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How To Clean Makeup Brushes Correctly: A Makeup Artist Explains

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How To Clean Makeup Brushes: Expert Tips For Makeup Beginners

I always say, “a finished makeup look can only be as good as the brushes, and products used to create it.” Sure, technique goes a long way, but when it comes to stepping up your makeup game, the brushes you use are key!

And with them having such an important part in creating that perfect look…It’s safe to say they deserve a little extra attention, don’t you think??

Which is why today, we’re going to talk about how to clean your makeup brushes correctly, care for them, and give them some of that much-needed lovin’ they deserve!

If you’re ready to learn the best ways to clean them, how often you need to do so, the proper step-by-step processes, and specifically what to use to get the job done and get it done well, then let’s proceed.

Onward and makeup brush upwards, Beauties!! 🙂

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase using one of these links. For more info, see Disclosure Policy.  As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Why Cleaning Your Brushes Is Essential…And Not Just For Your Skin

Ok, most of us know that cleaning our makeup brushes is vital to avoid breakouts and congested pores….right??

But something you may not know is that doing so also helps them to last longer, ultimately, extending their life. So, to avoid those frequent shopping splurges intended for replacing your dwindling brushes, a little “rub-a-dub” every now and then is a must!

And what actually happens when we neglect to wash and sanitize our brushes?? Dirt, oil, dust, bacteria, makeup, and dead skin cells begin to collect on the bristles.

Why is this bad, other than being a definite “no-no” for our skin??

The accumulation of these nasty, grimy, “oh so yucky” things on brush bristles can interfere with good makeup application. In other words, your makeup won’t look as fierce and flawless as it could look luvs! 😉

Not only that, but those coated bristles also prevent your ability to blend properly.

Think of it this way; a painter would never use a dirty brush on a new canvas to create a masterpiece, right?? Well, from now on, you must think of your face as your canvas, Beauties!!


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The Best Ways To Clean Your Makeup Brushes

First, I want to make a quick distinction….you see, there’s what I like to call regular “in the meantime cleaning”, and then there’s what I like to call “deep cleaning”.

Regular “In The Meantime Cleaning” is your quickest option, with a fast-drying time, making it more practical for most on-the-go gals!

  • You use a product that doesn’t require water, like a brush cleaner, in the form of a spray or spritzer.
  • It’s a great way to clean your brushes but only when combined with occasional “deep cleaning”. To combine them, you want to alternate between both methods. More on that below…

“Deep Cleaning” requires significant drying time, and the cleansing process itself can also be a bit more time-consuming.

  • You use a cleanser (soap or baby shampoo) along with water.
  • Unfortunately, it requires allowing your brushes to dry overnight.
  • It achieves the deepest clean possible and is the most thorough process.
  • If you are like most makeup users, you likely don’t have the time to do this method very often. That is why I suggest combining it with the regular “in the meantime cleaning” method.

For more on how to combine these two methods keep reading, I’ll go into more detail next…

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How Often Should You Clean Makeup Brushes?

*Please note: The following suggestions are intended for non-makeup artists. As a makeup artist, we have a more intricate and thorough sanitation process that even includes 99% alcohol, since we use brushes on multiple people.

Ok be honest ladies, when did you last clean your makeup brushes? Last week?? A month ago?  Three months ago?? The truth is, more often than not, most gals don’t clean them nearly enough.

Now, you’ll likely hear a variety of suggestions on frequency depending on who you ask, from other makeup artists to dermatologists. But exactly how often, can vary from person to person and depends on a couple of factors like your skin and any conditions you may have (clear skin vs. acne), how often you typically wear makeup, if you wear very heavy makeup, and which brushes you are cleaning.

If Your Skin Is Clear (Combine Both)

Deep Cleaning:

  • As long as your skin is clear, you can likely get away with “deep cleaning” all your brushes once every 14 days or even once a month.
  • However, if you want to steer on the side of caution or consider yourself a bit of a germaphobe, try every 14 days.
  • Also, if you wear makeup every day, or wear a lot of heavy makeup, try to keep it closer to 14 days (you could even try once a week if you have the time).

