Want Great Skin? Fix the Mistake That Even Beauty Editors Make


Free People

Confession time: I never used to know how to clean my makeup brushes. An embarrassing thing for any beauty editor to admit. Of course, when I didn’t clean my makeup brushes, my skin would suffer—I’d get unwanted breakouts because in addition to applying my foundation, I was buffing dirt and grime onto my face every single day (lovely).

My first thought when my skin would go to pot was to stock up on spot-fighting serums and skin-calming masks when all I had to do was clean my brushes more regularly. These days, if I can’t get round to doing it, I will use a clean hand, which is better than a dirty brush clogging up my skin’s pores, avoiding blemishes, infections and also saving myself some money.

But you shouldn’t just take my word for it. There are plenty of experts who will tell you why you should clean your brushes. I spoke to dermatologist Anjali Mahto, MBBCh BSc MRCP, who told me that there have been “many laboratory-based tests where makeup items have been swabbed and have shown the growth of all sorts of different microbes that can cause infection.”

She went on to say that despite all this evidence, we don’t clean our makeup bags and brushes enough, and if we don’t make an effort to clean our brushes then “bacteria can build up on the surface from constantly being in contact with our skin.”

So what kind of infections can we expect as a result of not cleaning our brushes? From contaminated mascaras and eyeliners, we can get conjunctivitis. And bad news if you’re a contact-lens wearer, as you could contract a condition called keratitis, “where bacteria from makeup make contaminate the contact lens and cause problems with the cornea of the eye.”

As if that wasn’t enough, Mahto went on to say that bacteria, such as Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus warneri, have been found in cosmetic products on laboratory testing. Now, although this shouldn’t be alarming, as they usually live on the skin of healthy individuals “they can cause problems in those with a weakened immune system.”

Finally, microbes such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa and MRSA “can also live on old makeup and cause more serious inflammation and sepsis, which can sometimes be life-threatening,” warns Mahto. Um, so, about that five-minute cleaning job you don’t want to do… it doesn’t seem so bad now, right?

This all means that we should definitely clean our brushes on the regular. But to do that, you need a decent guide on how to do it. As well as some of Mahto’s expert tips, we also gathered advice from some of the world’s leading makeup artists on how they clean theirs.

Keep scrolling for the best tips and advice on how to clean makeup brushes.