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How to clean your makeup brushes, according to a makeup artist


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2018 is the year to be bold…with your makeup. You’ll nail the cat-eye, embrace the red lip, and rock metallic and chrome finishes. But, while all of that sounds great in theory, just how do you get from bare-faced to bright-eyed without having a totally non-chill meltdown in the meantime? To kick off the new year, makeup artist Jenny Patinkin brings us up to speed on the most important makeup lessons, the first of which is to help your makeup brushes to come clean.

If energy of the New Year has you inspired to you turn an eye to cleaning up your makeup routine and cleaning out your makeup bag, take heart that there’s one thing you don’t need to toss: your makeup brushes. Because despite the fact that they do get acne-causing bacteria on them, they’re also a cinch to clean, making them one of the most sustainable items in your getting-ready routine.

When it comes right down to it, your makeup brushes have a lot of similarities to your own hair. In the same way that you wouldn’t simply leave your locks unwashed for months on end, you also shouldn’t skimp on washing your makeup brushes. After all, they also need to be kept clean so that they stay in good shape and deliver a smooth, blended application (which, truth be told, is pretty difficult when they already have makeup on them).

There are two main types of brushes, and they actually need to be treated quite differently. Natural brushes are frequently sourced from animal hair, which makes them porous, and requires them to be conditioned (like dry strands) to stay soft and pliable. If they aren’t, they can actually get brittle, frizzy, or dry (just like your own hair). To wash them, you can use a specialized detergent for wool, cashmere, or baby’s clothes, but my favorite is to gently cleanse bristles with the Japanese avocado oil soap Takeda Purely.

Synthetic or vegan brushes, on the other hand, are often made from nylon or plastic so they don’t have pores. That means that oils coagulate on the surface of the bristles, often building up, and leaving them feeling heavy or like they’ve lost their spring. For this type of fiber, I recommend using anything you would use to wash your dishes. The reason? Dish soaps are made to cut through grease and they don’t leave a residue.

No matter what you use, the most important thing is that you actually wash them. In a perfect world, this would happen once a week, but the reality is that most women do it about once a month. If you have active breakouts or sores (or something worse like Pink Eye or strep throat) then for heaven’s sake get those brushes cleaned ASAP! Here’s how.

Keep scrolling to get a step-by-step guide on how to clean your makeup brushes.

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Photo: Unsplash/ Jess Watters

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These are my top tips for keeping your brushes clean.

1. If you’re using a detergent, fill a mug about 1/3 full and add about a quarter size drop of cleaning liquid.  Swirl your brushes around until no more color comes off.  Do the same directly on a bar of soap, if that’s what you’re using instead.

2. For stubborn pigments (or to get white brush fibers back to white) you may also add a little detergent into the palm of your hand, swirling and massaging it until it’s clean.

3. Rinse thoroughly in warm water.

4. Squeeze dry in a paper towel or wash cloth and then reshape.

5. Lay over the edge of a counter to dry with 360-degree air circulation to dry.

Jenny Patinkin is a highly sought-after Makeup Artist, Beauty Expert and entrepreneur known for her Lazy Perfection approach to beauty.  She is the author of the best-selling book, Lazy Perfection, The Art of Looking Great Without Really Trying. Nationally recognized for her broad industry knowledge and expertise, Jenny appears regularly on network TV and prominent digital media channels educating people about beauty and makeup.  She has been a featured guest on The Today Show, The Rachael Ray Show, and Extra TV, and her expert advice and artistry have been featured in Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Health, Marie Claire, Martha Stewart Living, and Real Simple, among many others.

If you’re thinking of other ways to freshen up your game in the new year, check out all of our top-notch advice on everything from how to de-clutter your home to how to get your finances in order.

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