How to clean your makeup brushes: DIY & More
So you have decided you need to clean your brushes!
Clean brushes are important to your makeup application as well as your health. Dirty brushes can create all sorts of issues so let’s get to it!
Now you need to determine 3 things:
- How to clean them
- When to clean and sanitize them
- How to dry them
The products you use will determine how often you should wash your brushes. Do you use liquid or creme products or do you use only powders? Liquids and cremes should be cleaned more often while brushes used for mostly powders can go longer in between deep cleanings.
According to makeup artist Bobbi Brown, concealer brushes should be cleaned at least once weekly. I am in complete agreement with this as the buildup from liquid foundations happens quickly and can be harmful if not cleaned. You do not want your bristles getting hard and trapping oils that can be then transferred to your skin upon application. That is just NASTY! They can even carry STAPH and other dangerous viruses if not properly sanitized and washed.
Dirty brushes can also play havoc with your makeup application. Excuse me?
No seriously they can. When oils and grease build up in the bristles of your brush they can cause the brush to become limp. This will make it difficult to apply your product correctly, often resulting in a streaky application. You know what I mean don’t you?
So get to cleaning people!
Want more details on the harmful effects of dirty brushes? Say no more. Simply click the link below in my blog “Dirty Brushes? Are they safe?”
Eye Shadow Brushes
Shadow brushes should be cleaned 2-3 times a month if using powders. I suggest weekly cleanings if you are using creme products though. If you can invest in several shadow brushes you don’t have to worry about cross contamination of colors, but if you have a limited brush supply you need to either “quick clean” your brushes more often or use specific tools like I suggest below in my Tip section. It is important to remove the colors from each brush to avoid the colors blending together.
Brushes are an investment and should be taken care of. Lack of care and good hygiene will lead to their breaking down prematurely. Not only will it effect your brush life, but it will also effect the aplication of your makeup.
Creme VS Powder Shadows
If using powder shadows, you can prolong the time between your deep cleanings by the use of a cleaning tool such as the Color Switch Brush Cleaner by Vera Mona. There are other brands as well, but this is my favorite. Sephora now carries a mini version as well which runs around $14 while the full size runs around $18. This is perfect for removing powder residue quickly in between deep cleanings for those who are limited to only a few eyeshadow brushes, but want to apply multiple colors. It allows you to remove pigment from your brushes without a brush cleaning formula. Simply swipe the brush over the sponge until the pigment is removed and move on to the next color. The sponge is completely reusable. Simply clean it by washing with warm water and soap or spray with a disinfecting brush cleaner for a quick cleanse.
Daily Brush Cleaner
These are cost effective, a great investment and easy to use. Simply spritz your brush and wipe off on a “lint-free” towel. I suggest The Cleanse by Sephora. It’s easy to find, comes in different sizes and affordable at $8 – $15. It’s a quick-drying, alcohol-free cleaning spray that doesn’t require water. It is also paraben and sulphate free and not tested on animals. That’s a win-win in my book.
Proffessional Brush Cleaner
If you are looking for a Proffessional Cleaner that both cleans and disinfects, I have two suggestions: Monda and Cinema Secrets. I have used both on set and they work great. My personal favorite is Monda, but Cinema Secrets is excellent as well. Both can clean your brushes as well as your makeup pallettes and spatulas. Both are effecient and quick drying. Please read details on each if you are in the market. Both Monda and Cinema Secrets can be found on Amazon and vary in prices. Monda is my go to favorite, but it does tend to be more expensive. I buy mine from a beauty store called Nigels Beauty in Southern California. Both will do a great job cleaning and disinfecting though and both come in multiple sizes for your convenience. Warning: I have seen many complaints on Amazon of fake Cinema Secrets being, sold so be cautious.
Deep Cleaning Brushes
Deep Cleaning Brushes can take time, causing many people to avoid it as they don’t want to be bothered. If done correctly and consistantly, it can extend the life of your brushes and protect your skin. So keep reading!
DIY Deep Cleaning
You will need:
- Silicone free baby shampoo, antibacterial soap or Dawn Dishwashing Soap. (1 part cleaner to 4 parts water)
- A shallow dish or bowl
- Cleaning pad if desired / lint-free towel
BONUS: Mario Dedivanovic, a.k.a Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist, has a special DIY recipe for de-griming his tools. He uses two products you very well might already own: baby shampoo and tea-tree oil.
