This Is How Professionals Clean Makeup Brushes

makeup brushes

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Odds are, it's been a while since you last gave your makeup brushes a thorough cleaning. One survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Anisa International found that 22 percent of people never clean their brushes, with 39 percent admitting to cleaning them less than once a month, which is not ideal. Whether you have a full-fledged beauty arsenal (a few brushes for eyeshadow application, a few for your face and complexion, maybe a blender or two) or prefer to stick to a trusty handful, we're here to tell you: your brushes are dirty. The more you dip them into your favorite powder, blush, or bronzer the more they accumulate a buildup of not just product, but dirt, oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells. It won't just ruin your makeup application, either. Over time, this buildup can wreak havoc on your skin, causing breakouts, dullness, and more.

That's why learning how to clean your makeup brushes properly is a must. Not only do clean brushes deliver better results, but they're also more likely to last, so you can save money in the long run. Plus, they'll look even prettier when displayed on your counter or vanity when they're fresh and fluffy.

To find out the best way to clean makeup brushes, we talked to pro makeup artists and asked them for their top tips. Take it from the beauty pros: It's time to clean the grime off of your most-used makeup tools.

Meet the Expert

How Often Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

How often you wash your brushes depends on how often you use them.

"For personal, daily use, I'd recommend washing your brushes every seven to 10 days or so," says professional makeup artist and educator Mandie Brice. If you share brushes or are doing makeup on others, though, she suggests a quick clean even after every use for hygienic purposes.  Carly Giglio, Global Makeup Artist for bareMinerals, agrees. She says she gives her personal brushes a quick clean (with a fast-drying, professional-level disinfectant spray) once a week but suggests that everyone commit to a deep clean once a month.

Doing so will help to keep the bristles soft and smooth for beautiful, even application. It will also wash away any dead skin cells and oil before they cause breakouts or dull skin.

Things You'll Need

  • Liquid brush shampoo or mild soap
  • Silicone brush cleaning pad
  • Wash cloth
  • Paper towel

How to Clean Makeup Brushes

makeup brushes

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Discard any brushes that have come in contact with any eye infections, as these could have lingering bacteria on them that can't always be washed out.

Step 1: Dampen Your Brush

Start by dampening your brush (or brushes) under a light stream of lukewarm water. Hot water can damage certain types of bristles, so stick to a temperature that's just barely warm. They don't need to be sopping wet, just moist enough to create some suds with soap or shampoo.

Step 2: Apply Some Mild Soap or Brush Shampoo

Next, apply your soap of choice. Some professionals swear by regular mild soap (like Dr. Bronners) while others love specially-formulated brush shampoo. Either will work, though celebrity and editorial makeup artist Allison Depriestre warns that some brush cleaners can leave a greasy film on brush fibers, so do your research before buying. Gentle baby shampoo is another alternative. If you're using liquid soap, just a tiny dime-sized amount directly on the brush will do. For solid soap, you can swirl the damp brush directly on the bar or block while under the water to create suds.

makeup brushes being washed

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Step 3: Gently Swirl the Brush

Using the back of your hand, a washcloth, or a silicone cleansing pad, gently swirl the brush around to dislodge any caked-on liquid makeup or powder within the bristles. Giglio likes to use a silicone cleaning pad because the textured surface can help massage brush fibers and break down residue quickly. You'll be able to see the color of the makeup in the soap suds as a sign it is working the product out.

Step 4: Rinse

Continue to swirl and rinse the brush until the water begins to run clear. This is a sign that there is no more makeup or residue left in the bristles.

"Be careful not to soak the part where the bristles are attached, or let it stay wet, as it could loosen the glue," says Brice.

Step 5: Lay the Brushes Flat to Dry

makeup brushes

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Squeeze the fibers to get as much water out of them as possible before you let them dry. Then, place them flat on a paper towel or clean washcloth. Gently reshape the bristles and let them air dry overnight for best results. In the morning, your brushes will be softer, cleaner, fluffier, and ready to use.