Oh, and so they stay clean and don’t transfer lots of skin-disrupting germs and bacteria. Plus our pick of the best products and gadgets to use
We know making time to clean makeup brushes is never a real priority but trust us when we say it is important to do. First up, there’s the cleanliness factor. In a study conducted by StylPro, they found that 34 per cent of makeup brushes contain more bacteria than a toilet brush. Grim. No skin type needs extra germs put on it but if you have an acne-prone or sensitive skin type, cleaning your makeup brushes is a no-brainer.
Then of course there’s the issue that a brush overloaded with old product - even if it is the best foundations - is never going to apply fresh makeup as effectively as a squeaky clean one. And finally, there’s little point in buying one of the best makeup brushes if you’re not future-proofing it by keeping it clean.
How often should I clean my makeup brushes?
“As a make-up artist I clean my brushes as soon as I'm finished with a client,” says international makeup artist and founder of Brulée Beauty, Fizah Pasha, “however people at home should ideally wash their own brushes once a week.”
Of course, this is for brushes you use daily - probably your foundation and concealer brush or your makeup sponge. Because annoyingly there can be an issue with cleaning your makeup brushes too much. “Be conscious of using anything too strong to clean your makeup brushes as it can break down the glue at the base of the brush. I recommend a gentle shampoo," says Pasha.
How do I clean my makeup brushes?
As with all things in life, there are lots of ways to clean your brushes and all have various pros and cons and you don’t have to have a dedicated makeup brush cleaning product. Lots of beauty experts we know use baby shampoo as it’s gentle on the bristles, and anti-bacterial liquid hand soap. Some of our beauty friends have even said they use washing-up liquid but we would recommend steering clear of traditional soap bars as they can be quite drying on the bristles. Makeup artists will always have instant brush cleaners in their kit bags that are either in liquid or spray formats.
The key elements are, whatever you decide to use, that you clean them until no more makeup product comes off the brush and that when you wipe it on a towel or kitchen paper it is completely clean. You should also see a visible difference in the appearance of the bristles and your brush should look (almost) like when you first purchased it.
Just a pointer on deep cleaning; sponges are fine to be soaked, but soaking brushes on the other hand could degrade glue at the base of the brush and damage the brush ferrule, leading to accelerated bristle ‘fallout’ and general lacklustre performance. Instead massage brush tips and mid-lengths gently in the palm of your hand with your chosen cleanser, rinsing with warm water in a downwards direction.
The second key stage of makeup brush maintenance is making sure your brush dries properly before reusing it. To do this place your clean brushes on the edge of a surface (a windowsill is ideal) so that the bristles aren’t touching anything and air can circulate all the way around.
Spot-cleaning your makeup brushes
Whether in between deep cleans or for quick colour changeovers, a spot-clean keeps brushes and tools ticking over. The sanitising spot clean is a much-performed activity backstage, on shoots and in any situation when time is seriously tight. Like many an instantly gratifying affair, it often involves a spray-on alcohol spray or an alcohol base liquid that’s quick to clean and dry.
How to clean makeup sponges
These little egg-shaped friends are a different kettle of fish when it comes to cleaning. Much has been said about how to clean a Beautyblender , but it's really quite simple.
Wet the Beautyblender, swirl an ample amount of your chosen cleaning formula onto the blender then allow it to soak in a bowl of water while working into a lather. To avoid snags or tears, squeeze delicately and then rinse with clean water; squeeze out excess water and allow the blender to dry completely in a clean, well-ventilated area.
Beyond the brushes
Remember you also need to clean whatever your makeup brushes are in - that may be your makeup bag or a pot. Depending on the fabric of your makeup bag you may be able to pop it in the washing machine, if not you can give it a quick wipe down with some antibacterial cleaner - do this on any makeup brush pots and jars too.
When to throw makeup brushes away
If a brush is behaving as if it’s moulting season (excessive shedding), or has gone oddly wiry, dry, matted or misshapen, the bin beckons. Ditch standard sponges after about a month, depending on frequency of usage, but if you’re a Beautyblender fan you can expect to reduce that to approximately three months.
