If you wear makeup and are dealing with breakouts, it’s time to ask yourself an honest question. How often do you clean your makeup brushes? Even if you have a skincare routine down to perfection, your makeup brushes could be behind why your skin’s irritation.

21Ninety asked anti-aging specialist, Rosmy Barrios, MD, to weigh in on the importance of makeup brush cleaners.

“When you use a makeup brush regularly, the bristles take a bit of oil, dead skin cells, and dirt from your skin. So, if you don’t clean them, you put all that dirt and oil back on your face,” Dr. Barrios said.

Putting all of that gunk back on your face can lead to further irritation and acne, Dr. Barrios notes. Seasoned celebrity and commercial makeup artist, Margina Dennis also tells 21Ninety that clean brushes have more staying power.

“If you invest in the care of your brushes they will last much longer,” Dennis said.

What types of skin issues can come from using dirty makeup brushes?

Aside from acne, Dr. Barrios says other issues can arise from using dirty makeup brushes, especially if you wait too long between washes.

“Dirty brushes can expose your skin to oxidative stress from free radicals, resulting in collagen damage, which will age your skin faster and cause wrinkles,” Dr. Barrios explained.

Additionally, dirty brushes when left long enough can accumulate harmful bacteria including streptococcus, staphylococcus, e-coli, and fungus. All of which, Dr. Barrios notes, can lead to a staph infection or conjunctivitis.

“I’ve seen some of my patients with a good skincare routine complaining about frequent breakouts. It was their dirty makeup brushes causing the issue, so it’s something that can easily go unnoticed and that’s why you should clean it,” Dr. Barrios said.

Best ways to clean and lengthen the life of your makeup brushes

Dennis has 15 years of experience in the beauty business. She knows her way around maintaining makeup brushes.

“People who are using their brushes for personal use should wash them with brush soap at least once a week,” she told 21Ninety.

Dennis adds that brushes used for wet products or any brushes used around the eyes should be cleaned at least twice a week. For a quick clean, in between daily use, the makeup artist recommends using a spray cleaner. For a deep clean, Dennis recommends using a bar soap.

The makeup pro offered four additional tips to help 21Ninety readers get the most out of their makeup brushes:

1. Don’t emerge your brushes completely into the water. This will loosen the adhesive in the ferrule and the brush will start to shed fibers.

2. Don’t smush your brushes when cleaning. Use a back-and-forth stroke on a microfiber towel, silicone brush cleaner, or paper towel to remove debris.

3. Dry your brushes at an angle with the bristles facing down so that the water doesn’t seep into the ferrule (aka the part that connects the bristles to the wand).

4. Brushes should be washed often not just from a hygiene standpoint, but to ensure they last. 

21Ninety has rounded up some of the best makeup brush cleaners to help you keep your tools in tact.

Best makeup brush cleaners

Dial Bar Soap

Dr. Barrios recommends using a bar soap to wash your makeup brushes. She says the Dial Clean and Refresh White Bar Soap is one of her favorite options.

“Dial liquid and bar soap is a great choice because it’s anti-bacterial, so it eliminates all the bacteria, keeping your skin safe. Plus, it removes all the stubborn buildup of oil and make-up ingredients,” Dr. Barrios explained.

To use, just wet the bar of soap and swirl your brush on the bar several times. Then rinse the brush clean, squeeze it in a towel, and rest at a slight angle, with the bristles facing down, to dry.

Beauty So Clean Spray

The Beauty So Clean Wipeout Brush Cleaner is a spray recommended by Dennis. She tells 21Ninety that this cleaner is great to use when you need a quick clean. To use, don’t just give your brush one spray, you need to saturate your brushes with the spray and wipe out all the gunk inside with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel, and then lay it on a towel to dry. Remember, this product is best used when you need a quick clean so it’s great to use in between deep cleaning sessions.

RICRIS Cleaning Machine

If traditional brush cleaning techniques make your hands cramp up, try the Electric Makeup Brush Cleaner Machine by RICRIS. To clean your brushes, you need to attach the silicone gripper to the spinning tool, then attach the brush in the silicone tip. Once your brush is set, all you need to do is add a few drops of cleaning liquid and water into the bowl. Next, dunk your brush and press the button at the top of the tool to make the brush spin for a wash cycle. Make sure to change the water before your rinse cycle and hover the brush over the rinse water to spin dry. Lay your brush flat to finish drying. Tip: you can also swirl your brush on a bar soap before dunking your brush in water for the wash step of the process.  

Cinema Secrets Duo

Cinema Secrets’s Makeup Brush Cleaner Pro Starter Kit is a water-free way to clean your makeup brushes fast. The kit includes a makeup brush cleanser and a small tin that you can clean the brushes in. To use, simply pour enough cleaner into the tin to cover a quarter of the brush. Then, give your brush a quick dip and hold the bristle side up for five seconds to let the product travel down the whole bristle. After that you just wipe your brush clean and let it dry. Voila, a clean brush with no water needed.

Sigma Beauty Cleaning Mat

Sigma Beauty’s Spa Express Cleaning Mat Brush Cleaner is ready to clean every brush on your vanity. Equipped with seven textures and imprinted labels you’ll easily be able to know exactly where to wash and rinse your brush on the mat for the most effective clean. Plus, it has silicone grips on the underside of the mat to keep it from sliding on your countertop or in your sink. To use, apply some cleanser to the brush and swirl over the corresponding texture to wash the brush and rinse. Then swirl over the corresponding rinse texture to finish cleaning your brush before patting with a towel and laying flat to dry.

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