Washing Cosmetic Brushes – Why Its Important & How I Do It.

20150107_202326We all have our fair share of poor beauty habits, and one of the most common offenses is unclean brushes. Although it may seem unimportant, failing to clean and sanitize the tools you use on your face can be worse than forgetting to wash it!  Taking proper care of your brush bristles helps with their performance, extends their lifetime, and prevents harmful bacteria from forming.

As a teenage makeup wearer – Even as a woman in my young 20s – I never cleaned my makeup brushes.  As a matter of fact, I owned very few make-up brushes at all.  I would sweep bright purple eye-shadow on to my lids on a Tuesday with the same brush I caked on brown eye-shadow with on Monday.  As embarrassing as it may be to admit, I used the same brush to apply gel eyeliner all through high school and I never once cleaned it.  I would dip, apply and re-dip over and over again.

I was lazy, but I was also naive.  I had no idea that dirty makeup brushes not only caused my makeup shades to look dirty, but I had no idea I was polluting my face. I didn’t understand the importance of keeping tools that touched my skin clean to avoid things such as harmful bacteria which caused me to have an acne-prone complexion all throughout my younger life.

Today, I am happy to say my complexion has cleared up and my skin is healthier than ever.  I attribute a lot of that not only to learning how to properly take care of my skin, but also how to maintain my cosmetics and by learning how to clean my tools properly.

20150107_201227My brush habits are pretty simple.  I use a brush for whichever application it is needed for, and once it is soiled I stick it in a plastic basket on the top of my vanity, out of normal rotation, to ensure that I don’t dip that dirty brush back into my cosmetics.

20150107_201146I spot clean my makeup brushes daily after each use if I need to re-use the same brush again. To accomplish this, I utilize a spray cleaning treatment like the Japonesque Makeup Brush Cleaner or the ELF Daily Brush Cleaner pictured to the left.  To use, I simply spritz some of the spray on the bristles of a dirty makeup brush and then swirl onto a soft towel up toward the base of the bristles to pull out and remove the color and residues on the bristles.

I find that the Japonesque spritz removes more product but leaves an oily-ish residue on the bristles that I don’t really love.  The Citrus smell is pretty nice though.  At $12 a bottle, this spot cleaning spray is a little pricey as compared to the $3 Elf Daily Cleaner that does not leave any residue.

I make it a point to deep clean my brushes every week utilizing a process that I developed over time.  My process is inexpensive, fast and easy, which leaves me no excuses for avoiding a deep clean at least once a week of every brush I have dipped in to product and touched to my face.

20150107_201201To begin, I set up 3 disposable cups on my bathroom sink.  Any kind of cup will work. I like to use disposable because I can just throw them out after I use them.  However, any kitchen glass will work just fine.

The cup furthest to the left holds cool, clean water.  The middle cup holds luke-warm, clean water.  The cup to the right holds warm water with a squirt of the ELF Brush Shampoo pictured in the photo above (also $3).  My process works from right to left.  Why different temps?  Warm water activates the sudsy cleaning power of the brush shampoo and cooler water cuts through the suds more effectively.  I rinse in varying degrees of cooling-down to make sure I am getting the most soap out of my brushes.  The two step rinse process ensures that I am getting a thorough rinse.  You will see how the color of the water is impacted, even in the rinse cups, at the end of this guide.


I start by swishing my brush in the sudsy cup with warm water and brush shampoo.  I swish the brush vigorously and press it up and down against the bottom of the cup to make sure that I am working the product and color out of the bristles.



After swishing the brush in the sudsy water for about 20-30 seconds, I squeeze out any excess water into the bathroom sink.  I prefer to squeeze the soapy residue into the sink first before moving on to the next cup so as not to soil the second cup too severely.I then repeat this process with the middle cup and the last cup.

20150107_202043After rinsing off each brush in the last cup of cold water and squeezing out the excess water into the sink, I lay each brush flat on a soft, cotton, towel.  I allow my brushes to dry for several hours (usually over-night) and then I stand them upright in the cylinders that I hold my entire brush collection in on my vanity.  I typically like to segregate them for a day or so to keep them out of rotation just to ensure that they are completely dry before I dip them back in to any product.

I find that this method of deep cleaning really works.  As I mentioned above, you can really see the change in color of the cups of water after I am done cleaning my brushes and especially as I’m dumping each of them down the drain.  First the sudsy cup – it definitely takes on a peachy/beige hue from all of the foundation, blush and powder brushes I use throughout the week.  Second, the first rinse cup shows some soap residue floating on the top of the cup and there is a tinge of color as I dump it down the drain.  Finally the last rinse cup, although the most translucent after this whole process, still shows some color as I dump it out .  It may be difficult to see here in my photos.

As for which brushes are best for which kind of makeup application – that’s an entirely different discussion.  As you can see by my photo above, I use a variety of brushes from $1 ELF essential brushes to some higher-end Bare Minerals, Sigma and MAC brushes.  I find that the name on the brush is insignificant.  The texture, size and feeling of the brush matters more than how expensive it really is.  I buy brushes for specific applications – for example – my favorite brush right now is a $3 ELF Studio Small Tapered Brush, but I also love my Bare Minerals Angled Face Brush which I paid much, much more for.

Brush choice is ultimately up to the user, but I’ve learned the hard way that there is no substitute for keeping your brushes clean and sanitized to preserve the beauty and health of your already precious skin.

One thought on “Washing Cosmetic Brushes – Why Its Important & How I Do It.

  1. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.

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