Whether you’re wearing makeup daily or just occasionally applying an eye shadow look, you should be cleaning your brushes regularly. It’s an easy step to skip, but properly maintaining your makeup brushes can mean the difference between buying new brushes every year or two or keeping them for much, much longer — Isabel Rosado, an editorial makeup artist, says she has had some of hers for a decade. Well-cared-for brushes perform better — allowing product to sit on bristles can ruin the integrity of the brush, thus shortening its lifespan, and, needless to say, dirty brushes are also breeding grounds for germs and bacteria that can cause breakouts and infection.
While the makeup artists we spoke to clean their brushes almost daily (between clients, sets, and the like), if you’re only using your brushes on yourself, cleaning them once or twice a week is plenty, unless, says Rosado, you’ve used blue eyeshadow or pink blush (both of which are stubborn pigments). All of our experts agreed that a good makeup brush cleaner is one that cleans effectively without having to scrub or tug on the bristles to get the job done. Quick dry time is important too, so many of their picks are liquid, which clean and dry brushes in just a few minutes, versus cake soaps which require lathering and saturating the brush. To help you pick which cleanser is best for you, we spoke to eight experts about the makeup brush cleaners they use to keep their tools in tip-top shape.
The Best Brush Cleaner for Fast, Waterless Cleaning
A pro makeup artist favorite, five of our experts recommend this fast-drying, antimicrobial cleanser for quick cleaning and disinfecting. Makeup artist Kasey Spickard swears by Cinema Secrets, which he prefers to others like Parian Spirit, which, in his experience, can leave an oily residue that impacts makeup application. Karol Rodriguez, an editorial makeup artist based in New York City, is also a fan: “99 percent of the time I use this product to clean my brushes because it is incredibly effective, super quick, and dries immediately.” Rosado also named this as her top pick. It’s on the pricier end, so all of our artists recommend using just enough to get the brushes clean. “You only need the littlest bit,” says Rosado. She likes to pour a little into a tin jar (it comes with the cleaner when you purchase through Sephora, or you can use your own), dip the tip of her brush in, and lightly swirl it on a paper towel until it’s clear. To minimize product waste, Rodriguez keeps theirs in a spray bottle and spritzes as needed.
Although celebrity makeup artist Molly Greenwald tends to gravitate toward oil-based cleansers for cleaning and conditioning brushes, she likes Parian Spirit for quick cleaning and disinfecting. “I’ve used this religiously for over a decade,” she says. “It completely cleanses and sanitizes in no time and dries superfast.” Celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek also name-checked Parian Spirit, which he says allows him to clean brushes thoroughly in just a few swipes. Jaleesa Jaikaran, an editorial makeup artist and host of The Life of a Makeup Artist podcast, also noted that it’s good for getting makeup stains out of clothes.
The Best Mild-Scented Brush Cleaner for Fast, Waterless Cleaning
While effective, many liquid cleansers have a strong scent, which can be overwhelming for those with sensitive noses. Makeup artist Tara Lauren recommends this cleanser instead, which she says leaves behind a light, fresh scent (it’s formulated with sea salt). Plus, it works. “It doesn’t leave residue on my brushes,” she says, “and makes my bristles supersoft.”
The Best Brush Cleaner for Deep Cleaning
Of the eight makeup artists we spoke to, four mentioned Beauty Blender’s solid cleansing formula for deep cleaning their brushes. “It’s super-gentle,” says Rosado, who likes it for personal and professional use. The charcoal-infused formula cleans, conditions, and disinfects and claims to offer protection against up to 99.7 percent of germs for up to 24 hours after washing. Although it’s designed specifically for use on the Beauty Blender sponge, makeup artists like it for its ability to strip brushes of dirt and oil without lots of bristle-damaging scrubbing. A note: This product requires that you completely lather and rinse your brushes, which means they’ll need to dry overnight, if not longer.
The Best (Less Expensive) Brush Cleaner for Deep Cleaning
For the dirtiest, most stubborn brushes, three of our experts like to use Dawn to deep clean their makeup brushes, which Rosado says is great for getting rid of stubborn oils and pigments. “This is my secret weapon,” she says. “Most brush cleaners won’t get waterproof formulas or red, orange, or pink pigments out of your brush. Dawn never disappoints.” Lauren likes to double cleanse her brushes, starting with a liquid cleanser like Beauty So Clean and following up with Dawn. “First I saturate the brush with a liquid cleaner and wipe it on a clean towel,” she says. “Then I give them a good lather, rinse them with hot water, squeeze out the water and Dawn, and lay them flat on a clean towel to dry overnight.”
The Best Vegan Brush Cleaner for Deep Cleaning
“I do a lot of editorial makeup so by the end of a shoot my brushes are saturated in bright pigments, long-wear liners, glitter,” says Rodriguez, “and I don’t want to spend longer than I have to washing them.” That’s why they like Dr. Bronner’s soaps, which they say clean the brushes quickly and effectively. While they alternate between the bar and liquid soaps, Rodriguez prefers the solid soap, as they’re able to clean the brush directly on the bar, rather than pouring the soap onto a soap-cleaning glove (like Sigma’s Spa Brush Cleaning Glove), which requires more scrubbing (and ultimately is more taxing on the brushes).
The Best Multipurpose Brush Cleaner
This cleanser, designed for paintbrushes, is a favorite of Greenwald, who says it offers a deep clean with minimal work. This both cleans and conditions, and the oils help to ensure your brushes don’t shed excessively or lose their luster over time. “I use this when I have time to dry my brushes overnight,” she says. “It leaves them supersoft.”