A step-by-step guide to cleaning your makeup brushes

It’s seriously simple and will save your skin from breakouts

Beauty Crew Contributing Editor / June 06 2022

We get it – you don’t really want to add another step to your beauty routine. But when that extra step could potentially save your skin from breakouts and ensure your makeup goes on flawless, surely cleanliness wins out over laziness? 

Yep, we’re talking about the mundane task of washing makeup brushes. Nobody really wants to do it, but like taxes, it’s just something that needs to be done (and pays off in the end). And honestly, it’s such a simple process that it’s about time you put on a good podcast and just did the damn thing.

Just in case you're still um-ing and ah-ing while reading, let us drop some (alarming and yet important) wisdom: It should come as no surprise that your brush bristles are a breeding ground for bacteria. Sorry, we’re not going to sugar coat it. Every time your brush touches your face, your skin’s natural oils, along with dirt and dead skin cells, will transfer onto the bristles, and stay there if you’re not washing them off. Not good for the health of your skin.

Then there’s the health of your makeup brushes. Since bristles are porous, they hold onto all that grime, which can deteriorate the brush if not removed often enough, plus it doesn’t leave much room for your actual makeup to hold onto, hence why you’re getting such a patchy finish.

Okay, now that we've terrified you into taking action, let's get onto how often to clean makeup brushes: Interestingly, certain brushes need to be washed more often than others. Take your foundation brush – if you’re a liquid foundation fan, you should be cleaning your brushes/sponges every couple of weeks, as liquid and cream formulas build up more quickly than powder formulas. Speaking of, your brushes that are used with powders (including eyeshadows and brow products) need to be treated to monthly cleans.

What do you need? The best way to clean makeup brushes is with baby shampoo and water. That’s it. Not so tough after all, huh? Here’s how to wash makeup brushes the cheap and easy way...


Wet the brush

Wet your brush under lukewarm water. Take care to only wet the bristles – you don’t want water getting into the base as it can dissolve the glue that holds the bristles in place. And just wet, not soaking wet. If you're working with a sponge, however, you'll want to dampen the entire thing.


Lather up

A gentle cleansing formula is the go for a brush-friendly wash that will effectively rinse away residue and bacteria without leaving potential irritants behind. Pop a dollop of baby shampoo like the QV Baby 2 In 1 Shampoo & Conditioner ($10.99 at Chemist Warehouse) into the (clean) palm of your hand and swirl around the brush to form a lather. Of course, a brush cleansing pad like the is always an option if you're feeling fancy. Alternatively to baby shampoo, a light cleanser will also work a treat. Again, if you're working with a sponge, you'll want to get a few good squeezes in, too; those bad boys absorb product like nobody's business.

EXPERT TIP: Celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic uses baby shampoo and water, only he also adds a few drops of tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is an antibacterial, so we think he’s onto something!


Rinse the bristles

Once you feel like you’ve dislodged the makeup build-up, rinse the bristles under lukewarm water. If the water still looks a bit dirty after you’ve rinsed out the shampoo, repeat step #2 again. Rinse and repeat is a thing for a reason, right?


Leave to dry

Once you've rinsed, gently squeeze the bristles to remove excess water, reshape the bristles with your hands, then use a microfibre towel to dab the bristles dry. Lay the brush flat (not standing upright as water will pool into the base and degrade the glue) and leave to air dry. If the brush sits completely flat against the surface you’re drying it on, consider hanging it over the edge – you want good air circulations for a thorough dry.

Main image credit: @martaskollection

If you're still trying to figure out which makeup brush to use in your kit, follow our advice on how to choose the right makeup brushes...