Makeup Brushes: Keep It Clean, People!



One thing I really forgot to mention when I did my series of posts about brushes was how to clean them, and when. And why. Well, the why’s not hard – you need to clean them because our faces, hands and surfaces do tend to harbour germs and it’s good to give brushes a good clean every so often, more often if you are prone to breakouts / blemishes. If you are this kind of person who is very prone to breakouts, then you might want to at least spot clean (“spray n wipe”) your face brushes after each use. Totally up to you.

But can you wash them too often? IMO, yes. A lot of brushes (particularly natural fibre ones) aren’t designed to be washed every day or every week even. So I thought I’d give you the lowdown on what I do. Disclaimer: this is just my opinion which you might think is gross, I don’t care, do whatever you want ok? Ok. It’s also worth noting that if I am doing makeup on another person, I ALWAYS thoroughly clean my brushes beforehand.

I find cleaning my brushes to be a really therapeutic process. I like doing it. Maybe this is BECAUSE I don’t do it every single week. I don’t know.

What you’ll need:


1. A couple of hand towels, folded into four. I like my microfibre cloth because it’s super soft but also absorbent!

2. A mild shampoo such as Johnson’s No More Tears or even a face cleanser sample you got but didn’t like (I’m using Purity by Philosophy to clean mine).

3. A shallow bowl of lukewarm water with a bit of the above cleanser in it.

4. A flat surface with a cloth on it – I use a folded up muslin cloth (see picture at top) OR a rail like a towel rail and some rubber bands (stay with me, all will be explained)

5. OPTIONAL – Brush Guards. I frickin LOVE these things, SO MUCH. Again, will explain.

Righto so I normally start with the ones that are the least dirty, like doing the washing up. This is normally eye brushes. I dip each brush up to the ferrule (the bit that holds the bristles) into the water, letting it get fully soaked. I whisk it around in there a bit if I think it’s quite grubby.

I then put a squidge of the cleanser of choice into the middle of my palm and rub the bristles into the cleanser. The voracity with which you do this will really be defined by the kind of brush. If it’s a synthetic bristle go nuts. If it’s natural and you find it to be a bit fragile, go a little softer and either way try not to bend the bristles against the ferrule (don’t push it too hard into your hand). You just want to swirl the brush against your palm in the cleanser, getting all the crud out.

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After that I swish the brush back in the water. if when you lean the bristles against the edge of the bowl, gunk still comes out of it, repeat previous step. Repeat until water is clear. This is particularly going to happen with things like concealer blending or foundation brushes that have held a lot of cream or liquid product.

Once you’ve got it all out, swirl the brush onto your folded dry cloth with whatever firmness you think best, until the bristles are no longer soaked with water. It’s not good to let brushes sit wet, so the more liquid you can get out of at this point, the better!

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At this point if I have a brush that I like to keep in a particular shape, for example my MAC 217s, Wayne Goss Holiday Brush or Real Techniques Buffing brush, I pop a Brush Guard over the top and then let it sit, bristles over the edge of the desk, on the muslin cloth. Brush Guards are fabulous. They’re a stretchy sort of mesh.. sock? open at both ends and they go over the bristle section to keep the shape of the brush while travelling and even while being stored but PARTICULARLY while drying. Now, if this is no concern to you, carry on they’re not an essential. But I personally really hate it when my brushes get all frayed and fluffy. I like them to stay the way I bought them, and Brush Guards are a super inexpensive way to do this. One of my favourite purchases ever, realtalk.

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The other thing you can do (with or without a brush guard) is to hang your brushes on a railing using some hair bands or elastic/rubber bands. I will admit – I don’t do this. The benefit is that the brushes hang upside down, bristles down, meaning that no water at all can get into the ferrule as they dry (important for glue deterioration and mould accumulation issues). This is obviously a good thing and it’s entirely possible that when I move to a cold climate I may start doing this but so far I’ve either had mine drying in a warm, dry spot or in front of the AC flow so they’ve dried fairly quickly. If you’re interested in this method of drying, you can see what I mean here:


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That’s pretty much it! Wait til they’re dry, then you can use them again.

One thing I want to say is to be mindful of your “good” brushes, the natural bristle ones (it is possible to get cruelty free ones – Wayne Goss is a good example, the animals are brushed to get the hairs, same with Hakuhodo) can really not do well with frequent washing. It makes the brushes deteriorate faster. So how often should you wash them? It’s such a good question and one I don’t feel really well equipped to answer. I wash mine probably every fortnight, or when I notice they’re getting very grubby. If I wore makeup every single day without fail I might wash them every weekend.

If you want to give them a spot clean in between washes, you can use something like a brush cleaner – Artiste is quite a good one that I’ve used with success, you can get it from Priceline for about $15 for 100mL. The best thing about this is that it’s in a spray format so you just spritz on, give a wipe and you’re doneski. For a higher end one, MAC is known for making a fabulous one though I’ve not tried it myself. It’s actually pretty good value to be honest, though it doesn’t have the convenient spray packaging that the Artiste one. It’s $20 for 235mL and you can get it from MAC Online, NOWHERE ELSE ONLINE OK? Don’t get tripped up by the fakeries. This method (spray and wipe) is how I always wash my Wayne Goss Holiday Brush, apart from every couple of months when I will give it a more thorough clean in the usual way.

I have heard people saying that they use Isocol (isopropyl alcohol). I would really not recommend this, it’s extremely drying on your brushes and bad for them but if you have a REALLY grubby brush, for example a lip brush that’s coated in very difficult to shift lipstick, then go nuts but give it a rinse afterwards for goodness sake. For long-wearing makeup you might be better off using an oil-based makeup remover anyway. Isocol is a great antibacterial though, so keep that in mind if you wish.

I hope this has been helpful, I hope I didn’t miss anything. Feel free to let me know in the comments if you have further questions, queries or suggestions!


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