How To Clean Makeup Brushes

Emily LaCroix

Cleaning your makeup tools is often one of those tasks put off until tomorrow, or next week, or next month. However, if you care about your skin and well-being, you may want to make it a part of your regular cleaning routine. 

You may have been living by ignorance is bliss, but you won't be for much longer. You probably already realize dirt and grime can build up on unclean brushes, but did you know harmful bacteria can as well? Do you know the toll using dirty makeup brushes can take on your skin? The answers won't make you feel better but have you running to go clean your brushes. 

We are going to go over how you can clean your makeup brushes, so you never have to worry about any of the nasty things that can happen if you don't. 

Why You Should Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Let's get the dirty details out of the way of why you should be cleaning your brushes regularly. There could be a lot more on them than just product buildup, not that that's good to be applying to your skin either. 

Bacteria City

Bacteria can build up fast on your makeup brushes. Brushes with dense bristles, like the ones you use for liquid foundation, can be the fastest to become unsafe to use. Wet conditions can be a breeding ground for bacteria, so tools you use with liquid are prone to bacteria build-up. Even after one use, it can become too dirty to use a second time safely.

Breakouts and Acne Galore

When you have bacteria, you can also end up with breakouts. The dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and microorganisms living on your brushes can clog your pores and cause pimples to form. 

You transfer all of this grime onto your skin every time you use dirty brushes. If you notice sudden breakouts after wearing makeup, your brushes could be the culprit. 

Skin Irritation

Even if you don't end up with acne, you can still develop skin irritation in the form of redness or roughness. This reaction could be your skin telling you it's unhappy with the germs on your makeup brushes. 


As if harmful bacteria on your skin weren't bad enough, it can also lead to viruses. When bacteria enter your body through the pores on your skin, they can get into your bloodstream. You can develop infections or flu-like symptoms. 

If you share your brushes with your friends and don't clean them before using them, you can also end up with a viral infection like herpes. 

Premature Aging

When you expose your skin to the germs on your brushes, it can lead to premature aging. Your skin can become overwhelmed by free radicals

Free radicals develop from the germs on your brushes. They have an uneven number of electrons, so when they end up on your face, they pair with healthy molecules to stabilize. When your body can't control the free radicals from attaching to your healthy cells, you end up with oxidative stress. 

This type of stress leads to a breakdown in the collagen and elastin in your skin. These two proteins are what keep skin looking young and youthful. Without enough collagen and elastin, your skin develops fine lines and wrinkles. So if you want smooth skin, clean your brushes (and make sure you’re cleaning makeup sponges and beauty blenders too)!

How Often Should You Clean Your Makeup Brushes? 

So you may be wondering how often you need to clean your brushes to avoid the consequences we just went over. The answer depends on how often you're using your makeup brushes. 

If you use them several times a week, you need to wash them once a week. Cleaning them will keep them sterilized and stop bacteria from flourishing. However, if you struggle with acne-prone skin, you may want to clean them twice a week.

If someone else uses your makeup brushes, you should thoroughly clean them before using them again. A makeup artist will clean their brushes after every client, and you should think of your friends as clients. Your skin may react differently to someone else's bacteria than it does to your own. Plus, you don't know what viruses that person may have. 

Different Brush Cleaning Options

There are several different cleansers you can use to clean your makeup brushes. There are cleaning products made specifically for cleansing beauty tools. 

Here are a few you can use to get clean makeup brushes. 

Brush Cleanser

A simple brush cleaner is a fantastic place to start if you've never cleaned makeup brushes before. The formulation of brush cleaners will help loosen the makeup and remove the dirt and oil. You also will know that the cleanser won't be too harsh for your brush bristles or skin. 

DIY Cleaner

There are also a number of products you probably already have at home that can work just as well as an actual brush cleaner. 

Things like mild shampoos, castile soap, baby shampoo, or antibacterial soaps can all make excellent brush cleansers. Another effective brush cleaner is a mixture of olive oil and dish soap. 

When combined, these two ingredients can break down built-up makeup, like foundations and concealers. Dish soap can kill germs and cut through grime. The olive oil will keep the dish soap from drying out the bristles and damaging them. Olive oil can also help the dish soap break down the makeup and germs. 

When selecting an at-home cleanser, check the formula. You want to stay away from things with parabens, sulfates, or any other ingredients that may be harmful to your skin or bristles, especially if you have sensitive skin. 

Vinegar is also a great natural cleanser that you can use to clean a number of things, including makeup brushes. You want to use a mixture of warm water, dish soap, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. 

Your brushes won't end up smelling like vinegar, either, if that's a concern. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer and disinfectant. If you thoroughly rinse your brushes and allow them to dry, you shouldn't smell any vinegar. 

How To Clean Your Makeup Brushes

When it comes to makeup and beauty, you need to know everything from how to tweeze your brows to how to clean your makeup tools. It's time to learn how to clean your brushes step by step. However, before you can begin the process, you need to select what cleanser you will be using and gather other supplies you may need, like a clean towel or paper towels. 

Bring your makeup brush cleaner and supplies, along with your makeup brushes and even your makeup sponge, to the sink. You can even clean your spoolies and applicators following these steps, like the one that comes with TatBrow's Ultra Hold Brow Gel

Step 1: Wet the Brush

Using lukewarm water, wet the bristles of the brush. Be careful with water on your brush heads. You always want to wet your brushes upside down to prevent water from getting into the area where the glue is holding the bristles together. The water can dissolve the glue over time, and you can end up ruining the brush. 

Step 2: Use Your Brush Cleanser

Grab your bowl of cleaning solution and swirl the brush at the bottom of the bowl. If you are using a soap or shampoo, you can put a dime-sized amount in the palm of your hand. Next, twist the handle of the brush to massage the bristles into the cleaner. Begin to work the product out of the brush. 

Step 3: Rinse and Repeat

Rinse out your brush, holding it bristle side down under the faucet. You can continue to swirl the brush in your hand to work out the makeup and cleanser. If your brush still looks dirty, you should repeat step two until the water runs clear. 

Step 4: Squeeze Out Excess Water

When you rinse your brushes for the final time, squeeze out excess water to help the drying process. Next, take a clean towel or paper towel and dry the entire brush. This step will also make sure you're cleaning off any makeup residue on the handle. 

Step 5: Lay The Brushes Out To Dry

Lay the brushes flat to dry completely before using them again. You don't want to let them dry upright because the excess water can drip down into the brush and dissolve the glue or form mildew. 

When Is It Time for New Brushes?

Eventually, you will reach a point where it's time to toss the brush. However, how do you know when you need to get a new brush? 

The amount of time you can use a brush depends on the quality. Premium brushes can last years if you take care of the bristles and keep them clean. 

When you notice the bristles start to shed or the softness of the bristles fade, it's time for a new brush. You also know it's time to throw a brush away if you start to notice a mildew smell. You definitely don't want to be putting that on your face!



Clean Your Brushes

Clean your brushes today, and your skin will thank you later. Not using dirty makeup brushes will ensure you don't suffer any consequences from spreading germs around your face. When your brushes are clean, you can go back to applying your TatBrow makeup with peace of mind!



Makeup cleaning tips during a pandemic | Washington Post

Your Makeup and Sponge Applicator Are Teeming With Deadly Bacteria | Insider

Free Radicals and Extrinsic Skin Aging | NCBI

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