How to Clean and Maintain Your Makeup Brushes

This quarantine period, I bet that you have not touched your make-up for the longest time except for the few times you were bored or you filmed a vlog or you wanted to look a bit fresh (because you stayed up late watching the latest season of your favorite show) before your zoom meeting with classmates or workmates. But admit it, most of the time you embraced the bare face! 

And now that you have “more” time, it’s probably best to actually do this thing you’ve been putting off for so long. Yes, it’s time to clean your makeup brushes. 

Okay, don’t put your phone down or close your laptop or exit this article. I know you clicked this one because you are thinking about it. And I am the genie in the bottle telling you that you need to do it. Don’t worry, we’ll give you the step-by-step procedure on how to clean those brushes alongside some tips to maintain them in their natural glow. 

Cleaning the tools you use to paint your face is not just for the sake of cleaning them for better use but it’s also essential for health reasons. If you experience rashes and other breakouts on your face despite your religious skincare sessions every night, your sheets are always fresh and clean, maybe it’s time to look at the tools that you use to apply makeup on your face. 

In experiments conducted to see what remains on your makeup, it was revealed that under the microscope here is a fair lineup: First there are the bits of makeup left, remains of mites – fairly small measuring about a third of a millimetre, bacteria such as staphylococcus which are bred from the oil, makeup pigments, as well as dead skin cells, and lastly fungi. A bit gross, isn’t it? Thankfully these creatures are generally harmless but it’s hard to risk it because as harmless they may be, they’re never really good for the skin. 

The grimy residue can initially cause breakouts but over time and through prolonged exposure (since you’re putting off cleaning it), skin may become agitated which can cause rashes, pimples as well as blisters, or worse, it can even trigger allergic reactions. 

On another note, dirt was revealed to accelerate skin ageing although there are no conclusive studies that back this up just yet. Dermatologist, Dr. Stefanie Williams said in an article published by Glamour that in theory the dirt found in our makeup brushes contribute to first, collagen and elastin breakdown and second, oxidative stress from free radicals. In addition, Dr. Williams noted that these two are factors in premature skin ageing. 

What are the step-by-step procedures in cleaning your brushes? 

CLEANSING

Just like any skincare routine, our tools require the same care. To clean your brushes, you can choose from a range of DIY household items and cleaner brands (which we’ll discuss later). The most popular and the cheapest makeup cleaners are gentle soaps and mild baby shampoos. According to most users, these two do just the trick in wiping out grease from your brushes. 

For the process, it’s simple. Squeeze in a dollop of gentle soap or shampoo into lukewarm water and gently swish to blend. First, dip each brush under running water then into the prepared solution while rubbing it gently with your fingers to lather the brush and to release any buildup. If there is any stuck-on debris, gently remove it with your fingers. Rinse and dip the brushes repeatedly until they are free of debris. Make sure that you don’t soak the brush into the solution as it can loosen the wood barrel. 

There are other DIY household items that you can use instead of soap and shampoo. 

  1. Vinegar and Lemon: These are popular cleaning ingredients used in many life hack videos and these are also applicable to makeup brushes. To make the solution, add two tablespoons of white vinegar into one cup of hot water and then mix. You can use this alternatively with the mentioned solution then rinse with lukewarm water. The lemon is to counteract the strong smell of vinegar by slowly rubbing your brush against it. 
  2. Olive Oil – This ingredient is not only good for the health but also a good cleaning agent for your brushes as well. You can submerge the brush into a bowl of olive oil and slowly lather and massage the bristles. If you want a more deep cleaning session, you can add in a bit of shampoo. 
  3. Apple Cider Vinegar – This is one of the most flexible kitchen/household items and can be used in a wide variety of purposes. One cup of water plus a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar can do the trick. Dip your brush into the solution and slowly clean the brush then rinse with lukewarm water. Additionally, you can also use lemon to remove the strong scent of apple cider vinegar. 

Aside from these, if you have the money to spend, you can indulge in these makeup cleaners that most makeup experts swear by. 

  1. Parian Spirit Professional Makeup Brush Cleaner – This product is made from citrus spirits and food grade solvents and is very effective in instantly removing makeup, oil, and grime in your makeup brushes. It kills all the bacteria that has bred through the bristles and leaves it with a citrus aroma. To use, you can simply dip, spray, or wipe your brushes with it – no washing or rinsing needed! 
  2. Philosophy Purity Made Simple – This is actually a popular facial cleanser which can thoroughly clean your face but still remaining gentle. According to Mario Dedivanovic, Kim Kardashian’s West makeup artist, in an article published by Allure, if a facial cleanser can do this good of a job on your face, it’s highly likely to do just the same with your brush. 
  3. Cinema Secret Makeup Brush Cleaner Pro Starter Kit – this set contains a cleansing tin and makeup brush cleaner which is powerful and fast-drying. You will have no worries with grimes and residues as this cleaner can remove all of these without the need to rinse. 

Take note that there are also different types of brushes that may require special care. For example, synthetic bristle brushes used for cream or liquid products (lipstick, gloss, gel liner, cream brush, foundation, and concealer) use alcohol-based brush cleaners. 

CONDITIONING

Some skip this part of the process and go straight to drying but just like any filament like our hair, brushes also need to get conditioned in order to bring back its original luster and to prevent bristles from breaking. This will also ensure a soft fresh brush for your next use. 

To condition, use olive oil (yes it’s also a good conditioning agent!) and the same soap solution and soak for a few minutes before rinsing thoroughly. 

RESHAPING

Why is this step important? Reshaping allows your brush to get back to its compact form and prevents it from fanning out. You would not want this to happen to your brush as it will greatly affect the application and finish of products. 

To reshape, use a clean paper towel to gently shape the brush back to its original form. This also removes moisture enabling faster drying of the brush. 

DRYING

Last but not the least is drying. Wetness is a breeding ground for bacteria so make sure you don’t rush your brushes to drying or to keeping them as soon as you have finished reshaping them and pushing all of your brushes into one cup. 

To dry, you can opt to use a drying rack which is the easiest and less hassle method. If you don’t have any, you can place a towel (lint-prone to prevent dust) on top of the table and place the bristles over the edge to dry and ensure that it gets dried evenly. Some also opt to place them in a neat row under the radiator. Allow at least 6 full hours to make sure that all your brushes are completely dry. 

How to maintain your brushes? 

As a rule of thumb, you should clean your makeup brushes once a week minimum, especially if you’re a heavy user on a daily basis. This is to remove all the grime buildup in your brushes and also ensure that they’re in great shape for next use. For synthetic brushes, you can opt to clean it once every two weeks. But remember that you should not over cleanse as well. It does not make your brushes any cleaner but just weaker to damage. Everything should be done in moderation. 

Additionally makeup brushes should be replaced every 3-6 months but some argue that with proper care you can make a brush last long. But the red flags that you should pay attention to which calls for a replacement is first, discoloration. Second if it already emits bad odor. And lastly, replace it when the bristles are shedding or getting kinked. Additionally so if the brush becomes harder to reshape and ends up bushier and fluffier.

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