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The Right Way to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Keep germs away from your beauty routine!

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I think that most makeup wearers can agree that the act of applying your makeup is not only an enjoyable act but a meditative one as well. From picking out what color blush or what style of liner you’ll sport for the day to applying the makeup products with your favorite makeup brush, it’s easy to get lost in the flow of the routine. For those who are on the more creative side, or would like to be, the process is almost like placing a brush on a canvas, but instead of paper, you’re drawing on living tissue. 

The process is so enjoyable that it can be hard to remember that you need to be just as careful with the tools you are using on your face as you are with your skincare and beauty products. Forgetting to wash your makeup brushes and sponges is an easy way to lead to more serious skin and sometimes eye issues. 

Here are some major reasons why you need to properly wash your beauty tools on a regular basis, how often you need to wash them, and some tips, tricks, and product suggestions to help keep your makeup brushes in tip-top shape. 

Beware of Germs

Besides simply making it harder to apply makeup products onto your face when the brush or sponge is coated with products from previous applications, bacteria forms insanely quickly when you don’t wash your tools on a regular basis. 

A 2019 study conducted in the United Kingdom examined bacteria that formed on products like mascara wands and beauty sponges. The study revealed that 79 to 90 percent of the products tested were contaminated with bacteria like Staphyloccous aureus, which can lead to staph infections, and E. coli. The bacteria doesn’t only form from the unwashed product loaded in the beauty tool but from the dampness of these tools that remain moist for long periods of time, especially if you store your beauty tools out in the open in your bathroom.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends washing makeup brushes every 7-10 days. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, it would be best to wash brushes at least every other application, if not after every application. This is even more true for eye makeup brushes, which scientists recommend to wash immediately after use to avoid eye infections.  

Don’t Rush When Washing the Brush 

Unless you’re buying insanely cheap brushes with the intention of throwing them out after a few uses, which would end up costing more money in the long run in contrast to buying more expensive, quality brushes, you want to make sure your brushes last as long as possible. One way to do that is by making sure you’re washing your brushes properly. 

While there are some products that claim to wash multiple brushes in one go, there are several reasons why you should stick with washing your brushes by hand. Simply put, while the brushes may appear clean, it would be difficult, especially with more brushes added to each cycle, to ensure that the product is properly removed and that the brushes’ bristles and ferrule I’m (the piece that joins the bristles to the handle) don’t break down more quickly over time.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to washing your brushes by hand
  1. Wet down the bristles with lukewarm (not boiling hot!) water.
  2. Add a drop of your chosen cleanser into the palm of your hand or your brush cleaning tool, like the Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Mat.
  3. Gently massage and wash the bristles over your palm or your brush cleaning tool.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the bristles out.
  5. Squeeze out the remaining moisture with a clean towel.
  6. Shape the brush’s head back into it’s original shape, otherwise it will dry improperly and make future application more difficult. 
  7. Let the brush dry with its bristles hanging off the edge of the counter. Don’t let your brushes dry on a towel to avoid the bristles forming mildew. Or invest in a tool, like Beakey Makeup Brush Drying Rack, to hang your brushes upside down to dry. This helps the brushes’ bristles dry in their natural shape and avoids water running down into the ferrule, which can eventually cause the glue of the brush to loosen up and lead to bristle loss. 
Methods & Products to Wash Makeup Tools 
  • There are a number of products you can use to wash your makeup tools and it doesn’t only have to be a store-brand makeup brush cleaner.
  • Many makeup artists, like Mario Dedivanovic, like to use facial wash products, like Philosphy’s Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser to give the brushes a thorough washing that won’t dry out the bristles.
  • Several makeup artists like Camara Aunique and Dominique Lerma like to use antibacterial dish soaps, like Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Dish Soap, to wash their brushes and beauty tools.
  • Many beauty companies also sell their own soap to wash their brand’s makeup tools, like Beautyblender’s Solid Unscented Sponge & Brush Cleanser.
  • As someone who owns more makeup brushes than I’d like to count I’m, not that it refrains me from purchasing more, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to wash your brushes on a regular basis. 
Expert Advice

We reached out to skincare expert Dr. Yelena Yeretsky for further comment on the optimal number of times to wash your products and the best way to do so. 

“We must always wash our brushes – once per week is ideal. Bacteria and yeast naturally live on top of our skin so using a makeup brush without cleaning it not only spreads the bacteria and yeast, but also spreads the accumulated dirt, dead skin cells, and pollution on the skin. If you have acne or atopic dermatitis, your skin is already prone to having even more bacteria, so the chances of getting an infection are even higher.

When washing your brushes use warm water with soap (even dish soap will do.) Let your brushes soak for a few hours, rinse, and then let them dry fully. This is the easiest and most efficient way to clean your brushes – it takes the fuss out of it.”


Dr. Yelena Yeretsky is a world-renowned physician specializing in anti-aging and aesthetic medicine. She is the founder of the NYC West Village-based medical aesthetic practice Clinique YFT and creator of the premiere skincare line Dr. Y secrets. 

author avatar
Nicole Kirichanskaya
Nicole Kirichanskaya is a born-and-raised Brooklynite with a passion for fashion, feminism, and the fanciful. Her love of beauty stems from when she was taught the importance of a good manicure at an early age from her Ukrainian babushka. She has written for a number of publications including Global Glam Magazine, CEW, Footwear News, and more.