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Cleaning My Makeup Brushes – Two Ways that Work for Me as a Pro

Welcome to brush cleaning tutorial # 533,381 *LOL*.  It’s true!  There are hundreds if not thousands of brush cleaning tutorials online offered by amateurs and experts alike, not to mention a whole variety of brush cleaning sprays, fluids and cleansers available on the market.  In my opinion, brush cleaning shouldn’t triple the cost of your already expensive trade as a makeup artist if you are one nor should it painfully mark up your hobby as a beauty blogger or cosmetic enthusiast.  Brush cleaning is something that has to be done, as long as you own makeup brushes and use them, you must know how to clean them properly.  Today, I’m going to share with you what products I use and how I’ve been cleansing my brushes as a professional.  I use Make Up For Ever Brush Cleanser which contains Alcohol and Tea Tree Oil (I’ve just used up the last few spritzes, it lasted me 1 year and a half) for spot cleaning before each job and Joy Ultra Dishwashing Antibacterial Detergent (with Safeguard) for deep  cleansing after every 3-4 major makeup jobs.

One of the first things that Camille, my French makeup teacher, shared is that what absolutely works brilliantly for deep brush cleansing surprisingly is the cheapest, non-moisturizing, stripping soap you can find, great plus if they’re antibacterial “Sometimes ze cheaper ze soap ze better eet iz for the brushes, just get zat really cheap soap”.  Those are usually the tiny complimentary white soaps you find in resorts or hotels (she says she stocks up) or yes in my case, grease-stripping dishwashing fluid.  The principle of cleaning brushes is quite straightforward and surprisingly simple and if some of you have noticed that your brush heads no longer retain the same shape or feel as when you bought them (clumped bristles that don’t snap back to shape, greasy feel, or worse funny smell) then there is certainly something wrong in the way you are cleansing them even if you are using the right products.  I’m sharing this because I know, I’ve cleaned my brushes wrong a few times before.  Your brushes should feel soft again once completely dry and look like new, save for perhaps some discoloration because of product.  I’m not fond of brush cleaners that require you pour then SOAK brushes in them, they’re often wasteful and more expensive.  Click Read More to see the two ways I use step-by-step to 1.) Spot clean my brushes and 2.) Deep clean my brushes.

When finishing a makeup job on perhaps one or two people, not a whole battalion of models, that probably won’t leave your makeup brushes very dirty, used yes, but not positively filthy.  After each regular job there are a certain number of brushes you may have used, most probably not your entire set but it is still important to do spot cleaning before each job.  This is what I love using for that task.  I have to put a web photo because my bottle is already empty.

1)//SPOT CLEANING//after every job.

This brush cleanser spray from Make Up For Ever lasted me ages, almost a year and a half to be exact before I completely ran out.  I try not to use it on my synthetic bristle brushes because it contains alcohol, but for some reason it also works fine on my Real Techniques brushes that have taklon bristles.  This cleanser smells clean because of germ-killing alcohol and tea tree oil in it and is great for giving  brushes, especially the smaller eye detailing ones a quick spot clean for a series of at least 3-4 regular intensity applications.  Here’s how I do it.  To spot clean I simply take kitchen paper/paper towel or paper napkin, spray the brush once,  twice, or even thrice on each side (depending on the size) then spritz some of this twice onto the paper napkin as well.

I then proceed to quickly swirl the brush bristles usually in a circular motion (side over side for angled brushes) over the soaked napkin and I watch the product come off onto the napkin.  If I have to I’ll spritz another area of the napkin and do the same thing with the brush again until no color shows up anymore.  I fold the paper towel over and over to use the same one for several brushes until it’s completely dirty on every possible side so I have less paper waste.  To dry the brush I’ll swirl it over a clean, dry area of the napkin and pat dry, but what’s great about this spray cleanser is it evaporates off of the bristles so usually it doesn’t make the brush stay wet.

*For tiny gel/cream detailing brushes like gel eyeliner/fine tip and lip brushes I dip them in about 2 tsps. of olive oil (can be sunflower or corn oil), gently press the brush into the bottom of the saucer/bowl repeatedly and watch the product come off and suspend into the oil, then when the brush tip isn’t pressing out anymore color squeeze the oil off the brush tip with tissue.

