Brush cleaning is part of the Make-up Artist’s lot. Love it or hate it (I flit between the two), it is one of those chores which is essential to our job. If I have a willing volunteer (as you can see above) or I’m on a shoot where I am lucky enough to be able to delegate brush cleaning duties to one of my team then I happily will do so (I have at least 250 brushes in my pro kit*), but sometimes standing at the sink, looking out over the garden and removing make-up from bristles can be the most therapeutic thing…
*Obviously they aren’t all used on every job!
Dirty brushes can also be at the root of all kinds of issues and not just breakouts; serious and sometimes highly contagious conditions such as coldsores and conjunctivitis can be spread by a lack of brush hygiene. Make-up brushes accumulate dirt, grease and bacteria as you use them (especially those used for applying cream products) and all of this is carried from your face to your palette and back again, time after time creating a cocktail of nasties to paint your face with. Ugh!
It’s not only your skins heath which could be suffering either. Using dirty brushes covered with old product isn’t the best way to create the perfect make-up; applying gold eyeshadow with the same brush as you applied grey eyeshadow the day before..? You aren’t going to get the look you want, believe me.
Personal make-up brushes should be cleaned once a week at the very least but if you are sharing brushes or use them on other people in any way then they most definitely should be cleaned after every use to avoid cross-infection.
Over the twenty years I’ve been a Make-up Artist I have used a variety of brush cleaners and cleaning methods but I have my favourites and so I thought I would share…
The Quick Fix
When I’m on a shoot I often have to clean brushes quickly between make-ups; on no account will I use a brush on two different people unless it has been thoroughly cleaned! On these occasions I use 99% IPA (Isopropyl alcohol) to clean my brushes (79% doesn’t so the job), not the most pleasant option but it dries pretty much instantly, has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties and also gets rid of any grease and cream product on the bristles. I use a Menda Pump Bottle (above) to decant just the amount I need to avoid wastage (and help reduce exposure as it is quite potent), then dip the brushes and wipe them on a tissue or microfibre cloth (more sustainable).
Despite cleaning qualities IPA I don’t like using it all the time as not only does it stink but also it is incredibly drying and brush bristles loose their condition after repeated use, so at the end of the day I bring my brushes home and treat them to a proper clean.
The Proper Clean
London Brush Company Goat Milk Brush Shampoo (£16/26.00) is my all-time favourite commercial brush cleaner. I first discovered it about four years ago and have been hooked ever since. The goats milk based shampoo is available in three scents (personally I prefer the Lavender) and these are emulated in the coconut based Vegan range too. You can read my original post on London brush Company Brush Shampoo here
My other product of choice is Dr Bronner’s Pure Castille Liquid Soap (£2.15-£57.49). To be honest there is nothing not to like about this all-purpose liquid soap; available in nine scents and five different sizes there is something for everyone here. I prefer the lavender scent myself (see a pattern forming here?) but Tea Tree is preferable for brush cleaning as it has natural anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.
The How To
The principle of cleaning brushes is the same regardless of whether you are using a solid shampoo or liquid soap (including mild shampoo and washing up liquid which are both perfectly good brush cleaners for home use) and If you haven’t cleaned a make-up brush before then now is the time. It’s easy and if you only have a few brushes will take you less than 10 minutes – I promise!
Rinse thoroughly until the bristles are bubble free – make sure you squeeze and work the bristles as you rinse to get rid of those pesky suds hidden in the middle! Repeat until the water runs clean and if you aren’t happy it’s clean enough then repeat the whole process.
Gently squeeze out the excess water and then lay them out on a clean towel or tissue. Make sure the bristles are sticking out over the edge of the table or surface so as to let the air circulate and leave them to dry naturally
How do you clean your make-up brushes?
Images: LJS – OMUA