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DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner: Easy Recipe + How-To For Soft, Fluffy Brushes

Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
Image by MARC TRAN / Stocksy
Last updated on March 1, 2021
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Be honest: When is the last time you washed your makeup brushes? If you just paused while reading this, that probably means you're due for a wash day. It's one of those things we all know we should do but rarely take the time to do it. But dirty brushes not only perform worse but can lead to a lot of skin issues.

Here, we explain everything you need to know.

DIY Makeup Brush Cleaner Recipe

If you are one to DIY, here's a cleanser recipe and how-to from makeup artist Britanie Faith, founder of Beauty By Britanie.

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Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Liquid Castile soap
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Two glass bowls
  • Warm water
  • Clean washcloth or towel
  • Tall glass

Directions

  1. Pour 1 teaspoon of olive oil onto your clean washcloth or towel. Then press the bristles of your dirty brush into the oil until saturated. Be careful not to involve the handle at all—this step is specifically to moisten the brush and loosen the dirt and old makeup.
  2. Lightly wipe the bristles back and forth on the washcloth.
  3. Combine the Castile soap and warm (filtered) water into one of the glass bowls. Swish the brushed back and forth in the soapy water using your fingers to squeeze the bristles to release embedded dirt. I do this process one brush at a time using a new batch of the cleanser for each brush.
  4. Pour ½ cup of distilled white vinegar into the second glass bowl. Put your cleansed and squeeze-dried brush (bristles only!) into the vinegar. Remember not to get the handle wet! This step is to make sure the brush is clear of any bacteria.
  5. Rinse the brush under warm running water for a quick final rinse. Squeeze extra water from the brush, reshape the bristles, and let air dry while laying down flat.
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3 at-home makeup brush cleaners.

Looking for something pre-made, without having to run to your nearest beauty supplier for a makeup-brush-specific wash? No problem—in fact there are plenty of at-home, DIY solutions to turn to for clean brushes.

  1. All-natural dish soap: Natural makeup artist Sally Duvall has some picks are likely already in your home: "Personally, I use an all-natural dish detergent—it cuts the grease and really cleans the brushes."
  2. Natural or baby shampoos: Duvall also suggests a sudsy find—this one in your bathroom: "I have also used an all-natural shampoo."
  3. Natural, gentle face wash: In a pinch, you can grab your face wash to tend to your brushes. You may not want to use your face wash for every cleaning session—face washes can be pricy after all—but if you need to remove excess pigment prior to use, it will serve just fine. Just be mindful not to use washes that have physical scrubs or too harsh chemical exfoliants, as those may damage the delicate brush fibers.
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Why you really do need to wash those brushes.

"Your natural oils, bacteria, makeup, dead skin cells, dirt, and grime accumulate on the brush, and then you are just reapplying that on a daily basis," says board-certified dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D. "This can lead to a lot of skin issues—acne, contact dermatitis, infections—but then from a functional aspect the brushes aren't going to work."

Makeup artists agree, too: "Cleaning brushes is a must: They collect bacteria over time and can just get really nasty, especially ones that apply creamy makeup," says Duvall.

How often should you clean your brushes?

If you regularly apply makeup, clean them every other week. Wash them every time you wash your sheets, which can serve as a good reminder. "Best to do it at night so they will be dry for morning use," says Duvall.

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The takeaway.

You need to clean your brushes, full stop. (The alternative is not only brushes that don't work as well but brushes that can cause acne or worse.) Luckily, you can DIY it at home, without having to buy a specially made soap.

Heal Your Skin.

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Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director at mindbodygreen. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She has worked at many top publications and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends and updates in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as travel, financial wellness, and parenting. She has reported on the intricacies of product formulations, the diversification of the beauty industry, and and in-depth look on how to treat acne from the inside, out (after a decade-long struggle with the skin condition herself). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.