My favorite cream blush, homemade eye shadow, and many of the items in my natural makeup routine apply best with a brush. Keeping clean makeup brushes is almost as important to me as choosing non-toxic makeup.
Cleaning makeup brushes isn’t usually the first thing on our to-do lists… if it’s ever on there at all. But it’s undeniable that brushes can harbor all types of unsavory bacteria that cause breakouts and other problems.
Thankfully, these natural ways to clean makeup brushes make it simple and easy to get the job done.
Why Clean Makeup Brushes?
With so many other things going on in our lives, it can be easy to forget (or not even think about) cleaning up our makeup tools. However, clean makeup brushes last longer, as the bristles degrade more quickly if they’re not kept clean and maintained. For those who are investing in pricier, high quality brushes, it makes financial sense to keep them for as long as possible. I have an inexpensive set of brushes since I don’t wear much makeup that often, but I still want to keep them in good shape so they’ll last a long time!
Makeup residue builds up in the brushes, decreasing their performance and shortening the life of the brush. It can also prevent them from distributing powders properly. If I’m going to go through the trouble of putting makeup on, I don’t want to do a sub-par job because of a dirty brush.
Protecting the Skin
Research shows that a dirty makeup brush can clog pores and lead to skin irritation. Oil, dirt, and bacteria collect on the bristles over time, which are then brushed on the skin. In extreme cases, people have reported getting staph infections and pinkeye from bacteria on makeup brushes.
From a bacterial perspective, using clean makeup brushes may be almost as important as washing your face!
How Often Should Makeup Brushes Be Cleaned?
Who knew there could be so much controversy about something so simple as cleaning makeup brushes!
Some experts recommend washing after every use, while others say it’s ok to slide by on once a month. It really depends on how often makeup is applied, how many products are used, and what the makeup routine is.
I try to clean mine every week or two since I’m the only one who uses them and this seems to work best for me.
How to Clean Makeup Brushes
There seem to be two main camps when it comes to cleaning makeup brushes. One uses soap and rinses with water, while the other washes in an alcohol-based solution.
Supposedly the soap and water method can sometimes leave behind a stinky brush if not dried correctly. However, that may also be because synthetic makeup is being used. If you want a super-simple option, I’ve found that unscented baby/mild liquid castile soap works pretty well as long as the brushes dry quickly. Or Branch Basics Concentrate is another great pre-made natural option that I use for almost everything around my house.
Some alcohol-based cleaners rely on ingredients I don’t feel comfortable using, and I’m not sure how effective they’d be if the toxic components were replaced.
This makeup brush cleaner recipe uses natural castile soap to break up the dirt and grease that accumulates. The alcohol is a natural disinfectant, and it also makes the solution dry faster. I’ve also added oil to the blend to keep bristles soft and conditioned. Both the alcohol and the oil can be omitted if you’re not comfortable using them and just a natural cleaner will work on its own. I do recommend skipping the alcohol with natural bristle brushes and skipping the oil on synthetic brushes. Witch hazel is also a good sub for the alcohol.
Clean + Disinfect
There are two steps to truly getting makeup brushes clean: cleaning off dirt and oil, and disinfecting to remove bacteria. My recipe below is my go-to for accomplishing both of these.
If your brushes are really dirty or haven’t been cleaned in a while I’d suggest an additional first step:
Rub a small amount of warm olive or almond oil into the brush to help dissolve any oil clinging to the bristles. Then, rub a natural soap (like this one) into the bristles to dissolve the oil. This helps deep clean the brush but doesn’t disinfect it, so then I still use the brush cleaner recipe to disinfect.
The Recipe: Natural Makeup Brush Cleaner
- 1 ½ cup distilled water
- 2 TBSP vodka or rubbing alcohol (optional, or can sub witch hazel)
- ½ tsp sweet almond or olive oil (recommended for real hair brushes)
- 2 tsp castile soap or Branch Basics (or use Branch Basics on its own)
- 20 drops tea tree essential oil
- 8 oz glass bottle
- Pour all of the ingredients, except the water, into the glass bottle. Swirl the mixture to combine everything.
- Add the distilled water to the bottle until it’s almost full, leaving about ½ inch of headspace. Shake well to combine.
- If you put the mixture in a glass spray bottle (like this one), this mixture can be used to spritz and rinse brushes after each use for an easier clean.
- Shake the cleaner well, and pour a small amount of it into a small bowl.
- Swirl a makeup brush in the mixture, gently pushing it across the bottom to clean. Make sure the water level is below the ferrule (the part of the brush that connects the handle to the bristles). If cleaning multiple brushes, start with the cleanest feeling one first, then work up to the dirtiest. The cleaning solution may need to be changed between brushes.
- Rinse the brush under running water, bristles pointing down and keeping water out of the ferrule. Then gently squeeze the bristles to remove the majority of the water.
- Lay the brush flat on a clean towel and air dry.
- Don’t prop the brushes up to dry, as the water can drip into the glue on the handle.
- The brushes should not be soaked, as this can degrade the glue and loosen the bristles.
- Since this brush cleaning solution is mostly water, it won’t have a very long shelf life.
TIP: How to Deep Clean Makeup Brushes
For really greasy brushes, you may need a little bit stronger of a method like this one:
- Apply a few drops of natural dish soap (Branch Basics or Sal Suds also work well for this, use what you have) to the palm.
- Gently rub the brush bristles into the soap and across the palm of the hand.
- Put the brush under running water, rubbing gently, and rinse the brush until the water runs clean.
- Avoid getting water where the bristles connect to the handle, since this can degrade the glue.
- Lay the brush flat on a clean towel to dry.
Hopefully this method will make your makeup brush cleaning routine a little bit easier, and healthier too!
How often do you clean your makeup brushes? Is there a system that works well for you? Share below!