Among all the panic and bluster that characterises the atmosphere backstage at a show, you’d be forgiven for thinking that make-up artists might be less than fastidious about cleaning brushes, but they’re not. Ask them reason for this diligence, and they’ll tell you it’s because make-up brushes that haven’t been washed apply pigments shoddily, and transfer bacteria from face to face, potentially leading to skin conditions like acne.
While your brushes at home are unlikely to see anywhere near the amount of action of a make-up artist’s, if you want to safeguard your skin - and make sure your make-up is blended seamlessly - you should take a cue from the best and get washing your brushes. After each use if possible. Weekly, at the very least. Here’s how to go about it. And if you're after a guide to the best makeup brushes on the market, see our edit.
Step One. Grab your dirty brushes (we like to collect ours in empty candle jars), and either a brush wash or a gentle shampoo (scroll down to see some of the products we rate).
Step Two. Either fill a mug or your sink with with lukewarm water, pour some brush wash onto your hand or into the water, and swirl your brush in the solution, making sure you target the central bristles so that they’re properly clean.
Step Three. Rinse. Don’t pull at the bristles while you do this - just swirl under clean, lukewarm water and keep swirling and rinsing.
Step Four. Dry. This is a two-part step. First, wrap your brush in a towel and squeeze gently. Next, arrange the bristles so they sit in the right shape, then leave them to dry lying down on a towel. Whatever you do, don’t put your brushes back in the jar before they’re dry - if the water rolls into the centre of the brush it could dissolve the glue that holds the bristles together and potentially create rot or mould.
Your Brush Washing Kit:
1) Dr. Bronner’s 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap. This multitasking wonder is a dab hand at removing waxes and pigment from brushes, and - bonus - once you’ve washed your brushes, you can use it as a hand wash, body wash, floor wash… The uses go on and on.
2) Real Techniques Brush Cleansing Gel. Think shampoo for your brushes and you’ll get an idea of how this one works. Ideal for day-to-day grime and for removing pigments in double time from both synthetic and natural-bristled brushes.
3) Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Mat. If your hands dry when immersed in water or exposed to shampoo, get your hands on this clever mat. Just pop it in your sink, squeeze your chosen wash onto it, then run water and swirl on the mat as you would in your hand. Easy.