Brush Cleaning 101

You hear it all the time: you need to clean your brushes! And it doesn't have to be a mystery anymore. Here's how to clean your makeup brushes!

One thing I am consistently surprised to find a lot of people don't do, or don't even know to do, is clean their makeup brushes. I'll be honest: I didn't know much about cleaning my brushes before I got into makeup. I also didn't use makeup brushes then as much as I do now. But being an avid pusher of great makeup brushes (cough cough, Sigma Beauty and Real Techniques) means that I absolutely must insist that you clean your makeup brushes.

Here's why, and I'm going to start with the scariest reason so that if you stop reading at any point in this post, you will probably have read at least this: when you use a brush to apply foundation, for example, the brush picks up bacteria from your face and that creamy, sticky foundation is a perfect place for it to grow. So when you're using that same brush a few days or a week or three weeks or three months later, you're applying a fresh coat of bacteria with your foundation. Yuck. Also, breakouts. Did you hear me? BreakoutsClean your brushes.

In addition to harboring bacteria, your brush harbors all that foundation. You didn't think it was all ending up on your face, did you? No. Brushes are absorbent, and they absorb that foundation. So over time the fibers clump together and give you a messier finish with every application (think: streak-face). I'm pretty sure the point of that foundation you put on was to make your skin look flawless, not look like you're wearing a layer of poorly-applied foundation. Clean your brushes.

If you're like me, you don't wear the same look every day. You don't think you can blend that neutral shadow with the same brush you used for teal yesterday, do you? Cleaning shadow brushes is easy-peasy because there exists a thing called daily brush cleaner, which you can spray on your brush as soon as you're done using it and then wipe it on a towel to remove the eyeshadow. And if you get a good one and don't over-saturate, you can reuse that brush immediately. So clean your brushes!

How often should you clean your brushes? If you wear makeup every day, you should be washing your brushes once a week.

As it happens (or maybe I planned it), I posted two Instagram videos yesterday to show you how to clean your powder brushes — like eyeshadow, for example — and how to clean your foundation brushes. Excuse the quality, they are clearly iPhone videos, but you're welcome because they're each 15 seconds or less (and follow me on Insta for more):

How to clean your brushes of dry product (like eyeshadow, blush, etc.):

  1. Pour a small amount of brush cleaner into a cup (see below for some of my favorites)
  2. Quickly dip the tip of the brush into the cleaner — don't soak it or over-saturate it, the brush will absorb the cleaner on its own
  3. Swirl the brush on a paper towel to remove the product
  4. Lay flat to dry

How to clean your brushes of wet product (like foundation or concealer):

  1. Wet a solid brush cleanser and swirl the brush in the cleanser a few times
  2. Swirl the brush on your hand to work the soap into the brush, then under running water to rinse it out
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until the water runs clear
  4. Squeeze the excess water out of the brush with your hands or a towel and reshape the brush
  5. Lay the brushes at an angle, brush-side down, to dry for 24 hours

I promise, the anticipation of cleaning your brushes is much worse than actually doing it. It's really not difficult, and the more you do it, the less work it is.

Below are a few of my favorite makeup brush cleaners, and believe me, the product you use does make a difference. Don't spend money on good brushes and then go cheap on the products that maintain them!

Brush Cleansers
Brush Cleansers

blendercleanser solid by beautyblender, $15.95 — My favorite for deep-cleaning my foundation brushes. Doesn't last a terribly long time, but does a great job.

Parian Spirit Brush Cleaner, $6.50-$30 — My first favorite brush cleaner, it has a fantastic citrus smell and comes in a variety of sizes. Check out the Brush Cleaning System! Be sure not to soak or oversaturate your brushes with this cleaner because it will dissolve the glue that holds the brush together!

Sephora Master Cleanse: Daily Brush Cleaner, $8.50-$15 — I use this regularly to clean my shadow brushes because the formula is fantastic. I can quick-clean my shadow brushes and use them immediately! Just spray it on your brush, swirl it on a paper towel and you're good to go!

M·A·C Brush Cleanser, $15 —This has a great citrus smell and, for me, is interchangeable with Parian Spirit. It's also, I think, a little less expensive per ounce than Parian Spirit.

Go clean your brushes!

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