This is how to properly clean your make-up brushes in the age of coronavirus, from an expert

They conceal. They highlight. They contour.

Our make-up brushes cover a multitude of sins on a daily basis. From the few too many glasses of house red the day before a big meeting to the spots conveniently making an appearance after familiarising yourself with the biscuit tin, there’s nothing make-up brushes can’t edit. 

But more than just an ally in the pursuit of concealing the discretions which are then mirrored by our skin, make-up brushes are tools. And tools, in order to have longevity, need to be looked after.

At a time when more and more of us are WFH, if you’ve already spring-cleaned your kitchen, organised your wardrobe and tidied your flat, it’s time to turn our home-bound attention to our make-up brushes.

Professional make-up artist, Rebecca Wordingham, explains that “a lot of people’s skin concerns can come form using dirty sponges or brushes,” adding that she cleans her brushes after every single use. 

She gave us the rundown on just how often we should clean our brushes, the best method to use and how to let them dry.

How often should we clean our make-up brushes?

Wordingham, who is also the founder of the London School of Media Make-Up, explains, “under normal circumstances, I would recommend suggest washing every few days, depending on skin type. If somebody has severe acne, skin infections or virus such as herpes, impetigo, conjunctivitis, in this case I would suggest washing after every use,” Wordingham recommends.

However, given the current climate, Wordingham stresses the importance of washing brushes after each use. She says, “with Covid-19, there’s a highly contagious virus or bacteria around and it’s really important to wash your brushes after every application, just like all of us professionals do after shoots.”

What should we use to clean our make-up brushes?

Wordingham follows her own two-stage routine to clean her brushes.

“I have always used IPA isopropyl alcohol (£10, buy it here.) It is 99 per cent alcohol and is used in medical and cosmetic-grade cleaning as a disinfectant,” Wordingham explains. “It eliminates all the nasties and is great for a quick change in case I need to wash my favourite brush between models.”

For eyeshadow or blush brushes, which may accumulate colour pigments which still haven’t been removed after the alcohol wash, Wordingham gives hers a second rinse in washing-up liquid or baby shampoo. “I do this at the end of the day and leave them to dry over night,” she explains. 

What’s the right way to clean them?

Wordingham follows and recommends the two-step routine mentioned above. She adds that “twice a month it helps them not to dry out, if you give them a treatment with a little baby conditioner.”

Although there are specific brush-cleaning products available, Wordingham advises against using them, claiming they leave a “residue” on brushes, although they are useful for removing make-up remnants from clothes. 

What’s your method?  

Wordingham’s two-step cleaning routine comprises several steps. Firstly, decant the IPA alcohol into a spray bottle. Spray the alcohol onto brushes (being careful not to inhale it) and circulate the brush against a clean wipe or tissue, to remove product. 

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The second stage of the process that she recommends is to fill a bowl with warm water and detergent. Dampen brushes and squirt a little detergent onto the tip of the them and then repeat the same circular motion in the bowl of warm water, to rinse away excess product. 

Once you’re convinced that your brushes are cleaned, squeeze out excess water and leave the brush to lay flat over night. “Whatever you do, never leave them to dry up right as you don’t want water getting into the ferule of the brush, as this will eventually disintegrate the glue and stitching, which will make bristles fall out,” Wordingham warns.  

How often should we replace beauty sponges?

“The best tip I’ve learned with sponges is to clean two of them together, and clean them against one another,” Wordingham explains. “I would replace when they seem lack lustre and I would strongly encourage them to be cleaned at least every other day.”

When is it right to throw away a make-up brush?

“You really shouldn’t have to throw any brush away if you look after it correctly,” Wordingham states. “My mum who has been a makeup artist since the sixties still has brushes she started with. A good quality brush could and should last you a life time.

Her advice when buying brushes is to avoid plastic bristles and opt for hardier substances, which won’t cause “bristles to fall out.”


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