Regular “In The Meantime Cleaning”:

  • You should also do a regular “in the meantime cleaning” using a brush cleaning spray once a week on the brushes you used that week.
  • However, some brushes will need this more often than once a week.
    • Brushes used for cream or liquid makeup products (foundation, concealer, lipstick, cream blush, etc.) require more cleaning than those used for powder makeup products. These types of brushes create the perfect environment for bacteria to grow, so don’t let them go too long without a cleaning. Try using brush cleaner spray after every use (daily) or, at the very least, after every other use.
    • If you use different eyeshadow from day to day and are using the same brush on more than one shade every time you do your makeup, you will want to use the spray on that brush after each use (daily). This will help to keep your eye makeup colors from getting muddy.
    • You may also want to use the spray on your eyeliner brush daily or every other day.

*Please note: These instructions work well for synthetic brushes… Synthetic brushes are more durable than natural brushes. Natural brushes, by contrast, are made with animal hair and tend to shed, especially after washing. The bristles can also become easily damaged or dried out.

Therefore, due to the fragile nature of natural brushes, you can stick to just a once a month “deep cleaning” and freshen them up periodically with brush cleaner spray in between each “deep cleaning”.

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Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind concerning your brushes and cleaning…
  • When it comes to brushes for powder makeup products, you can generally stretch the time out a bit between cleanings, so long as your brushes are stored in a cool, clean, dry place that doesn’t collect dust or dirt. 
  • The brushes you use regularly and most often will need to be cleaned more frequently than those you just use every now and then.
  • Natural brushes require gentle care, and you should not use harsh soaps with them. Being made of hair, they respond best when cleaned with baby shampoo.

If You Have Acne-Prone Skin

Beauties, to clean makeup brushes, your recommendations are a little stricter. For more info on how to clean them and avoid more breakouts, check out these suggestions.

If You Struggle With Large-Looking Pores (But Not Necessarily Acne)

Your suggestions are also slightly different than the advice in this article. Check out these tips for cleaning your brushes if you struggle with enlarged pores!!

Step-ByStep How To Clean Your Brushes Correctly

Regular “In The Meantime Cleaning”

OPTION 1 – FASTEST

  1. Spray your brush cleaner on a paper towel or tissue.
  2. Take your brush and gently sweep it across the tissue using a painting motion (back & forth). Continue until makeup is no longer visible, and the brush appears clean.
  3. Then set your brush aside, laying it flat, and allow it to dry.
makeup brushes drying

OPTION 2 – ALSO FASTEST

  1. Spray the brush bristles on one side, then rotate to ensure you get the other side.
  2. Using a paper towel or tissue that is laying flat, gently sweep the brush across using a painting motion (back and forth), wiping it clean. Continue until makeup is gone.
  3. Lay the brush down on a flat surface and allow it to dry.

OPTION 3 – MOST THOROUGH, SLOWER METHOD FOR SMALL BRUSHES

  1. Take a small cup and pour a small amount of brush cleaner into it.
  2. Dip just the tips of brush bristles into the solution (always look at the bottle for most accurate instructions).
  3. Depending on the brand you use, remove quickly, and then paint back and forth on a paper towel or towel until the strokes on the towel no longer show makeup. You may need to repeat this process, dipping and then brushing onto your towel or paper towel, about 1 to 2 more times for heavy makeup.
  4. Lay flay and set aside to dry.
how to clean MAKEUP BRUSHES THE PARTS OF THE BRUSH
USE THIS FOR THE BELOW “DEEP CLEANING” INSTRUCTIONS

“Deep Cleaning”

  1. First, wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap.
  2. Start with lukewarm water, and while holding your brush so the bristles are pointing downwards, you can lightly wet them. But be sure to limit the water to just the brush head (see above photo) where the hairs are. You want to keep the brush pointed downwards so as to not to allow water to run down the brush towards the handle and into the ferrule (this will loosen the glue and cause bristles to shed). * see above photo
  3. Next, add a little baby shampoo or a gentle cleanser to the palm of your hand.
  4. Take the brush and gently massage the tips of the bristles into that cleanser or shampoo that is in your palm. Allow it to lather.
  5. Gently work the lather into and through the bristles, again keeping the brush head pointed downward. Gently swirl and massage it in.
  6. Rinse with lukewarm water thoroughly until all makeup and shampoo or soap are out of the bristles, and the water runs clean.
  7. Once clean, lightly squeeze out the water with your fingers and then blot on a clean towel. To blot, simply hold the brush and firmly press with and within the towel (Do NOT pull bristles).
  8. While blotting and after blotting, you can gently reshape the bristles into their normal and original form.
  9. Then take the brushes and lay them flat for drying overnight.
woman washing makeup brush in the sink

What To Use To Clean Makeup Brushes

Not sure what to use?? Worry not; we’ve got you covered!! We’ve rounded up the best of the best as far as options to get your makeup brushes spic and span clean!!

