Is Brush Cleaning Really that Important?


image courtesy of Francois Etienne du Plessis/

We all have our fair share of bad beauty habits, and one of the most common offenses is unclean brushes. Although it may seem unimportant, failing to sanitize your tools can be worse than forgetting to wash your face! Taking proper care of your bristles helps their performance, extends their lifetime, and prevents harmful bacteria from forming. We chatted with New York-based dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, M.D., as well as makeup artists Sonia Kashuk and Dick Page, to better understand this essential part of your beauty routine.

How dirty brushes affect your skin

While your bristles pick up pigments, they also collect dirt, oil, and bacteria—and this affects Beauties with sensitive or acne-prone skin the most! "This buildup can be transferred to your skin and cause breakouts," says Dr. Tanzi. She suggests cleaning your tools with warm water and a gentle soap such as Cetaphil every three months to avoid unhealthy bacteria accumulation. Another danger to watch out for? The spread of viruses. "In the worst case scenario, herpes can be spread by lip gloss brushes,” warns Dr. Tanzi. “Eye shadow and liner brushes can transfer pinkeye or other viral infections, so try not to share them!" The risk of infection is lower with blush and face powder brushes since they are not coming in contact with wet areas like the eyes and mouth, which can harbor more bacteria and viruses.

Cleaning tips

In addition to nasty side effects, filthy tips can interfere with your artwork. "Washing your brushes once a week keeps bristles soft for easier application and allows you to grab the true pigment you want," explains Sonia. If you're prone to acne, wash your sponges, brushes, and eye lash curlers daily. There are many methods for cleaning brushes, Dick recommends using a combination of baking soda and baby shampoo to clean fluffy brushes. "The sodium bicarb helps to deodorize and disinfect. Then hang the brushes upside down," Dick advises. "This is important because you don't want to have any liquid seeping back into the base of the brush." Sonia also suggests spritzing a cleansing spray which can also be used on pressed powders too and laying brushes flat on a clean paper towel overnight.