The Right Way to Clean and Dry Your Makeup Brushes

August 17, 2023
Jordan Julian
By: Jordan Julian | by L'Oréal
Flat lay photo of makeup brushes on a peach-colored background

Creating a stunning makeup look starts with the tools you use. Makeup brushes are key for taking any beauty look to the next level and can truly make or break your beauty routine. The right ones will leave you looking fresh and flawless, while the wrong choice can make you work much harder than you need to to achieve your desired makeup look. But even the best brushes need a little TLC in the form of regular maintenance to perform at their best. We tapped Chicago-based makeup artist Shreni Patel to talk us through the proper way to care for your makeup brushes. Keep scrolling for a thorough guide to cleaning and drying your makeup brushes, below.

How Often Should You Wash Your Makeup Brushes?

There are a variety of reasons why it’s essential to wash your makeup brushes, starting with hygiene. Without regular cleaning, dirt and bacteria can build up on your brushes, potentially causing breakouts or, in extreme cases, bacterial and fungal infection. There are also aesthetic benefits. Having clean brushes will make your makeup application process smoother, ensuring a more flawless, even finish. “As a makeup artist, I think it's imperative to clean your brushes after every client and not cross contaminate between anyone else,” says Patel. “For personal use, I definitely say wash your brushes at least once a week, especially if you are using them every day.”

You may be wondering: What about your makeup sponges? Just like with makeup brushes, you should be cleaning your makeup sponges frequently. In fact, you probably should be cleaning your sponges even more often than your brushes. “Because sponges are moist with water they are prone to bacterial growth, mold, etc.,” professional makeup artist Kasey Spickard previously told “So you really do want to deep clean and sanitize your sponges.” Even though it may seem excessive, Spickard recommends cleaning your sponges after every use and replacing them every few months.

How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes

When it comes to cleaning your brushes, there are a few different methods you can use. “Firstly, there is the quick dip and quick dry method using either Cinema Secrets Brush Cleaner or 99% alcohol,” Patel explains. This technique involves pouring the brush cleaner of your choice into a small container, dipping the brush into it, then gently swirling the brush on a paper towel. The built-up product should melt off of the brush bristles. “Continue to dip and wipe until the brushes are free of product and nice and clean. I love this technique when I need a quick clean in between clients.” 

However, if your brushes are stained or you use a lot of product, you may need to put a bit more effort into the cleaning process. “When I need a true deep clean and have been using creams and liquid, I love to use a brush cleaning glove or mat with water and cleaner of choice,” Patel explains. “You can choose between an actual brush cleaner, a baby shampoo or dish soap.” 

If you don’t have any of these supplies on hand, you can easily use a gentle cleanser or micellar water, such as the Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Waterproof Makeup Remover.

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Waterproof Makeup Remover

Finally, finish with a spritz of rubbing alcohol to disinfect the brushes.

How to Dry Your Makeup Brushes

Step 1: Squeeze Out Excess Water

To start off, “gently squeeze out as much water as you can and then give them a little shake to get out any excess water,” says Patel. Another way to do this is using a dry towel. After cleansing your brushes (our favorites include the Lancôme Full Face Brush #5 and Conceal & Correct Brush #9), fold over the towel so it surrounds the brush. Next, gently press on it to sop up the excess water and give an extra squeeze to make sure the bristles aren’t soaking wet.

Step 2: Lay Out a Clean Towel

Pick a flat surface with an edge (bathroom countertop, table, dresser, etc.) and lay out a clean towel along the surface. “I like to reshape the brush and lay [it] down on a flat surface on a dry towel to air-dry,” notes Patel. 

Step 3: Let Brushes Air Dry

Pro tip: When you lay the brushes flat on the towel, position them so that the bristles are hanging over the edge. You want the air to be able to circulate around the brushes so they can dry evenly and thoroughly. Allow at least a few hours for the brushes to dry completely before you use them. We recommend washing them before bed and letting them dry overnight.

What *Not* to Do When Drying Your Makeup Brushes

Tip 1: Don’t Dry Your Brushes Standing Up

“Do not dry your brushes standing up with the brushes upwards and the handle down,” warns Patel. Many people dry their brushes in a cup, and while that seems easy, we caution against it. This causes the water to trickle down into the ferrule, which contains the glue that holds the bristles and the handle together. The water loosens and ruins the glue, which in turn leads to excessive bristle shedding and shortens the lifespan of your brush.

Tip 2: Don’t Use Hot Water

“I do not recommend using hot, hot water when deep cleaning, as that can also break down the glue much faster than anticipated and cause a lot of shedding,” Patel adds. Warm water should be totally sufficient when cleaning your makeup brushes. 

Tip 3: Put Down the Hair Dryer

It may be tempting to try to find a shortcut instead of leaving your brushes out to dry overnight, but you’ll want to avoid using a blow dryer. “Don't try to speed up the process with a hair dryer, as that can really damage the glue holding the brush hairs together,” says Patel.

The bottom line? Properly cleaning and drying your makeup brushes can be a bit of a time-consuming process, but if you’re patient, the results will be well worth it.

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn

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