Resolution #3: Clean Your Brushes


When it came to making our third resolution for 2013, we started to think about cleanliness. It's next to godliness, after all. And the fact of the matter is, we're not always that proud of the state of our makeup brushes. In fact, we're distinctly ashamed of them. (Well, Emily's pretty good about it, but not the rest of us.) It's easy to get lazy, and sort of let things sit. It's just my face, you may be thinking, My face, the same product, the same brush, it doesn't matter. Well, it does. The other week, Stila founder/makeup artist/mother extraordinare Jeanine Lobell stopped by and gave us a talking to. This, friends, is ITG Resolution #3. Listen up!

“People are always like, your stuff is so clean! They freak out when I open my kit...but I also have the cutie little assistant who keeps it all super neat and super tidy. I would never, ever, never use dirty stuff on someone. There’s this one guy in LA, we used to joke that we would tent his kit for roaches, because it would be so filthy. You would see kits and it’s like, you cannot go to work like that.

Lip brushes, you want to wash frequently, especially if you change your lip color a lot. Because you don’t want old product in that brush. And then anything that you use for powder, you can just dust off the color, but anything that’s a foundation brush, concealer brush, any kind of creamy product, you need to remove the residue because it’s going to dry. If you don’t, the next time you use your product it’s not going to work as well, with the old dry bits in there. If you have Cinema Secrets brush cleaner, you can literally just dip 'em in the solution, wipe on a towel, and the brush is always clean. I get it at Ricky’s. You don't need water; it's instant and it evaporates immediately. It’s really the best. It basically disinfects and dissolves the makeup. You can also use makeup wipes to clean your brushes. In a pinch, it will work. My favorite are the Amore Pacific Cleansing Tissues. I’ll use those all the time.

If I have time to clean them overnight, I prefer to use a super-mild baby shampoo, like Burt’s Bees or something with no smell, no nothing going on. I’ll make a little puddle of shampoo in my sink on the side and then I’ll wet the brushes in the water, and swirl all of them in the puddle together. And then I’ll lay them in the sink and let the water just rinse them all. Then, I’ll pick them up one at a time and squeeze the ends to make sure there’s no foam that's hiding out in there. Then I pull them into their shape and put them upright in cups to dry; that way it doesn't interfere with the shape. Because if they’re really round and fluffy and you lay them down, you’re going to flatten one side. I only put the double-sided brushes on paper towels to dry.

You don’t need to wash them every day, unless, like I said, you’re using a lot of foundation and concealer and it’s getting clunky. The powder burshes you can leave out for a while. Even if you’re super lazy and you don’t want to go buy special stuff, you can use basically anything you have sitting on your sink. Just wet your brush, dip it on your soap bar even, swirl it around, rise it, and throw it in a cup to dry. Like I said, just wash them. When it starts to look like you can see the product in the bristles, it’s time. But you don’t have to get crazy.”

To scrub-a-dub-dub like a pro:

Cinema Secrets Professional Brush Cleaner

Amore Pacific Cleansing Tissues

Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild 18-in-1 Hemp Pure-Castile Soap

Burt's Bees Baby Bee Tear-Free Shampoo & Wash

Almay Oil-Free Makeup Remover Towelettes

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Amber

    I always tell myself to do this but I always come up with some excuse not to- to be honest I'm just very lazy. I always imagined it to be a really long, complicated process but Jeanine makes it sound so doable. I'll definitely be washing my brushes more often!

  • flushed

    "Then, I’ll pick them up one at a time and squeeze the ends to make sure there’s no foam that's hiding out in there."

    The foam is a normal thing, right? Should I just squeeze it out? Because every time I see it I panic and then think it's soapy residue so then I rewash but it never goes away and then I become crazy and OCD about it.

  • Rose_Luv

    if we only use make up once a week or so (some powder blush, maybe a bit of eye shadow), how often do we need to wash our brushes?

    • jeanine lobell

      They can hang for a while a month or two depends how you store them. thats where the face wipes are handy just give them a quick swipe across easy.. jeanine l.

  • jeanine lobell

    The foam is fine but maybe try something without sodium laureate sulfate ( I know it sounds scary and I cant spell to save my life) its a foaming agent more natural soaps and shampoos use a milder version not as potent less foamy! -jeanine l.

  • diana

    ooh i always, always clean my brushes. im a lazy person in general but i took a makeup class many years ago and the one thing they really drilled into me was to clean my brushes every time i put on makeup. i actually have 2 sets of concealer and foundation brushes so i don't have to do it every day, but it makes such a difference in how your makeup goes on if you use a clean brush.

  • Lucy

    Storing wet brushes upright will ruin the ferrule though.

  • BombshellVanity

    Most of these tips are good, but if you want your brushes to last, there are two things you should never do.
    1-Never submerge the entire brush in water. Wood swells when wet, and the water also loosens the glue. You'll end up with brush heads popping off and loose hairs over time. Hold the brushes while you wash them, wetting just the bristles.
    2-Never dry your brushes upright in a cup! Again, the excess water will run down into the brushes essentially rotting the glue, and warping the wood. Always lay them flat on a counter where the brush heads can dry over the edge. This way they don't flatten.

  • Anonymous

    Cleaning your brushes is so important! Especially if you find yourself breaking out more often. Dirty brushes could be the culprit. However, as one commenter mentioned before, if you squeeze the brush and find foam in there, I'd give it another rinse with water and try again. Then continue doing that until there's no foam.

    I do, however, disagree with Ms. Lobell on the issue of setting your brushes out to dry. Laying fluffy brushes on paper towel to try can flatten one side, so I often leave them hanging on the edge of my sink overnight; the handle on the counter and the bristles hovering over the basin. I wouldn't recommend placing the brushes upright to dry. When water reaches the base of the bristles (under the metal bit), it can start to break down the glue that helps hold the bristles together. I've also heard that it can promote bacterial growth if it reaches the wooden bit under the metal.

  • lena

    Jeanine you're super foxy.

  • Jen

    This is definitely a resolution I have to heed in the New Year! Thanks for the added motivation :)


  • Catherine

    Great resolution! I am generally pretty good about my brushes but I've gotten a bit lax recently... Dr. Bronner's is my favorite since it gets my white brushes WHITE again and but isn't too harsh on natural hair brushes. I wouldn't dry my brushes upright in a cup either. I dip them in a soap/water mixture, rinse out, repeat, squeeze gently between a clean washcloth and then reshape and set them hanging over the edge of my desk to dry overnight.

  • Sharon Macklin

    I agree with all of the replies that say not to dry brushes upright - I learned that many years ago! I let them dry on the counter with the heads hanging over the sink.

  • Gloria

    I always wash my brushes with a bit of shampoo and water in my hand.
    It's really easy and works well.

  • Kelly

    How do you clean foundation sticks with the built in brush? Eg Terry Loght Expert which is what I use?

  • erin

    surprised to hear her recommending to sit the brushes upright to dry... ruins the brush in no time flat because the ferrule will be destroyed. other than that, love the shampoo trick - as a profesh makeup artist, this needs to happen between clients! x

  • Fiona Coles

    no no no no no, these tips will ruin the glue in the brushes, this is terrible advice.

  • Loni

    Dr. Bronners for life to clean my brushes! But you should really lay/lie them flat to dry (not standing up) because the water can drip down into where the brush bristles meet and are connected to the brush itself and it can weaken the glue, thus shortening the life of the brush. I've had some of my brushes for 13 years!