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Why (and How!) to Clean Your Makeup Applicators

Jan 10, 2018

Not too long ago, we had slim pickings when choosing makeup tools — you either purchased brushes and squishy triangle sponges or suffered through whatever applicator was included with your cosmetic purchase. But now, the world is our makeup application oyster: There’s the cult favorite BeautyBlender sponge, futuristic silicone applicators and makeup brushes with rotating bristles that will buff powder seamlessly into skin with the press of a button.

With so many choices, knowing how to take care of your tools — and when to say sayonara — can be daunting. But having this knowledge is vitally important for two reasons: One, dirty tools can negatively impact your skin and, two, caring for your tools allows you to get the most bang for your buck.

Here, we break down all you need to know about caring for (and letting go of) some of the tools we love.

You Use: Makeup Brushes

The most common and sturdy makeup applicators, washing your brushes daily is absolutely critical for skin health and ridding the bristles of bacteria. Read our story specifically about cleaning your makeup brushes!


You Use: Makeup Sponges

If you’re a lover of liquid makeup, you’re likely a fan of makeup sponges. Quality sponges, such as the BeautyBlender, help you blend creamy foundation into sheer layers, allowing you to build up coverage in an undetectable way. Most sponges are meant to be used damp, meaning you wet them first with water before dipping them into makeup. And because makeup sponges by default, well, sponge up product, they are also a sponge for bacteria and mold. Therefore, they require frequent cleaning. Yes, that means every time you use them!

Don’t worry, all they require is hot water and soap — preferably made for cleaning makeup sponges, but natural dishwashing soap is a great option too because it cuts oil. If you don’t clean your sponges regularly, they can turn on you.

We hate to be dramatic, but it’s true. Have you seen the terrifying YouTube videos of beauty bloggers cutting open their blenders to reveal tiny, crawling creatures with many legs? Yeah, it’s gross. In short, sponges can harbor bacteria which can cause your skin to breakout, but they can also retain too much moisture over long periods of time, causing the sponge to disintegrate prematurely.

If you’re thinking, “I am not going to clean my sponge every day,” we hear you, but we’re here to convince you otherwise. Though it seems excessive, it truly is the best way to keep your sponge clean. But, practicality is key, and in-the-know makeup artists have discovered this great way to extend time between cleanings: Invest in multiple sponges, and rotate them out during the week. At the end of the week, throw them all in a mesh lingerie bag and put them in the washing machine on the gentle cycle — with an extra rinse, of course!

No matter how you clean your sponge, be sure to air dry it in a well-ventilated area and never store it in a closed bag, which can encourage bacteria and mold growth. And, no matter how diligent you’ve been about cleaning that blender, toss it after three months. On to the next! Unless you notice (or feel!) something funky before your three months are up. In that case, chuck that sponge right away — your skin will thank you!

You Use: Silicone Applicators

Silicone applicators are one of the newest in makeup application tools. These clear applicators lay down liquid, creams and even cushion formulas when patted against the skin, and are made of silicone encased in flexible thermoplastic polyurethane, a material that won’t soak up any of your makeup product. Unlike a sponge that sucks up a decent percentage of your makeup with each and every application, silicone applicators guarantee every last bit of your product will find it’s way onto your face.

Though some makeup aficionados note that patting foundation into skin can take a lot longer than brush and sponge applications, what everyone can agree on is that cleaning a silicone applicator is a breeze: Simply rinse it off with soap and water. There’s virtually zero dry time, so you don’t need to worry about residual product breeding bacteria or lingering moisture ruining the applicator. This also means you can store it in a closed bag; it’s just one less thing to worry about. And though it seems like silicone applicators could last forever, they do need to be replaced, but the timeframe isn’t static. Essentially, once they start to look worn, it’s time to bid adieu.