2)//DEEP CLEANSING//every 3-4 jobs

I begin by getting a small clear bowl, so I can see how much Joy Ultra dishwashing liquid I put in the water, usually it’s just one light squeeze or about 4-5 drops in about a 3/4 cup of water.  I’m not strict with this ratio, I just make sure there’s much more water to about several drops of Joy or maybe perhaps in your case Dawn dishwashing detergent.

This is good enough for about 3-4 small shading brushes or two medium brushes like this one.  Dip the brush in, soaking it in the solution and begin swirling the brush over your palm until it lathers up very well, gently squeeze brush head with fingers and watch the lather change color as product comes off.

Rinse and repeat until lather is white then do your final rinse.  Sometimes I dip multiple brushes in at once if they’re small and swirl them in my palm at the same time to move faster.  Squeeze the brush head to remove excess water and firmly holding the end of the brush handle give it a strong sort of vertical shake bringing centrifugal force forward from the handle so excess water deep inside the brush head flies out into the sink.

Continue to dry afterwards by squeezing a paper napkin or paper towel around the brush head till it is damp and then do my swirl method.  Swirl the brush over paper towel until almost dry then lay flat over a new napkin to dry beside other brushes.  If you’re impatient you can use a hair dryer to blow through the brush heads at a safe distance.  If you have brush guards (available at Suesh Greenhills/Alabang Town Center) that can help retain the shape as they are drying put them on while the brushes are damp.

Now I’ve gotten one or two mild comments about using dishwashing detergent on face brushes.  Let’s not be pretentious, it’s Safeguard partnered now and we EAT FOOD off of plates that are washed with the stuff as long as rinsing is done well, right?  So the important thing really is to rinse well.  I have sensitive skin and I’ve  never gotten allergies from my brushes with this method.  If it really bothers you you can opt for an organic dishwashing liquid, I’ll feature one on the blog soon since I was given one to review.  Makeup Pro Lisa Eldridge even mentioned on her blog that she approved of Michelle Phan’s brush cleansing method (using Dawn detergent) but I don’t agree with the olive oil part, that didn’t work for me.  If you want an impeccably clean brush you need a heavy duty cleanser that can strip greasy, waxy, and sometimes oily stuff off.  Cheap shampoo or anti-bacterial hand soap is permissible but I don’t want emollients and conditioners left on my brush because we are in a very humid country.  I hope you find these brush cleaning methods helpful.  What you see above are the clean, almost dry brushes since I decided to clean a whole bunch of them after photographing one for the blog.  Notice how they’ve all got their natural shape and don’t look clumped or oily.  Let me know if the deep brush cleansing method helped restore some of your wrongly cleaned ones, especially those hard to clean concealer and foundation brushes.

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  • http://soleilorganics.multiply.com soleil

    I do the same thing! So good to know I’m on the right track here. I also use Joy antibac but for the spray for daily use, I get it from Ellana Minerals.

  • Issa

    Yes, there is a lot of tutorials for cleaning makeup brushes… I am getting confused on which one I would use

  • Iszy

    I use an oil based makeup remover to clean my brushes and because it removes makeup so easily from my face, it works just as easily on my brushes :)

  • Lauren

    thanks for the tip on cleaning brushes. did it yesterday with a few drops of dishwashing soap. very economical! :)

  • Gen

    I tried that Joy dishwashing method but that caused me breakouts that costs me some derma money before I got my clear skin back. Now I know I’m not alone; how we classify our skin as sensitive is really subjective so I don’t really believe everything when someone claims to have sensitive skin. I’ve had episodes of skin allergies after using Joy without gloves for kitchen cleaning; how much more if I use it on the brushes touching my face?— I should have thought of this before. I’m perfectly fine with using Lactacyd blue for cleaning my brushes since this is the same thing I use to wash my face. Charm brush guards keep my brushes in shape so I’m not worried. What works for some may not necessarily work out for you. Give it some thorough testing before following the tutorials and how-tos.

  • khiara

    I wish I had read this before even purchasing a Parian blush cleanser. At first, I loved the smell. I put some in a spray bottle then spot clean. But after a while, I get really irritated by the smell and my skin too gets a bit inflamed. It was too harsh for me. Now I do not know what to do with my big bottle of that cleanser.. :-(

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