Admit it — cleaning your makeup brushes is hardly your favorite pastime. After daily use, however, your brushes may be the furthest thing from sanitary, often leading to unnecessary breakouts and infections. Thankfully, the beauty industry has taken our need for cleanliness a step beyond our expectations by introducing a new genre of antibacterial makeup brushes. But are they really worth the hype and investment? We talked to a few experts to get the scoop.
“Most antibacterial makeup brushes have a coating over the brush fibers that enable its ability to repel bacteria,” explained Sephora PRO artist Amy Suchma. “The amount of time it lasts for is dependent upon the manufacturer of the bristle material used to make the brushes.” The Sephora Collection Deluxe Antibacterial Brush Set, for example, has a coating that lasts up to 60 days.
“If you have acne-prone skin, antibacterial brushes are your best bet,” continued Suchma. “Synthetic brushes do not hold bacteria in the fibers of the bristles since they are not porous like natural bristles are.” Just like applying makeup is a skill, so is cleaning your brushes. A quick cleaning spritz is a fast fix to remove looming bacteria, but you also need to deep clean your tools occasionally as well.
Lijha Stewart, Make Up For Ever’s director of education and artistry, shared with us her tried-and-true cleansing method. “First, add warm water and a dime-size amount of gentle soap to the brush. Next, drench the brush and then build up suds by gently rubbing on the palm of your hand,” she explained. “Next, rinse the brush until the water runs clean. Finally, remove all excess water from the brush and let dry overnight by laying down the brush flat on a paper towel.”
Beyond cleansing your tools, you should also consider your actual makeup. “Cleaning your makeup along with your brushes is the best way to maintain the hygiene of your products and avoid bacteria accumulation,” explained Suchma. “For pressed powders, I would replace the sponge applicator weekly and try to store it separately from the powder itself. When it comes to eyeshadows, lipsticks and blushes, I lightly spray a tissue with rubbing alcohol and swipe the surface to keep it fresh.”
A good brush is an investment: When you take care of it, it takes care of you. “I have had some of my brushes for five years or more,” explained Stewart. “Little steps can prolong the life of your makeup brushes — for example, don’t throw makeup brushes in a makeup bag, carry it in a brush holder. And then of course, clean your brush regularly and not just with a brush cleaner spritz.”
What are a few signs it’s time to toss your beloved brush? “Natural hair brushes can get matted, almost like not taking care of a wig or extensions. While synthetic hair fibers can become brittle and fray on the ends,” shared Stewart. Brushes with wooden handles also require a bit more TLC. “Do not soak them in water and keep the ferrule dry when washing — this will enable the material to last longer,” added Suchma.
On the other hand, our experts remind us not to count out alternative options. “Sponges can be extremely sanitary if you are worried about breakouts because they are disposable,” Stewart pointed out. “[Traditionally] brushes provide better coverage and smoother finish overall.”