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BraveGirl’s Ten Steps to Deep Clean Makeup Brushes

Clogged pores. Blackheads. Dry Skin. Acne.

Thirty years old but looking like a pimple-faced tween, I couldn’t figure it out. I cleansed. I moisturize. I use serums and night creams. I mask at least once a week and I barely even wear makeup because of COVID.

As I contemplate the best way to attack Mount Zit, I stare at my tools in betrayal….

….wait….is that pink on my foundation brush? How’d that get there?!

….holy shit, how many shades of foundation are on this thing?!

Reality hits and it dawns on me, when did I last deep clean these things?

As a skin specialist, I know it’s recommended that beauty tools (aka brushes) be thoroughly washed every seven to ten, no, not months — days. Dirty tools lead to the obvious, clogged pores, irritations, breakouts and acne but what many people don’t know is it can also lead to premature wrinkles, pink eye and can cause staph infections.

DISCLAIMER: If you’re new here….Hi, I’m a self-proclaimed Beauty Guru but I’ve got the papers to prove it! The views expressed here have no scientific studies to prove their greatness, just my thoughts and opinions from trial and error.

Bacteria, Breakouts and Bugs, are you feeling gross yet?

Like many, I wear foundation daily. I use both a brush and a Beauty Blender to get an airbrushed look. However, those dense synthetic brushes that we beat our faces with on the daily become a breeding ground for bacteria after just ONE use. The ones caked in foundation and cream products provide the perfect home for bacterial to call home and multiply.

In fact, reusing beauty blenders and other beauty tools are just taking all that bacteria, germs and grim and pushing it into your pores, you’re lucky if you’re only getting blackheads or breakouts. With daily use brushes accumulate dead skin cells, dirt, oil, pollution, bacteria, fungus and viruses like staphylococcus, streptococcus, and E. Coli.

Bristles covered in a product can also become stiffer causing minuscule tearing, that mixed with the particles you’re pushing back into your pores, your collagen and elastin production has dropped and you’re headed towards premature ageing.

Skin troubles aside, unclean brushes will also affect application by distorting and muddling the look of your makeup. But scariest of all would be finding an infestation of bugs in your beauty blender like this YouTube Influencer.

7 out of 10 Makeup Brushes contain at least one type of fungus or bacteria
7 out of 10 Makeup Brushes

Simple, Cheap but Really Clean

Since learning the importance of skincare, I’ve tried my fair share of cleaning methods. Many of these methods required specific products I had to purchase but I like to clean my brushes on a whim when I can’t sleep. And if I’m being really honest, I’d rather spend my money on new makeup than on cleaner.

I wanted my method to be simple, cost-effective and time-efficient because there is nothing I hate more than spending hours washing brushes. With this in mind, I started researching cleaning methods that used items I already had on hand.

In fact, the only item I actually invested in was a brush scrubber. There are a ton of these out there, you can even make your own, but for $1 I purchased a bunch of these from MISSA, so when one is too dirty I grab another and carry on.

My deep clean method uses Dove Sensitive Skin Soap, Vinegar, 70% Alcohol Spray, Water, a few bowls and towels. That’s it.

At first, I followed a method that used Dawn Dish soap, olive oil and water. I found it left my bristle either too brittle or too oily and it was hard to find the perfect balance. Then I tried baby soap, which works, but it was so gentle it took longer than it should have to get the brushes clean. Since I rarely had baby soap when I had a baby, I knew it wasn’t going to work for me.

After those failed attempts, I tried using a cleanser. This method worked incredibly, which is expected, but I used half a bottle of cleanser making it the least cost-effective.

The hypoallergenic and fragrance-free Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar is specially formulated with ¼ moisturizing cream and mild cleansers, this ensured my bristles didn’t stiffen, wouldn’t cause skin irritation but still eliminated built-up products.

But Dove struggled with foundation brushes. Vinegar is known for its ability to break up oil and was able to pull foundation from the middle of the densest brushes. Vinegar also is a natural disinfectant, so while the smell can linger on the brushes, the pros outweighed the cons.

As an MUA, Alcohol spray is a necessity to clean and disinfect between clients, but I know, a lot of you won’t have it. I buy mine at dollarama for less than $4.

70% Alcohol Spray contains 70% alcohol 30% water solution and is the most effective sanitization method despite the common misconception that the higher the alcohol content, the more effective. To destabilize the cell membranes in bacteria, fungi, and viruses, this ratio of water to alcohol is needed to penetrate the cell and destroy it.

Prepping the Work Station

Separate your makeup brushes by type, then by style and finally by height. For example, group all eyeshadow brushes and then sort by if they're fluffy or flat. Organizing them enables you to clean 2-3 brushes at a time.

For all intents and purposes, yes, you should hang brushes to dry upside down. But like many of you, I just don’t have a space like that.

Instead, I take a full-sized towel, fold it in half, and then fold the edge under. This creates a slight angle, so when I place my brushes here to dry, the angle will allow water to drizzle out.

All the remaining products that gets trapped in your makeup brushes
The Amount of Trapped Product from only a few Face Brushes

I’ve seen girls just tossing their tools into a sink of water and it makes me cringe.

Liquids should never be higher than your bristles, this causes the glue to break down and destroys them. Keep this in mind when filling your bowls and gauge how much to put in each bowl gets by what type of brushes you will be cleaning; face brushes typically need more water than eye brushes.

Fill your bowls accordingly: the dove soap with enough water to make a lather, vinegar, hot but not scalding water, water.

I’ve found the best place to set up is near a sink so it is easy to change out my water bowls frequently. First I lay down a hand towel, one I don’t care too much about. At the top of the horizontal towel, I place my filled bowels: hot water, soap, clean water. Vinegar should be kept separately to avoid mixing it up, I place mine above the other bowls in a different style of a bowl than the water.

The 10 Step Guide

  1. Emerge in hot water, but don’t let them sit in it, just enough to wet the bristles for about 10 seconds or less.

  2. For foundation, lipstick, or cream product brushes, skip step one, instead swirl the brush in vinegar before proceeding to the next step. Repeat when necessary. This step can be used on all brushes or just other hard to clean brushes

  3. Swipe brushes on the bar of soap, gathering enough to form a lather.

  4. Using your brush scrubby, run brushes up, down and/or in circular motions

  5. Repeat Step 1 and 2 until brush seems free of product

  6. Submerge in clean water, wiping excess on the edge of the bowl. If the water is not clear, repeat the last step as many times as needed

  7. Gently wipe the brush on the hand towel to remove excess water

  8. Lay or hang to dry until bristles are thoroughly dry. You can blow dry on a low setting to speed the process.

  9. Once dry, gently wipe bristles on the drying towel to soften bristles again and wipe down the handles.

  10. Spritz with 70% alcohol and let sit for at least 5 minutes before using

Optional: to remove any lingering vinegar odour, spritz with rose water.

While you wait for the brushes to dry, you mine as well tackle your products! Clean the leftover goop off all containers, sharpen any pencils, wipe down the outsides. Open all powers, creams, lip products, eye palettes etc and spritz with alcohol.

Results Take Time

The reward for your hard work won’t be immediately noticeable on your skin.

To see true results, the epidermis, or top layer of the skin, needs to turnover once which takes approximately 30-60 days. However, immediately you should see a difference in product application. and will become smoother, the colours more intense, lines crisper and blending will be easy.

Let us know what you think by using #BraveGirlCleanBrushes on all social media posts.


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