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How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

A top makeup artist explains why this seemingly simple task is the secret to beautiful skin.

Contributing Writer
makeup brushes
Photography by: Michelle Patrick / EyeEm via Getty Images

Cleaning your makeup brushes is one of those things you know you should do, but doing because avoid you feel like it's a lot of work. We're here to tell you two things: First, we're pretty sure Marie Kondo cleans her makeup brushes; second, it really doesn't require that much effort, but the payoff is big. "There's nothing like a clean brush," says celebrity makeup artist Edward Cruz. "Dirty brushes can bread and spread bacteria. They also create a film on top of your products so you're not getting a precise application. You end up mixing remnants of old makeup onto your face with the new. A clean brush is always going to give you a better outcome for pigment and application." 

 

There are two parts to cleaning your brushes, he says: sanitizing them with a spray a few times a week and using a deep cleanser at least once a month. (Keep in mind, though, that brushes used for liquid foundation should be cleaned more consistently than those used for powder. Same goes for natural-bristle brushes because they're more susceptible to breeding bacteria than synthetic bristles.) Sanitizing will kill bacteria, while deep cleaning will also remove stains. Cruz keeps Laura Mercier Brush Cleanser in his makeup kit to sanitize. "It's my quick fix," he says. "It disinfects and conditions the bristles, and they'll dry within a matter of minutes." For a deep clean, BeautyBlender BlenderCleanser Solid is his holy grail. "It will literally get every last bit of pigment out of the bristles. It melts makeup off," he says. 

 

When you're deep cleaning, there's a technique to it. Here, the four simple steps to follow.

 

Related: 12 Things You Never Clean (But Really Should)

 

Step One

Rinse the brush, holding the handle facing up toward the faucet and the bristles facing down toward the drain. "You don't want the water to flow directly into the brush," Cruz says, "because if water gets into the ferrule—that silver part where the bristles are glued in—it will loosen over time and the brush will start to shed." 

 

Step Two

Massage the cleanser into the bristles with your fingers in up and down strokes, as though you’re painting a wall. "You'll see the makeup fly right off the bristles," he says.  

 

Step Three

Rinse the bristles thoroughly. Any residue will make them feel tacky.  

 

Step Four

Lay them flat on a towel to dry. Never put them in a cup standing up, because water will go into the ferrule. If you have synthetic brushes, they'll take about 12 to 15 hours to dry, while natural brushes will dry in a few hours. (Don't try to speed up the drying time with a hair dryer, as that can lead to breakage, Cruz says.)  

 

One Final Tip...

If you're traveling and don't have your brush cleaner with you, Cruz says shampoo is a fine substitute—he often used it before he discovered the Beauty Blender cleanser. But never use hand soap (too drying), conditioner (too greasy), or straight alcohol (again, too drying). Trust him—not only has he been in the biz for a while, but he’s also obsessed with makeup brushes. "My oldest brush is 24 years old," he says. "I collect them. I seriously have more than 500, and if you take care of them, they really do last forever."