Your makeup brushes, just like your bras, could probably benefit from a good wash. Actually, they could benefit from frequent good washes. Clean makeup brushes are essential to making sure your makeup goes on properly and doesn’t cause breakouts, but how to do it without ruining those soft, lovely bristles (and dying of boredom)?
We asked Kim Creton, a makeup artist who splits her time between Toronto and Montreal, to give us the lowdown on maintaining clean brushes and sponges (and therefore happier skin).
You need to wash them as often as possible
Creton recommends washing your tools daily. Yes, you read that right: DAILY. If you’re busy and can’t manage it (so…everyone?), once a week should be the “ultimate maximum.” Try to do as often as possible in a week, even if you have a few minutes to spare.
Think of it this way: we’re all busy, but most of us still wash our faces at the end of the day. You’re putting those brushes on your face every day, too. Washing them at the same time as you wash your face might be a good way to stay on top of things.
“Whether a brush has been used once, or seven times, a dirty brush is a dirty brush,” says Creton.
If you don’t commit, your skin might punish you
Creton warns that there are lots of consequences to not cleaning your brushes. “Unwanted bacteria, viruses and fungi can take as little as 48 hours to begin to grow in a favourable atmosphere,” she says. “If you wait too long in between washes, these pathogens can grow on your brushes or sponges; so can mold.” Yikes.
You also have to keep in mind what the brushes have been in contact with, like your dirty makeup bag or compact, countertop or even someone else’s face if, say, your roommate borrowed your tools. This can all add up to breakouts, irritations and infections.
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Here’s what you’ll need to clean your makeup brushes at home:
A hypoallergenic cleanser
The detergent you use “comes down to what’s within your budget or what’s laying around your house,” says Creton. You’ve probably heard of people using lots of things, including gentle shampoo, dish soap mixed with a bit of olive oil, face wash or special brush cleansers. Creton says these are all good options—just make sure they’re fragrance-free, hypoallergenic and microbial. One ingredient you’ll want to avoid is silicone, which can cause unnecessary buildup on the brush bristles.
BeautyBlender liquidblendercleanser, $18, shoppersdrugmart.ca
Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner, $55, sephora.com
Sephora Collection Daily Brush Cleaner, $12, sephora.com
“I definitely love the liquidblendercleanser by BeautyBlender. However, it is not budget-friendly,” says Creton. “When I need something easier on the wallet, I opt for Dawn dish soap. This detergent contains everything you need to remove the stickiest lip-gloss, or heaviest pigment buildup.”
Need a quick refresh between uses? Creton loves Cinema Secrets and Sephora brand brush cleansers, but remember they don’t replace an actual wash!
A cleaning mat
While not mandatory, Creton says silicone cleaning mats are “a must” for her. “They help scrub the bristles better and accelerate the rinsing process,” she says. She recommends BeautyBlender and Sigma Beauty mats.
Sigma Beauty Spa® Express Brush Cleaning Mat, $44, thebay.com
BeautyBlender keep.it.clean, $26, sephora.com
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Step-by-step guide to cleaning your makeup brushes at home:
1. Swirl the dry bristles into detergent
Depending on the brush size, use about a dime-sized amount of detergent in your palm or a silicone mat. Larger powder brushes or kabukis need to be washed individually, but Creton washes smaller brushes with similar shapes and bristle types (synthetic vs. real hair) together.
2. Rinse the bristles under lukewarm water
Even if you’re washing smaller brushes together, rinse each brush individually. Creton likes to “smoosh” the bristles, or massage them very gently, to rinse them properly. Don’t use water that’s too hot, or it’ll ruin the bristles. And be gentle! “The gentler you are, the longer they will last,” says Creton.
Make sure the bristles are pointing down as you rinse so that no water gets into the barrel (the metal part of the brush), or it could loosen the glue that holds the bristles in place.
Keep rinsing until the bristles are back to their original colour, with no sign of residual makeup or detergent. The water should be running clear and soap-free.
If you’re using a silicone mat, Creton likes to gently rub the bristles again on the mat to rinse any lingering residue.
3. Pat dry and lay flat with the bristles hanging over the table
Gently press excess water out of the bristles with your fingeres or pat them down with a paper towel. “I usually give them an extra shake (downwards) to help bring the brush bristles back to their fluffy shape,” says Creton.
Finally, lay them horizontally on a paper towel or towel. The bristles should be hanging over the edge of the table to make sure they air-dry properly. It’s “imperative” that they’re entirely dry before you use them again.
Step-by-step guide to cleaning your makeup sponges:
1. Rub the wet sponge onto a solid detergent and rinse
Unlike with brushes, the sponge should be very wet when you start cleaning it. Rub it onto any solid hypoallergenic detergent, like a bar of soap. After every soap lather, pass the sponge under lukewarm water and gentle rub and squeeze it.
2. Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Keep doing this until there’s no makeup left on the sponge and the water runs absolutely clear. “This process can sometimes take up to 10 minutes, so take your time and be patient,” says Creton.
Let the sponge air-dry on a towel in a clean environment. Creton likes to out sponges in a mesh bag (like the ones you should wash your delicates in) while they dry to prevent mold.
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And finally: Here’s how to know when it’s time to replace your brushes
“Some quality brushes can last decades while others can last months,” says Creton. You need to know when washing won’t save them and it’s time to let go.
“Excessive brush shedding is a good indication that the glue inside the barrel has been loosened,” says Creton. “Once the brush has lost too many bristles, it can lose its original shape or purpose. Also, if you are unable to bring the bristles back to their original colour, despite all the washing, this could be another indicator to replace the brush.”