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  • Writer's pictureAnnie

How to clean your makeup brushes

This is a step-by-step guide to washing makeup brushes and caring for fude natural haired brushes.

It's the chore that we all want to put off for as long as possible but dirty makeup brushes need to be washed. No one wants to put festering bacteria onto their faces. Everyone has a different preference for the types and brands of soaps used to clean makeup brushes so I'm going to try and cover the variances between the more popular or accessible brands.

How often should you wash your brushes?

This really depends on how often you use your brushes to apply makeup but my synthetic haired brushes go in for a wash at the end of the week. Synthetic fibres are basically plastic derivatives in taklon, nylon or PPT so they can take frequent washings. The brush heads won't change shape and the hairs won't break unless you're excessively rough.

As for fude or natural haired bristles, I wash my goat haired brushes every fortnight to a month and my squirrel haired brushes once a month to every three months. Keep your brush as clean as possible by wiping the dirty brush on a microfibre towel after every use to remove excess product.

Fude brushes that I use to apply liquid foundation such as the Koyudo fu-pa 02 are washed every 5 uses. This is why I own two of these. I'm a procrastinator by nature so I like to delay washing as long as possible. Brushes that are used for liquids or creams such as the Chikuhodo GSN-05, Hakuhodo G5552 and Koyudo BP014 which I use for cream contours, bronzers and blushes are washed after 7-10 uses. Your mileage may vary but liquids and creams will eventually coat too much of the natural hair to the point where your makeup application will become difficult so wash them as you need to. Again, you can extend the time between washes by wiping off the remaining product on a microfibre towel or a ridged paper towel to prevent excess makeup from gunking up the brush.

My undyed goat hair eyeshadow brushes tend to go for a wash every two weeks as well or when they no longer have the ability to grip eyeshadow. Shimmers, metallics and liquid eyeshadow formulas are wetter than traditionally pressed matte eyeshadows so they don't release as well from a natural fibre brush. I'd recommend washing brushes that come into contact with these types of formulas more regularly because they tend to inhibit the ability of a natural haired bristle to pick up product.

Brushes that are only used for powder products such as setting powder, finishing powder, powder blush, powder bronzer and powder highlight tend to be washed once every fortnight to a month. I'm able to remove the majority of remaining powders from my bristles by running the brush against a towel. Be particularly careful with squirrel-haired brushes. They should never be used to apply creams or liquids. Squirrel hair doesn't pick up a lot of product in the first place and releases excess powder very easily on a towel so I only wash these more delicate haired brushes every two to three months.

I also wash new brushes when they come into my collection just to loosen the tight bundling a little so that they bloom a little before usage.

What items do you need to wash your brushes?

You will need the following to wash and care for your brushes:

  • A small microfibre towel to wipe off excess product between uses

  • Makeup brush soap (liquid or bar)

  • A silicone makeup brush cleaning mat

  • A large clean microfibre towel

  • Brush guards

  • A flat surface to dry the washed brushes

There are a variety of brush cleaners out on the market. My favourite liquid soap is the Daiso Makeup Brush Cleaner which only costs AUD$2.80 per bottle. It's cheap, effective and accessible in many parts of the world. Other people swear by Dr Bronner's Castile Liquid Soap which is also quite affordable but the original unscented version is a little harder to come by and I don't want my brushes to smell like peppermint. I previously used Johnson & Johnson's Baby Shampoo which is extremely gentle on fude but requires repeat washings to completely remove product.

As for bar shampoos, the best one out there is the Hakuhodo Transparent Soap. I reviewed it in my Hakuhodo Reiwa Celebration post but it's a soap that doesn't create a lot of suds and is very gentle on natural haired brushes. Obviously Hakuhodo manufactures fude so they know what kind of soap suits their own products. I've tried a lot of brush cleaners but this is the only bar soap that returns the hairs to a state where you can smell the goat fibres as they were when you took them out of the packaging. It's quite extraordinary because it cleans so well without becoming a soapy sudsy mess, it leaves no fragrance or soap scent on the brush and the bar doesn't disintegrate like normal soap. Other popular and easily accessible brush bars also include the expensively priced Beautyblender Solid Cleanser and the reasonably priced Juno & Co Clean Up Your Act Cleansing Bar but both contain a slight fragrance. If you're really in a pinch or if your fude brushes are coming out a little dry and rough, you may need to condition them a little. For this, I'd use the Dove Beauty Cream Bar or white soap. It contains a moisturiser in it so it's not as harsh as other soaps intended for the body but I don't recommend using this on a frequent basis. I always have this on hand because I use it for my body but it's my go-to when my goat hair brushes are feeling a tad scratchy.

Other items like the silicone cleaning pad and brush guards can be bought off eBay for $1. There's no discernible difference between these ones and the $20 ones. Microfibre towels can be bought from any dollar store or supermarket. I like to use a face towel when I wash my brushes.

How to wash your makeup brushes

Australia is experiencing unprecedented drought at the moment with bushfires raging across the nation. My state has implemeted extraordinary water restrictions so my method of washing brushes requires the least amount of running water. We're no longer allowed to wash our cars with a hose or run garden sprinklers so we're all back to buckets and water cans. Nevertheless, wherever you live, no one wants to waste drinkable water.

1. Plug your basin and fill it around 3cm or 1" with lukewarm water. Do not use cold water or hot water. Both can loosen the glue inside your brush so use a very slightly warm water. Adhere your silicone cleaning mat to the side of the basin by its suction cup if applicable. Otherwise, place the silicone mat on top of the sink. Place your clean towel on a flat surface nearby ready to place freshly washed brushes on.

2. Dip the tip of the dirty brush into the water. Ensure that you don't dunk the whole brush into the water otherwise you will damage the glue that binds the hairs to the ferrule. Under no circumstances should you wet the ferrule of the brush.

3. Tap the wet brush into the solid soap and swirl once or twice before running it gently along the ridges of the silicone cleaning mat. If you're using a liquid soap, you can tip some out into a small bowl or cup and dip the brush into it. Alternately, you can also apply some cleaning solution to the brush or silicone mat directly. Swirl the brush on the cleaning mat or your hand to wash out the makeup product and dip into the water as needed. Change out the dirty water as needed. I can only get away with two foundation brushes at once but can manage 6-8 eyeshadow brushes before needing to refill the basin.

4. Gently squeeze or press out the excess soap and water and lay it on the clean towel. Continue to wash your brushes in the soap until you have finished cleaning your batch.

5. Clean out the basin, put the plug back in and under a small stream of lukewarm water, rinse your brushes thoroughly to ensure all soap residue is washed off. With very little pressure, squeeze or press the brush to remove excess water. Do this with the brush head facing down so as to prevent water travelling up to the ferrule. Wipe the brush on the clean towel, running the bristles back and forth 2-3 times to further remove excess water. Repeat this until all the brushes have been completely rinsed out.

6. Apply brush guards to any brushes you wish to retain their shape and allow them to dry on a flat surface. If you choose not to use a brush guard, use your fingers to pinch or manoeuvre the bristles into shape again while they are damp. This will minimise the chance of hairs from splaying.

7. Allow your brushes to dry completely in a flat position. Do not place them vertically into a brush cup or you'll allow water to drip into the ferrule. You can also dry them upside down (brush head facing towards the floor) in a brush tree. I usually lay them flat on top of the towel again. During the Australian summer this takes only two to three hours but leave them overnight to dry if you're not from such a hot and dry climate.

8. Remove the brush guards from the dry brushes and quickly run the brush back and forth along the towel so the brush returns to its intended shape. It will also allow the brush to fluff up slightly because the hairs were compacted by the brush guard.

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