- Hand wash with warm water & silicone free baby shampoo or gentle antibacterial soap. Some people use Dawn Dishwashing Soap.
- Run bristles under warm water, but do not soak them or get water into the handle. Do not use hot water!
- Pour a shallow amount of warm water into a bowl and add a small amount of soap or shampoo as mentioned above. Swirl brush in this solution, but do not soak it. Remember you do not want to absorb water all the way up the hair shaft. Allowing water to travel into the point where the brush and handle connect can weaken the product used to secure the brushhead and over time cause bristles to fall out.
- Use fingers to gently message the buildup on the bristles and loosen it or you can rub bristles back & forth against a cleaning pad. I prefer a cleaning pad and use it with my professional cleaner as well. These can be found all over. Amazon has numerous ones from large to small handheld ones to travel with. Target , Sephora , Ulta , Nordstroms Rack and even Marshalls all carry several versions. I believe I saw a combination set on Amazon with the cleaning pad and a different brand for the color switch for quick powder cleanings mentioned above. Do your homework and think about the space and how you will use it.
- Rinse in warm water.
- Repeat process of dipping and swirling in cleaning solution, rubbing with fingers or on pad and then rinsing in warm water till your brushes are thoroughly clean.
- Gently pat bristles on a towel to remove excess water, and reshape bristles. Do not tug on them or squeeze as you can damage the brush.
- Drying is next but I will talk about that below
Purchased Deep Cleaning Solution:
There are many choices when it comes to deep cleaners that you can purchase. I prefer one by SeneGence and I use it every few weeks, since I use a profession cleaner almost daily. The deep conditioning helps to keep my brushes soft and in good health, both of which are crucial to keeping them lasting for many years to come. Here is a list I googled on other cleaners that you might want to try.
Drying your brushes is crucial to their upkeep as well. If you dry them wrong you can damage them and even cause them to fall apart. When drying your brushes the key is keeping water out of the ferrule as it will weaken the glue that holds your brushes together and the bristles will actually begin to fall out. Don’t turn your brushes upright and let water drip into the handle. You can gently use a lint-free towl to blot out access moisture, then reshape the bristles with your hand. Now come the choices:
- You can lay the brushes on the edge of a sink so the brush head is over the edge and the handle is on the counter. This allows the brush to dry without messing with the brush shape. If you have a lot of brushes this could be problematic as you may not have enough sink space and you won’t be able to really use that sink, or chance bumping brush into the pouring water.
- You can purchase a tool to dry them as there are many offered online and even in some stores. Here are a few I have seen on Amazon. Sephora has a kit that comes with a cleaner, a cleaning mat and the stand for around $45. I saw one on Target.com for $15 although I have no idea how well it works. I would need to purchase several of these tools. There are also combo washing and drying units, but have never tried one myself. Here is a video on one, so check it out.
- This next idea is not made to be a brush drying tool , but it works great. Maybe you even have one at home. It is a roll up or foldable drying rack for the kitchen sink. Follow the link provided to see what I am referring to. Usually ranges form around $10-25 and can be found many places. Do not get it confused with an expandable one. It needs to be the rollup or folding ones. Best news is you can store it away. WARNING: You do lose your sink though while everything is drying.
BONUS DIY Drying Hacks:
Option 1 – Cutting Board
- Take a cutting board and secure a rubbarband or headband that fits snuggly around it. I wrap 2-3 bands around the board snuggly. Now insert the brushes, securing the handles under the bands. I prefer boards similar to these on Amazon as they are non-pourous and dishwasher safe. Sanitize the boards and keep them free from any food prep.
- Prop the board upright against a wall or firm object, so that the brush is facing downward and the handle is pointing up. I tend to dry my big brushes on one board and smaller shadow brushes on another. Viola! That’s it! Allow to dry completely on their own.
Option 2 – Towel Rack
- Secure your brushes (bristles hanging downward) to your towel rack with rubbar bands. This works great IF you have a towel rack which I do not anymore. I love this idea. It keeps the bristles from changing shape when drying since the brush heads are free.
Drying times will vary and may take several hours. Depending on the method and the temperature where they are drying, this could take up to several hours. If you have brushes to spare and it is cold weather, you may want to break up your routine and wash half one day and the other half the next.
This way you know you will have brushes to apply your makeup with when you wake up. Even if the first batch is not dry.
Enjoy what you read here? Find it helpful or have your own tips?
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