A Make-Up Artists Guide

Working as a professional free-lance Make-Up Artist, my brushes and kit are constantly being used. They get grubby and can become damaged very quickly!

In this Blog Post, I will share some advice, tips and my own cleaning routine for makeup brushes. If you’d just like some simple steps for how to best clean your brushes, click here.

So… Why Do I Need To Clean Them?

Let’s take a minute to think about it.

You’ve just bought some new (expensive) Make-Up Brushes. They’re fresh out the packet and feel soft, fluffy and amazing. You then take your nice new brush and dip it in to your makeup products. Then you cover your brush in the product and apply it to your face.  You wear your makeup all day and then once you get home, you get ready to go to bed. You remove your make-up, cleanse your skin, and leave your face feeling all fresh and clean!

The next morning, you repeat the same process. Your brushes aren’t brand new, but they’re still pretty “clean”. You apply your makeup the same as the day before and repeat the same nightly process of removing your makeup. This repeats for 3 weeks.

Your brushes are now 3 weeks old, and you have used them nearly every day.

Now what do you think happens when you use the same, now dirty, brush on your nicely cleansed skin?

Your brushes have picked up the natural dirt, oils and bacteria on your skin during these 3 weeks and is harbouring it between the bristles. This can also cause flareups for those who suffer from acne!

Make-Up Artists Need To Clean Them Too

Now imagine you are a make-up artist (or maybe you are!)

How many clients do you apply make-up one in one day? 3? 5? 8? 

How many faces have your brushes touched this week? 

Think about what I wrote in the section above. Each time a brush touches a product, then touches someones face, then touches the product again, it is transferring bacteria. The brush will pick up bacteria from the product and pass it on to that client’s face. It will then take the bacteria from that client’s skin and store it in the bristles of the brush, until properly cleaned and sanitised.

How Do I Clean My Make-Up Brushes?

Easy! Cleaning brushes is such a simple thing to do, and it is one of the most important steps in ensuring your brushes last as long as they can.

What you will need
  • Bowl
  • Warm Water
  • Liquid Soap – Brush Cleaner, or Baby/Mild Shampoo, or Dish Cleaner
  • Clean Cold Water
  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Spray Bottle
  • Cotton Pads
  • Old Rag/Towel (optional)
  • Silicone Brush Cleaning Pad (optional)
Step 1 –

Fill the bowl up with warm water and swirl the brush around in the bowl. Be careful to not fully submerge your brush in to the water!

Step 2 –

If using a silicone brush cleaning pad, pour a small amount of the liquid soap on to this. Take your wet brush and swirl it around the silicone pad, picking up some of the liquid soap. Carefully move your brush in a circular motion over the bumps on the cleaning pad.

If you do not have a cleaning pad, this step can be done by hand. Take a small amount of soap and rub the bristles carefully between your fingers or on the palm of your hand. Repeat if necessary.

Step 3 –

Once the brush has been swirled around in the soap and is producing clear or white bubbles instead of dirty ones, it’s time to rinse it out. I do this by first replacing the warm water with fresh, clean, cold water. I dip the brush in the clean water and squeeze out the excess. If you have an old towel or rag, you can gently buff the brush on to it to remove some excess moisture. If your brushes are extremely dirty or you used dark coloured makeup, you may have to repeat this step and change the water frequently.

Step 5 – 

After cleaning and rinsing your brush bristles, the next thing to do is clean and sanitise the brush handle. This is an important step because when you clean the bristles, some dirt and bacteria will get pushed up on to the handle.

The easiest way to solve this is by taking a cotton pad, soaking it in Isopropyl Alcohol and then rubbing this on the brush handle. This will not only remove dirty marks but will also sanitise the brush handle, so it is now free from bacteria.

Step 6 – 

Now that your bristles and handle are clean and sanitised, the only thing left is to dry them. This step is very important to help your brushes to retain their shape and keep them looking like new. While the bristles are still wet, they can be moulded slightly in to their intended shape. This helps the bristles to dry in the correct form and reduces the risk of them being bent out of shape whilst drying. To dry your brushes it is best to find somewhere where the brush heads can hang off the side, such as a windowsill or shelf. Lay brushes flat on this surface, out of direct sunlight and moisture, in room temperature conditions. Brushes will take anywhere between 4 – 8 hours to dry, so this is best done last thing at night so they are clean and dry to use in the morning!

Pro tip –

Spray Isopropyl Alcohol over the dry brush bristles. This will sanitise and disinfect the brush heads before use and will dry again in seconds!

How Often Should I Clean My Brushes?

This will vary from person to person. Someone who does their make-up daily should be washing their brushes at least once a week and sanitising with IPA before each use. Someone who does their makeup once a week should still be regularly sanitising their brushes before use, and washing with soap at least once a month.

Pro Make-Up Artists should be sanitising and disinfected between each client. They should never use the same lip/eye brushes on different clients without cleaning and sanitising beforehand. Brushes should be washed at least once a week but preferably every day after use!

What Happens If I Don’t Look After Them?

Aside from the obvious risk of spreading bacteria, germs, dirt, oil and causing acne flareups. There are many other reasons why we should all regularly wash and look after our brushes.

Make-Up Brushes aren’t cheap, and we often spend a lot of money to get a particular style/brand of brush. Overloading your brushes with product and never releasing this from the bristles will cause a build up inside the brushes. This will not only affect how your makeup looks on your face, but will also affect the life expectancy and quality of your brush. Makeup tends to apply far better when our brushes are clean, fluffy and well looked after. Meaning that by simply taking a few preventative steps, we can improve the overall appearance of our makeup. Our brushes will also last a lot longer if we care for them properly, including storing them in a protected environment, where they are not being crushed, attacked by moisture or fading in direct sunlight.

You wouldn’t spend hundreds of pounds on a new hairstyle just to not wash, dry and properly care for your hair. So why do we not look after our make-up brushes in the same way?

It’s up to us to change that, so let’s start today!



  1. Carla

    Rubbing alcohol refers to either isopropyl alcohol (propan-2-ol) or ethanol based liquids, or the comparable British Pharmacopoeia defined surgical spirit, with isopropyl alcohol products being the most widely available. Rubbing alcohol is undrinkable even if it is ethanol based, due to the bitterants added.

  2. Angela

    Hand sanitizer contains ethanol, and rubbing alcohol’s key ingredient is isopropyl. Ethanol is pure alcohol, so it can be digested (but can make you sick). Other than that, the purpose of hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol is the same ; they both kill bacteria, although isopropyl is a little stronger than ethanol.

  3. Julie

    This is one of the best makeup brushes for beginners. Knowledge on different types of brushes will help change your perception on makeup. The brushes make it very easy and also more professional. Use the brushes appropriately and enjoy everyday make up . Make up brushes and their uses are very essential factors in every lady who loves makeup.

  4. Sarah

    Please bear in mind that for alcohol-water mixtures (alcohols have a certain level of miscibility with water) – the percentage reported is usually percentage by weight or volume of alcohol ( with water filling the rest but the percentage of water i…

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