Get Stuff We Love

Subscribe to our newsletter.
 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Erica Metzger

Let's be honest: Can you remember the last time you washed your brushes? Still thinking? Don’t feel bad because you’re definitely not alone.

Besides the obvious ick factor, there are some important reasons why you should break this sloppy beauty habit ASAP. Product buildup and residue shortens a brush’s lifespan — not to mention, it sabotages your ability to apply makeup with precision, which is the whole point of using a brush in the first place.

“We end up throwing brushes away because it’s too late to salvage them by the time we get to them. Neglect that $20 brush and it will quickly end up looking like a stack of mottled hay,” said Francesca Roman, a makeup artist at Butterfly Studio Salon in New York City.

Messy tools can also harm your complexion. “Dirt, oil and bacteria can transfer to your makeup brushes from your skin, causing acne breakouts, skin irritation or even spread infections,” said Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. More specifically, your bad brush hygiene can trigger a distinct type of breakout called “pomade acne."

“It’s traditionally found along the hairline in people who use pomade. All the pimples look the same, as if they all popped up at once,” Zeichner said.

So, how often do you really need to wash your brushes to keep them — and your complexion — in great shape? We asked the pros for advice on how they keep their tools tidy, and which new products will make the beauty chore a little less tedious. Happy spring cleaning!

1. Establish a regular cleansing schedule.

Most pros agree that you should wash your brushes at least once a month. “I usually shoot for the first of the month because it’s easy to remember that way,” said Fiona Stiles, a Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist. So set a calendar date on your phone, and stick with it!

2. Wash your brushes with shampoo.

Fill a glass or your sink about a quarter of the way up with warm water and add a tablespoon of of mild baby shampoo or a high-quality, clarifying shampoo. “Submerge half of the brush head into the water without getting the base wet, and swish away for a few minutes before rinsing,” says Roman.

TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY does have affiliate relationships. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Johnson's Baby Shampoo, $7, Amazon


3. Don’t be afraid to deep-clean your synthetic brushes.

Ever notice how hard it is to clean your concealer, foundation or lipstick brushes? Creamy, emollient-based makeup is very stubborn and difficult to remove, notes Stiles. She suggests Dawn or Palmolive to get those synthetic brushes squeaky clean. “Regular dish-washing detergent is great at breaking down oils and removing all of the makeup and bacteria.”

Palmolive Original Dish Washing Liquid 2 Pack, $10, Amazon


4. Lay your brushes flat to dry.

Put a towel on the counter and arrange your brushes with the bristles hanging over the edge so they air dry faster. “If you dry them with the bristles upright in a cup, the water will eventually dissolve the glue and the brush head will separate from the handle,” said Stiles.

Paul Hakimata

5. Buy a special brush cleanser.

While you can certainly DIY with other detergents, a brush-specific formula is still the most efficient way to de-gunk your tools without risking any long-term damage. Stiles entrusts her more delicate brushes to Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver. “I’ve been using it for over a decade and I’ve had many of my brushes for longer than that, thanks to this effective but gentle product.” We also like Japonesque Solid Brush Cleanser, a travel-friendly, solid balm that makes washing your brushes a cinch. Swirl a wet brush head over the surface, and the goat-milk formula transforms into foamy lather that dissolves makeup while keeping bristles soft and conditioned.

The Master Brush Cleaner & Preserver, $7, Amazon


Japonesque Solid Brush Cleanser, $20, Ulta


6. Use a towelette in between washes.

Think of a disposable cleansing wipe as a light dusting for your brushes. It’s no substitute for a real cleanse, but it keeps the tips in decent shape between washings. The regular variety intended for your face may be too wet or have ingredients you don’t necessarily need, so we like the new EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Cloths which are specifically designed to mop up makeup without oversaturating the bristles.

EcoTools Makeup Brush Cleansing Cloths, $5, Target


7. Try a solvent spray if you use the same brush for two different shades.

If you just need to remove pigment from a brush before you can finish doing your makeup, then a solvent spray is your best bet. Look for a waterless formula that’s also alcohol-free, like Sephora Collection Instant Dry Brush Cleaner Spray. It’s like dry shampoo for your brushes!

Dry Clean Instant Dry Brush Cleaner Spray, $14, Sephora


8. Don’t forget about your other tools.

Your brow game has never been better, but your trusty tweezers may be telling a different story. “People assume that tweezers dull over time, but it’s actually the residue that makes them less effective,” said Sania Vucetaj, brow expert and owner of Sania’s Brow Bar in NYC. Vucetaj recommends cleaning them with an alcohol swab on a monthly basis.

Sania's Brow Bar

9. Raid your bathroom cabinet in a pinch.

When you find yourself in a situation where your brushes are super grimy and there’s absolutely no time to clean them, it’s best to err on the side of hygiene. A clean cotton swab is an easy hack for applying eye shadow or eyeliner. You can also use a cotton ball to blend powder or blush.

Q-tips Precision Tips Cotton Swabs, $3, Walmart


This article was originally published on Apr. 4, 2016 on TODAY.