How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes - 5 Easy Steps to Protect Your Skin

Here's a question you might not have been asked before - when was the last time you washed your makeup brushes?

If your answer is a confused look, it's probably about time your brushes had a good scrub.

After all, most of our skincare guides are built around keeping your skin and pores as clear and clean as possible, right?

Unwashed makeup brushes are breeding grounds for bacteria, and can often force old dried up makeup, skin cells or other contaminants and grime into your pores.

"Makeup brushes can be a prime location for bacteria to hide, and an unsuspecting culprit for clogged pores," says Alanna Barak Gerber PA-C

close up of makeup brush

This is not only bad news for your skin in the short term due to causing things like pimples and imperfections, but it can have a serious long term effect too.

Dirty makeup brushes can even spread staph infections, E. coli, fungal infections, MRSA and more.

Staph infections, in particular, can be life-threatening, so making sure you use the correct cleansing routine on a regular basis is a matter of internal health, not just of good skincare!

Tom Pellereau, the inventor behind StylPro, ran tests on 35 brushes brought into his clinic by clients and found that:

  • 58% had such high levels of bacteria that they would be considered unsafe for human use
  • 34% had slightly lower but still dangerous levels of bacteria

How terrifying is that?!

If you don't know how to clean makeup brushes or didn't even know you should be, don't panic! This complete guide will detail the best possible method while also breaking down what you definitely shouldn't do.

With that in mind, let's take a look at what the experts are saying about how often you should be cleaning your brushes, and the best methods to do it:

How Often Should You Clean Makeup Brushes?

how often to clean makeup brushes

The majority of dermatologists and skincare experts will tell you that you should clean your foundation and concealer brushes at least once per week since they are used on your face.

"Dirty brushes can be responsible for the transfer of things like herpes simplex (cold sores) and acne flare up. Also conjunctivitis from brushes used around the eyes. I clean my personal makeup brushes once a week and I would urge you to do the same.” - says Dr Leah, founder of Dr Leah Cosmetic Skin Clinic, London.

Brushes that are used only around the eyes can be washed every 2 weeks, and all other equipment should be cleaned at least once per month.

As well as protecting your skin from dirt and bacteria, cleaning your brushes makes them last longer too, so if cleanliness isn't enough to convince you to learn how to wash makeup brushes, do it for your wallet!

What to Clean Makeup Brushes With

cleaning makeup brushes with baby shampoo

Image: IntoTheGloss

Generally, cleaning makeup brushes can be easily and quickly done with some water and soap.

However, you should make sure it's a very gentle soap, as regular soap can dry out the bristle's and make your brushes go stiff (especially if they are made from real hair).

We personally recommend using baby shampoo to clean your brushes as it's incredibly gentle while still having antibacterial properties.

Clarifying shampoo can also be very effective for similar reasons.

You can also try adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, which is a great natural cleaner and disinfectant that helps dissolve and remove any dried product particles without using any nasty additives

Personally, we prefer baby shampoo over any of the others, since it is by far the most gentle and using it should extend the life of your brushes pretty nicely - making it the best way to clean makeup brushes in our books, and cheap too.

There are specific makeup brush cleaner products out there, but in all honesty, they don't do much different to our baby shampoo and water mix, so they are just another skincare expenditure with little to no benefit.

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Follow these simple steps to have your brushes feeling good as new:

1: Dip each brush under lukewarm running water, then put a drop of your soap, baby shampoo or other gentle cleaning product onto your hand and gently massage the bristles.

washing makeup brushes with shampoo

2: Rinse the bristles under the lukewarm water again, keeping them under for a while after the soap or shampoo appears to be gone, to make sure there are no traces left.

washing makeup brushes under the tap

3: Repeat the above two steps to ensure 100% cleanliness.

rinsing makeup brushes

4: Gently squeeze out the moisture with a clean towel and make sure the bristles on the head of the brush are still in the correct shape. If they aren't, you can gently reshape them while they are still wet.

towel drying makeup brushes

5: Leave the brushes to dry, ideally hanging the bristles over the edge of a counter and keeping the brushes near a radiator to ensure all moisture is removed. Failing to dry your brushes correctly can lead to mould/bacteria growing.

 drying makeup brushes

That's all there is to it! 

When cleaning your makeup brushes is so easy, there is seriously no excuse not to do it on a regular basis.

We recommend making sure they are laid out sideways like shown above when you leave them to dry.

This is because standing them upright in a drying rack with the bristles pointing upwards can cause moisture to drip down into the handle and damage the glue, making your brush fall apart over time.

What about other Cosmetic Equipment?

how to clean a beauty blender

You might be wondering how to clean eyeshadow brushes, beauty blenders and other slightly different skincare products. 

An eyeshadow brush can be cleaned in much the same technique shown above, but beauty blenders, sponges and similar will take a little more time to ensure you have cleaned right to the centre.

You should also ideally clean your blenders at least once per week for this reason.

We recommend using a dishwashing liquid that's advertised as being gentle on the skin such as Dawn - they cut through grease while still being super gentle, allowing them to remove foundation and concealer more easily. Regular washing up liquids can damage your bristles over time, so make absolutely sure it's a gentle one.

Simply massage your blender with lukewarm water and said dishwashing liquid for 1 minute or more, until it is thoroughly cleaned, then run under the water until all of the soap is washed away.

Make sure to scrub your blender thoroughly with a towel to remove most of the moisture before you leave it to dry, otherwise, it may take too long to dry and start to smell a bit funny.

How Should I Store My Makeup Brushes?

storing makeup brushes

Once you've completely cleaned your brushes and are 100% sure they are dry, you can now store them upright with no risk of damaging the brush.

This is the best way to store them since it keeps the bristles from touching anything, but if you do need to use a makeup bag to take them on the go with you, just be sure to clean the bag too!

When Should I Throw Away a Makeup Brush?

when to replace makeup brushes

Outside of being clean, a makeup brush needs to maintain its shape to work correctly.

As soon as you see bristles start to fall off, get bent, or the brush loses its shape, it's time to replace it.

Some people prefer to cut the bristles off to remove the frayed parts, clean the brushes thoroughly, and continue to use them, but we believe it's always better to replace them, for reasons of both hygiene and effectiveness.

A good craftswoman never blames her tools, but a good carpenter never uses half a saw either!

Can I Clean My Makeup Brushes in the Dishwasher?

washing makeup brushes in the dishwasher

It may sound like a great idea, but absolutely not.

The heat of the water used in a dishwasher or washing machine will melt the glue of your makeup brush and damage it in the long term.

If you don't have the time to follow the proper cleaning method detailed above, there are electronic products that can dry your brushes automatically and make things a bit easier such as the StylPro, which is the best makeup brush cleaner appliance we've come across so far.

Can I Share My Makeup Brushes?

Hell no!

Every single person's face contains different bacteria and other nasties.

If you share your makeup brush, you could be spreading infections every single time you use it.

Professional makeup artists wash their brushes between every single use, so hopefully, that goes some way to explaining how important it is not to share anything that touches your face.

 We hope this guide has helped you understand how important it is to clean your makeup brushes and how easy it is to actually do on a regular basis.

We will be updating this guide over time if new products or research becomes available, so remember to check back from time to time.

Otherwise, keep your eye on our blog for new regular posts, and don't forget to check out our shop for some of the most all-natural, synthetic-chemical free skincare products available in 2019!