We understand: figuring out how to clean makeup brushes—and then actually doing it—can be a massive pain in the you-know-what. Indeed, we’d argue that it ranks right up there with paying taxes and flossing on the list of things we’d rather not do but know we should. Sure, it’s tempting to use yesterday’s foundation brush for today’s look, but for a variety of reasons we’ll go over below, it’s ideal to understand how to clean makeup brushes and include it into your routine as soon as possible.
When makeup and oils accumulate on brushes and sponges, they create a breeding ground for bacteria and other germs, which can lead to breakouts, styes, staph infections, and even herpes outbreaks. Using soiled makeup brushes and sponges can cause skin discomfort as well as infections.
Not to mention how cleaning your makeup brushes might alter the lifespan of your brushes. According to experts, gunk and buildup on filthy brushes can cause the brush fibres to degrade more quickly, affecting both how efficiently the brush takes up and applies makeup.
So, let’s speak about washing. There are a number of ways for washing brushes and cosmetic sponges on YouTube and Reddit, from swirling with dish soap and olive oil to putting your Beautyblender in the microwave, which seems weird, but as we frequently say at SELF, it’s better to seek out expert guidance for the best results. We asked three beauty professionals for their tips on how to clean makeup brushes, how frequently you should clean your makeup brushes, when it’s time to replace your brushes, and which cleansers and cleaning equipment are ideal for the job.
How frequently should you clean your makeup brushes?
Cleaning makeup brushes and sponges at least once a week since they may be a breeding ground for bacteria. “This is an excellent approach for equipment used in the sensitive eye area, especially for liquid and cream-based cosmetics, which are more likely to become contaminated,” she explains. A slightly longer interval between washes is fine for tools used with dry powders only (which she says are “a more challenging environment for microbes to grow in”) and those concentrated on other areas of the face like the cheeks and brows, but you should still clean them at least every other week.
The makeup professionals we spoke with all agreed. When not working with clients (which necessitates cleaning after each job), New York–based makeup artists Jennifer Nam and Marie Schumacher like to clean their own brushes with soap water once a week and conduct touch-ups with a brush-cleaning spray after each use (keep scrolling for suggestions on which to buy). Nam also suggests wiping out more delicate instruments, such as lip brushes, using rubbing alcohol wipes.