How To Clean Makeup Brushes and How Often You Should Do It

Makeup brushes are part of the daily makeup routine for most women. Without them, applying makeup is challenging and causes makeup to be spread unevenly. A great makeup brush gives you a soft, even finish that helps your skin glow.

Of course, your makeup brushes touch your face day after day, so when they’re full of gunk it’s downright gross. But good news: With a good makeup brush cleaning routine, you can keep them squeaky clean.

Here are some tips for cleaning your makeup brushes and ensuring you’re following a cleaning schedule that keeps them free of bacteria and other unwanted makeup residues.

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Why Do Makeup Brushes Get So Dirty?

Makeup brushes get dirty because makeup comes into contact with your skin, and no matter how rigorous you are about keeping your skin clean, it contains bacteria. The deep spaces within the brush’s bristles become clogged with these bacteria and other residues.

In fact, this is true for any makeup tool you use, including brushes, sponges, and other applicators. They’re porous, which allows makeup to cling to them for application. But over time, makeup, oil, and dirt build-up on their surfaces and must be removed.

How Often Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

If you’re like most women, you put off cleaning your brushes for as long as possible. It’s simply not everyone’s favorite task, like doing laundry, washing the dishes, or cleaning the windows.

But brush cleaning is absolutely essential because brushes touch your skin and can transmit unwanted substances to your face: old makeup, oily buildup, dust, and dirt. Who wants that on their skin?

Plus, the grimy residue can cause breakouts. With continued exposure to dirty brushes, your skin can become irritated, develop a rash, create pimples and blisters, and even trigger an allergic reaction.

Dirty brushes also deteriorate faster than clean ones due to the oils and substances on their bristles. If you keep your brushes clean, you’ll get much more life out of them and need to replace them less frequently.

So what’s the ideal timeframe for cleaning brushes? A rule of thumb is to clean them every 3 months at the absolute minimum. If you don’t wear makeup every day and don’t use your brushes very much, you can go for 6 weeks between cleanings.

Beware that too much cleaning can actually cause damage to your brushes. This is why it’s a bad idea to store them in sanitizer or clean them every day. The bristles and glue will break down quickly when brushes are cleaned too frequently or too harshly.

4 Steps to Keeping Your Makeup Brushes Clean

The best way to keep your brushes in tip-top shape is to clean them on a regular schedule using habits recommended by makeup artists. Here’s how to do it, in step-by-step.

Step 1: Cleansing

There are a million types of brush cleaners, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: a gentle soap or mild baby shampoo will work just fine instead of a brush cleaner. Many people swear by dish soap because it’s designed to wipe out grease that’s pretty similar to the oils on your face.

To cleanse the brushes, add lukewarm water to your soap or shampoo and swish it around a little to blend. Run the brushes through the liquid gently, releasing any buildup with the soft motion of the brush moving through water. If you see stuck-on debris, remove it carefully with your fingers.

The same technique can be applied to makeup sponges and other tools you use for makeup, including both natural and synthetic brushes. The key is to remove unwanted buildup gently without ruining the surface of the tool.

DO: Pour a bit of soap into your hand, a plate, or a cleansing mat, then lightly swirl the wet brush around and around, rinsing and dipping the bristles until they are free of debris.

DON’T: Soak the handles and allow the brushes to sit in the cleansing liquid. If water runs into the base and stays there, it will warp the wood and loosen the glue that keeps your brush secure.

Step 2: Conditioning

Did you know you should condition your brushes after cleaning them? That’s right – the conditioning step brings them back to their original luster and gets them ready for a fresh use next time.

Just like your hair, a makeup brush needs a conditioner step. It preserves the bristles and prevents them from breaking down over time. You’ll experience less bristle breakage and enjoy a softer, gentler feeling from the brushes if you take time to condition them.

Soak them in a mixture of olive oil and the same soap you used to wash them. It should only be a brief soaking of a few minutes. Then rinse them thoroughly and inspect them for any leftover oil or other residues.

Step 3: Reshaping

Okay, your brushes are now clean and conditioned. Now it’s time to reshape them back into their original form.This step is important because it brings your brushes back to like-new condition. If you don’t reshape them after washing, they’ll eventually begin to fan out and lose their compact quality. When this occurs, makeup flings off the sides of the brush and goes to waste – not to mention, it interferes with your ability to get a perfect makeup finish.

To shape your brushes, use a clean paper towel to gently form them back into their original shape. This step brings the added benefit of removing moisture from the bristles, which makes the brush dry faster as it retains the right shape.

Step 4: Drying

A wet brush is a breeding ground for bacteria. Water that sits on your brush base and wet bristles can seep into the glue and cause it to fail. So make sure you take time for the drying step because it’s quite important.

The simplest method of drying brushes is to place a towel on top of a table and place the bristles of the brushes over the edge to air dry. Follow these tips to ensure you’re giving your brushes the best dry time possible:

DO: Use a drying rack or try the folded towel method of drying.

DON’T: Stick all of your brushes into a cup and call it a day. This isn’t adequate to prevent germs and preserve their shape.

DO: Allow 6 hours to overnight for the brushes to dry completely.

DON’T: Rush it and put your brushes into a makeup bag or carrying case. Wet brushes can develop mold and bacterial growth.

You’ll know your brushes are completely dry and ready for their next use when they feel totally moisture free and smooth. They may even look slightly fluffy from their cleaning, conditioning and drying routine.

Look for Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Makeup Brushes

Wondering whether it’s time to invest in some new brushes? Hint: If you’re wondering about them, it’s probably time. Worn brushes don’t look good, and they don’t feel good either.

Here are my favorite brushes if you are ready to invest in a new set!

A brush should be replaced anytime it begins to show signs of discoloration or odor. If the bristles are shedding or kinked, this is a big red flag that your brushes are breaking down.

Another warning sign is that the bristles are hard to reshape after cleaning. If they fan out, fall to the side, or end up looking bushier and overly fluffy, the bristles are too far gone to provide the best makeup application.

Now that you have clean and ready makeup brushes, it is time to apply product! Put those brushes to good use with Quick Makeup Tips That Give Your Whole Look A “Wow” Factor.

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