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How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

BY: Editors | Oct 6, 2014

You've invested a lot of time and money into your makeup brush collection, so it goes without saying that you want those brushes to last a long time. Plus, nothing ruins a flawless complexion more than swiping your face with a bunch of breakout-triggering bacteria. That's why knowing how to clean your makeup brushes is so important.

But just what is the best way to clean makeup brushes? Do you really need fancy cleaners or will regular soap do? And what about synthetic vs. natural makeup brushes? Do they get cleaned differently?

To make the process as pain-free as possible, we threw together this handy guide on how to clean makeup brushes. Go forth and smoketh those eyes with confidence!

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

Step 1: Determine what type of brushes you have

While the cleaning process is more or less the same for natural and synthetic fiber brushes, they are a few differences in technique you'll need to utilize, depending on the type of makeup brushes you have. It should be fairly easy to tell which kind you have, but if you're uncertain, examine the bristles closely. Synthetic brushes will tend to have a more uniform appearance, while natural bristles tend to be a little courser in appearance and texture.

Pictured: 12-Piece White Floral Professional Makeup Brush Set. Buy it now from $11.98

Step 2: Gather your supplies

You'll Need:

Step 3: Wash

Start by soaking each brush in the bowl of lukewarm water, but do not submerge the brush head below the glue line (the place where the bristles are attached to the head). Doing so can cause some of the glue to lose its stickiness and fibers to fall out.

Next, take a few drops of soap or shampoo and gently rub it into the wet fibers, using a circular motion. Continue until a lather forms. Your fingers will work fine for this task, but if you like, you can use a silicone brush cleaner, which features a textured surface that's designed to be extra-effective in removing buildup from brush fibers.

Pictured: Silicone makeup brush cleaner (2-pack). Buy it now from $11.99

Rinse the brushes under running water (minding the glue line once again), or use a battery-powered cleaner and dryer, which has a basin of water and spinning mechanism that helps shake off all access moisture to dry the brushes faster. Repeat the rinsing process until the water is clean and free of cloudy buildup.

Pictured: Professional makeup brush cleaner and dryer. Buy it now for $29.99

If not using a spin-dryer, gently wring the makeup brushes to remove excess water. If your brushes are made of natural bristles, use your fingers to gently reshape. Set the brushes on a clean towel, or set them on the edge of a counter with the brush heads hanging off the edge, which will allow air to circulate around them. Do not dry them sitting up, as this can cause moisture to drip down to the glue line.

If needed, you can use an eyebrow comb to gently straighten any bristles that have dried funny.

Step 4: Touch-up cleaning

Ideally, makeup brushes (both synthetic and natural) should be cleaned about one a month. But if your brushes need a quick spot-clean in-between thorough cleanings, consider trying a dry cleaning sponge. The sponge removes powder particles from your brushes, and can also be used daily if you want to move from one color to the next using the same brush. It's ideally used just to remove powder though, and shouldn't be used to remove liquid makeup. It's reusable too—just remove the sponge and wash it along with your brushes during your next monthly deep-clean.

Pictured: 24K Organic Dry Makeup Brush Cleaner. Buy it now for $8.98

This article was originally published in a different format and has since been updated by our editors.