These Stats on Cleaning Makeup Brushes Will REALLY Surprise You—Especially If You’re a Millennial

Victoria Moorhouse
Makeup Brush

Graphic Design by Candace Napier

Unless you’re one of those people who think cleaning is therapeutic (in which case, kudos), scrubbing anything isn’t an activity you look forward to as much as, say, sitting down in front of the TV with a bowl of ice cream. Cleaning your makeup brushes is probably one of those things you push to the side, knowing wholeheartedly that it’s actually a REALLY important process you shouldn’t skip for the sake of your skin. Or at least, so they say.

We won’t beat around the bush. It’s the truth. Experts will all agree that this is essential for countless reasons, including the health of your skin, the power of your actual product, and so much more. While you should really at least take off excess product every time you use it (and clean ’em well once a week), we have a feeling that’s not being done. Actually, according to a poll that Anisa International—a leading company in the design and manufacturing of beauty tools—did, we can be somewhat sure that’s not the reg stat. In a poll conducted with responses of 1,113 women, 61 percent of the women who used brushes admitted to cleaning them less than once a month—or not at all. Eeek. It’s not huge, 22 percent admitted to never cleaning them.

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Why aren’t we cleaning them? The results were varied in that portion of the poll, from people just picking up new brushes (um, expensive?) to not knowing they had to be cleaned in the first place. The two most interesting stats for why people weren’t cleaning brushes had to do with education, and believe it or not, dry time. While 17 percent said they didn’t know how to clean them properly, that number jumped to 31 percent when millennial women were asked! Since we’re living in the age of YouTube tutorials that teach you how to do basically anything, we found that especially surprising.

In terms of dry time, 22 percent said that’s why they skip the cleanse. “It’s all about the dry time,” says Anisa Telwar Kaicker, founder of Anisa International, who believes that if we all looked at cosmetics brushes the same way as we did hair brushes, we would understand the need and opportunity for care.

“They don’t need or want any down time. It’s the worst thing ever if the next time your brush is wet,” she explains.

But waiting for your brushes to dry isn’t the worst thing that could be happening to you—not doing it could lead to a transfer of germs. “We can only imagine. I just think, again, whatever is built-up on that brush can potentially penetrate the pores of your skin. If you have any imperfections or blemishes, that means you could be adding bacteria to your skin. That’s my concern for all of us,” explains Anisa.

Not cleaning your brushes also puts a damper on the effectiveness of your beauty product. You could buy the most expensive designer product out there, and if you’re not cleaning your brushes, it’s $65 price-tag isn’t going to do anything for your look. “They’re not going to get, even 50 percent results,” says Anisa when speaking of using outdated brushes with gorgeous products. “If you have the perfect tool, you get 100 percent effectiveness. If you’re not using the right toll, you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Back in the day, Anisa believes the powder brush was the one people kept around the longest, but today, she thinks it has more to do with your complexion. And if there was ever a brush we wanted working properly, it’s the one that sweeps foundation all over your face for even, flawless-looking skin. “How you apply your first layer of emollient products, whether it is a tinted moisturizer, foundation, concealer—I think that product gets a lot of use now,” she says.

Anisa says she thinks the average woman is probably spending anywhere from $20 to $60 on brushes and brush sets, not cleaning them isn’t necessarily leading to damage, it’s more of a wear and tear. Damage can combine many elements, including how you’re storing them and how you’re washing them. “To prolong life and maximize their function, we need to take care of them. The first thing we want to talk about is to clean them,” she notes.

So what can you do? For starters, wipe off your brushes with a tissue or a clean cloth every single time you use them. But Anisa says that instant gratification is just the first step. “I do believe in a deep clean. no matter what, at least once a month. We got to commit to that time,” she says. “You cannot get around what ultimately is going to benefit your tools and yourself.”

It terms of cleaning them, there are tons of products out there designed specifically to cleanse, but many swear by baby shampoo, as it’s light and gentle. Anisa says she’s also heard people admit to using dish soap, as it cuts oil and grease, but she believes that would be rather drying due to the alcohol content. ” I do believe people should do their research and look for brush shampoos, brush cleansers. There are all different ways of doing it. Everyone is different–we don’t all have to do it the same way,” she says. “My biggest education in this area is just do it.”

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To cut down on the dry time, Anisa goes back and fluffs her brushes after washing to ensure no more water is trapped inside, but notes that Anisa International is working on developing quick dry formulas to use after a deep cleanse due out sometime in 2016. There are already sprays you can use to simply take off the product, so this is just a step further.

Not all the numbers from the poll were scary, though. Women seem pretty up to date on why they should keep a brush clean, with 65 percent saying it helps avoid bacteria and blemishes!