favorites are EcoTools Makeup Brush Shampoo, Real Techniques Brush Cleaner, and French Nerds Nerdiest Brush Cleanser.
  • Textured cleansing mats "that fit in the palm of your hand and are easy to use," says Wizemann. "Small mats that come with cleaning soap (like this one from beautyblender) are perfect: They are adequate to do the job well and require no additional storage."

While household products like olive oil and vinegar are often mentioned as solutions for brush cleaning, it's best to keep those in the kitchen, says Wizemann.

How do I clean my makeup brush?

Now that you have the information and tools to get the job done, here's a step-by-step guide to cleaning your makeup brushes:

1. Wet the bristles.


Rinse the bristles under water. Avoid getting water above the handle of the brush, which can loosen the glue over time and eventually lead to shedding bristles and ultimately, a ruined brush.

2. Gently massage in soap.


Rub your favorite cleanser onto your hand and then swirl your brush across your palm in gentle circular motions, taking care to get the entire brush saturated. You can also use a brush cleansing mat at this step.

3. Rinse clean.


After the brush is sudsed up, rinse the soap and product out. Repeat steps 1-2 if the water doesn't run clean, again, being sure the water doesn't touch your brush's handle.

4. Squeeze the water out.


Gently press on the bristles with your fingers to release excess water. Don't tug too hard!

5. Let it dry.


Lay the brush or brushes flat on a towel overnight. They'll be ready for you to use again in the morning!

When is it time to replace my makeup brush?

"Luckily, if brushes are adequately washed and dried, they should last a while (probably years!) before they need to be replaced," says Wizemann. To keep brushes at their peak, "don't keep them cramped in a toiletry bag for an extended period," advises Wizemann. "Dedicating a cup to store your everyday brushes is all you need."

But if the brush's have bristles started to shed, or if stray bristles won't align with the rest even after washing and drying, it's time replace the brush!

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