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We all know we shouldn't use dirty brushes and that makeup applies much better when they're fresh and clean but how often do you really wash your brushes?


Dressing Table Still Life

If your brushes are currently caked in product and you can no longer remember the original colour of the bristles, it's definitely time to give them some TLC...

Makeup brushes are a breeding ground for bacteria! The build up of makeup pigments, oils from your skin, and dead skin cells means your brushes quickly become a very unhygienic place for harbouring nasties.

What using dirty brushes does to your skin

I'm sure most of you have a very regimented skincare routine using a carefully considered combination of products. And yet for many of you, you can't understand why you still break out in rashes and spots. Well, it's time to look at the tools you are using to apply your products with.

General dirt and grime from our makeup brushes can cause breakouts, congestion and irritation to the skin.

Unfortunately for regular users of the 'beauty blender', I've got some bad news - they are the worst at concealing hidden bacteria and need washing on a very regular basis, as well as replacing every three months. Although they may look clean on the outside, they are sure to be harbouring a host of hidden bacteria and for that reason are a 'no-go' for makeup artist's kits. I avoid using sponges in my kit for the simple fact that they are one use only due to pigments and skin bacteria contaminating deep inside. As a result, you can never be sure a sponge is totally clean.

What's hiding in our makeup brushes?

Well, this section isn't for the faint hearted... You may or may not know that there is a wealth of tiny organisms living on the surface of our skin, particularly in areas such as the base of our eyelashes and in our brows. They live off the dead skin cells and sebum we produce and although they're generally considered harmless they may be to blame for certain forms of acne.

Not to mention, that sharing unclean makeup brushes and applicators is the quickest way to spread skin infections and viruses (I'm talking cold sores and conjunctivitis) and is the reason professional makeup artists will never use the same brush on more than one person without cleaning it.

Also, invisible to the naked eye, are bacteria such as e-coli and other fungi. Again these aren't generally harmful if you have balanced skin with the right pH and your skins mantle is in tact, but it certainly highlights the importance of hygiene.

Smiling Bride

Bacteria favours wet conditions, so foundation brushes and sponges will accumulate micro-organisms more quickly than your dry powder brushes, for example. This means they need to be cleaned more regularly and ideally shouldn't be used for more than 2 or 3 makeup applications. Your dry product brushes can generally go a week or 2 between washes but this depends on usage. Storing your brushes in a cool, dry place will also help prevent unnecessary bacteria production. Avoid keeping brushes in your bathroom, where conditions tend to be warm and damp and bacteria will multiply quickly.

Natural bristle brushes are porous so can be more high maintenance, becoming limp and lifeless when not washed. Synthetic brushes not only tend to last longer but they are a slightly more low-maintenance option in terms of keeping them clean.


Makeup Brush Still Life

How to clean your brushes

What can I use to wash them?

Brushes can be washed using an anti-bacterial soap or baby shampoo in lukewarm water. Washing up liquid can be used for more stubborn products but it's not recommended for extensive use as it strips the brushes completely and can be harsh on any natural bristle longer term.

How do I wash them?

  • Taking each brush individually, run them under the lukewarm water, making sure only to get the bristles wet. It's important you avoid fully submerging the brush in water as this will loosen the glue bonding the bristles together and lead to brushes shedding and deteriorating much quicker. Once the brush is wet, lather the bristles in your chosen soap and gently rub between your fingers for a few minutes. A makeup brush cleansing mat can help with ensuring your brushes are thoroughly clean and saves time as the silicone ridges can really break down product and get to the root of the brush head.

  • Once they are suitably lathered, hold your brush under running water and rinse off the soap, checking there is no product residue in the bristles. If there is still some discolouration or the brush isn't completely clean, repeat the cleaning process until there is no residue and the lathered soap is completely washed out.

  • Once they are clean, squeeze out the excess water and lay your brushes flat on a towel to dry. It's important to make sure you lay your brushes in a neat row in order to allow them to dry properly as if they are left wet for too long they will begin to smell. If you have a surface where you can lay your row of brushes near a radiator this can help speed up they drying process. DO NOT stand your brushes up on their base as this will allow the water to drain into the handle, damaging the glue bonding the bristles and holding your brush together.

-- If you're wanting a quick-fix, on-the-spot cleaner for in between uses, for example switching between shades of eye shadow, I recommend an alcohol-based brush cleaner such as MAC. This will allow you to rid the brush of bacteria and product build up in order to have a fresh, clean brush that's dry and ready to use in minutes.


I know this is another thing to add to your 'to-do' list but your skin will really thank you for it and trust me when I say you will notice a difference very quickly. Not only will your makeup apply better and more evenly, but you will wonder how you ever went so long between washes!


Image 1 - Over

Image 2 - Leanne Jade Photography

Image 3 - Chloe GH Bridal

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DISCLAIMER - The views expressed on this site are the author’s own and are provided for informational purposes only. The author makes no warranties about the suitability of any product or treatment referenced or reviewed here for any person other than herself and any reliance placed on these reviews or references by you is done so solely at your own risk. Nothing on this site shall be construed as providing dermatological, medical or other such advice and you are always advised to seek the advice of a suitable professional should you have any such concerns.

I happily recommend products through my blog and this has become a key component of my Blog and Instagram channels. Any recommendation is based on personal experience – or the trusted experience of a tester/colleague – but everyone’s skin is different and something that works for me may not necessarily work for you in the same way. This also applies to allergic reactions. It is impossible to anticipate allergies and therefore I am not liable should any irritation or allergic reaction occur. Please use product recommendations at your own discretion and risk.

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