Our favourite makeup brush cleaners
The gadget: Stylpro Spin & Squeeze, £39.99
Compatible with both makeup brushes and sponges, this genius device not only cleans your tools but spins them dry too meaning you can use them immediately afterwards. It comes with everything you need, including a brush cleanser and the bowl is big enough to fit in all brush sizes.
The cleaning liquid used by pros: Isoclean Makeup Brush Cleaner with Detachable Lid, £12
This is the sort of product that professional makeup artists always have on them for shoots. It’s an alcohol-based product that cuts through makeup and dirt quickly. Simply pour some in the lid of the perspex container that it comes in, swirl the brush for a few seconds and then wipe it clean on kitchen paper or a clean towel. You need to leave the brushes to dry after but you only need a few minutes.
The all-in-one kit: Zoeva Brush Care Kit, £20.50
Just as a facial cleansing balm melts away makeup, a solid brush cleanser breaks down everything and anything that latches onto a makeup brush. This vegan solid brush cleaner comes with a cleansing pad so you can swirl the brush on it until the water runs clear and it helps get between the bristles more effectively.
The instant cleaning spray: Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser, £15
A super handy spray that’s a great option for travelling. Again, alcohol heavy but that means it does the job quickly. Spray onto all sides of the brush so it’s saturated and wipe until it’s clean onto a towel or tissue paper.
The wash-off cleaning soap: Dr Bronner’s Citrus All-One Magic Soap, £24.50
This handy liquid soap, and real multitasker, is a firm GTG favourite. Beauty Director SJ uses this to clean her makeup brushes. “I love the scent of it and the fact that it’s gentle but antibacterial at the same time. I pour some into the palm of my hand, wet the brush I’m cleaning and then swirl it in my hand until it’s clean. I find it comes out easily whereas with regular hand soap, I have found he soap can linger in the bristles for quite a while and it takes quite a bit of effort to get it out.”
The makeup brush conditioner: Bobbi Brown Conditioning Brush Cleanser, £14
Having a conditioner for your makeup brush may sound slightly daft, but just as with the hair on our heads, if any bristles are starting to feel dry or coarse, this can revive them to feeling super soft again. Think of it as an insurance plan for your pricier purchases.
The solid cleaning bar: London Brush Company Pure Goat Milk Solid Brush Shampoo, £28
A product that has acquired cult status in makeup artist circles, as makeup artist testifies: “I actually enjoy cleaning my brushes with this; it leaves a lingering aroma of lavender and is quick and easy. I simply swirl the soap and water together into the textured palm of the glove, running makeup brushes back and forth until they’re spotless.”
The cleaning gloves: Sigma Spa Express Brush Cleaning Glove, £18.27
The idea is to slip it over your hand, add your chosen cleanser with warm water and run brushes over the various textured surfaces to coax out pigment, oil and anything else creeping around in your brush collection. It looks somewhat like a neon body buffer-come-cheese grater, but it works a treat. Each of the lumpy bumpy surfaces on the glove outer does a different job, and you can quite literally get right to the root of most brushes without damaging the ferrule.
The cleaning wipes: Elf Brush Cleanser Wipes, £3.50
Not the most environmentally-friendly way to clean your makeup brushes - as these wipes aren’t biodegradable - but they are ideal for festivals, camping or any time you may not have access to water, space or a lot of time. Each wipe is saturated in an alcohol-free formula that cleans away makeup and grime and does a good job for how convenient they are.
The cute cleaning kit: Beautyblender The Sweetest Blend Bear Necessities Cleansing Set, £22.50
A surefire way to make a fairly tedious job that bit more enjoyable is to add a side of cute to the situation and that’s exactly what you get with this set. Included is a solid brush cleanser in the shape of a teddy and then a coordinating bear-shaped scrub mat to ensure all the makeup and dirt are removed.