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A Simple, All-Natural Technique For Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes

Photo by Shutterstock, the author
Last updated on September 11, 2019

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.

"Your natural oils, bacteria, makeup, dead skin cells, dirt, and grime accumulate on on the brush, and then you are just reapplying that on a daily basis," says holistic dermatologist Keira Barr, M.D., founder of Resilient Health Institute. "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."

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Makeup artists agree too: "Cleaning brushing is a must: They collect bacteria over time and can just get really nasty, especially ones that apply creamy makeup," says natural makeup artist Sally Duvall. 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 at night so they will be dry for morning use," she says.

All-Natural DIY Makeup Brush Cleanser + How-To

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


  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • liquid Castile soap (lavender and peppermint are my favorites)
  • distilled white vinegar
  • two glass bowls
  • warm water
  • clean washcloth or towel
  • tall glass
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  1. Pour one 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/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 1/2 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.

Looking for something pre-made, without having to run to your nearest beauty supplier for a makeup brush-specific wash? Duvall's picks are likely already in your home: "Personally, I use an all natural dish detergent—it cuts the grease and really cleans the brushes, but I have also used an all natural shampoo as well."

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Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.