Even the neatest, most organized women have a not-so-pleasant secret lurking atop those brushes they use to apply makeup to—gasp!—their faces. Most women do not realize how necessary it is to give a thorough regular cleaning to each and every one of their makeup brushes and tools.
Organic or not, when brushes are dipped in makeup and powders, they collect a whole host of product residues, skin oils and dead skin cells, not to mention the dust that collects on them from sitting idle the rest of the time. You may not be able to see it unless it has been considerable time since your last cleaning or you separate the bristles and examine them extremely closely. But, trust me, it is there.
Aside from simply being gross, the collection of this kind of bacteria, dust and germs on your brushes can wreak havoc on your skin contributing to breakouts, rashes and, in some cases, even infections. It can also affect the quality of your makeup application.
Adopting a weekly cleaning schedule for all of your makeup brushes can also save you money by significantly extending the lives of your tools.
If you’ve looked, you have likely seen brush cleaner products on the market. Many of them are meant to be sprayed on after every use. While it is a quick, and generally effective, way to clean your brushes, many of these products contain harsh, dehydrating ingredients.
Greener, gentler options certainly exist. Here are a few you might like to try:
In a clean, small spray bottle, mix one part of a plant extract like tea tree oil and five parts witch hazel. Both have antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, as well as healing properties. Spray the brushes making sure to spread the bristles to ensure you are reaching in between. Use a clean cloth to gently dry the brushes in the direction the bristles go. Lay them flat to dry so they will keep their shape. This method will clean your brushes without drying them out while being kind to your skin as well.
Deep Cleansing Shampoo
For a deeper cleaning, you will want to shampoo your brushes—especially those used for creamy products like foundations, lipstick, concealer or mascara. Products like these harbor more bacteria than their dry, powdery counterparts. For best results, fill a small bowl with a natural face cleanser or castile soap (feel free to add a drop or two of the tea tree oil to this formula too). Gently immerse your brush and rub the bristles until makeup is removed. Rinse each tool until the water runs clear, pat them dry, reshape the bristles and lay them flat on a clean towel to dry.
Here’s a way to clean your tools using items found in your kitchen! Olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon slices, and warm water combine to create a gentle, effective cleaner. The lemons serve to neutralize odor while the olive oil keeps bristles from drying out. As an added bonus, vinegar and lemon both have antiseptic and antibacterial properties.
First, place just a few drops of olive oil on a cotton pad or clean cloth. Use a light hand so as not to soak the bristle in oil. Wipe away any surface dirt from the bristles. Caution: you may wish to add this step sporadically to prevent brushes from becoming weighed down.
Mix one cup of warm water with a tablespoon of vinegar. Squeeze in a couple of thick slices of lemon using the juice, pulp and even the peel. Dip in your brush and swish back and forth. Once you feel the brush is clean, rinse until water runs clear. Part dry on a clean towel. If you are noticing residue still coming off, repeat the process. Lay flat to dry.
Whether you use one of the methods above or find another that works for you, be sure to clean or replace your brushes on a regular basis to maintain healthy skin.
Gloria Marquez is a mother and freelance writer who considers herself a cosmetics expert as she works for Eco-Tools Makeup. She loves to write and give advice to others on how to take care of their makeup. Photo by Matt Trostle