Whether you use makeup every day or only occasionally, an important part of any beauty routine is taking good care of your tools, including of course, your makeup brushes. Washing your beauty tools regularly will rid them of old makeup, dust, oils and bacteria, all of which can build up over time and cause various skin and health problems; acne, rashes and even pinkeye included.

Now, we’ll be the first to admit that cleaning makeup brushes is not the most exciting thing in the world, but there’s no denying that proper beauty tool care is good for our skin and eye health, and even for achieving great makeup results. That’s why all dermatologists and cosmetologists worth their salt recommend washing makeup brushes on a regular basis. But how often is “regular” and what are the best ways to thoroughly clean beauty tools? Read on to find out.

How Often to Clean Makeup Brushes

According to most dermatologists, we should all clean our makeup tools every time we use them. This is particularly important for makeup artists, but also for people who use makeup on a daily basis. But since this is challenging and time-consuming for most people, here is what you can get away with while still keeping your brushes clean and your skin happy.

  • Brushes used with powder products. Great news for those using mostly powder makeup products, such as powder foundations, blushes, bronzers and eyeshadows: you can wash your tools just once or twice a week and still keep them clean and safe for use. This is because dry products tend to harbor less bacteria so they’re considered safe to be used for longer (this is also why dry makeup products last longer than wet products).
  • Brushes used with liquid products. Liquid products, such as liquid foundations, blushes, countour products and eyeliners, are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which is why they don’t last as long as powder products. This is also why you should wash the brushes that are used with liquid products more frequently – ideally every day or after each use, but more realistically every other day or after every second use.
  • Makeup sponges. Because they’re usually used with liquid products, makeup sponges should be washed as frequently as brushes used with liquid products. This is to say, you should clean your sponges after each use.
Brushes and decorative cosmetics

But how often should you clean brushes and sponges if you use makeup only occasionally, say once a week? Certainly, because you use makeup so rarely, you can get away with washing your beauty tools rarely as well, right? Unfortunately, no. Even if you use makeup such as liquid foundation or a BB cream once a week, you shouldn’t wait to wash your tools until the next time you use them. This is because the longer you leave your brushes and sponges damp with makeup on them, the more fertile breeding ground for bacteria they become. For this reason, it’s best to wash your tools right after you use them, wait until they’re dry, and then store them away in a closed cup or drawer where excess dust cannot reach them.

In any case, for regular makeup users, a weekly washing is a minimum and a must.

What to Use to Clean Makeup Brushes

Okay, now that we’ve tackled how often you should clean your makeup brushes, it’s time we talk about what you should use for this oh-so-exciting but nevertheless essential task. Luckily, you have numerous options here.

  • Gentle soap: for folks who wash their brushes daily or every other day, a gentle soap makes a great brush cleanser. Just make sure it is actually gentle as regular soaps (those laden with harsh ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and fragrance) can dry out natural hair bristles.
  • Baby shampoo: baby shampoo is another great makeup brush cleanser as it’s usually mild and gentle. Again, perfect for frequent washing.
  • Makeup brush cleaner: if you want to go the safest route, consider purchasing a cleanser specifically made for cleaning makeup brushes. There are many products on the market, but two of our favorites have to be EcoTools Makeup Brush Shampoo and Real Techniques Brush Cleaner.
  • Dish soap: for a thorough cleanse, which you should do biweekly or at least monthly, a regular dish soap (Dawn dish is the best!) does wonders. It’s perfect for deep cleaning both makeup brushes and sponges as it’s able to emulsify and remove even the heaviest oil-based products.

A Step-By-Step Brush Cleaning Method

To properly wash your brushes, follow our simple step-by-step guide and they will turn out as clean as new.

  • Rinse the bristles thoroughly under warm water but avoid wetting the handle of the brush as this can loosen the glue over time, leading to shedding.
  • Squeeze a small amount of shampoo or soap in a small dish or mug and fill it with warm water.
  • Swirl the brush across the dish in circular motions, then, gently massage the bristles to further remove makeup and dirt.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clean water. If you’ve used a gentle soap, you may need to repeat the process if the water doesn’t run clean (may happen if the bristles were soaked in heavy, long-lasting makeup). If you’ve used dish soap, no need for repetition.
  • Gently dry your brushes with a clean towel (careful not to ruin the bristles!) and then lay them flat and let them completely dry.
Clean Beauty Blenders

How To Clean Your Beauty Blenders And Makeup Sponges

Because Beauty Blenders and makeup sponges are typically used with liquid products, they’re very prone to bacteria growth. Remember, the longer and more often you use your makeup sponge, the more dead skin cells, dirt, sebum and bacteria it can accumulate. For this reason, it’s essential to keep it clean and dry. So, if you use your sponge every day, you should really wash it daily as well.

But how to clean makeup sponges and beauty blenders regularly without ruining them? As long as you use the right cleansers and you’re gentle when handling them, they should be in great condition even with daily washing.

Here’s an easy step-by-step sponge cleaning method you can follow:

  • Thoroughly wet your sponge, squeezing out water as you do so.
  • Either pour a dollop of baby shampoo on the sponge, or rub the sponge against a gentle bar soap (Dove works great).
  • Gently massage the cleanser all around the sponge, rubbing and squeezing it as you go. Take extra care with stained patches.
  • Once thoroughly cleaned, rinse the sponge under running warm water, squeezing it as you do so. Do this until water runs clear and there are no suds left on the sponge. If you’ve used a very gentle cleanser but you use heavy-duty, long-lasting makeup, you may have to repeat this process until the sponge is stain-free.
  • Place the sponge in a clean towel and gently squeeze out excess water. Then, let it air dry.

Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Brushes

Even with excellent makeup brush care, brushes need to be replaced from time to time. Luckily, if your brushes and sponges are properly cared for, including thoroughly washed and dried regularly, they should last years. Not sure if it’s time to retire your beauty tools? Look for the following signs:

  • Bristles shed excessively and many don’t align with the rest
  • The brush or sponge smells strange even after being washed
  • The sponge is very stained and discolored
  • The sponge is missing large chunks of foam

Generally speaking though, as long as you’re properly caring for your beauty tools, they should last you years, especially if they’re of good quality. While some makeup artists recommend replacing your sponges and brushes every few months (many claim three months, tops!), we can tell you from first hand experience that good-quality brushes can last up to 10 years if they’re frequently and adequately washed and dried. So, take good care of your beauty tools and they should serve you for years to come!