Cleaning Your Makeup Brushes – 101


All the recent going’s on with Barneys at the mall last week prompted me to do something that I rarely have the time to do anymore… that is, casually shop. Since I am often running from client to client and pulling wardrobe for photo shoot after photo shoot, lingering in any one store purely for pleasure is a thing of the past… So it was quite the shock when I perused the aisles of a popular beauty spot only to find what could possibly be the most messy tester units I have ever seen.


Being in the beauty biz for as long as I have I have developed what one might call a “physical” reaction to even the idea of dirty lipsticks, smeared eye shadows, unwashed brushes and used mascara wands.
Why even as I write I have to pause (gulp) to regain my composure…



Fresh out of beauty school I did an event for a prominent makeup line at a she-she luxury store, where I was shocked to see that I was the only artist who had alcohol wipes or any means of sanitizing brushes between clients. I suspect this is because so few counter artists have formal beauty school training in sanitary procedures. And, of course over the years I have heard some hellacious stories from models that have fallen victim to unclean brushes and makeup palettes which led to some serious Dr bills…not kidding!


Perhaps there is a germ-a-phobe in my nature but when you work with skin day in and day out you see a lot of things that aren’t so pretty…. Thank goodness I haven’t had the need to sit at a makeup counter and have my makeup done since I was in high school.
At my own beauty biz we sanitize and clean our brushes practically to the point of disintegration…I would rather buy new brushes than cause a public health issue…besides we love our clients too much to have it any other way.

Kevyn Aucoin Brushes
Kevyn Aucoin Brushes

So the next time you are happily trying on makeup at your favorite mall joint, please dear readers keep this in mind:

Brushes accumulate makeup, oil and dead skin cells (and so much more oogy stuff) if they are not cleaned between uses they will harbor bacteria. Opt for using the cosmetic counters clean disposable brushes for lips, eyes and lashes. For everything else use a clean sponge. If they don’t provide these… run … as fast as those Manolo’s can take you!



Anytime you book a makeup application at a makeup counter don’t be afraid to ask questions… Were those brushes used on anyone prior to you? Have they been sanitized? Or How do you clean your brushes at this counter?

At home be sure to clean your brushes at least once a week with a mild organic shampoo or soap like Dr Bronner’s or an organic laundry soap, this will not only rid your brushes of the bacteria but your makeup will go on more smoothly and your skin will thank you.
Though there are several brush cleaners on the market, many contain harsh chemicals and simple cleansers do the trick just as well.

Dr Bronner's soaps
Dr Bronner's soaps
My favorite method is as follows:
Wet brushes in warm water, put a bit of soap/shampoo in the palm of your hand and swirl the brush around, work the cleanser through to the ends and rinse, repeat until the brushes are thoroughly clean.
Squeeze out excess water in a towel and lay brushes flat to dry on a separate towel.
Don’t stand your brushes up to dry, eventually the water that drips into the ferrule (metal piece that attaches the handle to the brush) will weaken the glue and you will find yourself with topless brush handles.
Once the brushes are dry wipe them off again with a cotton pad and tea tree oil or alcohol to be sure that all bacteria has been completely removed.

  1. Oh this is too much. Only using Glam Lounge now for makeup and application. We know where to go and who to trust!
    Thanks for the tips Diane

  2. Thank you! I found this in my search for bacteria on makeup brushes. I think I’ll definitely wash mine once a week from now on. Right now I have a rashy face thanks to my powder sponge which, after it dried out, showed dark splotches similar to mold – ew! I’ll also remember to wipe them with alcohol swabs after – just in case! =)

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