How to (Really) Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Aly Walansky
Makeup brushes

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We use our makeup brushes every day – dipping them in cosmetics, applying them to our face. Makeup brushes collect dirt, oil, bacteria and other buildup that can cause breakouts and aggravate skin. Seems rather counterintuitive, being they exist to make us pretty! Make cleaning your makeup brushes – regularly – part of your routine.

How often should you clean your makeup brushes?
Makeup brushes are an investment and should be cared for properly. You are applying them to your face daily, and they are a breeding ground for bacteria. Try to clean your brushes at least once a week, if not more often. You will preserve the life of your brushes and help avoid your own chances of getting breakouts and skin irritations.

Baby shampoo is a good back-up
If you don’t have a traditional brush cleaner handy, there’s lots of great gentle substitutes – like baby shampoo! Rinse the shampoo out well and – very important – lay the brushes flat on paper towels to dry. “You do not want the brushes standing upright as they dry or water may run down and loosen the adhesive that holds the brush feral in place, causing the handles to come off,” says  celebrity makeup artist and brow guru, Ramy Gafni.

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Give your brushes some extra TLC
“For a deep cleanse, I pour alcohol in a shallow bowl and swish brushes back and forth,” says Mehron makeup artist Margi Tobey.  Wipe down brush handles with alcohol as well. Then use a solid brush shampoo.   Tobey recommends Clean Brush shampoo ($15, in olive oil formula, lavender scent.  The olive oil soap breaks down the makeup deep in the brush.  “Remember it’s always important to use lukewarm water.  Hot water can damage the bristles. Don’t let the water hit above the shaft or metal part because the glue can loosen and brush can fall apart. Begin by wetting the brush in lukewarm water, wet the soap, swoosh around in the jar and rinse.  I like to rinse the brush while swirling in the palm of my hand till clean,” says Tobey. Always complete by removing all excess water and lay on a towel hanging over the edge of a table or counter so the air circulates and dries them faster.  Never stand brushes up to dry.  The water will get in the handle and it will fall apart. Keep in mind your brushes will take some time to dry, so you will want to wash at night, not during your morning routine.

In a pinch, use rubbing alcohol
“I spray it on the bristles or onto paper towels and run the brushes back and forth on the towel and/or really wipe down the bristles with the alcohol soaked towel. I like that the alcohol also kills germs and bacteria,” says Gafni.

Time matters
A big mistake we make is soaking brushes in water for too long. “That is not a good idea because you allow the water to go into the glue that holds the hairs and loosen it resulting in shedding of the brush hairs,” says Wafaa Debs, a Beauty Concierge in New York.