The BEST Products For Regular “In The Meantime Cleaning” Of Makeup Brushes

Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner

This is a top choice as far as makeup brush cleaners, due to its quick-drying time, for many professional on-set makeup artists, myself included. Being professional strength, it delivers an in-depth, rinse-free cleaning process that uses much-needed bacteria-killing, disinfecting ingredients.

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So, for those of you that dread doing your “deep cleaning” every 14 days, you may be able to stretch things out for that when combined with this particular product (ex. instead of every 14 days, possibly just once a month for shampooing). It works on both synthetic and natural brushes, not only doing a splendid job cleaning but conditioning your brushes as well (this ensures they have more lasting power).

For a larger size, try this one here, and then you can pour it into a basic spray bottle like this one, as most makeup artists do. *This product can be used for all three regular “in the meantime cleaning” options. OPTIONS 1 & 2, use the spray version shown above. For OPTION 3, use the liquid and tin provided here.

IT Cosmetics It’s Your Brush Love Instant Brush Cleaner

A highly adored option that cleans, conditions, and gives you a quick drying time!! It’s suitable for both natural and synthetic makeup brushes, plus contains some bonus skin-loving benefits. If you are looking for something with added anti-aging perks that care for your skin, and get those brushes clean all at the same time, this is what you need! It contains antioxidants, Vitamins C, E, & A, and peptides. Win-win!!

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Makeup Forever Instant Brush Cleaner Spray

This brush cleaner, working well with both synthetic and natural brushes, is the perfect alcohol-free product for quick and easy daily (or every other day) cleaning. The bottle has changed a bit, so you may want to apply this cleanser to a paper towel or cotton swab first. Then, swipe your brush over the paper towel or cotton swab as you remove the product on the bristles (OPTION 1 listed under Regular “In The Meantime Cleaning”).

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The BEST Products For “Deep Cleaning” Makeup Brushes

Johnson’s Tear-Free Baby Shampoo

Baby shampoo will give you the gentlest clean. And with it being suitable for delicate baby skin, it’s definitely acceptable for your most-loved makeup brushes! It’s often a go-to option for many professional makeup artists when it’s time for a “deep cleaning”!!

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Sigma Sigmatic Brush Shampoo Foam

A winner for one of the deepest, foaming cleanses around!! The ideal option for removing oil, grime, makeup, bacteria, and more or those awfully yucky things that can accumulate on our brushes!! It does all that, plus still manages to keep your brushes soft, conditioned, and in tip-top form! You can add in the cleansing mat for an easier and even faster process as well!! 

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Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Baby Liquid Unscented Soap

This is a great gentle cleanser to use if you have sensitive skin and need something powerful enough to wash away the grime from your makeup covered bristles. Since its unscented, those skin sensitivities can be worry-free, and those with allergies can breathe a sigh of relief!!

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The Brush Cleaning Wrap Up!!

So Beauties, now that you know the best ways to clean your makeup brushes, how often to do it, and what to use, it’s time to set yourself up for success!!

  • Pick one night every other week or once a month for your “deep-cleaning” time. Often Sunday nights work best for me. Grab all your brushes, your shampoo, or gentle cleanser of choice and head to the nearest bathroom sink.
  • Then for your once a week, “in the meantime cleaning”, again, pick an evening when you have a little time. Scoop up your brushes, some paper towels, and spray, but this time you don’t need a sink. So, if you’d like, you can do a little quick cleaning while you catch up on some Netflix shows!
  • For any brushes, you need to treat more frequently than once a week; you can either keep your paper towels and spray close by when you do your makeup, or you can set those brushes aside and get to them before bed.

Tell me, how often do you clean your makeup brushes?? Are you guilty of not washing them nearly enough?? Leave a comment below…let us know!! Lastly, reach out if you have any questions luvs!!

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