How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Cleaning your makeup brushes

Cleaning your makeup brushes is one of the most important self-care tips I have.  It keeps germs away from your sensitive skin (especially your eyes), and can solve some issues with dry and itchy eyes and breakouts almost overnight.  A little hidden secret that might be so obvious that you forget about it. However, most makeup brushes don’t come with instructions on how to properly clean them, and you may have questions about doing it correctly.  Quality makeup brushes are expensive, and of course you don’t want to waste that investment.

Let’s talk about:

  • Why you should clean your brushes,
  • The difference between synthetic and natural brushes (why this matters)
  • HOW to clean your makeup brushes

Why Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes?

Because makeup brushes don’t look too dirty, it’s easy to put off cleaning them until next week, or next month, or never. But if you forget to clean your makeup brushes, you could be putting your skin in danger.

Your makeup brushes can harbor dust, dirt, oil, allergens, and germs. If you don’t wash them regularly, you’ll transfer those nasty particles to your skin. That can lead to a host of problems, including breakouts and irritation.

A clean brush makes for an even application of makeup. It makes sense: If the bristles of your brush are bogged down with old makeup (and all of that other yucky stuff mentioned earlier), it won’t be able to hold on to the new makeup very well. The brush won’t glide smoothly against your skin, which will create an uneven look.

A clean makeup brush will guard against muddling your new makeup with yesterday’s colors. Keep your colors distinct.

Finally, a regularly scheduled cleaning will extend the life of your makeup brushes. Protecting your investment with a little soap and water.

What’s It Matter?: Natural vs. Synthetic Makeup Brushes

The type of bristle will determine how you clean the brush.

Natural hair brushes are made from animal hairs. Some brands claim that their animal hair brushes are cruelty-free. Unfortunately, not every brand harvests animal hair in methods that are harmless and pain-free. And it certainly wouldn’t be considered a vegan brush, obvi.

Synthetic a.k.a. vegan makeup brushes, like the ones we sell at Red Apple Lipstick, are vegan and guaranteed cruelty-free (no animals were even touched). These bristles have no cuticles which makes for a smoother and more precise application. Yay for no streaks!

Here’s Why You Should Invest In Vegan Brushes:

  • Not porous so they don’t soak up too much product (you’ll save more of your makeup)
  • Easier to clean
  • Perfect for those with animal allergies or ethical concerns
  • The bristles don’t absorb water and then contract when they dry (which means they won’t fall out of the brush over time)

If you’re in the market for makeup brushes, we recommend shopping our high quality selection here.

How Often Should You Clean Makeup Brushes?

Most of us only clean them every 6 months or so…but experts say we should be cleaning them at least once a month.  Brushes that we use with creamy/liquid products (like foundation or concealer) should be cleaned weekly.

Obviously tailor this to how OFTEN you use your makeup brushes. If you’re using all your brushes daily for both creams and powders, cleaning your brushes should be a weekly or at least bi-weekly task.

If you only use your brushes on the weekend, cleaning them once a month would be good.

And, of course, if you have any sort of irritation, breakout, stye or the like, cleaning them immediately and not using them until the inflammation has subsided is key!

**Pro Tip: Own multiple brushes so that you can use one brush for your light eyeshadows, one for your crease colors, and one for your dark shades, and not have to clean them as often. Check out our suggestion for getting “all set up” here**

Methods for Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes

There are two ways to clean your makeup brushes:

Method #1: Do a Gentle Hand Wash

To clean your makeup brushes, you can keep it really simple. All you need are three things: Soap, water, and your hands.

  1. Fill a glass or bowl with warm water.
  2. Add a drop of gentle soap* to the water. (*We’ll discuss soap options in the next section.)
  3. Add a dime size dollop of soap to the palm of your hand.
  4. Take one makeup brush and swirl it into the water bowl. Be careful not to submerge the bristles completely in the water as this can loosen the glue.
  5. Take wet brush and swirl it into the soap in the palm of your hand.
  6. Use your fingers to massage the soap into the bristles.
  7. Dip the brush back into the water bowl.
  8. Repeat with the remaining brushes.
  9. Quickly rinse the brushes under running water.
  10. Use a paper towel to remove the excess water.
  11. Hang brushes over the edge of a vanity or bathroom counter to avoid flattening the bristles as your brushes dry.
  12. Fluff after dry.

Alternatively, you can use a cleaning brush or a cleaning mat. Both options come with multiple cleaning patterns that you can use to help gently scrub your tools.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Method #2: Use a Makeup Brush Cleaning Machine

It’s another device to have around – but if you like that sort of thing this is a super fun device that makes cleaning brushes even more enjoyable.

What Soap Should You Use To Clean Makeup Brushes?

Option #1: Baby shampoo

It’s formulated for sensitive skin so it’s perfect for makeup brushes. It also conditions your bristles without leaving extra products that can eventually make them stiff, however baby shampoo won’t kill any bacteria that may be present on the bristles. This is our choice for regular cleaning, it’s got stellar ingredients is vegan, cruelty free and gluten free…just like us!

Option #2: Dish soap

Use a non-toxic dish soap that has anti-bacterial properties. A tiny drop will do.

Option #3: Makeup cleansing balm, bar soap

Check the ingredients list and read reviews before buying to make sure that they won’t do harm to your skin.

Bonus Tips For Brush Cleaning

Use a Hair Dryer To Dry Them In A Hurry

We’ve all been there…no clean brush and using new shadows, but in a rush! Every now and then it’s ok to use a hair dryer. Blow dryers shouldn’t be used all the time because they have a tendency to dry out your bristles and make them weaker over time. However, in a pinch when you need your brushes available right away, this is a great option.

Use the blow dryer on the lowest setting to avoid damaging the bristles.

Use Hair Conditioner on Natural Hair Brushes To Keep Them Soft

At first blush, you may think, hair conditioner on a makeup brush? Yes, it’s a thing. But it’s only a thing for animal hair makeup brushes. If your makeup brushes are synthetic, they don’t have cuticles and don’t need the extra step of conditioning. However, makeup brushes made from animal hair can get hard and will benefit from the softening ingredients in your hair conditioner.

On the hunt for new makeup brushes?

We have an excellent selection of vegan, cruelty-free makeup brushes

We make all the essential brushes for eyes, cheeks, and lips. You will love that they are soft and fluffy, do an awesome job at picking up the powders, won’t ever have bristles that fall out. Essentially, they are lifetime brushes that you will never stop using.

Watch a Brush Cleaning Video Demonstration

Click Here to get access to our free all about eyes video course, where in VIDEO 11 I demonstrate how to clean and talk about what brushes you ACTUALLY need, and which brushes do what. If you like to learn by watching – this is the course for you. We also dive into detail on tons of other eye makeup topics

Pop any questions into the comments below, we love hearing from you!

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