Makeup Artists Share Exactly How to Wash Makeup Brushes

Keep them clean.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Clean makeup brushes and tools are key to flawless-looking makeup. But is there harm in taking the lazy-girl route and neglecting to wash your makeup brushes regularly? We hate to be the one to break it to you, but yes, there is.

Skimping on washing your makeup brushes can leave them packed with dirt, oil, and bacteria — not to mention hinder their performance. No matter how much you spend on your makeup tools, properly cleaning them guarantees perfectly blended makeup. Here, makeup artists share how to wash makeup brushes properly, just like the pros.

Related: I Had an Exhaustive Collection of Makeup Tools, but I Pared It Down to These 5 Brushes That Do It All

Why Washing Your Makeup Brushes Is Important

If you aren't washing your makeup brushes on a regular basis, dirt, oil, and excess product on the bristles' surface can become a petri dish for bacteria growth. Marcia Williams, a celebrity makeup artist and founder of Embellish Beauty, says it is essential to clean your makeup brushes; otherwise, you will transfer the bacteria from your brush onto your cosmetics, which can infect the skin and cause rashes, pimples, and skin sensitivities.

Elaina Badro, a celebrity makeup artist and founder of Elaina Badro Makeup Brushes, adds that keeping makeup brushes clean also allows for the longevity of the bristles. "Regular washing prevents mold growth, and some synthetic brushes even include anti-bacterial properties to prevent bacteria from growing on the bristles," she says.

How Often Should You Wash Makeup Brushes?

In a perfect world, we would wash our makeup brushes after every use. But that's not totally realistic, especially for busy people on the go. If daily washing is not feasible, cleaning your makeup brushes at least every seven to 10 days is second best. But waiting more than 10 days to wash them can up the chances of color transfer, a buildup of oil (which can lead to firm bristles), and sometimes a visible ring of color buildup on the brushes themselves.

While all makeup brushes deserve equal TLC, ones used on and around the eyelids and mouth require more frequent and rigorous cleansing, because they come into contact with mucus membranes and oral cavities — making it more likely for bacteria to build up quickly. "Dirty brushes can potentially carry conjunctivitis bacteria, which is harmful," Williams says.

What to Use to Wash Makeup Brushes

Every makeup artist has their preferred methods and products for cleaning makeup brushes. Some like to wash their brushes with gentle dish soap or even baby shampoo, while others use specialty brush cleansers.

"There's a lot of hype about using facial cleansers and dish or even bar soap to clean makeup brushes, but I'd steer clear of them," Badro advises. "Instead, stick with a mild shampoo or a professional brush cleaner because soaps can sometimes damage brush bristles." Make sure the cleanser you use is low in alcohol and doesn't contain harsh ingredients and soaps, which can shorten the life of a brush or sponge.

Related: Your Complete Guide to Makeup Brushes

How to Wash Makeup Brushes

The simplest way to wash your brushes for a guaranteed deep clean is to pour the cleanser of your choice into a bowl or the palm of your hand. If you're using a bowl, Williams says to fill it less than halfway full with the cleaner — she prefers Cinema Secrets Makeup Brush Cleaner — and dip just the top part of the bristles into the solution for a few seconds. Swirl it around, then wipe the brush on a dry, clean towel.

If you prefer to wash your brushes in the palm of your hand, Badro recommends first running the bristles under lukewarm water before dipping them into the cleanser and then swirling them in a circular motion to loosen up makeup, dirt, and oil. "Next, rinse the bristles under lukewarm water, but avoid immersing the entire brush under the water, which can cause the adhesive or glue to break down, resulting in the ferrule disassembling from the bristles or handle," she says.

You'll know your brush is clean once the water runs clear. If the water rinses cloudy or colored, repeat the process until it's clear. With your clean brushes in tow, Badro says to gently squeeze the water out of the bristles; she recommends using a paper towel for this.

Lay down the brushes on a clean towel and gently shape and smooth the bristles with your fingers to make sure they are not bent or warped. Badro likes to lay each brush flat to dry horizontally on a paper or cotton towel so they don't touch each other. And never take a blow-dryer to your brushes, which will cause the bristles to lose shape and even fall out.

When to Replace Your Makeup Brushes

No matter how diligent you are about cleaning your makeup brushes regularly, if they start to look frayed or ragged, or if the bristles are shedding, Badro says it's time to replace them, explaining, "once the bristles are damaged, they will not pick up pigment anymore, so you'll need to replace them."

Likewise, if your brushes emit a strange odor or your skin breaks out more frequently than usual, swap your brushes for a fresh set. "On average, replacing makeup brushes every one to three years is recommended," she says.

Related: How to Decide Between Using Makeup Brushes or Sponges

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