Photo courtesy of Lauren Vandie
How Often Should I Clean
My Makeup Brushes?
Beautifully made brushes can make all the difference in how your makeup—and your skin—looks. “I’ve used tons of different makeup brushes over the years, and a high-quality brush makes makeup application seamless,” says top makeup artist Gucci Westman. Her cruelty-free brushes, created by Japan’s oldest, most-respected brush maker, come with soft nylon bristles and hardwood handles crafted of birch from a Forest Stewardship Council–certified forest in Eastern Europe.
London luxury accessories designer Otis Batterbee, whose much-obsessed-over range of leather-free makeup bags led him into the world of high-performance makeup brushes, focused on sustainability with his new, totally recyclable line (customers can send back their used brushes with a return form). “I wanted amazing brushes that were also really sustainable,” he says.
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This chic set of oval-shaped brushes includes a body makeup brush, a foundation brush, a blush brush, a shade and highlight brush, and an eye-shadow brush.
Taking care of your brushes can really amplify their performance; the good news is, it’s easier than you think. “Clean your brushes at least once a week,” says Westman. “More if you use them a lot—say, if you’re a makeup artist. You want to avoid buildup of oil, debris, and bacteria on the brush—you don’t want that stuff touching your face.” In a study in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, researchers tested used makeup and makeup tools and found that 79 to 90 percent of them were contaminated with both fungus and bacteria (including Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, and Citrobacter freundii).
Beyond protecting your skin, cleansing regularly preserves the brushes themselves, too. “You can extend a brush’s life and make it work better to give you that flawless, natural look,” says Westman.
So once a week, clean your brushes—it’s about as time-consuming as washing your face (we’ve started cleaning ours on Sunday nights, when we swipe on our once-a-week 15% glycolic peel).
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“If it’s good enough for your hair or face, it’s good enough for your brushes,” says Batterbee. “You don’t need a special brush cleanser—a high-quality shampoo or soap is what a lot of makeup professionals use to clean their brushes.”
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“Wet the brush with lukewarm water, then place a drop of soap into the palm of your hand,” says Westman. “Use your fingertips to gently massage the makeup or dirt out from the bristles. Rinse, then squeeze out any additional moisture.” Batterbee likes to swirl the wet bristles in the soap or shampoo for 10 seconds to loosen product buildup. “Only work the bristles that come into contact with your skin,” he says.
Batterbee gently pats down the bristles with a clean towel to remove as much moisture as possible. “Never dry your brushes upright,” he says. “The water can run back into the brush and damage both the wood and glue used to bind the base of the bristles.”
You can dry the brushes on a towel or, as Westman does, cantilever them out over the edge of the sink. “Reshape the brush head back to its original form,” she says. “I like to position the bristles hanging over the edge of the sink so they can dry fully,” says Westman. Leave the brushes overnight, and they should be dry by morning. If you’re in a rush, Batterbee recommends a hair-dryer: “Set the dryer on a cool setting, hold it five inches from the brush, and give the bristles a quick, cold blast,” he says.
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Tip: Store your brushes upright or individually in a smooth-lined case. “I like to place my brushes in the cylinder’s short lid that comes with the set or in a cup on my vanity,” says Westman. You don’t want them rattling around in a drawer, potentially collecting more dirt. If you can avoid it, Batterbee says, don’t store them in the bathroom: “The humidity can damage the glue that holds the bristles.”
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