Splash. Lather. Massage. Rinse. Washing our faces is the kind of well-ingrained routine we don’t even think about.
But splashing, lathering, massaging, and rinsing our makeup brushes? Not so routine.
And while we all know we should be washing those brushes more often, it can be difficult to muster up the motivation.
But think about it: After you wash your face in the morning, you apply your makeup. And the brushes you’re using to apply that makeup? They’re likely overrun with oil, bacteria, dust, and dead skin – all the things you’re trying to cleanse away in the first place!
Putting all that dirt back onto your skin be bad for your complexion. Not only that – it can be bad for your health.
So, here are some motivators to get you to wash your makeup brushes – now.
Clogged pores: We’ve all had them. Pores clog when there’s a buildup of dead skin cells and oil on the surface of your skin.
You know where else you can find a buildup of dead skin cells and oil? On your makeup brush! Every time it makes contact with your skin, those delicate brush hairs pick up a new layer of oil, skin, and bacteria.
And the bigger the buildup of oil, the better the environment for bacteria to multiply. And bacteria can lead to inflammatory acne.
So, if you’re noticing an increase in breakouts and blemishes, it’s possible your brushes need a good cleaning.
When brushes aren’t cleaned often, the layers of caked-on makeup can stiffen the bristles. This can make applying makeup a harsher process, as stiffer bristles are more abrasive to your skin. Cleaning your brushes will help keep those fibers soft, reducing the possibility of skin redness and irritation from applying makeup.
A certain amount of bacteria always lives on our skin. But not all of that bacteria is good bacteria. So, when you apply makeup to your face with a brush – then dip and swirl it back into the product – the bacteria that was living on your face gets deposited into the product. And we want to avoid doing that with any unhealthy bacteria or microbes.
And here’s the thing: The rich textures of makeup can be a great breeding ground for unwanted bacteria and pathogenic organisms. Germs love the damp consistency of gel eyeliners, cream blushes, and foundations. But even dry powders – which tend to be in contact with air more often – can have a high contamination rate from unwanted bacteria.2
It’s also important to keep in mind that unwanted bacteria can multiply even more if you’re using expired makeup or sharing makeup and tools with others.3
Pink eye – officially known as conjunctivitis – is an easy-to-spread eye infection.4 The infection is an inflammation of the membranes that shield the white part of your eyeball. It can be transferred through fingers, washcloths, pillowcases, and yes – makeup and makeup brushes.5
Staph is a bacteria that can cause a variety of infections. Staph generally shows up on the skin, but it can affect other body systems in serious ways if left untreated. And unwashed makeup brushes – especially if they are contaminated by old makeup or are being shared with others – can harbor staph bacteria.6
Fighting off all that bacteria from dirty makeup brushes will stress out your skin. And all that stress is bound to show.
Collagen and elastin are the proteins that keep skin looking plump and youthful. But when your skin is working too hard, collagen and elastin may start to break down more quickly. This could lead to an increase in wrinkles and premature aging.
Have you ever tried a cat-eye with an eyeliner brush that has two month’s worth of gel eyeliner stuck to it? You walk away with less cat-eye – and more racoon-eye.
Or, have you ever applied foundation with a brush that had clumps of old foundation caked on it? The result was probably streaky, uneven, and impossible to blend.
A buildup of powder, cream, and pigment can make makeup application tricky, to say the least. Keeping your brushes clean will help you get it right the first time. You’ll save time in the end, because you’ll get to skip the extra steps of fixing any mistakes!
Are you convinced you need to wash those makeup brushes? Great!
Now, you may be wondering how often you should be washing them. At the very least, you should be washing your makeup brushes once a month.
For foundation brushes, it’s best to wash at least every two weeks – but don’t be shy about washing them as much as every three uses.
And brushes used for eye shadows and gel liners? It’s not a bad idea to wash them after every use, or at least once a week.
Between uses, store your makeup brushes in a drawer or case with limited exposure to the air – and any bacterial particles that may be floating around. This is especially important if you keep your makeup brushes in the bathroom.
If you’re pressed for time, this is an easy way to keep your brushes clean. Every morning and night you use a face wash to cleanse your skin of dirt, bacteria, and unnecessary oil. Now, just take it one step further! Add a dime-sized amount of face wash into the palm of your hand and swirl your dampened brush in the lather. Rinse with warm water until the water runs clear. Let dry before your next application.
Wet the brush well, then rub it gently on a bar of antibacterial soap. Rinse with warm water.
Follow that up with baby shampoo – which is formulated using less abrasive and irritating chemicals than general market shampoo. Its gentler qualities also make it a good option for washing brushes, since it will be less harsh on high-quality hairs and bristles.
Bonus: Add a couple drops of tea tree oil to the baby shampoo. Tea tree oil has wonderful antiseptic qualities and leaves things smelling great.
Sometimes it can be hard to cut through cosmetic oils and silicones, especially in products like gel eyeliner or or cream blush. And, if it’s been awhile since you last cleaned the brush, this is especially true. Guess what? For tough jobs, some good old-fashioned – and preferably, natural – dish soap can do the trick.
Be sure to only use this method with a synthetic makeup brush. Dish soap may be too abrasive on natural hair brushes.
Of course, you can always buy brush cleansers formulated specifically for makeup cleansing.
Look for a cleanser that uses sanitizer instead of alcohol – which is a less effective disinfectant that can damage hairs.
Using dirty makeup brushes can be a vicious cycle of spreading bacteria, dirt, oil, and other unpleasant phenomena.
But turning over a new leaf and committing to a diligent routine of washing your makeup brushes can help encourage a clear complexion and a healthy body. And a clean makeup brush will also help you perfect your makeup regimen – making it that much easier to feel like the best version of yourself.