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How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

At a recent neighborhood party, my friend Sarah passed me the new NARS blush she was sure I hadn’t tried. “A bit dark for me,” I replied. Secure with my own shade of Deep Throat by the same brand.

“Here,” she said, thrusting the makeup brush into my hands. It appeared to be covered in powder, mingled with tiny bits of dust and I wondered: Did she clean this makeup brush from time to time or… ever?!

The idea of sharing makeup brushes slightly grossed me out. After all, I had read the Allure.com poll (July 2011), which found that a staggering 45% of women surveyed about brush care NEVER clean their makeup brushes.

Back in high school, I had snuck my baby brother’s Johnson’s Baby Shampoo from under my mom’s nose and used a small amount to clean my brushes. Then, I stealthily hid them in a cup on a high shelf to dry. That way, none of my three siblings would throw them out.

How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

Photo Courtesy of WikiHow.com

I always wondered about my own high school hygiene (today, I frequently use brushes just a few times and then replace them, which is an expensive habit, and as you will see below, not what one expert advises!), but after recently passing a brush-cleaning spray at Sephora, I wondered: How does one properly clean a makeup brush? Here at BeautyStat, we consulted with the experts, and following, are their tips:

“The biggest mistake women make is using the same brush for every product,” explains Kim Soane, Bobbi Brown’s Director of Global Artistry.

“Each product should always be applied with its own brush.””If you use the same brush for every product, your face will look muddy or too red,” notes celebrity makeup artist Alison Raffaele.

“People tend to pick up way too much pigment on their brushes at once. Better to start with less, blend and then add more.”

“The second biggest mistake is not washing your brushes at least once every two weeks,” says Soane. “Remember: You bought your brushes without makeup on them. You will always get the best results when using clean ones.”

How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

If your makeup bag looks like this, we feel sorry for your brushes!

Raffaele explains that by not cleaning brushes regularly the build-up of makeup, dead skin cells and oil turns abrasive over time, leading to hard, scratchy, broken bristles.

How To Clean Your Brushes

“Natural hair bristles (used for “dry” makeup) should be washed once per week with a mild shampoo,” says Raffaele, explaining that these type of bristles need to be fumigated and it is best to wash before first usage.

She warns that if a brush irritates the skin, it’s almost a guarantee that it needs washing:

“Reshape and blot bristles with a towel and lay flat to dry. Synthetic bristles should be used for all ‘moist’ makeups, but can be used for dry ones, too. Synthetic bristles wash up best when lathered against a bar of soap.”

Furthermore, Raffaele adds “Moist products should be washed off each day; dry products once per week — then blot, reshape and lay flat to dry. Once dry, store makeup brushes standing up or lie them flat, making sure not to crush bristles.”

How To Store Brushes

Raffaele says that after cleaning brushes, a good place to store them is in a pencil case. Soane advises keeping a separate compartment in one’s makeup bag for brushes, which will keep them in optimal shape to avoid getting them squished or ruined with marks and stains.

The Experts’ Favorites

Raffaele has her own brand of brushes, but as far as other brands go, she likes Bobbi Brown, M·A·C and MUFE. “Well-cared-for, quality brushes can last 10-15 years,” she explains. “Poor quality or poorly-cared-for brushes can fall apart in weeks.”

How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

When working on other people as a makeup artist, Raffaele’s preference is a large concealer brush because “it fits under most people’s eyes to blend concealer perfectly!” When it comes to doing her own makeup, she loves a foundation sponge: “With one of those babies, I can sheer-out or heavy-up on my foundation in a flash.”

For Soane, it is all about a big, fluffy (Bobbi Brown) bronzer brush, which she does not leave home without. This gives her skin a soft wash of bronzy glow:

“A good quality, fluffy bronzer brush is the BEST and ONLY way to apply bronzers and face powders,” she asserts. Adding, “It will prevent streaks and uneven application.”

…And the Bottom Line ($)?

“I prefer to buy my brushes individually so I get exactly what I need,” says Raffaele. “Small brushes for eyes/lips run generally between $15-25 each, and larger brushes for powder and blush, somewhere between $40-75.”

For quality makeup brushes, she estimates based on experience that a total investment would be within a $100-200 range.

How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

Alison Raffaele

Which Brush Does What?

Raffaele says there are a couple of brush basics to keep in mind:

1. The shorter and more tightly packed the bristles, the more precise and concentrated the application; the longer and fluffier the bristles, a more diffused application.

2. “Moist” products, such as lipstick, concealer and foundation require synthetic bristles (natural bristles are too delicate and would break very quickly if used regularly with moist products).

3. Look for a brush that “fits” the area you want to work on. People’s faces are different, so what works great for me as a lip brush may be too large for someone else.

How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

4. The name of the brush (i.e. shadow brush) is a suggestion. Don’t be afraid to use it elsewhere. Any brush can be used anywhere, just make sure to clean it before changing products, or you might wind up with “muddy” colors. For quick changes, use a spritz of chemical brush cleaner like Parian Spirit on a paper towel and wipe your brush clean.

5. Well-cared-for, quality brushes can last 10-15 years. Poor quality or poorly cared for brushes can fall apart in weeks.

My Personal Picks and How I Clean My Brushes

Restricted by a tight budget and having a CVS nearby, I am not one to splurge on a makeup brush, or to buy a brush-specific cleanser. For a while, I was using Essence of Beauty Brushes ($9.99; sold at CVS), which I found to be soft, hypoallergenic and effective.

How To Care For Your Makeup Brushes: Which Cleaners Are The Best? Which Brush Is Right For You? How To Best Use?

Then I discovered, disconcertingly, that some of these brushes are made of animal hairs rather than synthetic fibers. So, I recently switched over to ecoTools, the cruelty-free, super-soft bristle makeup brushes also sold at drugstores.

On most days, I opt for a mostly makeup-free façade with just a touch of blush; I find ecoTools Bamboo Powder Brush ($7.99) to be optimal for “blushing” and blending. I clean the brush by gently scrubbing it under cold water and lathering it up with a small amount of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo ($3.99), an economical option since I already have it at home for my kids. Then, I place the brush bristles-up in a plastic cup and allow it to dry.

How do you lovely ladies clean your makeup brushes? Let us know by commenting below and re-Pinning this on Pinterest (you just might win a free sample)! Make sure to follow us on our Pinterest page by clicking HERE! And don’t forget to get the latest beauty and skincare news by following us on Twitter @BeautyStat!

– Shira Hirschman Weiss

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13 comments

  1. PLEASE do NOT wash your makeup brushes and allow them to dry bristles up! This will cause the water to loosen the bristles and they will fall out and will not last… instead, allow the brushes to dry by laying them FLAT. Otherwise, wonderful tips and great economical options!

  2. I use Ecotools brushes for eyes and Shiseido kabubi 🙂

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