How to Clean Makeup Brushes

clean makeup brushes on a container

If you were planning to renovate your living room, after buying the paint and drop cloth, moving the furniture and taping off the molding and trim, would you use a brush covered in old, dry paint? Of course not. You invested time and money into the supplies to make your walls looks as beautiful as possible. The same goes for your face. Learn how to clean makeup brushes in order to get the best results every time.

What Are The Different Makeup Brushes?

Makeup brushes can be broken down into two separate categories – what they are made of and what their purpose is, know this will can help with how to clean makeup brushes.

Brushes can be made of the natural animal hair or synthetic materials. They each have their own distinct benefit and methods on how to clean makeup brushes as well.

Natural Brushes

​Most natural brushes are made out of different types of animal hair. They are durable and work better the more you use them. They work best when used to apply powdered such as bronzers or eyeshadows. They have a lot of texture so you will get a better application. The bristles of these brushes move freely so not only do they pick up enough product, but they also blend out nicely.

Synthetic Brushes

​These man-made bristles are normally made of nylon or other synthetic fibers. Unlike their animal hair counterparts, they don’t have a cuticle so the product cannot become trapped. This makes these brushes ideal for liquid or cream products, such as a foundation and concealer. The bristles on these brushes gravitate toward each other, which makes them ideal for precise applications.

Types of Brushes

makeup brushes

There are 15 different types of makeup brushes. Since most of us are not professional makeup artists or beauty gurus, you probably only rely on a few of these brushes in your typical morning routine.

Regardless, it is important to understand what each brush is used for in order to understand how to clean makeup brushes properly.

​1. Foundation Brush

foundation brush

This type of brush is used to get a smooth base of foundation onto your skin. Using the wrong brush can cause you to look cakey or washed over. A high-quality brush will allow you to blend the product nicely, buffing it into the skin to give you a more natural look.

​2. Concealer Brush

concealer brush

This brush is used for spot corrections with you guessed it–concealer. These small brushes are designed to be able to pat the product onto the skin, not to blend. You should never blend out your concealer.

​3. Stippling Brush

stippling brush

While a foundation brush is used to get the product onto your skin, this brush is designed to give you an airbrushed look. The ends of this brush are light and feathery. This helps to achieve a professional finish.

​4. ​​​​​Angled Blush Brush

angled blush brush

The angled shape of this brush allows you to pick easily up the product (blush) and apply it to your cheeks softer than other brushes, so it looks natural.

​5. Powder Brush

powder brush

The purpose of this brush is to dust compact or loose powder onto your face without making you look washed out. A good powder brush allows you to continue to touch up your face without moving around any of the makeup already applied to your skin.

​6. ​​​​Angled Brush

angled brush

​This is the first multi-use brush we have listed. It can be used to apply eyeliner and to fill in your brows. The angled shape of the brush helps you get a defined edge, perfect for a winded liner.

​7. Contour Brush

contour brush

​You will never be able to achieve the contour look you are going for without this specific brush. While many try to use their blush brush, a contour brush has firmer bristles and a more angled tip. This helps you target the desired areas to help you get the right contour and shape.

​8. ​​​​Highlight Fan Brush

Highlight Fan Brush

​This brush is designed specifically for a highlighter. The bristles are spread out like a fan and are able to pick up a small amount of product. You can then dust the product across your cheekbones and any other area of the face you wish to shine. Keep in mind; you should always use a light hand with this brush as you don’t want to apply too much highlighter. Unless of course, that is the look you are going for.

​9. Blending Brush

blending brush

​This brush is essential for getting a more natural look. It helps you soften out any harsh lines you may have after applying a product. You know what they say, the key to the perfect eye is to blend, blend and blend!

​10. Eyeliner Brush

eyeliner brush

​In order to achieve the perfect winged eyeliner, you need this brush. It is small and designed to pick up the right amount of product and lay it on your skin with maximum control.

​11. ​​​​​​Eyeshadow Brush

eyeshadow brush

​This brush does just what it says–it helps you apply eyeshadow. It ensures the right amount of product is picked up and packed onto the eyelid without too much fallout.

​12. Bronzer Brush

bronzer brush

​This rounded brush is designed to distribute product evenly. In order to achieve a natural, sun-kissed look you will need a big, fluffy brush like this one.

​13. ​​​​Lip Brush

lip brush

​If you are looking for more precision than simply applying lipstick from the tube to your lips, this is the brush you need. It has a square shape for best results.

​14. Mascara Brush or Spoolie

mascara brush

​While using the wand that comes with your mascara is just fine, sometimes you want a brush that does something specific to your lashes. If so, this is what you are looking for.

​15. Blush Brush

blush brush

​Unlike the angled blush brush from the top of our list, this version is a more rounded and compact powder brush to pick up pigment and allows you to blend to reduce the appearance of lines.

How To Clean Makeup Brushes

There are six key rules you should follow when learning how to clean makeup brushes.

Foundation Brushes Should be Cleaned Every Other Week

​Liquid and cream products build up quickly. Because of this, experts recommend cleaning foundation, concealer and highlighter brushes every other week. If you are a heavy user, consider cleaning them every week.

​Powder Brushes Should be Cleaned Once a Month

​Brushes used primarily with powders, such as eyeshadow and bronzer brushes, only need to be washed once a month. Washing them more often can damage the bristles. But too much product on the brush can affect the softness, movement, and flexibility of the brush. There can also be traces of other colors left on the brush, which can ruin the look you are going for.  

Natural Brushes Should be Washed With a Gentle Cleanser

​As previously discussed, natural brushes are made of animal hair so experts recommend treating them like you would your own hair. Shampoo them regularly with baby shampoo and warm water. This will remove oil, powder, and wax without drying out the hair. You should use minimal force when cleaning these brushes as pressing the head down can cause the bristles to break.

​​​​DIY Cleanser

​While there area number of cleansers available, but how to clean makeup brushes can very easily be done by making one yourself. The base of the recipe is one part baby shampoo and four parts water. Some swear by adding some tea-tree oil into the mix as it is naturally antibacterial. You can also add some leave-in conditioner if you want to hydrate your brushes.

Synthetic Brushes Should be Washed With a T​ougher Cleanser

​Brushes with synthetic heads can be washed with something tougher, like dishwashing liquid. These brushes can stand up to this type of soap, which can lead to a cleaner brush.

The Size of the Brush Should Dictate How You Clean it

​Larger brushes should be cleaned by massaging the bristles into the palm of your hand. To clean smaller brushes, cup water in your hand and gently swirl the brush, making sure not to bend the bristles at the base of the brush. Thoroughly rinse out the brushes with its head facing downward.

​​​​​Always Dry Your Brushes Facing Down

​How to clean makeup brushes regardless of what style or size of brush you are washing, always dry it pointing downwards. After rinsing the brush, flick the water out, wrap it in a paper towel and give it a light squeeze. Then you can hang the brushes up to dry. Never let it dry flat on the towel. This prevents water from getting into the ferrule (the piece of metal at the base of the brush) and loosening the glue.

When To Throw Your Brushes Out

close up view of makeup brushes

You should throw your brushes out when the bristles start to fray, shed or lose their shape. If they become too pinches or squashed, they can no longer do their job well and how to clean makeup brushes becomes irrelevant.

The Benefits Of Keeping Your Makeup Tools Clean

​Keeping your tool clean can help extend their life and apply your makeup better. If brushes are dirty, your application will be difficult. Brushes are riddled with bacteria. Cleaning them can help prevent skin problems and infections.


woman putting makeup using a makeup brush

​How to clean makeup brushes is easy and can both extend the brushes life and help protect your skin from bacteria.