Your brushes are the backbone of your beauty kit. After all, you have brushes to thank for flawless foundation application that has you looking more and more like Beyoncé every day. So, let’s talk about keeping these sacred tools clean. Think of brush cleaning as an essential part of your beauty routine. Your brushes are dipped into a slew of liquid, cream, and powder products daily, making it harder for the bristles to move freely and seamlessly for each makeup look thanks to all the product build-up.
“Buildup of dirt and oils on your makeup brushes can cause acne breakouts and possibly rashes called dermatitis,” warns Cristina Monaco, Certified Physician Assistant of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York.
We talked to Monaco and makeup artist Ashleigh B. Ciucci to find out all the best tips and tricks for removing residual makeup, dirt, and oils from your precious tools.
How often should you be cleaning your makeup brushes?
Remember the gross residual makeup, dirt, and oil we just talked about? That disappears after a good brush cleaning. If you’re a makeup artist or just someone who wears a significant amount of makeup regularly, Monaco suggests brush cleaning after each use.
For face brushes like foundation, concealer, or powder, you should be cleaning them once a week,” says Ciucci.”For eye brushes or brushes that you’re using for different shades, clean in between uses.”
When should you be washing your makeup brushes?
“So there’s cleaning your brushes, and there’s washing your brushes,” explains Cuicci. The cleaning should be done weekly, as mentioned above, and washing should be done once a month with a gentle soap or shampoo.
What is the easiest way to clean makeup brushes?
The easiest way to clean your makeup brushes is to invest in a silicone brush cleaning mat. Most silicone mats are designed with different textures that can get in between your brushes better than your hands could.
What’s the step-by-step process on how to clean your makeup brushes?
Ciucci’s step-by-step routine for cleaning your brushes is as follows:
- Squeeze a dollop of gentle shampoo into a glass/mug and fill it with warm water.
- Swirl your brushes in the water and gently massage the bristles to further remove the gunk.
- Rinse with clean water and carefully squeeze the water out.
- Lay flat to dry.
- For day-to-day cleaning, use a brush cleaner like Cinema Secrets, Cuicci’s favorite brush cleanser. For intense washing, go for Beauty Blender Cleanser.
- Pour a small amount of the liquid into a small cup and dip your brush to saturate.
- Gingerly swirl the brush on a paper towel which will absorb the cleanser, taking the dirt with it. If you want an even more thorough clean, substitute the paper towel for a silicone mat or glove.
Can I use Dawn dish soap to clean my makeup brushes?
The most potent cleanser for your brushes is one that you might have around anyway—Monaco swears by Dawn dishwashing soap. “It literally removes everything and anything!” says Monaco. “In a makeup cleaner emergency I will fill a small cup with warm water and add a few drops of Dawn. Swish it around, and voila!” It’s not that crazy considering dish soaps are engineered to remove tough oils and grease—the exact byproduct you’re hoping to take out when you clean your brushes.
Dawn also works for makeup sponges. “Let it sit in the glass submerged for a few minutes,” explains Dawn. “Then rinse with warm water, dab on a paper towel, and repeat. Lastly, place it in the microwave for a few seconds–while watching, of course–to get rid of bacteria.”
When should you replace your makeup brushes?
As soon as you notice your brushes aren’t getting as squeaky clean as they once were, it might be time to replace them. “As a general rule, every three months you should be buying a few new brushes to replace the old ones,” says Monaco.
It’s also important to check for shedding. “As long as your brushes aren’t shedding, smell, or are severely discolored they can last a lifetime,” explains Ciucci. “ I have a MAC brush from 1994!”
In regards to the fluffier brushes you use for powder, you’ll be able to notice they are ready for a cleaning based on the product build-up in the bristles or at the base where the brushes meet the metal (also known as the ferrule). “For synthetic brushes or brushes you use for creams or liquids, you’ll notice the shape of the brush getting a little wonky, the bristles will start to clump together,” explains Ciucci.
How should I clean my beauty blenders and makeup sponges?
Monaco recommends BeautyBlender’s Beautycleanser soap bar for properly cleaning your beauty blenders and makeup sponges. “BeautyBlenders tend to get dirty very fast,” Monaco cautions. Another great option is electronic brush cleaners. The electric brush cleaner does the work for you. Here are two electric brush cleaning options as well as our soap-based favorites:
Is there anything else I should know before I clean my makeup brushes?
If you want to use paper towels to clean and dry off your brushes, make sure to choose ones that aren’t lint-prone so they won’t leave your brushes looking dusty. There’s nothing worse than putting time and energy into washing your collection, only to have them looking dirtier than before.
And lastly, don’t over-cleanse your brushes! Sometimes super clean brushes don’t pick up product as well, and a little grit on the brush is ok as long as you don’t go overboard in avoiding cleaning.
Chloe Hall oversees all beauty coverage at ELLE.com. She knew she wanted to get into beauty the moment Donna Summer came on her screen and she’s been chasing the perfect disco shadows ever since. Her sweet spot is the intersections of beauty with current culture, whether it’s music, movies, or social media. You can find her in Brooklyn with her pug or in Rihanna’s comment section.
Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. She likes lounging about with a good book and thinks a closet without platform sneakers is a travesty.
Nerisha is the beauty commerce editor at ELLE.com, covering all things beauty (and fashion and music). She has a penchant for sneakers and nude lip glosses, and spends way too much time re-watching 90s sitcoms.