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How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes In 3 Easy Steps

Guilty of not cleaning your makeup brushes on the reg? Don't worry, we totally are too. But here's the thing: While it may seem like a hassle that can be skipped, it's actually super important. "Dirty makeup brushes harbor dirt, bacteria, and all kinds of germs that can be transferred to your skin, leading to irritation and breakouts," says professional makeup artist Jo Levy. And, not to get alarmist, but the worst case scenario is infection. So it's not only gross, but it's also a matter of health. (Here, more health threats hiding in your makeup bag.)

Then there's the issue of performance: "If the bristles are filled with product, colors will look muddy and application can become streaky," Levy adds. The bottom line: Please clean your brushes. Levy suggests doing so weekly, which may seem daunting, but it's surprisingly easy. Follow Levy's three steps below (spoiler alert: the cleaning process takes less than 5 minutes!), and your brushes will always be squeaky clean.

1. Pick your cleanser.

Whether you want to go liquid or solid is a matter of personal preference, since both will clean equally well, says Levy. For the former, any kind of mild soap, shampoo, or face wash will do the trick. Just be sure to look for fragrance-free options, since the brushes will be touching your face and you don't want any ingredients that may cause irritation, says Levy, who likes Dr. Bronner's Baby Unscented Pure-Castile Liquid Soap ($11; Solid brush cleansers, like the Japonesque Solid Brush Cleanser ($20;, are a great option for travel, she adds.

2. Suds up.

Run your brush under warm water so that it's wet, but not soaking. If you're using a liquid cleanser, squirt a drop into your palm, then swirl the brush in your hand in circular motions for 30 seconds. For solids cleansers, swirl the brush directly onto the soap. Either way, you'll start to see the gunk and grime run off and the foam turn all kinds of colors. If you want to give the bristles an extra-deep clean, Levy suggests rubbing the brush against the Sigma Spa Brush Cleaning Mat ($32;; the textured, nubby rubber mat helps remove product and dirt. Give brushes a good rinse, massaging the bristles with your fingertips to remove any remaining grime.

3. Dry properly.

Believe it or not, your drying technique is just as important as the cleansing. Give brushes a gentle squeeze (this both removes excess water and restores the shape), then leave them to dry flat, with the brush hanging over the edge of a counter. This is important for several reasons: One, it allows for even air circulation so that the brush dries thoroughly. Two, it keeps the shape intact, and most importantly, it prevents water from dripping into the handle of the brush. "If you stand the brush up to dry, excess water can drip into the ferrule, the piece that connects the handle and bristles," explains Levy. "No matter what kind of brush you have or how much it cost, water in the ferrule loosens the glue that holds the brush together and will ultimately ruin the brush," she cautions. Leave to dry overnight in a well-ventilated area and wake up to brushes that are completely clean.


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