We know you diligently wash your makeup brushes already (ahem), but there’s still a lot you can learn from those who make a living out of using them. Brushes, to a makeup artist, are what a hammer is to a builder or what an oven is to a baker—pretty important, if you ask us. And, while there are plenty of perfectly okay how-tos for washing bristles out there, none are more detailed or reliable than the methods of the experts. So, Byrdie asked five top makeup artists how they clean, dry and care for their makeup brushes.
Keep scrolling to find out how to keep your brushes in tip-top condition. And, let’s just say you’ll want to stock up on exfoliating mitts after this…
“I clean my makeup brushes after every use with a daily brush spray. (Ed. note: Try Bobbi Brown Brush Cleaning Spray, £16.) Then I give them a deep clean every 1–2 weeks depending on how much I've used them. I cleanse them in my sink; I fill it up with warm water, add Bobbi Brown Conditioning Brush Cleanser (£12) and leave them to soak for five minutes. I then use a dark towel to cleanse each brush in between a second soak.
“The towel is great because it's slightly textured to really buff out any dirt and grime. Then I rinse and lay them flat on a clean towel with the bristle ends hanging over my counter top. If the grime is really stubborn, I’ll use a textured flannel or exfoliating mitts, which are brilliant as they really lather up the cleanser but also give the brushes a good scrub.”
“I take my brushes home after a shoot and give them a thorough wash with Fairy Platinum Washing Up Liquid (£2) in warm water. It has to be Fairy Platinum, as it is the only one that gives them a proper clean. If I need to clean them during a shoot I spray on Clinique Makeup Brush Cleanser (£14).
“After washing my brushes, I lay them flat on a dry cloth on a flat surface with the wet brush end hanging over into the air to dry. If it is very late or cold I wrap them up in a roll in the cloth and put them on a radiator. Always dry your brushes flat, if you prop them up in a jar the water can run down and dissolve the glue holding the brush end to the handle.”
“I pop a pea-sized blob of Real Techniques Deep Cleansing Gel (£8) into the new Brush Cleansing Palette (£13) and run the brush that I’m cleaning under a slow dripping, warm tap. The brush must be facing down to make sure that none of the water goes into the ferrule and starts to ruin the glue, which in turn will cause the bristles to shed.
“I then spin the brush in the cleaner and rinse off any makeup that has come out of the bristles. I dab it dry and place it on a towel. If I’m cleaning a blending sponge, I do it in much the same way, except I lather it in the palm of my hand and squeeze out the excess water.
“If the colour won't come out of a brush, I take a small amount of my oil-based eye makeup remover to the tip of the brush to clean out waxy products.”
“I use a penny-sized amount of BareMinerals Well-Cared for Brush Conditioning Shampoo (£10) in the palm of my hand mixed with some warm water, and I gently lather the shampoo into the fibres of the brushes to begin washing the makeup out. I don't rub too vigorously to protect the flower-tip shape of the brush, then I rinse it under warm water to remove all of the shampoo. Next, I gently wring them, reshape them and lay them flat to dry overnight.
“If I’m on set, I use BareMinerals Quick Change Brush Cleaner (£10) in-between each model to avoid build-up, then give them a good clean with shampoo in the evening.”
“I spray my brushes first with a product called Brush Off (£14) then wipe them on a piece of tissue to remove excess. Next, I pour a small amount of the Estée Lauder Makeup Brush Cleanser (£12) into a bowl and swish the brushes in there to remove any stains.
“Finally, I dip them in warm water mixed with Australian Bodycare Skinwash (£28), which is anti-bacterial, before smoothing and reshaping the brushes with a towel and leaving to dry overnight on a flat surface, like the windowsill. I know it is a long process, but I'm obsessed with keeping my brushes clean.”
Every makeup artist we spoke to opted for a different cleansing technique, whether they dipped their brushes in an oily makeup remover or put the bristles through a triple cleanse. But, there was one thing they all agreed on: When we quizzed each expert on the surest way to a ruin a brush, they said water in the ferrule (the bit where the bristles are bonded together) would do it.
When water and soap get in there, they dissolve the glue and the fibres can become unstuck, which is why it’s essential to lay your brushes flat or—better yet —upside down. Sigma has just launched a handy tool called the Dry ’N’ Shape (from £30) a tower that suspends the brushes so the bristles face downwards, allowing them to dry faster, and in their desired shape.
Makeup brushes aren’t meant to last forever, and when it’s time to give them the boot, you’ll know.
“If the bristles are looking sparse and feeling coarse it is time to say goodbye,” says Florrie. Amy adds that, if the hairs are natural, they can begin to look almost dry, while past-it powder brushes will start to apply makeup unevenly. It’s not all bad news, though! Sarah-Jane says you can keep a brush for around a year and, hey, when it’s time to toss one out, you have the perfect excuse to buy a fresh, new kit.
How often do you clean your makeup brushes? Let us know in the comment box below… We'll tell you, if you tell us!
Opening Image: Alice's Beauty Madness